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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
\x34Rants and Raves\x34 includes everything from political commentary to movie reviews
Review: The Blacklist
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By Stephen Browne
Stephen Browne
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By Stephen W. Browne
Nov. 4, 2013 5:23 p.m.



A former government agent, now one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals, walks into the FBI headquarters, identifies himself and submits to arrest. He offers to help them catch a seriously bad guy but he’ll only talk to a certain FBI profiler, who started work just that day. (Megan Boone playing FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen.)

They sure know how to hook you on “The Blacklist” and they haven’t let go yet.

James Spader plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, a.k.a. “the Concierge of Crime,” a master criminal with a list of the worst people in the world, some of whose existence the FBI isn’t even aware of. He offers to help the FBI get them all in return for immunity, but on his own terms only.

When confronting one particularly vile criminal, she says, “I thought the FBI had you.”

“The FBI works for me now,” he replies.

Reddington’s personality is essentially a carryover of Spader’s pervious role as Alan Shore on “Boston Legal.” He’s a cynical, witty guy with a rigid personal code of ethics but is not overly scrupulous about the means to accomplish his devious ends.

“You’ve killed three people,” one of his handlers says.

“Nobody’s perfect!” he says defensively.

And that’s the thing about Reddington. He helps the FBI close in on terrorists, human traffickers, and one specialist in disposing of dead bodies by a particular method that earns him the nickname, “the Stewmaker.”

But they all seem to wind up dead.

And dead in ways that just reek of poetic justice. He dumps the Stewmaker into a vat of his own acid while rescuing Keen. He poisons a human trafficker who poses as a great humanitarian with an overdose of the drugs she uses to sedate her captives, then gets her to confess her guilt with the promise of the antidote.

Oops! Too late.

Keen asks, “What if you hadn’t had the antidote?”

“There was no antidote,” Reddington says. “I detested everything about her.”

There are plot complications aplenty.

Special Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) doesn’t like the idea of working hand-in-hand with a criminal at all. But he likes getting results. He’s a strictly by-the-book kind of guy who insists on accompanying Reddington to a meet with a gangster.

So Red introduces him, “This is FBI Special Agent Donald Ressler,” and trusts him to wing it from there!

Keen’s husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) turns out to have a box hidden in their apartment containing several passports under different names and a pistol Keen confirms was associated with a homicide. Furthermore, Reddington appears to know things about them both.

Reddington asks Keen, “What if I told you everything you believe about your life is a lie?”

Of course right away you begin to suspect Keen is Reddington’s long-lost daughter, but that would be too simple. Is she possibly the daughter of an old friend Reddington swore to look after perhaps?

Not even Spader seems to know. Or at least he won’t admit to knowing anything.

“The Blacklist” is doing very well in the ratings and deserves to. The acting is good, the writing is original and there’s lots of room for character development.

I think part of the appeal of “The Blacklist” is we like the idea of scary vicious criminals brought low, but we’ve grown a bit suspicious large crime-fighting organizations like the FBI. So Reddington walks in and blithely takes over the operation. Of course that’s never going to happen but it’s kind of cool to think about.

Another is the vigilante aspect of it. The hell with building a case and arresting them, they’ll only have a slick lawyer get them off. Just kill the so-and-sos!

Of course we don’t really want that either, but it’s kind of fun to think about.

One problem with series based on progressive revelations of Deep Dark Secrets in the characters pasts is that they either have to keep the secrets buried and risk audiences getting impatient, then bored, or reveal the secrets and jump the shark.

I think they’ve got enough of a cast of supporting actors who can be brought forward into greater prominence with their own backstories to keep this going for a while though.

Another is that with plot complications with this you might not be able to jump into the series much past the first season.

Well then, if you have a taste for this kind of thing you’d better get on board. Something tells me this could be the next “Alias” or “24.”

Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

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