The Blacklist, one of the top series of last year, and with season one being released on Netflix and season two recently airing, there is no better time than the present to review the series.
When the FBI's most wanted fugitive, Raymond "Red" Reddington, turns himself in to the FBI, he offers the FBI his help in finding and eliminating some of the world's most dangerous criminals and terrorists, who are on Red's list, referred to as "The Blacklist." However, he has one condition; he will only cooperate with one specific FBI agent, Elizabeth Keen, who is a rookie FBI profiler. Why will Red only work with Elizabeth, who Red often refers to as "Lizzie"? No one knows, and now we have a setup for a surprisingly thrilling story about an anti-hero taking down the underworld's worst criminals.
The Good: James Spader completely steals every scene he is in, Surprisingly effective use of insert songs, Unexpected plot twists and turns, Dark and violent for network TV, Reddington is a complex and entertaining character, Elizabeth Keen is a likable character, Believable romance, Fun guest stars, Bad guys ruthlessly killing bad guys, Creepy antagonists, Great sense of twisted humor, Did I mention James Spader?,
The Bad: Ho-hum finale, First half suffers without Spader on screen, One plot point drawn out too long,
Plot: 7.8/10- As with most television series, The Blacklist's writing quality is not always consistent. Many of the episodes use the episodic "villain of the week" approach with about eight episodes forwarding an overarching storyline. Thanks to the variety of creepy and dark villains, the plots are usually varied enough to prevent too much repetition and the hints at the bigger picture in each episode are fun to watch unfold. One aspect of the plot worked particularly well, while the other was drawn out far too long without resolution, although it is obvious to the viewer, thus making it annoying. Unfortunately, without Spader's charismatic performance and ruthless nature, the few episodes that do not heavily feature him suffer from being a bit derivative and standard FBI show.
*Spoiler* My main problem I have been referring to previously is the identity of Lizzie's father. Obviously, Red is her father, or at least the series is heavily implying it in almost every scene. I figured it out by the second or third episode, and having the series drawout the plot point is annoying! Lizzie is incredibly dense not to figure it out for herself. Hopefully, season two will not take too long straight up revealing who her father is. *End Spoilers*
Characterization: 8.4/10- Of the points given to this category, Reddington is responsible for at least eight points with the rest being for Lizzie, her husband, and the cast of dark antagonists. With the exception of Agent Donald Ressler, who becomes an interesting character towards the end of the series, most of the other FBI agents are bland. As previously stated, the villains are often as intriguing and interesting as they are dark and genuinely disturbing.
Raymond "Red" Reddington: I cannot stress this enough, Reddington's character, thanks to Spader’s performance, is the best aspect of the series. While a dark character like Reddington could easily be dull and brooding, he is, in fact the exact opposite. Red has a dark side whenever the time is right, but he is usually puts up a fun and flamboyant front, which provides a lot of the humor. Trying to describe his personality is somewhat difficult, so you really need to see it for yourself. On a more general note, watching a criminal mastermind anti-hero ruthlessly kill other criminals is absurdly entertaining, or at least, it is entertaining to me. "Bad guys" killing other "bad guys" is something that should be used more often. Because Red is not held by any moral code of honor or law, he has no problems doing whatever is necessary to get what he wants without mercy.
Elizabeth Keen: For an unknown reason, Red will only work with Agent Elizabeth "Lizzie" Keen. After Red, Keen is the most developed character in the cast. For the most part, she is given realistic motivation, and while she can be a bit bland and incredibly dense at not noticing some things, she is likable. Her relationship with her husband Tom Keen, who is a great character in his own right, is well portrayed, and it seems realistic enough. Keen interaction with Red results in her best scenes. Overall, she is a good female protagonist.
Action: 7.3/10- The Blacklist is not necessary an action series; however, there are still shootouts and a few explosions.
Acting: 9.3/10- James Spader is the absolute best actor on network television right now. There are no equals. Without his wide range as an actor, the character of Reddington could have come off as dull and cheesy, yet Spader can turn on a dime between joyful and sarcastic to ominous and terrifying. He can also portray the dramatic scenes with skill. Knowing that Spader will play Ultron in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, every episode of The Blacklist confirms my suspicion that he will likely be the best cinematic villain since Loki! As for the rest of the cast, Megan Boone as Agent Keen is rather good most of the time. Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen is another bright spot in the cast with his complex performance. The other members of the principal cast are all decent, but mostly one note. On the other hand, guest stars such as Alan Alda and others help bring to life the demented criminals that the team tracks down.
Soundtrack: 5.9/10- The background score is mostly forgettable, and the use of insert songs are hit and miss, but compared to the crap that 99.99% of other TV shows use, The Blacklist actually used one or two songs that are, in fact, effective.
Humor: 9.2/10- For a serious show, The Blacklist has a great sense of humor, which might not appeal to everyone.
Reddington is obviously the main source of humor, and it works. His random and lighthearted dialogue in tense situation is absolutely perfect. On the other hand, Reddington has a lot of black, or dark, humor throughout with his actions. For example, his comments before he burns a guy to death made me laugh. Some viewers will not find it humorous, like my mother for example, but others like myself, my brother, and father do find it humorous.
Entertainment Value: 8.0/10- When Spader in on screen, it is nothing but entertainment. Conversely, when either Spader or Boone (Keen) is not on screen, the series suffers. In one or two episodes, I almost mentally check out, but the majority of the series was entertaining.
Overall: 8.0/10- Overall, The Blacklist is the type of series that is successful largely thanks to James Spader and his character Reddington. While other aspects of the series are well done for the most part, it is his role and the use of the exploration of the criminal underground that sets The Blacklist apart.
Closing comments: If you enjoy anti-heroes, then The Blacklist is likely something that you should watch.
Recommended for: James Spader fans, Crime drama fans, Anti-hero fans,
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