Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Couchbound/Continued #366 - The Blacklist, "James Spader's Ultron Audition."

Ever since it was added to Netflix's stream a few months ago after its first season finished, I've been watching the Blacklist in sporadic bursts of morbid fascination and am always pushed away again by its extreme cheesiness and melodrama.

Like a bad Ludlum or Patterson novel, The Blacklist is a geopolitical procedural that features James Spader (Stargate, Secretary) as its main draw, the anti-hero criminal mastermind Raymond Reddington who, for reasons always hinted at but never outright said, is paternally obsessed with rookie FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone, who previously cut her teeth on the ill-fated Blue Bloods and Law & Order:LA).

Honestly, Spader is the only thing that has managed to keep me coming back for these three to four episode bursts that I go through before the sheer ridiculousness over the overarching spy plot and revolving door of supporting character deaths. While not quite up to the levels of 24, there are still a lot of compelling characters who are burdened with rather pointless kills.

But... that's kind of the beauty of it.

No one is really safe, whether you're a new love interest introduced just an episode before or an active and helpful ally to one of the leads who has been a background figure hour after hour... unless you're Red or Elizabeth, you're just a waiting victim of the capriciousness of fate (or the writer's room or your agent's negotiating power).

Still, it wears after a while, which is why Spader is the only element of The Blacklist that is truly interesting and, oddly, redeeming. Red is often cold, calculating, and mercenary, but he exhibits a streak of honor and warmth, particularly when it comes to his immediate cohorts and Elizabeth, that makes him the catchiest character on television in recent years. Despite the great work that folks like Mikkelsen, Spacey, and even McConaughey have done of late, it's James Spader in this schlock drek that has me watching.

Of the regular characters that are still going at my current episode count (which I will NOT disclose in order to avoid kill spoilers), I have to say that Elizabeth's often suspected husband is a bland storyline that I can't wait to see quickly finished.

Also her "by the book" partner who has a "dark side" is more than a little annoying as well. I'd rather have more from Psych's Parminder Nagra. Her often secretive CIA agent is primed for more intrigue, but they barely use her (at least, so far) in any interesting capacity. If the current trend of writing goes, she'll be outed and offed as a double (no, triple... NO! QUADRUPLE!) agent here in a single episode sometime in the near future. Oh well.

Can I recommend The Blacklist?

Hmm... that's a tough one. I enjoy it (in small doses), but it really isn't all that great a show overall. It does feature several decent recurring roles, most of whom die off with shocking regularity, my favorite being Lance Reddick (who I loved on Fringe). If you're a big fan of faux-actiony procedurals like NCIS or Bones, The Blacklist is a lot more fun and darker, but despite James Spader's charisma, there are much better shows out there... and more than a few of them are on Netflix.

Until later, Potatoes~