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James Spader in "The Blacklist"

There aren’t many shows that grab me right off the bat and make me crave the next episode. “The Blacklist” is one of those shows. It’s compelling, fast-paced, and has a great cast (James Spader!). It “Silence of the Lambs” meets “24.” All this, even though I was practically yelling at the TV about how incompetent these FBI agents are! More on that later.

The story begins with Raymond “Red” Reddington (Spader – but a little trivia – Kiefer Sutherland was considered for the part) strutting into the FBI building, saying who he is, and dropping on his knees as the feds surround him with guns. Turns out he’s on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. His briefcase is chock full of valuable info, including all the alias’ he’s ever used.

Red wasn’t always this way. He was at the top of his class when he graduated from the Naval Academy at the tender age of 24. He was being groomed for Admiral, but in 1990, he never arrived home to see his wife and daughter. Then he started brokering deals for fellow criminals, with his only allegiance to the highest bidder. Sounds like my kind of guy.

And he knows a lot of stuff the FBI would be happy to know. When they toss him into a steel box in a big warehouse, he says he can help bring in the bad guys, one of whom just landed at Dulles – Ranko Zamani.

He’ll help the feds find Zamani, but he’ll only speak to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). She’s a sweet girl, loving wife, and a brand new FBI profiler. But she has a sad past that included a less-than-great childhood. She thinks Red may have been waiting to turn himself in on her first day on the job, because she’s new and thinks she can be easily manipulated.

But he knows way too much about her. Like the fact that she has a burn on her hand. That she used to have highlights, but looks “much less Baltimore,” he says. “You get back home much? I haven’t been home in years.” He knows she was abandoned by a father who’s a career criminal, and had a mother who died of “weakness and shame.”

I immediately start thinking that maybe he’s her father. Anyone else get that vibe? Especially when he says, “Everything about me is a lie, but if anyone can give me a second chance, it’s you … I’m gonna make you famous, Lizzie.”

He tells her Zamani will abduct the daughter of an admiral, so she and a bunch of other feds go retrieve the girl from ballet class (and really? They can just grab her out of ballet just like that? No parent in sight?)

On the way back, the is closed, so they have to turn around. Red flag! Red flag! Sure enough, things happen fast. Explosions, gunfire, cars overturn, including the one that Liz and the girl are in.

And SOMEHOW, the bad guys manage to get the girl out of the car (Liz had no gun on her?) and make off with her in a boat – despite the fact that there were A BUNCH OF FEDS RIGHT THERE! I guess they all got shot.

Anyway, Liz tells the girl, “These men are gonna take you. They’re not gonna hurt you. I’m gonna find you.” So just go with these nice men and you’ll be fine.

Back at the facility, Red says she won’t find the girl until she learns to look at things differently (shades of “Silence of the Lambs”). He’s brilliant and seems to have a photographic memory about every criminal on the planet.

So the feds put him up in a nice place with room service, against a backdrop of Dean Martin singing, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”

Liz goes home and is thrilled to see a sign saying “It’s a Girl!” That’s the child she and her husband Tom have been waiting to adopt, only Tom’s not so excited. He’s been beaten within an inch of his life, and is now strapped to a chair with duct-tape on his mouth. And yes, there’s a bad guy there with a scary knife.

Again, Liz doesn’t have a gun on her? Anyway, the guy stabs Tom in the leg and abdomen and leaves. Liz calls 911 and pretty soon, Tom’s  in the hospital fighting for his life.

Liz reciprocates by going to see Red to find out what the heck is going on (she uses stronger language than that), and then sticks a pen in his carotid artery. Pretty soon, HE is also in the hospital, only the inept FBI agents don’t keep a close eye on him, and sure enough, he escapes out the window and Liz sees him walking away on the ground below. Darn it. Well, let’s not bother trying to chase him or anything.

From there, things escalate fast. Red meets the guy – who turns out to be Zamani – who broke into her home. Zamani says that today, “he’s giving the plague back to them.” The Admiral’s girl shows up at the zoo with a bomb strapped to her. Red sends a guy over to defuse the bomb.

Meanwhile, the feds are tracking Red with the chip they installed in him – only it’s not him. It’s Zamani. Because of course Red would just keep the tracker on him, right? Wrong. Inept FBI agents! But the agent shoots Zamani, who falls off the roof and I’m guessing is dead meat at this point.

As Red’s guy is disabling the bomb, Liz shows the girl the burn scar on her hand. Says her daddy (Red?) gave it to her, and if she touches it, it’ll make her brave. After a successful defuse, the bomb guy leaves, Red shows up, and is carted back to the FBI.

Then Red starts talking about The Blacklist – politicians, mobsters, spies, hackers – you know, the criminals that matter. “The ones you can’t find because you don’t even know they exist … if you want the whales on my list, you have to play by my rules,” he says.

And he has a BUNCH of conditions – he wants his own security, a real chip in his neck (not that namby-pamby one the feds used on him), and whatever he says falls under an immunity package that he himself will create.

And oh yes, he only speaks with Elizabeth Keen. Because that’s his daughter. Ok, I don’t know that for sure, but seriously, she’s his daughter.

Back home, Liz is pulling up the bloody carpet and finds a box with a weird symbol on it under the floorboards. Inside, there’s a bunch of money, a gun, and several passports, each with a different alias for her so-called husband.

She goes back to see Red, who says, “You’ve discovered something curious about your husband, haven’t you, Lizzie?” How DOES this guy know so much?!

Ok, so despite the fact that there are a whole bunch of holes in this plot – including the fact that I doubt the FBI would just give this guy the keys to the kingdom – I’m already pretty hooked on “The Blacklist.” It reminds me a lot of “24” (remember, there were all sorts of holes in that show, too, and it lasted for eight seasons – well, nine, counting next year’s comeback).

I’m not familiar with Megan Boone, but she did a stint on “Law & Order: L.A.” and was in last year’s “Step Up Revolution.” Spader, of course, is the bomb. He plays this part with a fascinating calm that just makes you wonder what’s going on in his head. And James Lennix plays one of the other FBI guys – he has a long list of credits, including General Swanwick in “Man of Steel,” Commander Lock in “The Matrix” movies, and Walid Al-Rezani in Day Six of “24.”

I’ll venture to say that “The Blacklist” is a slam dunk. In other words, I really hope they don’t cancel it next week and instead, give it time to grown and evolve. It’s got legs. And it knows how to use them.

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