Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pilot Review: The Blacklist

The Blacklist (NBC)
Premiered September 23 at 10pm

This was one of many people’s most anticipated fall dramas, but it’s also worth noting that most of the events of its pilot episode were recounted in detail in its extended series preview. It’s hard to judge its effectiveness as a result, but there’s still plenty to be said about this pilot. My number one worry was that too much emphasis would be placed upon James Spader’s natural and detestable charisma, and that the show around him would be quite weak. Unfortunately, that is true, as Spader waltzes in and chews scenery like he means it, dwarfing everyone and everything else about the show. His selection of rookie agent Elizabeth Keen is meant to suggest something important about her, but that’s from the case, and she’s just a run-of-the-mill newbie up-and-comer with no discernable traits or skills, other than the ability to be impossibly calm in certain situations, namely the abduction of the girl she was sent in explicitly to protect, a definitive mark of mission failure. Attributing a secret life filled with many, many passports to her husband seems unsustainable, and I think this show is going to be grounded in entirely too much trust and liberty being afforded to its central bad guy. Spader is good, sure, but it doesn’t feel like he’s putting in any effort at all. I’m far from hooked by this first installment, especially because of the unnaturally violent home invasion, but I think this show might have some potential if it finds its groove.

How will it work as a series? Spader’s Raymond Reddington has a list of people that he’s been amassing for years, and this is hardly the first time that a list with innumerable names or things on it has been the basis for a series. The question is whether the agents pursuing the people on his list and his relationship with them will be just as compelling as the bad guy of the week.
How long will it last? This is going to be NBC’s dramatic hit of the season, I think, because Spader does command an audience and it’s a cool premise. The pilot easily dominated the series start of “Hostages” (review coming up next), and I think that this will be one of the early success stories of the fall.

Pilot grade: C

1 comment:

timetraveler said...

I'm hooked on The Blacklist. Loved all the possible twists and turns that were dropped in the pilot episodes: so many possible roads to travel.

I totally disagree with your opinion that Spader wasn't putting in any effort at all...he was frikin' fabulous...perfect characterization!