'The Blacklist' Debuts: Alias Meets Jay Z
One of the best nights of Alias - the early J. J. Abrams complex spy thriller - was when Irina Derevko shows up one day and turns herself in to the CIA. She did this for more than one reason, but high among them was to be closer to her daughter, Sidney Bristow, in CIA black-ops. The Blacklist reminded me of that moment - which is to say, it was fast-paced, thoughtful, and struck tonight like a hammer on an anvil.
So is Red Reddington - played by world-class actor James Spader - agent Elizabeth Keen's father? I'm suspecting that he is. He wants only to talk to her - shades of Hannibal Lecter - and he's as interested in, and knowledgable of, her private life as he is of the crimes he's helping the FBI prevent. He also arranges to have her husband severely injured, and we learn at the end of that he's some sort of spy, too.
The tropes of spy dramas have been played to the hilt in television shows and movies, so it's refreshing to find a show that is genuinely original and surprising in its plot turns - even though it echoes part of the set-up of part of Alias. The husband's identity was unforeseen, and there will likely be much more of that as The Blacklist continues.
The big question is what is Red's ultimate motive? To be closer to Elizabeth - sure. But as Red goes through his blacklist with the FBI to stop the heinous crimes - to be committed by the worst criminals he's encountered as a master criminal, but off the FBI's radar - there will likely be other more purely political and espionage motives, where lives will hang in the balance, and Red's deepest allegiances won't be clear. There's an element of The Following and its harrowing brutality here, too, and an unflinchingness even in the closing lyrics, including Jay Z's "I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one."