An antagonist walks into a bar. He says, “Gosh, I know we’ve had our differences but I really want to help you out.” It’s dubious but he gives you information you’ve desperately needed and assistance in a task you couldn’t have completed yourself. Do you then trust him? Probably not. But say your antagonist helps you again. And again. And again. How many times does he have to help you before he gains your complete trust, despite his past misdeeds?

That’s a question that’s surely going to haunt Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) throughout the run of The Blacklist. In her mind, she’s just a newly minted FBI agent, a loving wife, and a hopeful-future adopted mother. However, to Raymond Raddington (James Spader), she’s something much more. Reddington, or Red, is her antagonist, a bad guy with a nasty history of crime, who has seemingly given up his freedom to the FBI in order to cross names off his “blacklist” of criminals so genius that most haven’t even been suspected of a crime.

Although Keen has never met Red before, he knows everything about her and has the full confidence that she’ll be up to the challenge of stopping the plots of the criminals on his list. It’s the foundation of a relationship that will be both creepy and fascinating throughout the series. He refuses to work with anybody but her, despite her newbie status.

Red is a Hannibal Lector type character. He feels an unnatural connection to the female protagonist that is clearly not shared and dispenses caged wisdom. It’s basically the perfect role for Spader with his stilted diction and horror movie villain line readings. The character’s obsession with Keen is so far his most memorable trait, as well as his laid back attitude. He’ll be interesting to watch for sure.

Elizabeth Keen on the other hand I wasn’t so sure about as a protagonist. She’s enraptured by her outwardly perfect life which makes her seem wrapped in boringness. However, mid-episode she stabs Red in the neck and therefore earns my love forever.

The cases of the week aren’t going to be the main reason for tuning in. It will definitely be the dynamic between Red and Keen. I really hope he ends up a fatherly figure to her, especially since her father was a criminal. Having paternal feeling for her, whether it’s because they’re actually related (which I doubt) or something having to do with her troubled past, would give every interaction an extra oomph. If he’s truly like Hannibal with a stalkery, creepy love for his Clarice it will be a disappointment.

The Blacklist is campy and fun in the vein of shows like Alias and early-Fringe. It’s a strange mixture of tense action show moments, mixed with people nonchalantly neck-stabbing and criminals jauntily running away with chemical weapons. If it can maintain that delicate balance, it’ll be a show worth watching for years.

Other Musings:

  • In action shows I hate when the female protagonist starts the show with a boyfriend or husband because it’s a given that he will either die horrifically or be a mustache-swirling bad guy. Elizabeth’s husband got a little bit of both, since he was stabbed and had a box filled with secret identities, cash, and a gun.
  • Hopefully they find more for the supporting cast to do because they were barely relevant to the episode. A pilot should be the place to give these characters a proper introduction but so far the only characters worth mentioning are Red and Keen.