‘The Blacklist’ Series Premiere Review: James Spader Steals The Show (Again)

Published 2 years ago by , Updated September 24th, 2013 at 6:30 pm,

blacklist premiere nbc james spader The Blacklist Series Premiere Review: James Spader Steals The Show (Again)

At first glance, The Blacklist appears to be another high-action-counter-terrorism show that resembles similar programs such as Homeland and 24. However, like those series, The Blacklist has unique and complex layers of story and character development that could make it one of the best new series of the year.

Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (James Spader) is a former government agent who mysteriously went rogue several years ago, abandoning his family on Christmas Eve to work with terrorists. There is no rhyme or reason why he turned traitor, only that he’s now back in the hands of the Federal Government and will only speak with a young woman named Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Keen (Megan Boone).

Liz is an up and coming agent who is trying to adopt a child with her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold). Her first encounter with Red is a dramatic one, as she quickly realizes that he knows more than he should about Liz’s personal life. Spader is chewing dialogue like he knows this show is his, and rightfully so. At times, his performance can be hammy; however, Spader is so talented that this can be forgiven, as we quickly realize that he not only has the F.B.I. in his hands, but the viewing audience as well.

blacklist premiere review nbc The Blacklist Series Premiere Review: James Spader Steals The Show (Again)

Boone unleashes as stellar performance of her own, showcasing her ability to be calm, ferocious, and vulnerable all at the same time. In an era where television is in desperate need of more strong female characters, Boone is a shinning example of what that can look like when done well. The most surprising aspect from the premiere was the episode’s focus on the importance of family.

Stopping terrorists in intense situations can be exhilarating for a time, but there has to be a connection with the characters on screen, or else the tension is for naught. Early on, we discover that Boone has abandonment issues, and is attempting to fix her past by adopting a child of her own. Though it’s not stated in the episode, it could be assumed that Red is Liz’s long lost father. Is the show hinting too hard at that realization? With that being said, one of the best scenes was when Harry Lennix (Harold Cooper) asked Liz to profile herself. What better way to get to know a character than to have her break down who she is; faults and all.

NBC’s The Blacklist is a network series that’s not playing it safe. Liz is one of the more complex female characters on television, for one minute she’s comforting a General’s daughter who’s about to be kidnapped, to stabbing Red in the neck in order to ascertain more information about why her husband was attacked. Hopefully, The Blacklist will do well in the ratings game so we can learn more about Liz.

blacklist premiere megan boone The Blacklist Series Premiere Review: James Spader Steals The Show (Again)

The family dynamic bleeds into the terrorist elements as well. A fanatical man named Ranko Zamani (Jamie Jackson) has a vendetta with a U.S. General who was responsible for innocent children being killed. Some of those children were Zamani’s and he wants to not only hurt the General’s daughter, but hundreds of children at the zoo, in order for them to experience the same pain he is feeling. Again, family is everything in this episode, and will most likely be one of the central themes of the season.

Like many new series, The Blacklist has its mysteries to uncover. In this case, it’s Red’s list of terrorists, mobsters and other miscreants that are a part of a much bigger plan. Mysteries shrouded in darkness, or clouded in abstractness are not always a good formula for a show to follow. For every Lost, there’s a Revolution and The Event. Who Liz’s husband really is does not carry the same importance of who Liz is as a person. She and Reddington are far more interesting.

For this show to succeed, it will need to find a balance between uncovering the mysteries while developing its characters. Lost was at its best when it succeeded in that arena. Can ‘The Blacklist‘ do the same? Find out next week. 


The Blacklist continues next week with ‘The Freelancer’ @10pm on NBC.

Follow David Griffin on Twitter @griffinde
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  1. Saw it last night.

    Interesting to say the least, Spader does make you want to watch it.

    The way it’s unwinding it makes you think Liz is Red’s daughter but that seems too obvious. The twist with her husband also adds to the intrigue.

    She reminds me of another actress but I can’t place it.

    • “The way it’s unwinding it makes you think Liz is Red’s daughter but that seems too obvious.”

      yeah, it really does. It would be better now, if Liz wasn’t his daughter after all

    • Caroline Dhavernas(Alana Bloom on Hannibal)? That’s what the whole show reminds me of.

    • She reminds me of Taylor Schilling from Orange Is The New Black.

  2. A bit cheesy, but good action and intrigue. I’m in for now.

  3. Seems cool.

    Haven’t read the article though because it doesn’t air here until next Friday (same time as Agents Of SHIELD in fact, make of that what you will if you’re conspiracy minded).

  4. The show is alright, and if Spader wasn’t the lead I doubt I would keep watching. Some of the “family” moments were forced, and resulted in me rolling my eyes. Also some of the special effects are terrible even for tv standards (anyone see the preview for next week? that train crash? i’ve seen better effects from an iphone app)

    Spader has been one of my favorite actors going back to Stargate, and Boston Legal, so i’m glad to have him back on tv. Looking forward to his portrayal in The Age of Ultron!

    • the guys a good actor at least :)

    • I agree but I felt Hostages was far more forced in terms of family moments.

  5. The Pilot was somewhat predictable. I had high hopes that the “blacklist” would be a secret organization but it just turns out to be a list guys Reddington says are the real badges. The show sort of reminds me of “Alias”.

  6. I really enjoy the black list and do think that Red is Liz’ long lost father.

    Her husband, on the other hand.. is a whole bag of tricks.. he’s got passports, extra money, and a gun.

    Who is he? Is he a terrorist, a rogue? Who knows. It’s an interesting series and it kept me engaged the entire time.

    I don’t see those family moments as being “forced” what so ever.

  7. I wonder how this would’ve played out had the show cast its first choice, Kiefer Sutherland. I don’t think Liz will be Red’s daughter, simply because I’d like to believe the government wouldn’t have lost track of the wife and daughter of one of America’s most wanted criminals. The fact that the FBI didn’t catch her criminal background (despite her admitted vetting) seemed to turn that theory on its ear, though. Spader and Lennix were typically great, the female lead seemed very wooden (except for when she was losing her temper). At this point, I’m wondering if the Red didn’t choose Liz because of a connection to Liz’s husband.

  8. Solid start. Spader stole scenes. I’m hoping it doesn’t have the obvious plot twist as stated in the review. If it goes criminal of the week, I’m tuning out.

    • Well, it has turned into criminal of the week. Thats the whole point of a blacklist really. Catch each criminal on that list one by one, whilst Red gives only Keen information on each one.
      The show seems really sloppy though. Spader is amaazing and so is the actress who plays Keen, everyone else is very watery and the special effects are terrible. God. And it seems a very family orientated show.

  9. i see the potential…..but i hope Red doesnt just become another guy working with the FBI…they need to keep him being the puppet master

    • I agree.

  10. I had never even heard of Spader (yes I live under a rock) until he was cast as Ultron. I watched this solely to check him out, and he didn’t disappoint. I’m looking forward to his performance in Avengers 2.

    • You should see his performance as Alan Shore in Boston Legal, hands done one of the most captivating performances ever

      • Total agree with that, only reason I’m gonna give Blacklist a go is because of Spader and his Alan Shore performance.

        Denny Crane.

        All hail THE SHAT!

  11. This one sounds good, probably an almost-definite watcher! (Did I say that all confused and convoluted?). I was at work when the pilot came on,s o will watch in my spare time on the website.

  12. Sorry but not a fan of Spader’s acting style
    Think he’s better fit in Theater

  13. Just started watching it. Couldn’t help but notice that Agent Keen’s husband looks like a younger James Spader(albeit taller). Just saying!!!!! ;)

    • James Spader is “Hollywood tall” at 5’10″.
      Not sure about Ryan Eggold.

  14. You should just see it for what it is, not a world class show but simple entertainment, played by-the-numbers. with lots of action scenes that make little sense.

    But for a starring role Elizabeth doesn’t impress. She’s supposed to be a profiler, but hasn’t done any of that for so far I can see. She just interrogates ineffectively instead of observing, which is supposed to be a profiler’s speciality. A criminal breaks into her house, and like a bond villain explains his plan. “What did he say ?” Red wants to know the next day, “I don’t know” she says, as she was so distracted by her wounded husband that she choose to ignore to listen to it all. Not to mention the shameful overacting when she gets near the kid, all teary eyed.

  15. The CGI looks fake, please fix this! It kinda ruins the show.