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It’s Good To Be Bad – The Blacklist Season 1 Review

Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, Walter White. Over the past 15 years or so, the anti-hero has risen to new levels of popularity. It seems that almost every great drama is now driven by a bad guy that we love. I’m not sure what that says about our society that we don’t care to watch someone that is a hero and that we can aspire to be like. Instead we crave to watch the villain thrust into triumphant roles. Do we like them so much because we want to believe they can be redeemed? Or is it because we see a strength in them to do what is necessary by an means that we lack the strength to do ourselves? I’m not really sure what the answer is to be honest. But one thing I do know?  We can now add Raymond Reddington and The Blacklist to that list of great anti-heroes and shows.

*As always, my reviews contain spoilers. If you don’t want the show to be spoiled, stop reading a season review!*

The Blacklist centers around two main characters in Raymond “Red” Reddington and Elizabeth Keen. Reddington in public enemy number one where the U.S. government is concerned. He was a brilliant intelligence agent long ago that defected for mysterious reasons and went into business for himself. He becomes kind of a bad guys’ concierge and facilitator. He puts people in touch with each other and makes things happen that other people can’t. Because of this, he has intimate and extensive knowledge of all the major bad guys of the world. For reasons that are at first unknown, Red surrenders himself to the F.B.I. and makes a deal. For his continued freedom, he will provide a list of and access to all the world’s most dangerous criminals. Many of which our government doesn’t even know exist. His only caveat is that he will only work with Elizabeth Keen. Elizabeth is a new recruit to the F.B.I. that is fast tracked to a special task force because of Red’s request. She has no idea who Red is or why he would request her. She is married to Tom, who is seemingly just a school teacher. She reluctantly joins Red and the hunt for The Blacklist is on.

One of the best anti-heroes to come along in a long while, Raymond Reddington

One of the best anti-heroes to come along in a long while, Raymond Reddington

I adore the story of The Blacklist. After finishing it, you can look back and see that there are so many moving parts that it’s astounding. But at times that could be the one detriment to the show. At it’s heart, The Blacklist is a procedural. Sure, it has a very prominent underlying and continuing story, but each week the episode is titled “# (x): The (x)” as we (seemingly) are randomly running through different names on the blacklist and checking them off. Often, because we didn’t know the end, episodes felt totally isolated. They were about that case that week and they would solve it and move on. I get that by the end, looking back on those episodes, everything has changed, but the audience is unaware of that. The Blacklist had a full season run with 22 episodes. Without us knowing what’s going on, the show tended to get slow. Real slow at times. From, let’s say, about episode 10-16, my interest wavered at times.

Lizzy and Red were both great characters and had amazing chemistry on screen together.

Lizzy and Red were both great characters and had amazing chemistry on screen together.

 

That being said, as a whole, I loved the story. And by the end, everything I had pushed through in the slow times were totally worth it. How they tied everything together for the entire season was masterful. Every single person on the blacklist mattered. Everything they did on the show either actively or retrospectively furthered the genius and cunning of Raymond Reddington. But even before we knew that everything tied together, the end run of this show was amazing. From the second that we discovered that Tom (predictably) is indeed a bad guy, the show put the gas pedal to the floor and never let up. Every week led you to another huge event or revelation that had you pining for the next week’s episode to hurry up and get here. Not to mention, the two part episode that was the mid-season finale was probably the best TV not on a premium channel to air this entire year.

 

 

What drives this show even more than it’s twisting narrative is the wonderful characters it brought to us. Raymond Reddington is one of the best new characters we have seen come along in a long while. James Spader plays him absolutely brilliantly. Red is like the Looney Tunes character Pepe LePew. He never gets overly excited, he never runs, he never panics, he just happily stalks his prey at his own leisure and he always gets there. How they made Red so likeable and have so many great one liners and dialogue, and yet you were always aware that this is a VERY dangerous man all at the same time was tremendous. And the job Spader does and how he conveys that to the audience is stunning. The character has so much depth and mystery to him. But thankfully, it’s not just Red that we had to love. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Keen was almost just as good. Played by Megan Boone, she holds her own in every scene with Spader, which is an act that is not easy to achieve. What I liked about Lizzy so much is her depth of character and how it parallels Red’s. They have so much more in common than she would like to admit and the mysteries of the past are destined to be entwined. Also, no show can be truly great without a great supporting cast and The Blacklist certainly had it. Diego Klattenhoff (Homeland, Pacific Rim) was tremendous in a supporting role as Agent Ressler. I always enjoyed when he was more involved in a story arc as I thought he shined every time he needed to. Hopefully we will get more of him next season. In fact, I would love to see a lot more exploration into all of the individual task force members next season. At least the ones left alive.

The sneaky, unsung star of the show, Diego Klattenhoff is fantastic as Agent Ressler.

The sneaky, unsung star of the show, Diego Klattenhoff is fantastic as Agent Ressler.

Overall, I can’t say enough about The Blacklist. It’s about the closest thing to a procedural that you will ever hear me recommend. It’s got a great story and a great cast and if you can stick around through the occasional slow spots, the payoff is more than worth it. They did a wonderful job of setting up next season. Is Red Lizzy’s father. That last scene sure made it look like that was true. What will Berlin do now? How high up does the organization that Red worked with go? What will happen with Lizzy and their broken task force? I’m dying to know! Knowing the formula to the show will help it from becoming slow at times to us next season as well and I am expecting big things. Who else is on the blacklist? I don’t know but I’m ready to start checking them off once again.

ony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, Walter White. Over the past 15 years or so, the anti-hero has risen to new levels of popularity. It seems that almost every great drama is now driven by a bad guy that we love. I'm not sure what that says about our society that we don't care to watch someone that is a hero and that we can aspire to be like. Instead we crave to watch the villain thrust into triumphant roles. Do we like them so much because we want to believe they can be redeemed? Or is it because we see a…

Review Overview

It's Good To Be Bad - The Blacklist Season 1 Review - 8.5

8.5

Great

Summary : The Blacklist delivers us our next great anti-hero in Raymond Reddington as well as an amazing narrative that can slow down at times, but is WELL worth it in the end.

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About Evan Swafford

Evan Swafford
Evan is a semi reluctant insomniac, who has used his extra time to watch way more TV than is healthy for a normal human being. All his other time is devoted to movies, gaming, and being a sports fanatic and stat geek. Evan has a degree from MTSU in Electronic Media Journalism which he now uses to grow some of the best trees and shrubs money can buy. You can hear his useless knowledge every week on the Free For All podcast.