The Blacklist: A catch-up
The Blacklist's hook goes something like this. Criminal mastermind gives himself up to the FBI and offers to hunt down the worst of the worst, but he will only work with a newbie agent he chooses by name. It's an intriguing premise, greatly aided by the casting of the charming devil that is James Spader as our public spirited villain, and a storyline that allows him great mischief with our perception of the unimaginatively nicknamed Raymond "Red" Reddington.
Is Red really one of the good guys? Well seven episodes in here in the UK, he has killed, embezzled and delighted in the running around his clues have caused the FBI. He has suggested to his chosen agent, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), that her marriage is a sham and that everything that led her to want to uphold law and order and the American way of life is a lie. Red has hidden his true motives in tracking down killers and terrorists and embraced the "quid pro quo" principle of Hannibal Lecter in finding out about Keen.
Unsurprisingly for fans of Spaders too infrequent movie career or the constant joy that was Boston Legal, every second that this creature of the shadows is onscreen is entertaining to the max. Spader doesn't only chew the scenery but he manages to suck the cliche out of every computer written piece of dialogue he is given, allowing the occasional moments of originality to shine and for some quite moving interactions with Boone such as at the end of the forthcoming eighth episode. This is slick TV, produced to within an inch of its life, that sometimes manages to slip out of the straitjacket of propriety to follow characters such as The Stewmaker in episode 4 and to cast that nice Robert Sean Leonard quite against type. Yet, the product placement and the soap opera of Keen's marriage do threaten to ruin the proceedings with blandness at times.
In fact, besides Spader and the rare outbreak of extremity, the programmes main draw for me is waiting for the answers to the questions thrown up by the original premise. Just why is Red interested in Keen, is he a charlatan or a reformed character? Whilst these issues simmer I don't have to worry about how shallow and predictable the format can get.
So far, I count three very good episodes, three okay ones and two generic pieces of production line TV...but that's a decent average so let's see just where we are at season's end. Here in the UK, you can catch it on Sky Living, the promo for episode 7 is below.