The Blacklist

By Johanna Rigby

The Blacklist

“George Orwell wrote, ‘Those who abjure violence can do so only because there are others committing volence on their behalf.’ What a visionary! But good Lord, his books are a downer.”

– Raymond Reddington, The Blacklist: Season 2, Episode 7

This week I’d like to review Season 2 thus far on The Blacklist. There’s one episode left before the show goes on winter hiatus but last week’s episode was so full of reveals-that-generate-more-questions that I wanted to explore some of that before the fall finale airs.

Last year when I’d heard about The Blacklist during fall previews, I was wary about it airing on NBC. This network has not been kind to shows I’ve liked in the past (Awake, for example), and like most people, I’m frustrated when just as I’ve started really getting into a series, the network yanks it off the air. I took my chances purely because of James Spader; I liked him in Stargate, loved his character on Boston Legal, and had to see what he’d do with this show, even if it was only for a few episodes. Turns out bringing Raymond Reddington to life on The Blacklist may be some of his best work.  Apparently a lot of other people agree.

An acquaintance commented curiously on the fact that I can’t watch Criminal Minds anymore because of the gore and creepiness and general queasiness I get whenever I’ve tuned it in the past few years (a shame, because I really like the characters of Reid and Garcia on CM.) Yet I don’t miss an episode of The Blacklist, which has just as much violence. Why is that?

I think Spader in the role of cheeky lawyer Alan Shore on Boston Legal explains the concept well: “The truth is, as Americans we love torture. We keep it to ourselves, of course. But come on, when it comes to evildoers? Torture’s okay.” That’s the difference. With few exceptions, the violence on The Blacklist is generally directed toward despicable people that we think deserve it. If  harm does come to an innocent, we can be fairly certain that the perpetrator will be punished appropriately. On more than one occasion, Reddington has even gone out of his way to protect animals, which is a welcome relief since it’s something we rarely get on TV.

And this, I think, goes to the core of why so many of us watch The Blacklist: Reddington is a criminal, yes, but he’s a witty, multi-faceted, very complex character. So many roles written for TV are two-dimensional, simplified versions of what networks seem to think viewers can comprehend. And the supporting cast characters on The Blacklist sometimes come across this way as well, but that’s OK; this is essentially about Raymond Reddington and Liz Keen, and Reddington is so engaging and challenging that it fills the show perfectly.

Even though we’ve only had seven episodes thus far this season, it’s already been a wild ride. We’ve met the wife Red left behind all those many years ago (beautifully portrayed by Mary-Louise Parker). We’ve learned that Liz didn’t kill Tom (no surprise there) and has him chained up in the hold of a ship. We’ve come to notice that straight-arrow Ressler has a drug addiction, or at least a strong dependency on pain-killers. We’ve met a young woman named Zoe who might be Red’s daughter – or Berlin’s daughter? (One of the most enjoyable aspects to the show is that we never quite know when Red’s lying or why; he’s laughed and told everyone right from the beginning that he’s not to be trusted. “Of course not! I’m a criminal!”)

We’ve seen episodes involving mind control. Eco-terrorists. Endangered tigers. We’ve seen Pee Wee Herman transform into a most chilling villain. And let’s not forget the extreme creepiness of the episode with the taxidermied humans sitting around a campfire.

Some of the themes and elements are things we’ve already seen at work on previous shows. The fake hospital scenes from Episode 7 last week were reminiscent of the fake hotel room episode of Alias (Season 3), and if you recalled that, as I did, you probably noted right away that something seemed off about the hospital. Also, Agent Ressler’s drug problem feels like a half-hearted recycling of Agent Dixon’s drug addiction during Season 2 of Alias, and unless it’s going to play a more integral part involving his fellow agents or Reddington, it’s just not that interesting as a standalone story arc. And the captive-on-a-ship theme has been done before as an effective plot twist on Fringe and Castle, to name just a couple. J.R. Orci, who writes and/or produces some of the episodes, also worked with Alias and Fringe, so perhaps these were hat-tips for fans who might remember the concept from before and appreciate the nod and wink. Fringe, after all, utilized a number of elements and character traits from Alias and successfully gave them a triple-shot of weirdness once relieved of the genre constraints of spy/action drama.

One of the most welcome developments over the course of The Blacklist is how Liz Keen has grown into a character who might hold her own with Red. Maybe I’m a heartless non-romantic, but it was, frankly, disappointing to see her unable to finish off Tom at the end of Season 1 – a move that’s sure to come back and bite her in the ass. As Season 2 has progressed, however, we’ve seen her contemplating an ever-greater array of shades of gray instead of the black-or-white thinking she displayed at the beginning of the series. We can only hope that this will continue.

There are still a great many questions left unanswered, and even those that seem resolved might not have been answered truthfully. One of the most intriguing aspects about The Blacklist is its ability to deal neatly with a one-episode story, maintain your interest in an ongoing arc over several episodes, and still keep viewers speculating about still more story threads arcing over more than one season. The hook is that even when you think you know what’s going on, you can never be certain. Facts, on The Blacklist, are not necessarily truth. And truth may not tell the whole story.

The Blacklist airs on NBC Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST.

From:: Not Now, I’m Watching TV

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Google Plus
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • Print

New Feature

We’re happy to announce the addition of a new feature to the Journal which we feel will expand our exploration and appreciation of the arts a bit more. Beginning today, Johanna Rigby will be reviewing TV and other media for us on a regular basis.

To give you a taste of what to expect, we’re featuring two of her reviews in the posts below. We hope you find them interesting and give her a warm welcome.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Google Plus
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • Print

Transporter: The Series

By admin

Transporter The Series

Rather than review one episode, I thought I’d give you my overall review of the series thus far. I wasn’t enthusiastic about it initially and hadn’t added it to my “must watch” list, but it’s turned out to be a decent way to pass an hour. You have to understand what to expect, though, in my opinion.

A little about the general theme of the show: Frank Martin (played by Chris Vance, lately seen on Rizzoli & Isles) is a former Special Forces guy who now makes his living delivering “packages” of various kinds, no questions asked. The “no questions asked” bit should tip you off that he’s not exactly the FedEx guy; these are dangerous jobs for one reason or another, running the gamut from a black market organ to a fuel-efficient gadget that could turn the automobile industry on its head.

With that said, what you can expect from the show is an hour of car chases interspersed with gunplay and/or martial arts as Frank runs into various obstacles during the course of transporting the package. It’s not hard to stay ahead of the plot or to know who’s going to win a fistfight, but despite the lack of intellectual challenge to the viewer, the show’s not unlikeable. Vance plays Martin as a sort of down-to-earth James Bond, impeccably dressed but never shy about removing his jacket and engaging in a good free-for-all. He is taciturn enough to remain something of a mystery, yet occasionally lets a wry bit of humor slip through.

Reasons to watch:

  • Some very fine driving skills on display, even if you’re not a car connoisseur
  • Dieter the tech expert/mechanic can be quite funny in his Teutonic way
  • The French/Canadian production means you get to see Toronto, Paris, Berlin, etc., instead of another Hollywood back lot.
  • Reasons to skip:

  • The French/Canadian production being shown on US tv means there’s a lot of silencing of the f–king language, which can sometimes be distracting (I’d prefer it be left in, but it wouldn’t make it onto TNT that way)
  •  If you’re not in the mood for this kind of show, it can come off like an hour-long Audi commercial.
  • Splatter factor: 1. There’s the occasional bloody shooting of bad guys but it’s rarely unexpected. So far I’ve not seen any animals on the show, so there’s no cause for concern if you’re triggered by animal violence.

    Currently, TNT is airing Transporter: The Series in back-to-back episodes on Saturday nights at 9:00 & 10:00 (EST).

    From:: Not Now, I’m Watching TV

    Share and Enjoy

    • Facebook
    • Google Plus
    • Reddit
    • StumbleUpon
    • Delicious
    • Digg
    • Add to favorites
    • Print

    Elementary: Season 3 Premiere

    By admin

    105082_0144b

    OK, I’ll say right up front that when Elementary premiered in its first season, I wasn’t impressed. We already had Sherlock on PBS from the BBC, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and those are impossible shoes to fill. However, over the course of Season 1, with little else of interest in that Thursday night time slot, I grew used to Elementary, and by spring I became grudgingly more favorably disposed to the idea. Jonny Miller’s Aspergian handling of the character grows on you. Lucy Liu is flawless as always. Season 2 sucked me right in. Which is why, as Season 3 opens, it’s refreshing to see Watson come into her own.

    In Holmes’ absence (London, MI6, in case you forgot), Watson has flourished as a consulting detective. She has an excellent working relationship with Gregson and the NYPD as well as a healthy helping of her own cases. It’s a little tiresome to see her courting a guy who just shows up at her door, but we shouldn’t be surprised; we’ve already seen that she’s not especially discriminating when it comes to lovers (Mycroft). Fortunately this isn’t a central element of the episode, and we’ll hope it doesn’t become an issue later.

    Another notable change this season is the addition of Ophelia Lovibond as Holmes’ new protégé Kitty Winter. I’m not enthused about the chemistry this introduces just yet, but I’ll try to withhold judgment until we see how her role shakes out over the next episodes. At this point, I just don’t buy the premise of Holmes as someone who needs to mentor; it seems highly implausible, and it wasn’t clear whether it was intentionally so or whether we were actually supposed to believe that unlikely explanation.

    Reasons to watch:

  • Single stick combat between Watson and Holmes’ new apprentice
  • Clyde the Tortoise
  • Hide & seek with a bearded dragon
  • Fascinating locked-room problem & solution, with explanatory diorama
  • Reasons to skip:

  • The aforementioned flirtation between Watson & the bearded dragon sitter
  • It’s a little embarrassing to watch Holmes ask Gregson to be included again, as well as trying to explain himself to Watson. It’s unbecoming to his character.
  • Splatter warning level: 1. Although there’s a fairly bloody crime scene, the actual murder isn’t shown (unless you count the diorama re-enactment), and it shouldn’t come as a shock if you’re paying any attention at all. Over the course of the episode, 2 animals are featured, and neither are harmed in any way.

    Elementary airs on CBS Thursday nights at 10:00.

    From:: Not Now, I’m Watching TV

    Share and Enjoy

    • Facebook
    • Google Plus
    • Reddit
    • StumbleUpon
    • Delicious
    • Digg
    • Add to favorites
    • Print
    error: This is copyrighted content, and may not be used without permission.