blacklist 3The first two weeks of September. A complete and utter desolation in terms of interesting and quality shows prior to the kick off of the new season (and yes I know there’s one show you can point to and no, I’m not a fan). Shows that hardly anyone cares about are wrapping up, although there are a couple of useful summer series to check out and football has finally started. But still, a wasteland when it comes to anything compelling. Just the moment then to spend some quality time with Netflix catching up with the show I was most looking forward to last year – The Blacklist.

At first blush everything about The Blacklist suggested it would be the breakout show of the season. The trailer was delightful with James Spader chewing the scenery wonderfully well as the former government agent Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington returning to the fold after 20 years as a criminal fixer. The base premise had intriguing merit suggesting the potential for longevity and Megan Boone displayed a nice level of steel in her character, FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen, to go with her obvious beauty. I’m a sucker for such a combination and make no apologies for it. Each of us has our bias, that’s mine.

Spader of course really should need no introduction having being a major star of both film and television for almost three decades. Excellent performances in Sex, Lies and Videotape, Stargate (a personal favorite of mine), The Watcher and Secretary were a prelude to success on the small screen in The Practice and Boston Legal for which the actor won numerous awards. Boone has significantly less experience, but appeared in seven episodes of Law & Order: Los Angeles.

And really rather surprisingly I got bored. Three or four episodes into the show, it was doing absolutely nothing for me and with a limited number of series that I watch for fun, The Blacklist came off my own personal watch list. However as anticipated the NBC show was indeed a breakout hit and a second season was quickly commissioned. Netflix aggressively went after the streaming rights for the show and all 22 episodes are available currently via the service. So this week, my pick of the week is to go back and watch The Blacklist. I’ve got until the 22nd of the month when the second season starts at 10pm to get caught up!

Watching the first couple of episodes again I’m struck by three factors which derailed my interest early last season. The first is that the whole adoption side story was weird. I mean, who schedules such a thing on your first day of work? Certainly I understand that life can throw up such challenges, but still it didn’t ring true. Second the animosity of agent Donald Ressler rang false as poor characterization and third, and I think most crucial, the villain in the second episode was thoroughly lame and helped to lose a lot of the momentum that had been generated by the pilot.

Add to the mix that at no point did I care about the characters, and what they were going through, and that was a recipe for ambivalence. Such things can be overcome, and binge watching a show is one way to achieve that. Now some six episodes back into the series, I’m curious to see whether my initial reaction to the show was correct or The Blacklist was just a slow starter.

– Wallace Poulter