I’m not ashamed to admit it: I binge-watched all of The Blacklist over the last ten days.
Throughout the season, my parents and one of my good friends would periodically email me after an episode they liked with the question, “Why aren’t you watching this?”
I guess my DVR was full. Or something. Seriously, I don’t have a great excuse for why I missed the stellar Boston Legal and Stargate star James Spader’s debut as uber-criminal Red Reddington, who turns himself into the FBI in the first episode and negotiates a deal where he will report only to newbie profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone, Law & Order: LA). What happens each episode will keep you guessing– and watching periodically through your fingers– as the two tackle the toughest cases and the most violent of criminals.
These criminals are no joke, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that some well-known character won’t get gut-shot. Villains with nicknames like “The Stewmaker” and “The Good Samaritan” do nefarious things, including kidnapping and torturing their victims, and it’s the darkness of the show that sets the backdrop for the ongoing story about who Reddington is to Keen, and what the overarching conspiracy really is. And that’s where this really gets good.
Like the conspiratorial stories told by J.J. Abrams’ Alias and Fringe, or the older The Pretender, The Blacklist lets us know early on that Keen might not actually know where she’s from or who her father is. She’s a woman who thought she was on the peak of something great (joining the FBI) and suddenly finds the rug pulled out from underneath her. She’s staggering– and Boone captures this influx position perfectly– mostly around wanting to know where she’s from and who her dad is. Is it Red? Is it Sam (William Sadler)? And if Red is her father, are we supposed to see him sympathetically, as we’ve watched him kill for Keen… and to protect his own interests?
Of course, Red isn’t the only …questionable character character as previews alerted us to the fact that Tom (Ryan Eggold), Keen’s husband, has some darker business. Is he for Keen or against her? Is it related to Red or not? I’ll spoil this: we’re not sure even at the end of the first season! But we did get some questions answered, and we have the perfect set up for the second season with the emergence of the always nasty Peter Stormare as something more than he seems who obviously has a connection to Keen as well.
In seeing the whole picture (so far), I find myself looking at Red’s ‘gifts’ to the FBI as a kind of penance: yes, the taking down of the different people may be for his own good as well, but they seem to be a ridding the world of some truly evil people. It helps that many of his late-season conversations, confessions if you will, occur in houses of worship: it’s as if Red has to get them off his chest and Keen is the only one ‘pure’ enough to receive them. She’s his confessor, his priest- but by the end of the season, it appears that she is starting to get her hands dirty, too.
So what comes next? Will Keen fall from grace? Will Red be redeemed? I still think that it will ultimately revolve around Keen’s … mother. I’m betting the fire has something to do with it- maybe it’s Red’s fault- and in the process, Keen’s mother died….But we’ll see. Maybe tonight, when The Blacklist returns to NBC.