So, this was fun. Let’s do it again. No, really. Let’s do it again.
*So, the show opens with James Spader walking into the FBI building in Washington. He coolly tells the woman at the desk that he’s there to see the Deputy Director. He identifies himself as Raymond Reddington and then he just walks to the middle of the lobby and goes ahead and kneels down. People charge in with guns and he gets arrested. Turns out he’s one of the ten most wanted.
*I like Spader in the role already, not that there was ever any doubt. I like the casual way he picks out a spot, takes his coat off, folds it neatly and places it on his briefcase, etc. And then as soon as the alarm sounds, he’s ready to just drop straight to his knees.
*So, Deputy Director Cooper is being played by Harry Lennix. And, man oh man, is this guy bringing his best Obama impression to the table or what?
*So, Reddington is this highly respected intelligence operative and then he disappeared and ended up becoming this incredibly powerful figure in the world of international crime. And now he’s just walked in and turned himself in.
*I must say, as terrifying nicknames go, the “Concierge of Crime” is not super-intense.
*So, he’s turned himself in because of this Serbian terrorist named Ranko Zamani. The FBI has him listed as dead, but turns out he’s alive and he’s just arrived in America in order to do something or other. Reddington wants him stopped, so he’s turned himself into the FBI so he can help them catch him.
*Spader knows his way around a sick burn: “Were you wrong?” “I was wrong.” “Well. At least it wasn’t the first time.”
*So, he says he’ll only speak to Clarice . . . I’m sorry, Eizabeth Keen. And she’s a brand-new FBI agent who has just overslept on her first day of work.
*Gratuitous dash to the bathroom with camera strategically placed for a shot of her butt in a pair of skimpy panties? You know it.
*In a rather clever moment, she manages to get herself perfectly composed in just seven minutes but then she almost leaves her badge behind.
*Great gag. She steps out of her door, car keys in hand, ready for a mad dash to work. Only to discover a caravan of black SUVs from the FBI pulling up. And a helicopter. The helicopter might be overkill, guys.
*So, no one can figure out any connection between Keen and Reddington. So, they guess that he’s probably looking for something particular in her personality or something.
*I like this setup: “Do you think it’s odd that Reddington surrendered himself on the day that you started working as a profiler?” “I think it suggests he was waiting for me.” That’s a compelling hook.
*This Megan Boone that plays Keen. She has really beautiful eyes.
*Boy, there is an extra in this scene of Cooper interviewing Keen who is just staring at everyone incredibly intensely. “I am an FBI AGENT I AM INTENSE I WILL ONE DAY HAVE A LINE ON THIS SHOW”
*So, there’s the requisite Starling-Lecter meet-up.
*Seems odd. They have Reddington on a small platform, so that when they’re both seated in their chairs, he’s in a slightly higher position than she is. And some of these people are supposed to have psychology degrees. And they put the criminal in the power position?
*Creepy Spader: “You got rid of your highlights.” And a bit later: “Why me? It’s my first day. There’s nothin’ special about me.” “Oh, you’re very special.”
*Though, can I just say? Thank God she got rid of her highlights. I don’t know that I could have watched this show if she still had her highlights.
*So, Zamani’s here to kidnap the daughter of an American general, just snatch her and get back out of the country.
*Completely Cheesy Creepy Spader: “And I’m just supposed to believe you?” “HAHAHAHAHA of COURSE Not HAHAHAHAHAHA.”
*There’s good direction here. There’s a really long, slow push-in on Keen at one point as she’s listening to Reddington. Really good. Nice acting too.
*Keen: “You asked me here for my opinion. Here it is. That girl’s gonna get taken.” Luckily, Keen has a particular set of skills.
*Oh, Keen. I get it. I can’t believe it took me so long to get this whole thing with her name. She’s Keen. Get it. Keen.
*So she calls her husband and tells him that she’s not going to be able to make it to their appointment with the adoption agency. Interesting. They’re trying to adopt, not, you know, get pregnant. That’s a kind of different slant on the typical “trying to start a family” plot line.
*So, she had previously, of course, made a whole speech about how she wasn’t going to let her job come before their family. And now? Tension!
*Though, I have to say, who would schedule such an important meeting about such a significant personal event on their first day at a new job? I mean, sure, she didn’t know she was going to get swept up into an international terrorism event, but Day One is usually pretty critical. Orientation, you know?
*Boy, this General looks like an old Michael Rapaport.
*So, basically Michael Rapaport.
*You know, I was about to ding this show for being ridiculous because the FBI is going in to take the general’s daughter into protective custody and this involves these soldiers with huge machine guns marching into a little girl ballet class. And then Elizabeth is like, “Guys. Kids. Please.” And she makes the guys with the machine guns stay outside. So, that was a nice little trick the show pulled to get me on Liz’s side.
*So, the FBI convoy gets attacked on a bridge and the bad guys snatch the general’s daughter.
*I don’t know why they’d want to do that. That is a very subpar Travolta movie.
*DEEP CUT ALARM
*This is a really, really well-done action sequence. It’s the kind of action sequence that you get in a show’s Pilot because a Pilot tends to have more money than a regular episode of the show will. But it really is very well staged and intense and it ends with a great stunt of a guy taking a super-long jump off the bridge down into some water.
*I should say the show looks phenomenal on Blu-Ray. Seriously, you guys, Blu-Ray. It’s just better than streaming.
*So, Reddington says he’ll give Liz more information about Zamani if she’ll tell him about the scar on her hand.
*Quid pro quo, Liz. Quid. Pro. Quo. Do you feel their eyes moving over your has the scar stopped screaming having an old friend for etc.
*So, they let Reddington walk through their investigation room, where they have all the pictures up on the big board and all that and Spader just kills this scene. It’s the best in the episode probably. He pauses in front of one picture and like genuinely laughs and says, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t seen him in years.” It’s very natural and funny and then he’s just like, “Very interesting fellow. COMPLETELY unrelated to this.” He just sells this stuff so well.
*So, Spader is staring at this one section of the board and frowning and then he glances at another section and heads over there, but it’s all in the text and the delivery. “I don’t know what the hell ANY of this is. Ooh, German!”
*I mean, this show would have to get extremely, extremely bad before it would cease to be a pleasure to watch just for Spader. This feels like one of those shows that should be required watching for all aspiring actors.
*Spader is, of course, still handcuffed in this scene and let me tell you he has perfected the double handed point.
*So, Liz figures out that Zamani is going to use the General’s daughter to deliver a bomb somewhere in Washington. It’s a long story.
*So, Red gets them to put him up in a fancy five-star hotel. This hotel suite looks amazing.
*So, it does not seem to be the best protocol to arrest a guy who makes chemical weapons by throwing him across a table filled with equipment and beakers and stuff.
*So, there’s a really disturbing scene of Liz returning home to find that Zamani has taken her husband prisoner.
*Megan Boone is super good in this scene. She nails her initial horror really well at seeing her husband so brutally beaten. There’s this groan she lets out when she sets down at the table that is really visceral. And then you can just see her switch into pro mode and she’s telling her husband to look at her eyes and such, trying to control the situation as she would any hostage situation.
*This scene is surprisingly violent. Really bloody.
*So, Tom’s on a ventilator and Liz decides to go to hotel and stab Red in the throat with a pen.
* “Now. You know I just punched a hole in your carotid. Best case, a minute before you pass out. So, here’s how it’s going to work: you tell me how I find Zamani and make this right or I let you die right here. Understand?”
*Okay, I get it. This woman is awesome.
*The danger of a show like this is that someone like Spader just overwhelms the other lead, right? It’s a question of one actor commanding the screen in a serious way and being, by virtue of the structure, the more interesting character and the other character, who is supposed to be a lead as well, suffering by coming off as less interesting and less engaging. That’s the danger of a show like this. Well, maybe this show is not going to have that problem.
*And then Red still just kind of messes with her head, so, she just yanks the pen out and LEAVES HIM TO BLEED OUT.
*Okay, so realistically, I guess she knows that the other feds will be in there in a hot second given that they just saw that on the surveillance feed, but still, that’s cold.
*Okay, so I like Liz as a character and I like that Megan Boone isn’t super-hot in a trashy model kind of way like so many of the actresses on TV shows like this are. But those are like the shortest shorts I have ever seen on network television.
*So, I would totally have a problem with the fact that Liz isn’t placed under arrest for what she did if not for the fact that we all know that her being placed on official review is actually very harsh treatment by the standards of the real world in situations of law enforcement officers overstepping their bounds. If Red was black, she could have straight up shot him in the head and been fine.
*Great bit where she goes to talk to Red in the hospital and they don’t want to let her in because of security and all that and then she finally talks her way in and he’s not even there, having managed to smuggle in a bunch of clothes and escape out a fifth floor window.
*So, Red meets with Zamani and we find out that Red was the one who tipped Zamani off to Liz and sent her to put her husband in the hospital.
*So, Red then calls Liz and tells her that he’s found out from Zamani that he wants to kill many children, not just the general’s daughter.
*So, we don’t even know who Red’s really playing, right? It’s that whole character thing.
*Anyway, Liz figures out that the bomb is going to be detonated at the zoo. She gets there immediately and finds the daughter wearing a bomb vest.
*Meanwhile, Red has slipped the tracker onto Zamani, so Ressler, the young supporting player FBI agent, finds him and has a nice little chase scene. This culminates in Zamani standing right on the edge of a building roof, silhouetted against the skyline, etc. And then he gets shot and does a dramatic fall off the roof.
*This bit with the bomb is one of my favorite bits in this episode. Because there’s no time for the bomb squad to get there, so Red just calls a “friend.” So this guy who can’t even speak English just shows up at the zoo, rushes up to Liz and the girl, disarms the bomb and then runs off with the bomb. Red says later that he told the guy that he could keep the bomb as payment for his services.
*See, I love the idea of a character like Red. He can just call a dude he knows at the drop of a hat and next thing you know, some Russian guy just shows up and defuses the bomb. And then the Russian guy just leaves and it doesn’t even matter who he was or anything. I hope the show runs with this. It’s a really clever way of dealing with obstacles in the universe of the show. And it doesn’t seem like a cheat or a deus ex machina because of how damn cool it is. Wouldn’t we all love to just have Red’s contact list? It’s the ultimate “I know a guy” premise. It’s not “I know a guy;” it’s “I know every guy.”
*So, Liz gets to keep the daughter calm by talking about how her scar is a lucky charm that she uses to make her brave and how she got it from her dad. I sense that we’re going to be spending a lot of time dealing with this in the show as it goes on.
*Liz isn’t sure that she should have let the Russian guy take off with the bomb: “It’s a chemical weapon.” “He’s fascinated by the things.”
*So we get the premise of the show. Zamani was, Red says, only the first name on the list. What list, Cooper wants to know. “Let’s call it the Blacklist,” Red says, “That sounds exciting.”
*So, Red has a list of politicians, hackers, spies, the “criminals you can’t find because you don’t even know they exist.” He wants to help the FBI bring them all down in exchange for complete and total immunity.
*Or more accurately, he wants the FBI to help him bring them down.
*”And, finally, and most importantly, I will speak. Only. With. Elizabeth Keen.”
*But the episode has one last twist. Liz finds a trapdoor in the floor of her house and finds a box filled with money, a gun and passports that indicate that her husband has many identities.
*The episode ends with Liz walking into Red’s cell. He looks up and smiles, “You’ve just discovered something curious about your husband, haven’t you, Lizzy?” *Music cue* IF YOU GOT GIRL PROBLEMS I FEEL BAD FOR YOU SON I GOT 99 PROBLEMS BUT A BITCH AIN’T ONE.
*That could come across like a joke, so allow me to just clarify. That is actually the music cue at that point.
*That is a very odd choice, but darned if it doesn’t work.
*Well, okay, all things considered, I quite enjoyed this.
*I like the basic premise of the show with the whole list idea. It sets up, about as perfectly as you can, the “case of the week” structure, with a new person off the list every week. It makes that structure feel organic, not forced. And with the list as this monolithic object of mystery right now, it opens the show up to being just about anything. Every episode could be totally different from the last, you know?
*I like Spader and Boone. They have chemistry and Spader, in particular, is just a joy. The rest of the cast, I’m less sold on; they seem pretty bland, but we’ll see how it goes.
*I’m intrigued by the husband subplot. That’s something I was not aware of going into the show, so the idea that the series is going to have an overarching subplot about Liz trying to uncover the truth about her husband is interesting to me and I’m genuinely curious to see where they go with that.
*The flaws of the show are obvious. The relationship between Red and Liz is obviously taking cues from a lot of other material, most obviously Silence of the Lambs and that’s some really big shoes to fill.
*Though the shoes are also quite cheap and, along with that good bag, are not fooling anyone.
*Actually, the biggest problem about this is that everyone reading these is going to get extremely tired of what I’m sure is going to be a near constant barrage of Silence of the Lambs jokes.
*Like I said, the rest of the cast is pretty bland and this plot was pretty predictable, but it’s a Pilot so I give it some leeway. Hopefully the show gets better from here.
*It’s a good pilot. I think I’ll like this show. I don’t know if I’ll love it, but I doubt I’ll hate it. What else can you ask for?
2 ½ stars.