10
Mar
15

๐Ÿ”ด Season Two Review

 

๐Ÿ”ด Review: Season Two of The Blacklist is even

ยค better than Season One

 
March 10, 2015
 
The glue that holds this show together is the mysterious relationship between Elizabeth “Liz” Keen and the enigmatic, irreverent Raymond, “Red” Reddington. The second season is better in many ways than the first. The bad guys are more realistic and the plot lines explore the realm of international politics and important domestic issues. The research into the background of the procedural aspects of the show holds up well, making it “educational TV” for an America naive about matters like neurobiological research, human trafficking, the “down” side of capitalism and the dangers of secret international agendas (electronic surveillance, the various threats to national sovereignty and insidious threats to security) that threaten democracy. Red’s values come into better focus as matters from his past turn out to have national and international implications.

By mid-season of Season Two, we gain a better sense of Red and Liz’s connection and the show continues to tease the father/daughter theme, even as the writing and acting make it increasingly apparent that something deeper has long existed and continues to develop into a love (or at least a “like”) direction. Spader’s acting is impeccable, rich in nuance and good humor, sometimes subtly breaking the fourth wall. Perhaps most notable are the increasingly polished performances of the other actors, especially Megan Boone as Liz, who is maturing as an actress, her character stronger and less idealistic, increasingly capable of plot-changing action, in which she moves the story forward even as she struggles with her personal demons and seeks to uncover the secrets of her past. The guest stars have also been remarkable. Alan Alda, Peter Stromare, Gloria Rubin, David Strahairn, Ron Perlman, Mary-Louise Parker and Scottie Thompson, Jeffrey DeMunn, just to name just a few. All seem to thrive playing alongside James Spader.

The writing is remarkable, the language approaching Shakespearean at times, with plot twists and turns in every episode. Spader is known to be actively involved in the writing, as he was in Boston Legal because, as he says, “I have to perform it.” There are fewer gratuitous explosions this season and the gunplay seems more focused and necessary. Something not often noted are the educational aspects of the show, especially about the legacy of the Cold War, as we continue to feel the aftershocks of its purported “End.” Red, it appears was a possible player in the demise of the Soviet Union and mystery heaps upon mystery as he himself tries to understand the workings that led to his exile. The series so far has not addressed the Middle East โ€“ other than casting Iran and Syria as a source of bad guys. I hope The Blacklist takes on the religious extremism of ISIS and provides the kind of sophisticated exploration it does of the Cold War and the ‘death of ideology.’

The show has been renewed for a third season and I hope it goes on for many more. The Blacklist is complex and requires binge watching of previous shows for those newly interested in it. The Blacklist reflects the trend toward delayed viewing. The switch to Thursdays seems to have accelerated this trend, and those watching live are sometimes outnumbered by those watching over the weekend or within a week. A detective story in many ways, The Blacklist holds its cards close to its chest. For every storyline or plot point that is resolved, one or two more are frequently introduced, often in the final moments of each episode. This is a show that can quickly become addictive.

Overall, this is the best TV series I have ever watched. M*A*S*H may come close. It is more upbeat than “House of Cards” with more relatable characters than “Game of Thrones.” With none of the obscenity, somewhat less violence and relationships stressed over sex, this network show proves that quality viewing is not restricted to cable. The Blacklist rules. Five stars.

Note: Also submitted to Amazon 3/10/2014.



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