Raymond Reddington aka Red (James Spader) is one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives. Out of the blue Red turns himself into the FBI offering to help them catch criminals on their blacklist but under the conditions that he keeps his freedom and deals only with newly qualified FBI profiler Liz Keen (Megan Boone). As Red starts to work with Liz a tangled web of secrets starts to unravel and Red’s interest in Liz is called into question.
The Blacklist was one of the biggest new shows of the 2013-2014 season and its currently airing its hugely successful second season on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s not hard to see why the show has become the success it has effortlessly mixing procedural style episodes with a bigger narrative that builds and unravels over the course of the season. At the heart of the show is the mystery that surrounds Red’s interest in Liz and trying to figure out why he cares so much for her. Of course just as the show delivers answers, a whole heap more questions rear their heads so don’t expect a straightforward ride.
As Red helps the FBI catching criminals, and furthering his own agenda, Liz begins to learn that the world she lives in is very different to what she thought. Her relationship with her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) begins to suffer as she loses herself in her work and she soon realises that in order to survive and succeed at her job she needs to make significant changes.
There is no doubt that this is James Spader’s show. He carries the weight of it on his shoulders and puts in a career-best performance as Red. Spader is an absolute joy to watch and he’s an actor who we don’t feel has always received the credit he deserves. The way he delivers his dialogue is superb and the chemistry he builds with co-star Megan Boone is fantastic. He balances charisma and charm well to make his despicable character surprisingly very likeable.
Almost matching his performance, and certainly making a huge impression, is Megan Boone. Her performance here as Liz has definitely put her on the map and highlighted her as one of the best actresses on TV at the moment. Liz undergoes a transformation in the first season starting off as a wide-eyed and naïve FBI profiler and turning into a much tougher and dare we say badass character.
Amir Arison, who started off the season as a recurring character, steals some scenes as FBI computer specialist Aram Mojtabai. He works well with Spader and Boone and it’s no surprise that he is a series regular for the show’s second season. Despite having little material to work with for the most part, Arison puts in a great performance.
The show isn’t without its problems. There’s an issue with some of the supporting cast members that does get resolved by the season finale and sets the show up for an even stronger season 2. Parminder Nagra in particular gives a pretty lifeless performance as Liz’s colleague Meera Malik, a CIA agent assigned to Red’s security detail. Diego Klattenhoff, best-known for Homeland, also disappoints with a wooden performance as Liz’s FBI partner Donald Ressler. He gets better as the season goes along but in the hands of a more capable actor the character could have made a much bigger impact.
Extras on the release include audio commentaries on selected episodes, plenty of behind-the-scenes footage from the show, several featurettes exploring the characters and a making-of featurette for the pilot episode.
The Blacklist is an utterly addictive and hugely compelling show that we absolutely recommend you get stuck into. The first season takes a few episodes to find its feet but once it gets there the ride is relentless and you won’t be able to stop watching. Like 24 did for Kiefer Sutherland, The Blacklist has put James Spader back in the A-list and his performance here has seen him received quite the boost in profile. The Blacklist is entertaining and gripping, and we guarantee it will work its way into your list of must-see shows.