Pilot Perception: The Blacklist

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: The Blacklist, NBC in the U.S. and Global in Canada, Mondays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: The show is executive produced by Jon Bokenkamp (The Call), John Eisendrath (Alias), John Davis (Chronicle), and John Fox. Joe Carnahan (The Grey) directed the pilot, which was written by Bokenkamp.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The Blacklist stars James Spader (The Office), Megan Boone (Law & Order: LA), Diego Klattenhoff (Homeland), Harry Lennix (Man of Steel), and Ryan Eggold (90210).

The Premise: One of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives surrenders, but on unusual terms: He will give information on a wanted terrorist, but he’ll only give it to one specific young agent.

A Taste:

What Works: This pilot was both a gripping thriller and a lot of fun – thanks mostly to James Spader’s hilarious yet frightening portrayal of Reddington – and that combination is what really hooked me. The “child in peril” device is a bit of a cliched way to pull in the audience, but it’s certainly effective. The cast is strong, and Spader and Boone have good chemistry. I love the little touches of style – the “Concierge of Crime” nickname, the black site called “the post office,” the hotel scene set to “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” And the pilot opens up enough intriguing mysteries, especially about the characters’ backgrounds, to make me eager to see more.

What Doesn’t: As I’ve said about many other high-concept shows, my immediate question about so specific and focused a premise is how long they can plausibly continue it, but I guess we’ll see. The pilot had a lot to establish, and some of the “twists” required to get there were very clunky. Elizabeth seems to think the Air and Space Museum isn’t gender-neutral, which is a tiny point but upset me. I’d rather a female lead in an action/thriller series didn’t have such antiquated ideas of gender. I’m not wild about the way they immediately set up tension between Elizabeth’s career and her desire for a family – that felt like the most stale part of the whole thing, though the big reveal at the end does make the family situation more interesting.

Our Favorite Line: “Evidently someone with the authority to make decisions has arrived.”

You Might Like This if you like crime thrillers that are serialized and character-focused. Or hey, if you like White Collar, another drama about a criminal working with the FBI – though this one has a harder edge.

If You’re Interested: NBC is rerunning the pilot on Saturday at 9/8c, or try their site or Hulu (or the Global site in Canada). Then set your DVR for episode two next Monday at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of NBC.)

One thought on “Pilot Perception: The Blacklist

  1. Yeah, that line about the space museum not being gender neutral really grated! It just speaks to dated, old fashioned writing. Sad really.

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