In NBC’s The Blacklist, James Spader plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, nicknamed the Concierge of Crime because network television likes a lot of alliteration. Spader, mind you, showed up as sneering Steff in Pretty in Pink—basically the best brat pack sleazebag ever to slink across a John Hughes-written scene—way back in 1986. The following year he was Rip, Robert Downey Jr.’s ice cube drug dealer in Less Than Zero. And the year after that he kept up the creep in the great Sex, Lies, and Videotape. So by the tender age of 30, this guy was qualified to teach a master class in walking the line between sketchy and sexy.
So what he’s doing in this show is beyond me.
At the top of the show, Reddington heads to FBI HQ to turn himself in. Why arrest him? It seems he was once a promising Naval officer on the fast track to becoming an admiral when suddenly one Christmas he disappeared, leaving behind a wife and child. He then became an international criminal, starting off as the Housekeeper of Hellraisers, eventually getting promoted to Bellhop of Bad Guys, and finally graduating to his current position as Concierge of Crime. Locked in a glass-enclosed chamber, Reddington is able to communicate with a neighboring room full of agents. Reddington rattles off a few creepy phrases such as, “I think I smell the stench of your cologne, Agent Cooper. It smells like hubris,” and pretty soon it becomes clear that this character is the Dooney & Bourke to Hannibal Lecter’s Birkin bag. There’s no cannibalism, but the head games and calm freakiness are trademark Lecter. Reddington’s Clarisse: Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone)—a brand new FBI agent who you can’t help but assume must be his abandoned daughter.
Cut to Keen and her goofy husband (Ryan Eggold) happily snoozing in their bed as if life were one long Target commercial full of brightly patterned lampshades and sweet, floppy-dog husbands who wear smart-guy glasses. But oh, no—she is late for her first day of work! Also there’s the small matter of the adoption appointment the couple has scheduled for that day. That’s right: They are adopting a baby. That day. It makes perfect sense to try to adopt a kid during lunch break on your first day at the FBI, and anyway if we are going to play plausibility police there are larger issues at hand because suddenly a helicopter is LANDING IN HER YARD.
Keen is whisked off to interface with the Concierge of Crime in a secret spot nicknamed the Post Office. He warns her about a Russian bad guy who aims to kidnap the daughter of an important general. The other agents are all, “Nah.” But Keen is all, “Oh, yeah.” So they figure they might as well just do what the rookie on her first day says to do, and they all go to the girl’s ballet class to pick her up. Unfortunately on the way home the agents encounter an out-of-nowhere Hazmat roadblock on a bridge. But it’s not Hazmat—who could have seen that coming?—it’s Russian kidnappers. Soon, I forget why, the FBI is securing a nice hotel room for the Concierge, and Keen is headed home to see her husband, little kidnapped girl be damned. When she gets there, she encounters a card and some balloons letting her know that the adoption agents don’t even care if prospective parents skip appointments—they’re getting a girl! Just one problem. Keen discovers that the Russian kidnappers have being hanging around the house getting super-stabby on her golden retriever husband.
After that, a pissed-off Keen heads to the CoC’s hotel room and stabs him in the carotid artery with a pen. This seems to deviate from FBI protocol, but it is her first day, after all. She and the Concierge hash it out, and eventually she figures out the Russian kidnapper is planning to blow up the “DC Zoo.”
I’m going to skip over some plot points because there are a lot of them and I may have decided to stab myself in the carotid artery in order to avoid having to follow them all, but I do recall that Keen finds the kidnapped girl alone on a bench with a bomb in her backpack. Then a Ukrainian in a gray hoodie shows up to dismantle it. Before I bled out, I remember learning that the husband was more than just a Labradoodle in a corduroy coat after all. At the end of the premiere, Keen finds a trap door in the floorboard of her apartment. And inside that is a wooden box bursting with cash, faux passports, and a gun. Seeing this, we understand that hubs is either 1) some sort of secret agent with a double identity, or 2) a bad guy working against them. Either way, we are left with one question: Why in the name of network television wouldn’t that box be locked?
What did you think of the first episode of The Blacklist? Let us know in the comments.