The ups and downs of ‘The Blacklist’

James Spader as Raymond Reddington in "The Blacklist."

James Spader as Raymond Reddington in “The Blacklist.”

UP: After his painful turn on one of the lesser seasons of The Office, James Spader returns to NBC to ham it up as manipulative, mysterious rogue CIA agent and underworld info maven Raymond Reddington.

DOWN: When Spader is not on screen, The Blacklist suffers. A lot. Megan Boone is solid as neophyte FBI agent Elizabeth Keen, but she doesn’t have the presence or the story line to carry it (yet). The other agency suits are mostly uninteresting, bland cardboard cutouts at this point.

UP: The pilot and the two-part, mid-season finale have heart-pumping, clever story lines and really show what The Blacklist is capable of being.

DOWN: The rest of the episodes? They seem … mostly OK, often cheap. There are a few times cuts from one scene to the next are made, and continuity is just tossed out the window. I’m assuming that is because there aren’t enough funds to re-shoot and that, until the show starts generating the advertising dollars, this will continue to be an issue.

UP: Joe Carnahan, the director behind the gleefully twisted Smokin’ Aces, is one of the minds behind The Blacklist, as well as director of the pilot. The pieces set up in the first half of the first season – Who is Lizzy’s dad? Is her husband an assassin? What’s Reddington’s end-game? – should make for some interesting drama down the road.

DOWN: On AMC or HBO, Joe Carnahan’s hands aren’t tied. NBC is trying to loosen up with show like Revolution (which has gotten unexpectedly and significantly darker this season) and Hannibal. But it’s still one of the big four, so there’s only so much they’ll allow. Is that going to limit The Blacklist?

VERDICT: We’ll see how it plays out, but for now, I’m optimistic.

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