During the framing preamble of the overly borrowed and familiar action mystery, The Blacklist, spunky young FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) makes a pointed comment to husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) about her job never getting in the way of their family. On the cusp of adopting a child, their idyllic life seems reminiscent of Sydney Bristow's before she found her boyfriend murdered in their well-decorated, exceedingly quaint home.
Meanwhile, notorious criminal Raymond Reddington (James Spader) waltzes into FBI headquarters, announces himself and casually allows himself to get arrested. While his involvement in the criminal underbelly is vague, we are allowed to know that he's way too badass for the commercialized most wanted list. We also learn, quite quickly, that he has connections to terrorists and organized crime syndicates around the world; and he's willing to talk, as long as Elizabeth is his point of contact.
This allows for some rather on-the-nose character assessments when the FBI asks Keen what it is about her that might attract Reddington to her—she's an overly determined hard ass with daddy issues care of an absent father—but the obvious conclusion is never addressed (could he be her father?). Instead, the plot takes a very convenient route, with the FBI reluctantly stepping aside—mostly—to allow a fresh-faced staffer in her mid-20s to handle a criminal with an elaborate list of demands for cooperation.
Their relationship has Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter dynamic, with him giving her puzzle pieces rather than straight answers to find a child kidnapped in a rather elaborate and well-orchestrated road closure car heist. More obvious twists arise that lead back to the Silence of the Lambs meets Alias template, leaving the entire pilot to feel very much like a setup for a very predictable, almost procedural, series where the omnipotent disposition of our antagonist helps the writers in a deus ex machina capacity, having him know everything that will happen before it does.
Still, the production value and performances are top notch and there's a sense of anarchy and darkness amidst the manufactured, clichéd plot points that suggests it could take twists as drastic as Alias did, which at least makes for entertaining populist television. If they choose to take that route, after the relationship between Reddington and Keen is established and exploited for all of its parental trust histrionics, The Blacklist could become the sort of weekly staple that people look forward to.
Of course, this less procedural angle would create an inherent issue, by creating an engrained, somewhat complex plot that demands weekly involvement. It solidifies a core audience—and a more intelligent one—but might alienate those that come to the table later.
There's also an overall lack of subtext or cultural awareness that leaves this series lingering within a void of marketing creation rather than inspired storytelling. It's possible the writers will contextualize the storyline throughout the first season, but as it stands, this is pure surface narrative.
The Blacklist premieres on Monday, September 23rd, 2013 at 10pm on Global TV. (Sony)