on 17 June 2014
This is what I call great 'bubble gum tv'. It's a show that moves at breakneck speed and has plenty of intrigue to keep you watching to the end. It's not without its flaws. The plots have huge holes in them and the acting by the support actors could get you splinters. However, the whole thing is brought together by without doubt the best lead actor I have seen in any TV series. James Spader playing Red, makes The Blacklist so watchable and I would recommend this series to anyone. I can't wait for series 2.
5 stars for James Spader.
on 10 September 2015
I seldom give five stars in my reviews but this is one of those series that I feel everything has come together well; cast, characters, plot, script, editing etc.
James Spader has really come into his own as an accomplished actor. America has for the past decade been producing many series where the hero (or anti-hero) is flawed and you're never quite sure whether he's innocent or guilty. This one clearly stands out as one of the best.
Spader plays the FBI most wanted criminal - Raymond 'Red' Reddington who turns himself in then makes a deal with the FBI to help them with a 'Blacklist' of the worlds most heinous criminals who aren't even on the FBI radar. His one condition is that he has to work through FBI Profiler Liz Keen (played by Megan Boon). It's hinted that there is some sort of past connection between Red and Liz though were not quite sure what it is. The series goes through many twists. The drama and tension is kept well alive partly because main characters get killed. Spader does a sterling job as a dangerous and ruthless individual who may or may not have good intentions. The cast includes Parminda Nagra (from Bend it like Beckham) who does an excellent support role as an CIA agent and Diego Klattenhoff (from Homeland) who does a convincing performance as a driven FBI agent and former adversary of Red.
on 18 November 2014
OMG!! What a character Red Reddington is! James Spader almost instantly 'throws off' the round wire spec's and geeky archaeologist character of Daniel Jackson (Stargate) and brings to life a deliciously 'bad' super-criminal turned "advisor" to the FBI.From the first episode, me and my partner were hooked and "just one more episode" would turn into four more and bedtime was in the early hours of the morning!
on 27 August 2014
Only way to truly describe this show is joyous. is it a believable show? No. Its a fantasy in many ways, one built on suspense rather than an absolute reality. Are there plot holes? No doubt although some of those I am sure have been left deliberately to fill in later.
The action and characters are watchable and the mystery surrounding Reddington is engaging. The criminal of the week is a way to have something in the immediate for the audience while the long play, the real plot, is happening slowly over the season and beyond.
But ultimately, what makes this show work is James Spader. His performance is wonderful to watch. His character is how I would imagine his Boston Legal character, Alan Shore, if he went completely over to the dark side rather than simply sticking his toe in it every once in a while. The character is by turns charming, sympathetic, compassionate, intelligent, ruthless, hilarious and irredeemable. That Spader is able to bring out all the facets of this character without any of the parts looking alien to the others is a testament to his acting skills.
James Spader is the undisputed star of this awesome show, playing Raymond Reddington, a permanent resident of the FBI's most wanted list. For reasons of his own, he voluntarily starts working with the FBI, and one agent in particular, to take down members of the world's criminal underbelly that Reddington himself considers the scum of the earth. He plays his anti-hero role perfectly, with dry acerbic panache, underpinned by a deep well of genuine 'something'. What it is, we'll have to wait and see, but there is obviously something important at his core driving him. This is definitely a thriller, but there is plenty of emotion, humour and razor sharp wit to lighten the tension. Nobody can sneer quite like James Spader, although I read once that many people would pay good money to see a sneering contest between Spader and Kevin Spacey. Reddington's complicated relationship with his FBI go-to agent, Elizabeth Keen, is marvellous, as is his interactions with other FBI suits as well as associates and/or friends who aren't precisely in strictly legal lines of work. There is a definite long story arc at play here, although each episode generally deals with another name on the List. If you watch out of order, I'd say you will miss about 50% of what's really going on. Thoroughly entertaining to watch the FBI work with the devil they know to take down the truly evil, plus simultaneous other plots and subplots, this show is definitely worth watching.
I watched this series online, so if you're one of those only here for the DVD extras, please look elsewhere.
After a wobbly start where everything just felt a bit too ridiculous and overblown, I got used to the style and accepted that the series' initial limitations/nuisance points actually hold its charm... As the story progresses and the mystery of agent Keen's relationship with Reddington evolves, it gets quite addictive. It's helped by mostly good acting (which also gets better as the actors feel increasingly comfortable with their roles), a great soundtrack, high-octane explosions, fast-paced new-case-per-episode drama mixed with the overarching storyline of Agent Keen's mysterious past and you're left with very good entertainment - and it only gets better in series two as more secrets are revealed.
3.5 stars leading up to a 4 star second season.
on 14 January 2016
I still remember how much I hated James Spader's smug character in "Pretty in Pink" back in the 80's. I remember that smug, sarcastic tone of voice, that deadpan delivery, that smart a**ey way about him. No actor radiates such bemused contempt for others quite like Spader.
Shoot forward 3 decades, he hasn't changed much at all, just minus most of his hair, and a few wrinkles.
Anyway, I'm nearly through with series one now. I will be buying series two, just not wanting to pay £14 for it... This series is really good. What I like about it is that it's easy to watch. Particularly after I got through series one of The Wire, which requires your full attention, and even then, you feel as though you need to watch each episode a second time. This one, you can watch with one eye shut. It's effortless. Sometimes, its a bit silly. Sometimes, it's far too easy. But what really makes this is James Spader in the lead role.
No, it's not entirely believable that he'd turn himself in, nor is it believable that he'd demand to only work with Liz Keen, a rookie FBI agent out of nowhere. Nor is it believable that the FBI would just let him go round the world freely once he's turned himself in. But who cares. This is light entertainment, and it does the job.
Megan Boone does a decent job in her role as Liz Keen, although again a bit of a stretch that she leads every hunt tipped off by Reddington (Spader), but hey, this is Hollywood. There's also decent chemistry between her and Spader, so this works.
Also good performances by the young blonde agent (what's his name), and of course delightful "cameos" by actors such as the likable monster psycho from Prison Break (Teabag), and a few others, including one episode featuring the head detective from The Wire (as a bad guy in this one). My, they do intermix, don't they.
Reddington is basically going through his blacklist - tipping off the FBI as an informant - we're not sure why yet - with Keen leading the investigations, with his help of course. One killer after another, they go after, catch, then onto the next one. Interwoven with this is Keen's relationship with her husband - Reddington tells her that her husband isn't who she thinks hs is. Initially, she doesn't believe this. But in time she comes to see that Reddington isn't lying to her. The big question is, what is Reddington to her? He's very fatherly, but is he her dad? Remains to be seen.
In many scenes, some of the dialog is highly reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs - almost modelling Spader's "charming" character on Hannibal Lecter. Some of it bordering on light plagiarism (changing "fava beans and chianti" to some other food and drink, for example). But again, who cares. This is a fun ride.
If you want light entertainment, if you want a series where you won't struggle to pay attention, or where you're not drifting off from boredom, then get this. Definitely worth a whirl. There's some bits that are even funny.
on 29 December 2015
Oh dear, you might think, do we really need another FBI based TV series? In a totally saturated market anything new has to stand out from the crowd and not be a reworking of a previously successful idea. The Blacklist, thankfully, is both an original twist on the old civilian consultant theme and a well written & plotted show.
James Spader (Red Reddington) is magnificent as the dapper master criminal (how dare he look so good in a hat), without doubt has the best lines and single handed raises the show above the mundane. The show is naturally episodic in nature as Red helps the Famous But Ineffective capture their most wanted criminals but there are a number of strong underlying narrative threads cementing the season into a coherent whole. Why does Red insist on working only with a rookie profiler Megan Keene (who, by the way, has mastered the art of both being annoying and shouting “Stop! FBI!” at baddies when they obviously have no intention of stopping (do they ever?))? Is Keene’s husband really as soppy & squeaky clean as he seems? What is Red’s real motivation?
Superficially, the show may indeed seem episodic but there are none of the 22 instalments that do not progress the multiple intertwined plot lines and you need to keep your wits about you as previous cases are frequently referenced. The plot design is as clever and the writing as sharp as you would expect from a series with J.R. Orci (master of the unforgettable “Fringe”) in the writing & production teams and the whole show has a well conceived and polished feel. Much as you’d expect, the season finale leaves a lot of unanswered questions; as soon as we’ve finished binge-watching Grimm Season 4 we will no doubt do the same with The Blacklist Season 2. Excellent.
It'd be easy to itemise a long list of faults with the show, but that would be to miss the point. Rather like mashed potato, it's fun, comfort viewing when you want a bit of enjoyment rather than serious, top end quality. So don't worry too much about the plot holes, annoying character quirks and variable special effects.
Rather just sit back and enjoy the exuberant silliness, from the start where the FBI fill the streets and skies to pick up agent late for work (lucky she hadn't left home a few minutes earlier, hey?) through to the ending which cleverly links back to an earlier episode where a photo suddenly assumes a changed and bigger significance as you see it in two different people's hands.
James Spader's acting is a bit marmite. Many people love it, but it is based on a fairly small number of quizzical facial expressions which get heavily used, and he is required to be annoyingly cryptic, never really giving a straight answer to a question.
Good fun as long as you don't expect too much of it.
on 7 November 2014
Fantastic! Takes a few episodes to get going but when it does...
The writers have their work cut out trying to make every episode different while continuing the underlying theme going but they do this well. It would have better better if the stories were a bit grittier but it's still damn fine viewing, can't wait to see the next series.