The Black List
Creator: Jon Bokenkamp
Stars: James Spader and Megan Boone
Year Released: 2013
Take a former government agent with an unknown past and make him one of the FBI’s most wanted people, then throw in connections with every criminal conceivable and resources that most governments cannot match and you might be close to the guy that is Raymond “Red” Reddington. Red, James Spader, is half of the dynamic duo that makes up the shared protagonist role of The Blacklist. Spader shares this responsibility to the adorable Megan Boone and her adorably dumb character Elizabeth (Lizzy to Red) Keen.
With solid writing and very talented directing, The Blacklist is as good a dramatic thriller as you will find while still remaining acceptable for the 13-18 year old crowd. There is intrigue to spare, plot threads woven in and out of each and every episode and enough double-backing to keep you wondering in which direction you are headed.
Keen is a novice profiler with the FBI with a background in psychiatry that was requested as a contact point by Raymond Reddington upon his capture. Declaring that he would only talk to her, she suddenly had the spotlight and became the center of a special task force focusing on Reddington and his knowledge of the criminal world, a deal he made for his release.
It isn’t that simple of course, it turns out that Keen’s husband is more than he seems and some people are named after cities. Each episode in season one (with a couple of exceptions) gives us a new person off of the Blacklist that the episode focuses on. Sure, there are some moments that make you wonder which writer phoned their job in or how Spader managed to read the script and even make it into work that day, but by and large, the stories are compelling and unique. Some of the villains presented are of the atypical variety and manage to pull off some acts that you would find hard to believe, but seem to be totally possible.
The nice thing about the show is that they truly keep you guessing, there seems to be no fear in who they kill off, or who they bring into the mix. With the exception of the two main characters, I honestly feel that everyone is dispensable, if Red feels it is time to let them go, that is.
Which leads me to my favorite part of the show: James Spader. At first I was shocked to see him back on network television in as large a role as this one. I am a huge fan of his various films (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, The Watcher, and Secretary in particular) and feel that he has a very special talent for pulling off the charming yet sinister character that so many others seem to fail at (Cillian Murphy also does this very well), and he does it so perfectly well in The Blacklist. His little anecdotes dispensed to both friend and foe manage to insult their audience without causing any harm to the reputation of Red, in fact the ability to recall such inane stories (or make them up with such talent) lend credence to his alleged lordship within the criminal universe.
Is Red the true father of Keen? I believe so, but time will tell. He hasn’t ever lied to her (and has told her he never will) but he is a master manipulator and there are many things she does not know, I don’t think it is beyond the realm of possibility for Red to consider that the part of him that was a “father” died that night in the fire and he was reborn as a spirit of vengeance with no ties to the daughter he once held as a music box played on the dresser.