TV Series Review
Raymond "Red" Reddington is one bad dude. He oozes felonious activity. His wardrobe (complete with black fedora) exudes fashionable evil. His I-know-ever-so-much-more-than-you attitude would make James Bond's adversaries at Spectre prickle with jealousy. Even his nickname—Concierge of Crime—seems to channel comic book villainy.
So what, pray tell, is Red doing working with the FBI?
Turns out he has a list (that'd be the Blacklist, naturally) of the world's most dangerous criminals—guys so good at being bad that the FBI doesn't even know about them yet. The names on the list are criminal whales, Red says, and he wants to play at Ahab for a bit.
But do brilliant criminal masterminds really wake up one morning and say, "You know, I'm done with this black fedora. I want to be known as the Concierge of Conscientiousness from here on out"? Moreover, Red still seems awfully friendly with some of the folks he's helping the FBI bring in. So the Bureau's pretty sure Red's hiding something. What? Well, they don't know, and Red's not about to color in the picture for them.
He is in the mood to make demands, though. "If you want the whales on my list, you have to play by my rules," he says. And the biggest rule of all? He'll only work with newbie criminal profiler Elizabeth Keen. He's obsessed with Liz for some reason, and seems to know an awful lot about her past.
The Blacklist is both a clever and contrived crime thriller. It seems predicated on the predator-prey dynamic between Red and Liz—a relationship built on mutual respect and distrust. It has some serialized elements to it—a long-game mystery that will be doled out episode by episode, season by season. But it's also something of a pedestrian episodic drama along the lines of Person of Interest, with the FBI dutifully pursuing, each week, a new man on Red's nefarious list.
Sexual material has included hookups and partial nudity. And in Season 2, our not-so-good-girl detective keeps her one-time husband and all-time spy illegally captive, hoping to use his intel to find—and perhaps kill—a notorious terrorist. But if Blacklist feels, at times, a little like Silence of the Lambs, it does not indulge that movie's serial killer depravity. Red is a wicked white-collar criminal and agent of global terrorism, but he's no up-close-and-personal serial killer. As such, we do not suffer the same level of grotesquery we do in Hannibal, Dexter or The Following.
But this is still a violent show, and sometimes extremely so. Extras die by the dozens. People are shot, sometimes spraying blood as they die. Others are beaten or even tortured—with little of the resulting pain and gore hidden from viewers. And the lines the good guys are willing to cross to bring the bad guys to sometimes terminal justice seem to grow more gray by the episode.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
James Spader as Raymond 'Red' Reddington; Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen; Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen; Harry Lennix as Harold Cooper; Diego Kleattenhoff as Donald Ressler
Paul Asay Paul Asay