The Blacklist Raymond "Red" Reddington is a man not unlike the recently departed Walter White. He was once a good man, a patriot who became a Navy… The Blacklist Raymond "Red" Reddington is a man not unlike the recently departed Walter White. He was once a good man, a patriot who became a Navy… 2013-09-23 Drama James Spader NBC
TV Review

The Blacklist (2013)

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN WATCHING Diego Klattenhoff as FBI Agent Donald Ressler
Image credit: David Giesbrecht/NBC
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN WATCHING Diego Klattenhoff as FBI Agent Donald Ressler
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Start Date: Sep 23, 2013; Genre: Drama; With: James Spader; Network: NBC

Raymond ''Red'' Reddington is a man not unlike the recently departed Walter White. He was once a good man, a patriot who became a Navy honcho. Then he broke bad. But The Blacklist is not about a diabolical brainiac wallowing wicked — it's about a Despicable Me bending back to good. Maybe. Even though Red (James Spader) now helps the FBI snare shadowy monsters like himself, the feds suspect he's running a long con. The Blacklist represents a provocative post-Breaking Bad cultural enterprise: It plays to our cynicism about ''heroism'' and turns redemption into a paranoid conspiracy thriller.

None of this is reason to watch The Blacklist. You should watch because it's a slick action-adventure tale with knotty plotting and zeitgeisty villains. You should watch for the intriguing mystery of Red's FBI handler (and...daughter?) Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Most of all, watch for Spader. He creates a larger-than-life persona with effortless charisma; if the writers haven't figured out Red's endgame, then damn if Spader doesn't ace the faking. He brings out the best in Boone and makes the bit players more interesting with loaded gestures — a nuanced question, a lingering kiss — that suggest histories and possibilities. You might doubt the series' long-term viability the way its agents doubt Red's sincerity. I'll wait for the show to betray — or bore — me before deciding. Here and now, The Blacklist is top-of-the-list escapism. B+

Sign up for EW.com's What to Watch Newsletter!

What to watch on TV. Hear what's on tap for the night ahead and get witty, morning after recaps of top shows (sent weekday mornings).
Originally posted Oct 01, 2013 Published in issue #1281 Oct 18, 2013 Order article reprints