Thanks to its lead, a kinda blading and cancerous looking James Spader, The Blacklist pilot episode is pretty effective and is overall well put together. It does all the things one expects and is necessary out of a pilot, without being too clumsy. While filling those final 10 minutes with some promise to the future of the series, and might have something with Megan Boone.
Raymond "Red" Redington(Spader) is one of the FBI’s most wanted. This former highly valued naval officer took a turn to the dark side and became the “Concierge of Crime”. A one stop shop facilitator for all types of modern evils. So then, why does he just walk into an FBI building in D.C. and turn himself in all calm and cool? Well, they don’t really explain that since that’s the show. IT likely has something to do with either terminal illness or someone dying and now he has a deep seated want for revenge on all of those whom he has worked with making the world an unsafe place. Which Red has thoughtful put in the form of a list, the titular Blacklist, for FBI Assistant Director Harold Cooper(Harry Lennix) and his band of impotent cronies. It’s all the people the FBI and US Government want and they don’t even know it yet.
Aha there are conditions! Since The Blacklist is essentially a buddy cop procedural but with terrorist and a budget. Enter Elizabeth Keen(Megan Boone) a new profiler whom Red will only talk with. Writer Jon Bokenkamp goes out of his way to remind us of that fact by having Red repeat it throughout the episode. With the way Spader just chews it and spits it out, you’d want to have him say that on repeat to.
So is Keen Reddington’s long forgotten daughter? That’s the conclusion and question that has been popping up since the initial trailer came out. It is a possibility that the pilot certainly leaves open. With all the talk of Redington leaving his wife and child and Keen with her gnarly looking good luck power up scar Daddy gave her (insert there’s a chance gif here). It’s also a reading that creator Jon Bokenkamp has to be aware of. He has too know we know that he knows...something. So how far down the Princess Bride Battle of Wits do we go? OR maybe we are going about this all the wrong way. What if Spader is really playing Ultron (possibly from the future) and Keen is really Jocasta! Yes, that would entail a Disney/ABC crossover with NBC and Sony. Which doesn't seem that likely but, hey, that would be waaaay more interesting than this meaningless mystery. Keen has been characterized, rather well, by her lack of parentage it’s what made her into the person she is at the start of the show. So why her parentage matters is a stretch.
When Spader is on screen acting all James Spadery, chewing scenery and being creepy/sickly The Blacklist has a bit of sizzle. His performance is good enough to make me want to watch maybe one or two more episodes. The character of Red is all about tricking people and being the smartest man in the room so smarmy sarcastic Spader has to come out at some point.
Surprisingly, Meagan Boone might turn into the shows secrete weapon. Right now she is nowhere near as entertaining as Spader. When she tries to act big it comes off poorly, but then she stabs Spader in the neck so it’s all good. The pilot also goes quite a bit establishing that she is powerful and has a certain degree of agency. TV could always use more badass female characters, hopefully Keen turns into one.
The middle section plot of dealing with the kidnapping of a General's daughter and possible chemical attack, was ok. It wasn’t bad certainly not memorable by any means. It did let director Joe Carnahan direct a nice abduction scene on a bridge which was visually pleasing. Carnahan provides an excellent breezy pace for this episode, it feels like a deadline show even when there isn’t a deadline but isn’t needlessly going for tension. The villain of the week procedural aspect of the show could be interesting. The concept of the Blacklist: a list of terrorist, politicians, mobsters, and hackers that Red wants gone, is certainly broad enough for a wide variety but formulaically concocted episodes. The Blacklist is setup to be likeLeverage or a USA show an episode is largely stand alone until the end when you get a tiny smidge of seasonal arc to give everything some connective tissue. This isn’t a bad thing Leverage used that model very well. I just don’t think that can work over 22 episodes.
The pilot for The Blacklist is utterly compotent and even a little stylish. The show concept fits into the Network structure rather nicely, and hey James Spader is on TV again! Maybe if this show turns into something it’ll be worth checking in every couple of weeks or something.
The Bits At The End
Having Boone give exposition about her self to people who already know all of this but are testing her skills is how you make exposition seem seamless and unobtrusive.
Man who wants to be that her husband is on the Blacklist? Also does anyone think his spy status and non-stay at home Dad/whatever the hell he does make the character of Boone weaker? Every action movie has the male hero saving the captured wife this one didn’t I kinda liked that a lot.