The Blacklist Review: Scam or Second Chance?

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The opening scene of The Blacklist premiere was the most mesmerizing of the fall season and the show just continued to build from there. It continued to hold my attention until the very end with the compelling characters, performances and twists.

James Spader is captivating as one of America's Most Wanted criminals, Raymond "Red" Reddington, and Megan Boone holds her own next to him as FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen. She's not going to stand by and be Red's appointed apprentice. At times, she may have learned from him, but it was with the goal of gaining information.

When he didn't cooperate, she took matters into her own hands ... literally by putting a pen into his neck.

Catching a Criminal

Why would a renowned and skilled criminal as Red decide to turn himself in? He claimed that it was because he wanted to help them capture a terrorist, Ranko Zamani, though that was just his way in. Instead, it appears that this is all about Liz, the novice FBI agent. What is his connection to her? And why is he determined to work with and seemingly mentor her?

That mystery sucked me in, especially during the initial meeting between Red and Liz. It may have been her first day, but she stayed strong and stood up to Red even when he revealed that he knew deep personal secrets about her. He needs Liz to validate himself for some yet-to-be-revealed reason. He feels an intense connection to her and didn't hide it when he told her, "...if anyone will give me a second chance it's you. The two of us have overcome so much."

When Liz worked out the clues on the board that connected Zamani, Beth, "the Banker" and "the Chemist," Red looked like a proud father who was admiring his daughter's abilities. Red probably knew all the connections, but rather than just tell her he wanted her to figure them out herself.

Red's plan was intricate and allowed him to play both Zamani and the FBI without their knowledge. It was shocking to find out that Red was behind Zamani's attack on Tom. As the series progresses, it will be intriguing to see if Liz uses his need to connect with her to her advantage. It's unclear exactly how much he knows about her. How did he know that Liz's husband, Tom, had a secret? Could he be Red's source of information? Tom would know about Liz's past, their plans to adopt a baby and most likely about her scar.

I doubt Red ever expected Liz to come at him and stick a pen in his neck. In that moment, she showed immense strength. Red would be disappointed if she wasn't a challenge. He honestly respects her. Though, his intentions remained a mystery throughout the entire episode.

Even as a viewer watching Red's interactions with both Zamani and the FBI, his ultimate goal wasn't obvious. Since Liz was with Beth and the bomb, he didn't want the bomb to go off, but was his intention to get the bomb for himself and/or the Ukrainian? Or was he telling the truth that it was just payment for preventing a devastating chemical disaster?

In the end, Zamani was dead and the bombing was stopped. It was a win for the FBI and provided Red's entrance into the FBI to continue his plan of bringing down criminals on his blacklist. I doubt it is that simple with Red, he has a hidden agenda and it's all about Elizabeth Keen. 

What is their connection? Who is Tom Keen? Is he working with Red? Or, is he potentially a threat to Liz? Is he there to help "Lizzie"? Or, further his own criminal goals?

Odds and Ends

  • Raymond Reddington was in the Navy and being groomed for Admiral. He disappeared leaving his wife and daughter behind. Where are they now? Will they show up?
  • Given their new circumstances, will Liz and Tom continue with the adoption? Or give it up?
  • The "Post Office" was an awesome location. I hope they continue to use that as the black site.
  • Red had a sweet deal at the hotel. His information was worth the expense ... this time. Will he continue to be worth it?
  • How did Liz get the scar? It didn't sound like she was abused by her father. And, she takes strength from it. That will be a story to find out.
  • Tom was hiding money, many passports from different countries under various names, and a gun. He's definitely more than just a teacher.
  • "99 problems and a bitch ain't one."

Did you get sucked into the story too? Will Red be an ally or adversary within the FBI? Any speculation about whether Tom is working with Red? Or is Red working against Tom?



Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (195 Votes)

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


James Spader is perfection in any role, even with the weakest of writing. The Blacklist underwhelmed with its predictable plots, lack of depth, and subpar acting (sans Mr. Spader, of course). Unfortunately for me, there was not enough juicy meat to sink my carnivorous teeth into. Spader deserves better.


What's up with that Zemani surname? That's not Serbian. Zemani surname is Albanian.


I am reserving judgment, it was a bit pat in patches but overall i liked it. sometimes i just need to watch something -
wam bam thank you mam-forget about the day job and the story of ancient mesopotamia on BBC4 which is my usual territory. lets see.


What a fantastic pilot. All hail James Spader!


Excellent pilot, with Spader at his best, as always. It does look like he's Elizabeth's father - and she certainly has the acting skill to compete with him. Looking forward to future episodes, and feel this will be the new big hit of the season.


Skiwitch, I was thinking the same thing after about 2 shots of him in the hat! This was decent to me, but A) I was expecting something much darker, given the promos and B) I don't think you can sustain a show like this with a wooden supporting cast. The "case" this episode was too boring, and Elizabeth wasn't written well. "Ooooh, she raised herself so she's tough," isn't enough to grab me. The way she acted when Zamani was holding her husband was dumb. Just give the crazy guy with the knife what he wants, instead of wasting time saying "it'll be okay, it'll be okay..." James Spader acted sufficiently well, but he looked sickly in a Voldemort-like way. It was cheesy/distracting to me.


The show was a tremendous surprise for me. Great premiere episode that had me saying "I didn't see that coming" more than a few times in the episode. I checked out the show and much like Hannibal, I'm now hooked after one episode. Other than SVU, those are the only two NBC shows I DVR, and it looks like season one of The Blacklist will be as entertaining and riveting as season one of Hannibal was.


I liked it and will continue to watch. James Spader is amazing as a sadistic criminal............


I just watched it and decided that Blacklist = White Collar, only darker & more gruesome & not as much fun.
1. Supersmart criminal turns informant and teams with FBI to catch worse criminals for his own purpose or purposes
2. Said criminal likes the finer things in life & requires a certain standard of living & figures out how to get it
3. Said criminal wears a hat
4. Similar background music


Pretty good opening, Spader and Boone are great and (Boone) looking nice... Like the husband puchline.
New show to watch, great !!

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The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Cooper: You have my attention.
Red: Were you wrong?
Cooper: I was wrong.

Man: It must be good to be home again, sir.
Red: Yeah. Well, we'll see about that.