TV Report Card | 'The Blacklist' Season 1 Review

Storyline Pros: Seldom can a series sustain a core mystery that provides few payoffs and never appear to be dragging out its storyline. "The Blacklist" is breaking the mold. It's all about enjoying the ride. While a question bigger than the “who” and “what” looms. It’s the “why”. Why does Red care about Elizabeth Keen? The answer seems obvious and yet in the next moment a subtle remark seems to belie another possibility. Whatever the reason, their father/daughter, criminal/detective, love/hate relationship is fascinating to watch unfold.

Red is by far the most compelling new character of the 2013/14 season. Rich with monologues, bitter with anger, woeful with sad regrets and stunning with a sincere confidence and bravado. He is the epitome of slippery. The writing for this character is simply masterful. Contrasting him is Liz, his complete opposite, except when it comes to their shared display of ferocity. In which case, a possible family resemblance of traits shines through. Among the memorable storylines this season, Liz vs. Tom ranked the highest. From a tenderly loving duo to a full blown rage-fest, the decline of the Keen marriage made for entertainingly bittersweet drama.

Storyline Cons: There were only two episodes (“The Judge” and “Mako Tanida”) that didn’t quite meet the overall standard of the season. Despite their promising storylines, they were clumsily resolved. For “The Judge” it was the issue of the perpetrator hiding their lair in transparently clear sight. For “Mako Tanida” it was the gun battle on the bridge that resulted in Ressler’s girlfriend being killed. It was clear the point was to kill her off but the fashion in which it was done made it patently obvious. Regardless of the two-episode streak, the series quickly rebounded and finished off the remainder of the season in exceptional form.

Performance Quality: James Spader’s immaculate turn is superbly engaging and his on-screen chemistry with Megan Boone crackles with sincerity. Boone holds her own against him and she continually shined in the balancing act of tough-ass and feminine heroine. Ryan Eggold demonstrated a strong range as Tom, believable as both the kindhearted husband and later, the ruthless assassin. Harry Lennix’s quiet strength continues to be the backbone of the supporting cast and when the finale toyed with his demise, it was by far the scariest near-death of the season.

Best Music Moments: The beautiful slowed down rendition of Dolly Parton's classic "Jolene". While, Pearl Jam's melancholic "Just Breathe" perfectly signed off the season.

Overall Grade: A, a delectable drama and procedural rolled into one. Procedural atrophy doesn’t seem likely to set in as Jon Bokenkamp has charged the series with a pulse of vibrant characters. The case-of-the-week serves the characters as opposed to the characters serving solely as vessels to solve the case. It is this key difference that will keep this procedural-wary viewer, tuned in next season.

[Image by NBC]