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'The Blacklist' Recap: Pilot

Reddington just wants a nice hotel, private security and a beautiful partner as the Ishmael to his Ahab. Is that so wrong?

Blacklist

Synopsis: Raymond Reddington (James Spader), one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, turns himself in. For what reason, we don't know. He says he wants to work with the FBI to bring down the criminals he's consorted with for the past 20 years, but he'll only do so with rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) as his partner, whether she likes it or not.

Highlights: The show's resemblance to The Silence of the Lambs is more of a boon than a negative to start. Reddington is the kind of refined criminal mastermind audiences have come to love and has a lot in common in that way with Hannibal Lecter (particularly the one portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal). Spader is fantastically engrossing as Reddington, speaking with calm authority and asserting himself immediately as in control. And why would the FBI not defer to him when his information does turn out to be correct? (Even though he himself planned most of it.)

Megan Boone did an admirable job keeping pace with Spader's tour de force in the premiere, and her character was a nice change of pace -- she doesn't just look around in wonder and stumble around to the truth, confused. She's purposeful and strong. If that makes her a bitch, as her co-workers apparently have thought, then bring it. 

PHOTOS: NBC's 2013-14 Season

Criticism: The creative downfall of so many of these kinds of shows (Hannibal included) is that they are limited by a Crime of the Week format, which can detract from the central relationships and prevent deeper character development. Still, Elizabeth's background (including her husband's secrets and the identity and story of her father) along with Reddington's personality should keep things interesting even during weeks when the procedure becomes the only thing. 

Best Cameo: How great was that Ukrainian? A nice and necessary moment of levity. Spasibo!

Trope Watch: While Hostages has an FBI agent who has gone rogue, Blacklist has the more interesting twist, with a criminal who has, seemingly, gone rogue against his own kind. Who is Reddington double- (or triple- ) crossing?  And who could even mind it when he said, "We play by my rules"? In this case, we want to.

TV REVIEW: The Blacklist

White Hats Asleep at the Wheel: It took the FBI a long time to react after Elizabeth stabbed Reddington with that pen, didn't it?  You could say they were giving her a lead, but at that point she hadn't done much to earn one. And of course they lost him in the hospital, too. Oh, and let's not forget their lack of suspicion at that traffic stop. 

The Kids Are All Right: Sweet moment between Beth and Liz/Beth swapping accessories. Elizabeth staying with her even when the bomb was about to blow was admirable.

Quote of the Night: "Save your Starwood points; the Sheraton is not my scene" -- Reddington. 

Bottom Line: Blacklist came out like gangbusters, quite literally, even though James Spader is really all the reason we need to keep watching for now.