Featuring a very Silence of the Lambs vibe, The Blacklist begins with Raymond Reddington (James Spader), one of the FBI’s most wanted, turning himself in and agreeing to help them stop a Serbian terrorist (Jamie Jackson) with a death wish who has abducted a general’s daughter (Delphina Belle) and plans to use her to detonate a bomb somewhere in Washington D.C.
Although he is willing to help, Reddington will do so only on the condition he will speak solely to first day FBI profiler Special Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) who can’t explain the man’s obsession with her or why he handpicked her for this unusual assignment. And thus the “Pilot” sets up the preposterous set-up of the FBI at the whims of a madman who betrayed his country continuously for more than a decade and a wet-behind-the-ears agent in far over her head who stabs their new asset in the neck and almost lets him bleed to death (but still keeps her job).
Reading between the lines it seems likely that Reddington has a deep, if unexplored connection to Keen (perhaps being her true father, which would explain his obsession with her and his willingness to accept various levels of incarceration to boost her career within the agency). Whether that’s the case or not, we know Keen’s husband (Ryan Eggold), who is put in danger thanks to Reddington’s manipulations, isn’t the man she thinks she married.
The levels of lies, the mysterious truths behind both Reddington and Keen’s husband, are overkill. If you can handle the premise, and I’ll admit that’s a big if, the show does allow Spader to have fun chewing scenery to the hilt while playing the genius sociopath to the bewilderment of his younger partner (and even getting her to divulge tidbits about her past and the
bleating of the lambs burns on her arm). I’d like to series to feel far less like Silence of the Lambs-lite, but between Spader and Boone there’s just enough of a the promise of some intriguing character interactions to make me hang around a little while to see whether The Blacklist can become more than we’ve seen so far.