We’re checking back in on NBC’s hit The Blacklist to see how the series has progressed since its pilot. Unfortunately the results are not good
Let’s bitch it out…We’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about premieres and pilots this fall (yellowwait gave The Crazy Ones a pass despite its manic pilot, while I dissed and dismissed Super Fun Night for much the same reason). Making a TV series is tough and most of them take a few episodes to sort themselves out and figure out exactly what kind of story they want to tell.
In the case of The Blacklist, that appears to be a story that I’m not that interested in following.
After an intriguing start, I was curious to see where the James Spader fronted series would go. Clearly the series had a procedural bent using Red’s titular Blacklist to identify and capture the worst of the worst criminals (or, as we’ve discovered, those deemed the worst by Red). And if the series was nothing more than Red identifying a target of the week and the team the threat down, perhaps I wouldn’t find it so disagreeable. But The Blacklist isn’t merely a bland procedural; it’s an aggressively stupid procedural, one that seemingly has disdain for both its female lead (Megan Boone) and possibly for its audience.
I’ll leave The AV TV Club‘s Phil Dyess-Nugent to dissect how dumb it is that Red continues to be allowed to travel the globe conducting illegal transactions as though no one knew he turned himself into the FBI a few weeks ago. I find it even more ridiculous that 1×04 ‘The Stewmaker’ – for the third week in a row – features Red executing someone in cold blood in front of Elizabeth and yet each week no one besides Elizabeth blinks an eye and Red is never punished. It’s been fairly clear from the start that The Blacklist is clearly not aiming for a great deal of authenticity, but there’s swallowing your disbelief and there’s being unable to enjoy the plot because it’s so filled with gaps in logic. The Blacklist specializes in the latter.
‘The Stewmaker’ highlights a number of The Blacklist‘s problems: it’s central villain (played by Tom Noonan) hardly justifies his notoriety – he’s a cleaner, that’s it – and the episode repeats several of the dumber character beats from previous episodes. Red tells Elizabeth that something will happen and she fails to believe him (in this case her informant is kidnapped, which was so utterly obvious that you wonder if her role as a profiler is for animal behaviour or something). Then her transport is ambushed (just like in the pilot!) and she’s taken hostage and saved by Red (which is very similar to last week’s episode when he had to protect her from danger). Basically Lizzie is a poor man’s Sidney Bristow meets Clarice Starling, only she’s dumber than a bag of hammers and she sucks at reading people. Basically the character (and wig!) are terrible and The Blacklist either needs to stop tearing her down to highlight how much smarter Red is or toss her into the background with the other agents played by Diego Klatenhoff and Parminder Nagra (you know, the ones that probably have names but we can’t be bothered to learn them).
Amusingly enough in Australia this show is mistakenly advertised as James Spader’s The Blacklist. In many respects that’s a more appropriate name because this really is the James Spader show. He gets to have all of the fun while everyone else just tags along for the ride. The problem is that he’s not the main character – Lizzie is! After four episodes, there’s been virtually no development of our supposed protagonist aside from the fact that she’s a stunningly obtuse profiler/agent with some kind of spy fiance (Ryan Eggold).
Sorry, but that’s just not enough for me.
The Blacklist airs Mondays at 9pm EST on NBC