We are knee deep in the fall premieres, and The Blacklist began Monday night at 10/9c. Ratings wise it did very well. Curious to finally find out who Red Reddington is? Josh provides the episode recap for The Blacklist pilot, followed by commentary on the series premiere by both Josh and Violet. Ready to get into the episode? So are we! Click the link to see the full episode recap of The Blacklist!
Don’t need the The Blacklist episode recap for the premiere? Click here to jump directly to Josh’s thoughts on the episode!
To see Violet’s thoughts on The Blacklist’s pilot, click here to get directly there!
The Blacklist Series Premiere Recap Overview
Need a quick The Blacklist episode recap of the series premiere? Here is a summary of events for the episode. Each event is linked to the more detailed The Blacklist pilot summary if you need more information!
- A man, revealed to be Red Reddington, a wanted spy, turns himself in at FBI headquarters
- Reddington explains that there is a man named Ranko Zamani on the loose that the FBI thought was dead
- Reddington demands to speak with Elizabeth Keen, and only Elizabeth Keen, a newly recruited operative.
- Reddington and Keen talk. He seems to know a lot of personal information about her, and warns of a general’s daughter’s kidnapping
- Said girl is kidnapped despite the FBI’s attempt to thwart it
- Reddington asks more personal questions of Keen. Also reorganizes some of the work the FBI did to help out
- Keen‘s husband is injured by Zamani, Keen takes it out on Reddington
- Reddington helps Keen discover the bomb threat, and that it will be at the zoo.
- Keen finds a trap door, containing forged passports, money and a gun of her husband’s
The Blacklist Pilot Episode Recap, the Details
So, Who is Red Reddington?
The episode begins with a conversation between two men, and one tells the other that it must be good to be home. They are standing in front of what looks to be FBI headquarters. One man enters, wanting to see assistant director Harold Cooper (Harold Lennix). He lets the guard know he is Red Reddington (James Spader). He removes his hat and jacket, we hear an alarm go off. He promptly gets on his knees to surrender, and he is immediately swarmed by guards.
Several FBI Agents Introduced, Reddington Begins his Demands
Harold Cooper meets with Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), and they discuss Red Reddington’s surrender. Apparently, they had to make sure it was him through MRIs, fingerprints and various other methods. Harold Cooper asks what he wants. He demands any and all information on Reddington, and has him GPS tagged.
Donald Ressler begins briefing fellow agents on Reddington, and we learn he was a former military man being set up to be admiral. He defected, however, and he began selling out U.S. secrets for profit. As the debriefing is going on, we see Reddington being held, and implanted with the GPS chip.
Reddington begins speaking to the FBI, discussing various politic/military events, which he reveals were all orchestrated by a man named Ranko Zamani. Reddington seems to want to make a deal, as their “interests are aligned”. The FBI begins frantically searching for records for Ranko Zamani, who they show as dead, but Reddington disagrees, and even tells them where Zamani is. After searching through airport security, they seem to believe him. Harold Cooper seems to be interested in listening to Reddington now.
Who the heck is Elizabeth Keen?
Reddington gloats about his knowledge, and begins his demands. First up: he only will speak to Elizabeth Keen. Ressler aptly asks, “Who the hell is Elizabeth Keen?”
Flashing to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), we see her waking up next to her husband, late for her first day of work, which we learn is with the FBI. We have a weird montage of her getting ready and we learn that they are planning to adopt a child. Outside, she and her husband have a lovey-dovey talk, and that’s when the Cavalry comes to pick her up–the FBI has come to take her to work.
We see Elizabeth Keen interviewed (or interrogated if you look at it that way) by Harold Cooper regarding her affiliation with Reddington. He asks her to analyze herself, to which she sums up as he think she is a sympathizer with criminal minds and easily manipulated since she is new to the job. We also learn that she “raised” herself as a child, whatever that would mean.
Keen and Reddington Face to Face
Elizabeth is brought to Reddington’s holding area called a “Black site”. She and Reddington come face to face, as he is chained to his holding cell and chair. Reddington makes some comments as if he has been stalking her for some time. Keen tries to pry information. Reddington then reveals a U.S. general’s daughter will be kidnapped within the hour. There is a twist too: Reddington got Zamani into the country it would seem.
We learn a little more about Keen through Reddington. He knows that she was abandoned by her father. This causes Keen to walk away, and panicking about how much knowledge he has of her. She calms down, and wants to begin to rescue the girl. She also makes a phone call to her husband–who is at the adoption agency. She tells him she can’t make the adoption meeting, and Agent Ressler tells her they need to move out.
The Girl is Taken
The general is warned about her daughter being kidnapped, and the FBI picks the daughter up from ballet class. The FBI convoy has her in custody, but things go wrong when a construction worker attempts to put them on a detour–only it was not a construction worker, and the convoy is immediately ambushed. The car is slammed into by other vehicles, and they begin surrounding the vehicle with Elizabeth and the girl. One of the attackers tells Keen to put the gas mask on the girl, and to allow her to be taken. Elizabeth tries to assure the girl that she will find her. The attackers escape over a bridge, and escape via pontoon boats.
Reddington Knows More than the FBI
Back at the FBI office, Keen demands to know where the girl is. Reddington wants to make a trade for information with Keen. He desires to know where a scar on her palm came from. She says it came from a fire when she was 14. Reddington asks if someone tried to hurt her, and she says, “not exactly”, remaining vague about it. Reddington tells her to look at the situation more like a criminal.
Reddington is then shown the current analysis that the FBI has on Zamani and his affiliations. He scoffs at much of it, and “helps” them by making some corrective adjustments. He tells them that they should be looking for the “Chemist”, who is making a bomb. Through some Socratic discussion, Reddington helps her figure out that Zamani is going to use the girl to detonate a bomb. Reddington makes more demands–a nice hotel, which is granted. Meanwhile, the FBI has bagged some affiliated people, and eventually locate the Chemist.
Keen’s Husband Injured, Keen Throws a Fit at Reddington
Elizabeth heads home for a break, and sees a note left by her husband saying, “It’s a girl!” Her celebration is cut short however, as her husband is bound and bloody. Ranko Zamani has paid her a visit. He demands to know how he was discovered from her. She says nothing but speculation, and pleads for her husband. Zamani stabs Mr. Keen in the leg. Zamani then makes an ultimatum–Keen can save “many Americans” or just one. He then stabs her husband in the gut, and then flees. She chooses her husband.
At the hospital, Elizabeth’s husband looks to be in bad shape. Elizabeth storms into Reddington’s room, demanding to know if he is the reason this happened. He denies it, and demands to know what Zamani said. Keen goes off on Reddington, stabs Reddington in the neck, and demands to know how to find Zamani.
Back at her house, the FBI has been working on the forensic work, and she begins cleaning up after they have finished.
The next morning, Elizabeth heads to where the now injured Reddington is being held. Ressler tries to keep her away from Reddington but she insists that he knows what is going on. She heads into his room, to find it empty. She looks out the window and sees him walking in the parking lot at ground level.
Reddington meets up with Zamani at the Lincoln Memorial. They discuss the visit to Keen’s house, which seemed to be Reddington’s idea. The injuring of her husband seemed to be Reddington’s plan as well. Reddington begins asking about what Zamani’s plan is. The FBI has been tracking Reddington’s GPS. Reddington calls Elizabeth and tells her that it is about children. He asks her what she saw at her house. They deduce it’s a stamp to the DC zoo, which must be the bombing location. Keen heads to the zoo, and finds that the general’s daughter is there, rigged with a bomb vest. Reddington tells Keen that he has a “friend” on the way to help with the bomb.
Zamani is Killed, Bomb is Disarmed, Reddington is Just Beginning
Meanwhile, when the FBI arrives at the location of the GPS, Zamani is who they find, not Reddington. Ressler demands his surrender. Zamani pulls what seems to be a bomb trigger out, but Ressler shoots him. That’s when he discovers that Reddington removed his GPS tracking chip.
The “friend” arrives. He gets to work on the bomb and disarms it. He then takes off with the bomb. Reddington walks up, and tells Keen to take it as “payment” for services. The FBI swarms Reddington and arrests him.
Back at the FBI headquarters, Assistant Director Cooper interrogates Reddington about the chemical weapon. Reddington plays it off as he cleaned up the FBI’s mess. Reddington then makes the big reveal of his “Blacklist”. He tells them he can get the criminals that “matter”. He makes more demands: a better GPS encrypted chip, his own security, and and whatever he tells the FBI is for an immunity package.
Who is Elizabeth Keen’s Husband?
Back home, Keen begins tearing her bloody carpet up. She finds a trap door beneath the carpet. Inside is a chest, which contains a lot of money, and several passports. Passports with her husband’s picture. And finally, we see a gun.
Josh’s Thoughts: The Blacklist Series Premiere
For me, The Blacklist was a little underwhelming. The pilot felt like Silence of the Lambs without the cannibalistic parts. I also was not terribly excited about the acting of Megan Boone. Her “angry scenes” came off a little forced to me. Also I find it a little cheesy when a TV show makes it seem like the FBI or CIA has no idea what they are looking for. This isn’t because I have some delusion that the FBI or CIA is perfect, but I would think they would be able to get something done, otherwise you would think someone would shut them down. It just seems like an easy way to make the show work. I also found it odd how willing the FBI was to bend over and do whatever Reddington requested. He is a liar and a criminal after all.
Having said that, the pilot did grab my attention. James Spader did very well as Mr. Reddington, I thought. He was entertaining to watch as Reddington calculated what to say and how to push the right buttons. I am intrigued to see his end game. I assume he is not in prison for the long hall. My guess so far is that he has generated some heat with his secret-selling, and is now needing some help to “cool off”. My guess is that once he has achieved whatever is goal is, he will try to get back on the lamb.
There are a couple interesting subplots going on too. What is the necessity to bring up Elizabeth’s father so much? Is Reddington her father? Is that why he is requesting her company? That is the theory I am going with right now. As for her husband, who is he? Was he put in deep cover to keep an eye on her for Reddington’s return? If so, which side is he on? Reddington’s to protect Elizabeth? This seems the least likely since Reddington seemed to be warning her about him. Perhaps the FBI knows about Reddington being her father, so he was meant to keep watch over her? Or is it some third party that knows of the relationship, and wanted to keep an eye on her? I am curious to see where that goes next though.
Violets’s Thoughts on The Blacklist Series Premiere
What are my thoughts on The Blacklist series premiere? Honestly, I’m not sure what to think. The tone was a lot different than I expected. I guess I went in thinking it was going to have a much darker and serious tone than it did. Actually, I’m not sure if the show knows yet what it wants its tone to be, because it felt like it kind of bounced around a bit. The very beginning of the episode started out about how I would have thought. But then all of a sudden Elizabeth Keen wakes up realizing she’s late to work (um, how could you be late to work on your first day of any job, especially if it’s for something as prestigious and important as the FBI, and a job that she worked so hard for???) and then there’s this montage of her quickly getting ready for work, with upbeat music playing. That whole scene felt really out of place for what I would have thought this show to be like, and kind of felt like a ploy to make it feel kind of like a romantic comedy, just to keep the women watching. Then the action scenes almost felt a little too over-the-top, like they were trying too hard to be like a Hollywood blockbuster.
I also had a little trouble taking Megan Boone’s acting seriously. Every time she got angry and tried to act tough, I just wanted to laugh. Most notably was the scene where Keen visits Reddington at the hotel and shoves the lamp off the table. That mostly just had a comedic effect on me, and kind of took me out of the show for a moment there. The relationship between Reddington and Keen feels a little weird too, like he’s her teacher. (Not only that, it felt like Reddington was teaching the FBI as well, which was an odd dynamic.) Additionally, I don’t buy her miraculous finding of her husband’s hidden box. It was almost like she knew it was there, and knew right where to look. And then Reddington somehow automatically knew that’s why she came to see him? I know he mentioned something about her husband earlier in the episode, but it seems a bit sudden that she would find something suspicious on him so quickly. Too many conveniences in a show tend to bother me, so we’ll see if those start to add up.
Lastly, I have seen comments from people complaining that the show made it “too obvious” that Reddington is Keen’s father. I’m not so sure that is the case. To me, it doesn’t seem like that makes sense. Wouldn’t she know what her father looks like? From something she said in this episode, it seems like she knew her father. Or was she in fact too young to remember him? I’m not really sure how old Keen is supposed to be, so the timeline isn’t quite clear. If he is not her father, what is Reddington’s obsession with Keen? And who is Keen’s husband?
Overall, The Blacklist seems like an exciting show, with an interesting premise. At this point, I am curious enough to stick around for the next episode to see where it goes.
Scenes from The Blacklist, Episode 2, The Freelancer
Here are scenes from next week’s The Blacklist episode titled The Freelancer: