Raymond “Red” Reddington, one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, surrenders in person at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He claims that he and the FBI have the same interests: bringing down dangerous criminals and terrorists. In the last two decades, he’s made a list of criminals and terrorists that matter the most but the FBI cannot find because it does not know they exist. Reddington calls this “The Blacklist”. Reddington will co-operate, but insists that he will speak only to Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler.
Turns out, she’s just graduated to agent status and this is her first day on the job. Red, whose intelligence-gathering skills makes a mockery of what Cooper and his agents have been able to do, knows a lot about Keene even though Keene has no evident connection to him.
Spader plays ex-government agent Raymond “Red” Reddington, who disappeared off the map years earlier and has been peddling classified information to international terrorists. One day he appears out of the blue and turns himself in to FBI headquarters (no doubt you’ve seen the promo if you have a television).
Yes, this part feels a bit too much like Silence of the Lambs, especially since the FBI has Red holed up in a “black site” off the map and under heavy scrutiny, even though he’s as Zen as can be and shows no signs of being a physical threat. Mentally, however, he’s clearly dangerous.
But the pilot suggests that Red isn’t going to be some white hat masquerading as a criminal. He certainly seems to have dealt with a number of unsavory types, and the pilot makes it clear that he’s well-connected to the underbelly of international power brokers and terrorists. So, what’s his game?
This is the part about The Blacklist that is most intriguing. As Spader devours the script and steals every scene, basking in the power he has – more than the FBI thinks he has – the audience isn’t sure what his motives are. The connection to Keene doesn’t seem too difficult to figure out, though guesses in that direction may end up bearing no fruit.
He ends up telling the FBI about a terrorist that the agency thought had died six years ago. Red says, nope, he just got off a plane at Dulles — which is true — and Red knows this because he arranged it.
It’s certainly an intriguing pilot – you can’t take your eyes off of Spader, and the writers have thrown in a couple of other interesting twists. It’s likely that The Blacklist will at least approach the bad-guy-a-week format of a closed-ended procedural that doesn’t tax viewers’ brains too much. But in the process, the pilot suggests there are other things to keep you interested along the way. That is, beyond just sitting there eating popcorn and basking in the delicious way that Spader takes on this role.
Part if it rests in the name of the series: Red is checking off names on his “blacklist,” which contains people who would shame the FBI’s current Ten Most Wanted list (which Red has been on for years). The ones on the blacklist, he explains, aren’t just the big fish for the FBI – they are the whales. And the agency will never get them without cooperating with Red.