The Blacklist Season 1 Review “The Freelancer”

The Blacklist Episode 2 The Freelancer (2)

By virtue of their name, procedural beats can follow a rather specific pattern. Regardless of who stars in them, the procedural can struggle to stay relevant and interesting in 2013. In an attempt to avoid this fate, The Blacklist decided to turn their procedural into the Hannibal Lecter buddy comedy we all demanded. The show is tossing in the vast majority of its eggs into the James Spader basket and telling him to just go nuts. He has taken their advice and definitely run with it. After the pilot, I had my concerns about Spader quickly descending into a Shakespearean hamminess that comes so naturally to him. Tonight proved I was right to be concerned. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have James Spader run amok on your television show, Spader is at his best when he’s being reigned in by the writing of the plot or the nuance of his character. Here, there are no reigns on Spader. The man chews through the entire show like a buzzsaw. It’s not a terrible idea given how entertaining he can be, but the decision to let him go could say more about the abilities of the rest of the actors than the show is willing to admit.

That being said, I did enjoy the case of the week. Isabella Rosellini is one of those actresses who has a tendency to make everything better. Again, because of the nature of a network procedural, she’s forced to overplay her hand a bit, but her appearance on screen is always welcome. The action throughout the hour was engaging, but a lot of that is due to the mysterious nature of Spader. Still, the show is put together in a stylish way, which should make the show seem more appealing to viewers.

Furthermore, I continue to maintain that Diego Klatenhoff is home. He was frequently overmatched and asked to do too much on Homeland. Here, he’s the super serious field agent, and he plays it very well. At the moment, he does seem like a humorless drone, but hopefully they’ll color him a little bit better as the season progresses. Also, I’ll admit to being semi-interested in what Harry Lennix is up to, but I’m not sure the shadowy figures from the CIA are going to amount to much. Reddington gets what he wants or there is no show. I don’t mind knowing this about shows if the execution is superlative. Maybe the show will prove that it can get there, but I haven’t seen it yet.

One of the good things about The Blacklist is it is a fully realized show. Every week, you’ll be able to count on a supervillain, James Spader doing James Spader things, and some quality action sequences. Given the overall state of television drama, it’s mildly disappointing and seems like a waste of one of the top actors the television medium has. However, if you look at the show through the prism of network television, it starts to look a lot better. As with most things, context is key.