Is it possible to save the world from its most dangerous terrorists without becoming a target yourself? What happens when the danger comes a little closer to home than you care to admit? That’s part of the premise of the second season of NBC’s “The Blacklist,” which followed a group of FBI Agents working to stay alive while they caught some very dangerous villains. The season was off to a good start, but it’s too early to tell whether it could sustain the momentum to keep going.
“The Blacklist” followed terrorist/government informant Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) who barely survived his last brush with the mysterious Berlin; a terrorist with the desire to make Red suffer. Berlin believed that Reddington was responsible for the brutal slaying of his daughter while he was in prison. He attacked Red’s business and financial resources first before going after the members of the FBI task force that he worked with. One agent was already a casualty of the war waged on Reddington. Berlin’s next attack was a very personal one after he had Reddington’s wife (Mary-Louise Parker) kidnapped from Witness Protection with the intention of torturing her very slowly before she died just to make Red squirm in the procerss as an added bonus. Red relied heavily on his FBI handler Agent Elizabeth Keene (Megan Boone) as she struggled to deal with the events of last season that led to the supposed death of her imposter husband. She had the marriage annulled as a way to erase him, but she also ended up keeping his last name for reasons only known to her for now. Reddington also managed to get Keene’s boss Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) after nearly dying from an attempt on his last season. Cooper was slowly recovering, but a supposed mysterious diagnosis made his tenure with the task force seem to be on borrowed time. Keene’s partner Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) was also struggling with staying sane long enough to stop Berlin from hurting more innocent people. He avoided speaking to the mandated counselor and focused on his work rather than his emotions, which could work in his favor until he finally decides to lose control. Will Reddington be able to rescue his wife from Berlin or lose her for good? Will Keene be able to answers from Reddington about her past or risk never knowing where she came from?
In terms of questions, the show still posed quite a few that it won’t likely answer anytime soon, which could be a blessing and a curse if the show’s writers aren’t too careful. Some answers will be needed in order for viewers to remain invested in the show and its characters. Of course, not everything needs to be answered, because it would drive viewers away in droves if they knew too much. It’s almost the same when viewers are eagerly awaiting the anticipation of their favorite on-screen couple to get together. If they wait too long, viewers will lose interest and the show could lose a lot of steam if they get together way too soon. Luckily, the show has managed to keep viewers satisfied with a wide array of unique villains that could freak even the most strong willed individuals. In the season premiere, Krysten Ritter played a girl who killed her twin sister and developed a split personality as a result. One personality become the mysterious Lord Baltimore and the other was oblivious to everything. Ritter’s performance was absolutely chilling as she switched from one twin’s personality to the other often in the same scene. Even though she appeared to be out of the picture, it would be benefical if Lord Baltimore returned as long as the story warranted the possibility. The show benefited from choosing its guest stars wisely, such as making Parker Red’s mysterious wife who appeared to be an innocent victim rather than a willingly participant. Fingers crossed that Parker’s character will get to turn the tables on Peter Stormare’s Berlin who proved to be Red’s equal in ruthlessness, but lacked any trace of humanity that Red managed to develop over the course of the show. Stormare and Spader’s first scene proved to be an interesting one to watch as the two characters got to size each other up. Hopefully, that scene is a clear indicator of what’s to come and that only one character will be left standing. In order for the show to have staying power, the episodes will need to balance finding terrorists from the Blacklist and staying one step ahead of Red’s lethally mysterious past. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Spader and Boone led the pack as their characters proved to be the driving force for the season premiere as their characters dealt with the fallout of Berlin’s last attack. Spader’s Red proved to be equal parts charming sarcasm and a ruthlessness that no one will likely match. He made Red a character that viewers found fascinating, even when his actions proved to be less than honorable by most of society’s standards. The character managed to break every law known to man, but still has an honor among thieves type code to help him stay ahead of the curve. It also helped that Spader managed to deliver some of the sharpest one liners in a way that made viewers crack up and cringe at the same time as everything unfolded on the small screen. He had a great rapport with whoever he interacted with on-screen, but his best on-screen connection came from his scenes with Boone’s Keene that was a mixture of a strange father/daughter bond and hesitant friends as they learned to trust one another. Spader’s on-screen chemistry with Boone has also added fuel to the possible story rumor that Keene and Red are father and daughter, but the show has gone to great lengths to confound viewers with ways that they could, and couldn’t, be related. That mystery won’t likely be solved for a very long time. Boone, on the other hand, had the added challenge of trying to keep up with Spader’s live wire performance and has proven to be up for the task. Her character has changed a lot this season as she learned to be skeptical of everyone who came into her life and wondered if they wanted to know her or Reddington. She gave Keene a sense of vulnerable strength that showcased her fear as she managed to take down any bad guy who came her way, including her own husband. The premiere dealt with the emotional fallout of his death briefly, but it left open the possibility that he could return since his body was missing. Spader and Boone’s best scenes often came when they shared them together as they exchanged moments of playful sarcasm or had brief moments of clarity before the chaos returned. That will likely continue as the season progressed.
“The Blacklist” premiered on September 22nd and airs Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC.
Verdict: Spader and Boone delivered strong performances, but the show’s hesitance to answer a few key questions might lead to its undoing if viewers aren’t patient enough to wait for at least one mystery to be solved.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)