The Blacklist – Episode 1 Review

Another week, another new US television show. The Blacklist comes with an interesting premise – the world’s greatest criminal one day decides to hand himself in to the FBI, offering to help with outstanding cases. But is it as simple as that? Surely there must be something he wants in return?

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The first episode begins with Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) walking in to an FBI office, asking to speak to the deputy-head. “Do you have an appointment?” he’s asked. “No.” He gives his name and suddenly alarms sound and he’s surrounded by a SWAT team. Great sequence – really well played scene, I thought.

Once in custody, Red says he has information about a kidnap plot (which turns out to be more than just that), but he’ll only speak to Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone). No one seems to know who she is, until it turns out she’s just graduated from Quantico and about to start as a profiler. Another great scene follows where she’s “picked up” from her house to go and talk to Red.

There were some real shifts in tone throughout this episode. It began as a lot of fun, with a bright bubbly Agent Keen, planning an adoption with her husband, then getting whisked away to speak with Red. What happens towards the end of the episode shifts the show in to much darker territory, and it’s unclear at this stage where it’s going.

I like James Spader as an actor, but have to confess to not having really seen much of his work. I was introduced to him through Stargate, and after that I’ve not seen much other than his bizarre turn in The Office. He plays Red well, with his authoritative voice and slight facial ticks showing the true intelligence behind his character – you can believe that this guy really has been able to evade the FBI for all this time, and has only been captured when he wanted to be captured. I’m sure there’s more to his end game than just ticking off a list of names from the titular “blacklist” of people who have done something to upset him, but exactly what remains to be seen.

Whether the “villain of the week” formula will continue, and continue to work remains to be seen – it could become tired very quickly without some real care – but there was enough enjoyment and intrigue in this first episode to make me come back for the next episode.

Overall, a very enjoyable start, with a surprising amount of violence after the deliciously gleeful first 15 – 20 minutes. Fingers crossed that it will keep going in the same way without becoming predictable and samey.

4-star

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