A review by Nalini Haynes
Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (James Spader) walks into FBI headquarters, alerts authorities then kneels on the seal so they won’t shoot him when they arrest him. (It’s ok, he’s white.) He has a blacklist of bad guys not even on the FBI’s radar and he wants them all dead or in prison so he’s decided to work with the FBI to that end.
He’ll only speak to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a pretty young woman (surprise, surprise), who is just starting work at this branch of the FBI. There’s a connection between them but it’ll only be revealed over time, the series drip-feeding hints to entice viewers to persevere.
In the beginning I envisaged a Hannibal Lecter—Jodie Foster storyline with Red in prison, pulling Keen’s strings, his motives always dubious. I overestimated the writers. Instead Red tells the FBI they have to release him to work cases then he lets a terrorist escape with a bio-bomb as ‘the cost of doing business’. Then, in the following episode, the FBI lets him out again. He even shoots a man in cold blood in front of the man’s gangster boss and FBI profiling agent Keen (she’s in the field too although not qualified for field work). Then he smarms his way out of the consequences — and the FBI releases him to work on the next case the following week.
Red bounces between 5-star dining and living in a box handcuffed to his chair as if he’s a violent Houdini. One minute he’s imprisoned, the next the FBI flies him to Montreal to capture a guy they’ve never heard of. So he eats, shoots and leaves, just like a punctuating panda.
Red’s connection to Keen appears paternal at times and, at others, he’s out to get Keen’s husband, Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), like when Red sends a terrorist to torture and stab him, spilling blood on the carpet so Elizabeth will find the hidden stash of guns, money and passports under the floorboards. She finds the stash and doesn’t declare it to the FBI, instead trying to get the story from Red in whispered conversations when FBI agents can’t overhear her. Because Red is never bugged so she can totes have private conversations with this evil mastermind.
The first episode wasn’t too bad but episodes 2 and 3 were inconsistent — with Red jumping from luxury to privation with no apparent motivation on the part of the FBI — and the plots lacked intelligence. I could spent pages ranting about ‘because plot’ twists like the bio-bomb Red gave to another terrorist and the inevitable outcome of Liz not declaring hubby’s stash. The Blacklist is on my blacklist. Life’s too short to drink bad coffee or to watch a TV series of this low caliber. Avoid.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Creator: Jon Bokenkamp
Stars: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff
Running time: about 45 minutes per episode with 22 episodes in season 1