The Blacklist “Pilot” Review

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Oh, boy! It’s my third pilot review in a row for a new series centered around some sort of government superteam. Golly gosh gumdrops! I can’t wait. Let’s dive on in, shall we?

So, James Spader plays Ray Reddington, aka the Concierge of Crime. He’s one of those intellectual super-criminals with no real agenda beyond making a fuckton of money brokering deals between various evil-doers. Reddington turns himself in to the FBI, claiming that he merely wants to help track down terrorists and criminals with the information he’s gathered over the years. Whether or not that’s true is still up for debate. Anyway, Reddington refuses to deal with anyone other than agent Elizabeth Keene (Megan Boone), a profiler on her first day on the job. Liz is no dope and is pretty suspicious of why exactly a criminal mastermind is so interested in her. Reddington insists that she is special for some mysterious reason.

Anyway, there’s a Serbian hooligan in town looking to kidnap the daughter of a high ranking military official and set off a chemical weapon in Bethesda’s local zoo as revenge for blah blah blah. Reddington keeps his cards close to his chest, but keeps his word and helps to put a stop to the dastardly plot. He tells the FBI that the Serbian was only the first of many criminals he can help bring to justice, many of whom are so good at being bad, they’ve managed to stay under the government radar. A list of names he refers to as The Blacklist. The catch is, he’ll work with Liz and Liz only. And away we go.

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The first act is a little rushed. We rocket through as much of the setup as possible in the first ten minutes or so, but things do settle down for the rest of the episode. Other than that, the episode was well-paced and well-constructed; it’s a perfectly enjoyable crime thriller. It smacks of early Alias to me, really, though I’m not sure why. Come to think of it, James Spader might have made a good Arvin Sloane.  Megan Boone also gives a strong performance, skillfully going from badass to vulnerable and back again as the plot warrants. Everyone else is a little bland, but I get the feeling this isn’t going to be an ensemble show.

There is an element of camp to this series though. Spader is quite gleefully channeling Anthony Hopkins, complete with being a well educated, elegant man locked away in a super-cell. Speaking of that super-cell, it’s kind of ridiculous. They’ve got him locked up in an abandoned post office warehouse on a little platform with a chair inside a giant metal cube that looks like it could have been built by Tony Stark. And as Liz approaches to talk to him, the entire front of the cube opens and the whole thing slides back to leave just the platform and chair. Really? FUCKING REALLY? The FBI spends the money to make such an elaborate, ridiculous contraption, and nobody thought to maybe try putting an intercom in there first? Oh, Blacklist, you made me laugh, bitch.

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Reddington, with the cube in retract mode.
 I do have my reservations, however. Like Hostages, I could easily see this getting a little stale if they stick to formula. A show like this needs to take risks and be going somewhere to really work. Otherwise, it becomes little more than another Person of Interest or Criminal Minds.

The Blacklist pilot was pretty solid, with some surprisingly gruesome action and ticking-clock drama, as well as a few genuinely intriguing twists. Hell, Liz even gets a few rather awesome moments to show that she really is the bad bitch she described herself as. Pen, meet carotid. Ugh.  James Spader and Megan Boone have a good rapport and show some real chemistry. It’s unquestionably derivative of Hannibal Lecter minus the people munching, but it’s still fun to watch. Plus, we’re graced with the presence of Pardminer Nagra as well. I’ve been a fan of hers since her ER stint in its twilight years. The Blacklist‘s certainly not top-drawer material, but if you’ve got some time on your hands, you could do a lot worse.

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