I’m going to start somewhat informally here: James Spader has one of most beautiful voices I have ever heard, and I might even go as far to say that he tops my list of audibly satisfying men. Is that a list the world needs? Perhaps. Until then, pour yourselves a glass of fine Madeira wine and find out why you should watch The Blacklist.
The premise of The Blacklist is pretty straight forward on the surface – big cheese in the criminal underworld, Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (Spader), hands himself over to the FBI with a crucially suspicious demand: he will only speak to new agent on the block, Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone). However, as in pretty much every episode so far, appearances are deceiving, and Reddington’s interest in Agent Keen is far more intricate than initial impressions would suggest. I’m not going to go too deep into what that means, because I don’t want to ruin it for you, but essentially he has a list of criminals that could really fuck shit up, and he’ll help the FBI catch them. The price? Agent Keen, essentially. You see, he is often patriarchal towards Elizabeth, but at the same time, this is juxtaposed by underlying tones of menace. He frequently meddles in the young agent’s personal life and, well, his motives aren’t entirely clear. The result of this is one of the most fascinating character relationships I have ever seen on screen, because as much as Keen wants nothing to do with Reddington, she can’t stay away from him – thoughts of Jodie Foster’s and Anthony Hopkins’ performances in Silence of the Lambs (1991) spring to mind here.
But, hell, it’s James Spader, right? I defy you to resist his menacing charm. Some of his more recent work has seen him as W.N. Bilbo in Spielberg’s epic biopic of America’s 16th President, Lincoln (2012), as well as Robert California in the Emmy award winning sitcom, The (US) Office. Plus, Marvel fans will no doubt be aware that he’s set to voice Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron (scheduled for release 2015), but his career is an extremely diverse and extensive one. Megan Boone, on the other hand, is a bit of a newcomer to the limelight, and frankly she deserves it. Up until this moment, the highlight of Boone’s career has been a brief stint on Law and Order: LA (2010-2011), and although she’s dabbled in the performing arts for the good part of a decade, this is her first leading role on big network television. Frankly, this can only be good news, because Megan Boone is talented. The young actress carries a certain conviction to the role of a woman whose life is repeatedly turned upside down, only to piece it back together for a moment before it happens all over again, and it’s amazing to watch her deal with it.
Likewise, writer and creator, Jon Bokenkamp, is a relatively fresh face to the scene – and a welcome one at that. Having created the story for a select number of unheard of films (this year’s under-the-radar, Halle Berry-studded, The Call), Bokenkamp is given free reign to showcase his indisputably supreme talent as a writer, and it will be very interesting to see where he goes from here.
Although each episode is focused around a different killer, terrorist, or extremist (it’s a long list) and is usually more or less resolved by the end, the overarching narrative centred on Keen’s personal life grows more and more mysterious as the story progresses. This frequently intertwines with the criminal of the week, adding even greater significance to whatever Reddington’s intentions are. Everything that happens always leads back to Spader’s exceptional anti-hero. And do you know the best part of it is? As a viewer, you’re regularly led down a certain avenue of belief, and when you’re just about ready to declare “I know what’s going to happen!”, it completely switches and, well, you don’t know what to think anymore. Dangerously clever, and full of surprises; that’s why EVERYONE should watch The Blacklist.
– Joe Aldous
- Inside James Spader’s Addictive New Hit The Blacklist (seattlepi.com)
- The Blacklist: my new obsession (thechurchillchronicle.wordpress.com)
- ‘Blacklist’ Renewed for Season 2 by NBC (thewrap.com)
- “One more time” – James Spader’s monologue from 11/25/13 The Blacklist (sophiarenny.com)