September 23, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Blacklist”



THE BLACKLIST was a game-changing smash for NBC last season, in combination with The Voice solidifying the network’s hold on Mondays to such an extent that the night, along with Sunday Night Football, made up for all its shortcomings the rest of the week.  The show was a hit from the start, but it only gradually found its creative level, morphing from a relatively sober procedural (a spin on Silence of the Lambs, with James Spader’s uber-criminal Raymond Reddington as its Hannibal Lecter and Megan Boone’s FBI agent Elizabeth Keen as its Clarice Starling) to a gleefully over-the-top action-fest, fueled by a mythology that only barely ever comes down to Earth.

If it ain’t broke, etc., so tonight’s Season 2 premiere, written by series creator John Bokenkamp and showrunner John Eisendrath, and directed by Michael Watkins, was fully in keeping with where the show left off.  Picking up 2 months after last season’s finale, it added an important piece of Reddington myth, as we (and Elizabeth) discovered that Raymond had an ex-wife in a slightly less formal version of Witness Protection (played by new recurring guest star Mary-Louise Parker, who was introduced late in the episode).  She soon enough found herself captured by Red’s nemesis Berlin (Peter Stormare), who may or may not have begun cutting her fingers off–certainly someone’s fingers were sent in a gift box at the end of the hour.  That, of course, increases the stakes for this arc of the series, since, as so many movie trailers have had it over the years: This Time It’s Personal.

Fans of the show will remember that in other ambiguous news, Lizzie’s husband Tom (Ryan Eggold), a thorough fake who was secretly working with Berlin (unless he wasn’t), was seemingly killed in the Season 1 finale, but his body vanished.  Eggold is absent from the show’s opening credits, and the episode had Lizzie formally annulling the marriage, but someone was watching her from a car outside her apartment.  Although the body count among series regulars was fairly heavy last season, by the end of the hour FBI task force leader Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix), injured late last season and apparently with other dire medical news, was convinced by Red to return.  The nascent romance between Lizzie and fellow FBI agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) still hasn’t happened, but with both of them now single, it would only seem a matter of time.

Along the way, the episode featured a rollicking showdown between Reddington and an African warlord, a seemingly pointless extraction via helicopter by a Mossad agent who was almost immediately ordered to let Red go, and a story-of-the-week.  This involved a cyber-bounty agent who had tracked Red’s ex-wife down, and although it turned out to be based on one of those ancient split personality plots where the evil personality has killed her identical twin and taken on her life, it was sparked by an unusual straight (and very effective) performance by Krysten Ritter, best known as the comedy star of Don’t Trust the B___ in Apt 23.

The cast of The Blacklist can still best be described as James Spader plus Everybody Else, although Boone is noticeably less stiff than she was a year ago.  The show isn’t about its characters, though:  it’s a showcase for Spader and its wild action sequences and plotting, which while never quite as intense or imaginative as Banshee‘s (partly because Spader isn’t in the kind of shape necessary to take part in bare-knuckle brawls himself, even via stuntmen), are fun all the same.  Blacklist should have little trouble dominating its Monday timeslot once again this fall, but after that NBC is going to take the single biggest risk of any network this season, by taking Blacklist off the air for 3 months and returning it on Thursday nights (after a post-Super Bowl airing), where it will have to face off against Scandal.  That battle will be fascinating, but it’s still a long time away.  For now, Blacklist will continue its romping ways.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."