The Blacklist is on my blacklist
“It's called 'The Blacklist'. That sounds exciting.” –Raymond Reddington
So I thought. And when my brothers pitched the show to me, and showed me the trailer, I agreed. The premise was interesting, the casting of James Spader was intriguing, and the pilot, I have to say, was indeed exciting. Fifteen episodes later, I find myself with almost no desire to continue down this list. But what drove me from A to Z?
The Blacklist revolves around Raymond Reddington (Spader), a cunning, world-hopping criminal who happens to be one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives. When Reddington voluntarily surrenders to the FBI, he offers them a chance to cooperate by giving up the names he has compiled on a list of worldwide criminals, terrorists, assassins, and whatnot; the Blacklist. But as a requirement, Reddington asks for the involvement of rookie FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) in exchange for his cooperation.
So, as each episode focuses on the manhunt of a particular subject on the list, the show begins to build its web of intrigue. What is the connection between Reddington and Elizabeth? How will the bond they develop affect both? Is Elizabeth’s husband who he says he is? What are Reddington’s real motives? What is going on in the past of Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), and so on and on.
The thing is that, after a handful of solid episodes, the show starts meandering. Episodes begin to feel repetitive and tedious, and characters become either annoying or uninteresting. It doesn’t help that most of the performances are pretty bad, or that most of the events are ultimately so implausible or idiotic that they challenge or surpass the worse moments from 24. After 14 episodes, the show feels as useless and futile as the lead characters following Reddington’s lead. Going in circles.
The only saving grace in the show is James Spader’s performance as the enigmatic Reddington. His scenery chewing is often delicious to watch, his delivery of lines so wickedly disgusting, as he waltzes around like a peacock, dropping names of criminals he has worked with, jobs he has done, countries he has visited, while flipping his tongue around his mouth. I don’t know how much of Reddington’s persona comes from Spader, but he seems to be the only one to understand how to do things in the show.
Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by mediocrity. Most notably, in lead actress Megan Boone (Elizabeth Keen). Boone's performance leaves a lot to be desired, and her character goes back and forth from bland to annoying, which makes me care less about what happens to her or how is she connected to Red, or whatever. Plus when characters suck, one becomes more susceptible to nitpicking what surrounds them. For example, the fact that this supposed rookie profiler behaves like the most bad-ass field agent of the agency makes no sense at all.
As for the other characters, the script tries to give some interesting layers to Agent Ressler, but Klattenhoff’s performance is also weak and unable to fully convey them. Elizabeth’s husband, Tom (Ryan Eggold), had some good moments, but seems to have fallen more on soap opera grounds than in a thriller. Finally, Elizabeth’s boss, Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) has the charisma of a brick. Probably the worst performance from the lot.
I won’t deny the show had its moments, aside of Spader’s performance. Some of the criminals have been creative and creepy enough, and the episode with Elizabeth’s father (played by William Sadler) had some powerful and intriguing moments that barely instilled some life into the already deflating show. But then it got back to the same stuff. These moments seem to be so few and apart that it’s not enough to hold my interest.
As the show approaches the end of its first season, I’ve decided to stop counting and keep myself on the sidelines, thus making this show another entry on the short list of shows I've given up on. I might or might not return to it, just like I might or might not tune again when Season 2 starts. But as of now, I must respectfully decline what Raymond Reddington is offering. Grade: C
The Blacklist Official Trailer
TV Shows that aren't on my blacklist
- Fathers and Sons: Justified Season 1
The first season of Justified follows Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens as he faces old friends and old demons.
- Playing the Game: Game of Thrones Season 2
The second season of the epic show raises the stakes for most characters, as they all are scattered throughout Westeros and beyond, headed for their inevitable clash.
- Win or Die: Game of Thrones Season 1
The first season of HBO's epic, medieval-themed show presents a complex array of characters and subplots, led by one of the best characters I've seen, as well as one of the most shocking twists ever.
- Ragnar the Raider: Vikings Season 1
History Channel's epic take of the exploits of Ragnar Lodbrok takes us into the lives of the historical Norsemen and their raids into the West.