Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Blacklist - James Spader continues to be the show’s saving grace

t-view: tv series review

The Blacklist 
Season 2

Starring: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Ryan Eggold, Harry Lennix, Amir Arison,and Mozhan Marnò
Created by: Jon Bokenkamp

When it premiered in fall 2013, crime drama The Blacklist instantly became the biggest new show of the season on American television. The NBC series about a criminal mastermind teaming up with the FBI to capture the world’s most dangerous crooks was never the most intelligent or creative adventure on the tube, but thanks to its placement at a coveted slot on the schedule as well as the magnetic appeal of its terrific star James Spader, it was a considerable success.

In its second season, however, The Blacklist ended up struggling to retain its viewers, and it wasn’t hard to figure out why. The basic reason for the sharp decline in numbers could be attributed to NBC’s decision to shift it to a competitive timeslot, stuck between two new, weak programs, under the misguided impression that the show was strong enough to generate high ratings on its own. But a deeper reason – and one with more global resonance – for the audience bailing on the drama comes down to how the serialized narrative was handled throughout the season.

The Blacklist gave us another set of 22 episodes in its second outing, as Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) and her cohorts – task force head Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix), her partner Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), tech expert Aram Mojtabai (Amir Arison), and Mossad interrogator Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) – chased more bad guys, hunting down criminals with the help of Raymond Reddington (James Spader), who, in turn, continued his battle with nemesis Berlin (Peter Stormare), sought the mysterious Fulcrum, and took on a nefarious organization known as the Cabal. Meanwhile, Liz tried to piece together clues about her childhood to reveal the mysteries of her past and figure out how Reddington is linked to her.

Convoluted twists and turns riddled the proceeding, but by now we have all made peace with the fact that the show isn’t exactly a bastion of plausibility and is not particularly keen on letting sense stand in the way of the next preposterous detour. With that in mind, even though the developments frequently bordered on nonsensical, they still managed to entertain (in a bad action movie sort of way).

The show’s saving grace continued to be the actor who portrays the protagonist and who is perhaps the sole reason we are invested in Raymond Reddington’s story. The Blacklist is basically an elaborate excuse for celebrating the awesomeness of James Spader, spending an hour each week watching him chew the scenery with relish, delivering jabs like only he can. Also, Harry Lennix’s character was finally given a solid sub-plot, with Harold Cooper suffering from an inoperable brain tumour and facing the choice of compromising his ethics in order to save his life, which made for an interesting arc.

The main reason the series faltered lies in its decision to give undue attention to the drama in Elizabeth Keen’s personal life. At this point, the Liz and Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) romance makes little sense. And withholding the truth about her past for two seasons wasn’t nearly as gripping as the writers seem to think. The Blacklist’s protracted inability to deliver answers tested the audience’s patience and took the punch out of the mystery. Eventually it felt anti-climactic when the truth was finally revealed in the season finale. That said, the direction they chose for Liz in the finale is likely to make her character more intriguing and deliver a storyline which may lack originality but could still reinvigorate the show in its third season.

On the whole, the second season of The Blacklist offered more guest baddies and over-the-top conspiracies that functioned as a platform for Spader to deliver menacing lines. And while it laboured for most of its run under its inability to give substantial answers about the life of a character we aren’t significantly invested in, the season did leave us with a resolution that could potentially signal a more exciting (if equally nonsensical) third season.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 20th May, 2015 *

No comments: