NBC‘s The Blacklist Pilot TV Show Review. The Blacklist: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot contained a Safe House-like beginning that was wonderfully theatrical and only a little over-the-top. With that briefcase on the floor, some of the people in line probably thought Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (James Spader) was going to bomb the place: a reasonable fear in the post-9/11 era.
The Blacklist sets up many storylines and ways of viewing what transpires at its outset. Rookie FBI agent à la Silence of the Lambs was a good motif to establish, made more potent since Reddington (Lecter) had information that Elizabeth Keen (Starling) needed. What made their exchanges more entertaining was that Reddington showed he had information on Keen (Megan Boone) that even the FBI was unaware existed.
As Keen would muse, this established value with the viewer.
The stabbing scene wouldn’t have been possible five or ten years ago. With bloody, primetime shows like The Walking Dead, Blade: The Series, Breaking Bad, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, etc., standards have been lowered and expectations raised. There is also the ever pressing and persistent need felt by network executives to offer a viable alternative to the television programming found on premium cable and satellite television networks.
With this being the pilot episode, The Blacklist‘s creator and writers wanted to “push the envelope” so the stabbing scene showed where the show could go (content and drama-wise) if picked for a series and the lengths they and their actors were willing to go. The stabbing scene was not just thrown in unnecessarily like some of the nudity in Game of Thrones: it was narratively purposefully and came into play later in the episode. Like Eric Northman when he was told of Sookie Stackhouse’s secret heritage, I didn’t see what was revealed through it coming. Very clever.
The episode was not blemish free and contained one narrative hole and two logic holes, making it a 100 times move cohesive than your average Dexter episode from the last three seasons.
The narrative hole: Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) gets stabbed, cut to the next scene where Elizabeth Keen walked down the hotel hallway angrily, she stormed in, stabbed Reddington for information, cut to Elizabeth back at her apartment with the police around her.
Between the stabbing and the hotel hall walk there was a massive amount of information missing.
Logic hole 1: Later in the episode after the stabbing, the FBI gave Keen unsupervised access to Reddington alone in his cell. Really? After what she did?
Logic hole 2: The highway bad guys knew they were going up against trained, FBI marksmen yet none of them wore body armor. It was stupendously idiotic writing: the bad guys have the presence of mind to bring automatic weapons, gas, gas masks, explosives but not Kevlar? Did they really believe they wouldn’t get shot at? Even the Neo-Vipers in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra wore head-to-toe body armor.
BTW, the FBI drive bulletproof vehicles (especially while escorting a high value target who is under threat) so the bullets passing through the windshield should not have occurred. On the upside, it did look good and added to the scene, you just had to turn your brain off.
Reddington’s demands at the end of the episode were intriguing and showed just how thought-out he and his overall plan were, whatever that agenda truly is.
Reddington mentioned that he hadn’t been home since he disappeared, implying that his wife and daughter were still alive yet ignorant of his status. That reunion will be fireworks. That episode of The Blacklist is bound to be in season 1 and will be used by the show’s writers to strengthen the characterization of Reddington and anchor him in a reality beyond The Blacklist…I assume.