mon 23/09/2019

The Blacklist, Sky Living | reviews, news & interviews

The Blacklist, Sky Living

The Blacklist, Sky Living

James Spader stars in a Greatest Hits of spooks-and-bad-guys dramas

Arrest on sight: James Spader as Red Reddington, preparing to take the FBI for a ride

No brilliant new ideas? Well then, let's just boil up a compilation of a few old ones. Result? The Blacklist, a slick and surprisingly brutal spies-and-black-ops drama from NBC that speeds along blithely without an original thought in its head.

A chubby-looking James Spader plays Raymond "Red" Reddington, the so-called "Concierge of Crime" who has been in heavy rotation on the FBI's Most Wanted charts for years. He turned to the Dark Side after once being a darling of the US defence establishment, where at one stage he was even being groomed to become an admiral.

These days he brokers megabucks deals for some of the world's most despicable criminals... or maybe not any more, because this first episode opened with him walking into FBI HQ and setting all the alarm bells ringing when the surveillance cameras found out who he was. Computer says "Arrest On Sight".

But Reddington is playing a long and devious game. He'll make the Feds a deal -  he'll help them to foil a plot by the notably deplorable Bosnian villain Ranko Zamani (the FBI didn't know there was any plot, or indeed any Zamani, since they believed he was dead), but he'll only speak to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone, pictured above). This is odd, because she's only just qualified as an FBI profiler and the day Reddington gives himself up is her first day on the job. She's never even met the guy, yet he somehow knows all about her and her loveless, cruelly-abused past.  

It soon develops into a Hannibal-and-Clarice relationship, where Red will offer up a snippet of information in exchange for something from Liz (like why does she keep scratching that ugly scar on her palm? It's a legacy of paternal abuse, apparently.) Like Dr Lecter, he always knows more than he's saying (though God knows how he can remember all this stuff), and as he guides the Feds obliquely towards Zamani's plot to kidnap an admiral's daughter and set off a chemical bomb in Washington DC, he makes sure he keeps enough up his sleeve that he can stay one step ahead and keep control of events. 

There's a bit of Homeland in here somewhere (and not only because the latter's Diego Klattenhoff reappears here as Agent Ressler, pictured left), and a sprinkling of Person of Interest in the idea of crimes getting solved by an omniscient intelligence. In addition, the way that personal relationships seem to be twisted and illusory and riddled with ambiguity adds a daub of jus d'Alias. For instance, Liz's bespectacled and harmless-looking husband at first seems to be a caricature of nurturing New Age dad, but after he undergoes some appallingly savage torture it turns out he keeps a box full of money and fake passports hidden under the floorboards. 

Red knows all about him, naturally. But not only him. Just as the Feds were about to incarcerate him in some secret facility and throw away the key, since the Zamani case was now closed, Reddington pointed out that this was only the beginning. For 20 years he's been compiling the titular Blacklist, an encyclopedia of "politicians, mobsters, hackers, spies" with their fingers in many heinous pies and upon whom the Bureau would like to lay its hands. Oo-er. There are a dozen more episodes to go, which will assuredly be not enough but far too many.

After he undergoes some appallingly savage torture it turns out he keeps a box full of money and fake passports hidden under the floorboards

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.