In NBC’s espionage thriller show The Blacklist, a former intelligence officer turned master criminal turns himself into the FBI, but will only speak to an profiler named Elizabeth Keene, even though she hasn’t been on the job long enough to find the coffee machine. Which may sound ridiculous and unrealistic, and it is, but in rewatching the show on The Blacklist: The Complete First Season DVD (or, if you prefer, Blu-ray), it’s clear that the ridiculous unrealism is what makes this show so much fun.
The idea behind The Blacklist is that the aforementioned bad guy, Raymond Reddington, will help Keene track down terrorists and other bad guys, some of which are on the FBI’s Most Wanted list with Reddington, and some the FBI isn’t even aware of or think are just criminal urban legends. Except that many in the FBI think Reddington isn’t doing this so he can get a lighter sentence or just because he’s seen the error of his ways and wants to make amends, but because…well, they’re not sure why. Oh, and he’s not telling anyone why he’ll only deal with Keene.
Throughout The Blacklist, Reddington is constantly three moves ahead of everyone, including the viewer, and is able to manipulate almost every situation to his own advantage. As a result, he ends up being a cross between Lex Luthor and a villain from a James Bond movie. Which, paired with the fact that the FBI would never give a criminal like Reddington the leeway he gets, is what makes The Blacklist one of the most ludicrous shows on TV. And I say that as someone who loves The Venture Brothers, The Simpsons, and South Park (that those are all animated comedies should tell you something).
Because of this, The Blacklist will annoy anyone who just can’t let the silliness slide. But what saves it is the acting, especially that of James Spader, who chews up his scenes with such glee that you can’t help but root for this amoral bastard.
Though it also helps that Megan Boone is utterly likeable and sympathetic as Agent Keen. And that she plays this role as if she knows the whole thing is outlandish, but let’s just see where it’s going. Her commitment to the role, and the show’s premise, is infectious.
The thing is, while its unrepentantly ludicrous nature is what makes The Blacklist so good, it also makes it a show you won’t want to binge watch. It might be too much silliness to take all at once. But taken two at a time…you’ll be okay.
Along with the season’s twenty-two episodes, The Blacklist: The Complete First Season also has a handful of interesting extras. Some of which you’ll want to watch in tandem.
For starters, The Blacklist: The Complete First Season DVD and Blu-ray has running commentaries on three episodes — the pilot; the ninth, “Anslo Garrick, Part 1”; and the last one of the season, “Berlin: Conclusion” — by creator/writer/executive producer Jon Bokenkamp (who co-wrote all three), writer/executive producer John Eisendrath (who co-wrote “Berlin: Conclusion”), and director/executive producer Joe Carnahan (who directed the pilot, and co-wrote and directed “Anslo, Part 1”).
But while these commentaries are informative (and, obviously, spoiler-ific) when it comes to the writing and directing, as well as the lore, without members of the cast — especially Boone or Spader — they end up being a bit too film school-ish, and thus a lot less enjoyable. That said, by having Bokenkamp, Eisendrath, and Carnahan in the same room at the same time, there is a nice bit of interaction between them that you don’t get when commentaries are recorded individually and then edited together.
Also included on The Blacklist: The Complete First Season DVD and Blu-ray are twenty-two making-of featurettes called “Beyond The Blacklist” that spend four or five minutes each going behind-the-scenes of each episode. What’s nice is that they appear on the same disc as their corresponding episodes, which may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often the people who assemble DVDs don’t do it.
Lastly, The Blacklist: The Complete First Season DVD and Blu-ray also includes “The Insider: Behind The Scenes Of Season 1,” which is self-explanatory. But unlike the “Beyond The Blacklist” featurettes, which are episode-specific, this is more about the show as a whole.
Along with these aforementioned extras, the Blu-ray version of The Blacklist: The Complete First Season also has dossiers on the characters, something called “Rogue’s Gallery: Villains,” and a making-of featurette on the pilot called “Inception: Making The Pilot.” But since I was sent the DVD, not the Blu-ray (no judgments), I can’t tell you how interesting, or uninteresting, they might be. Though since this show will obviously look way better on Blu-ray than it will on DVD, if you have a choice, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
But the best part about watching The Blacklist on The Complete First Season — be it the DVD edition or the Blu-ray — is that you aren’t constantly bombarded by on-screen promos for other shows; shows that are themselves constantly bombarded by on-screen promos for The Blacklist. It’s a vicious circle.
In the end, The Blacklist may be ridiculous, but it’s also ridiculously fun. And with the informative extras and no interruptions, The Blacklist: The Complete First Season is the way to enjoy this silly but thrilling and addictive bit of spycraft.