At The Daily Beast, I check back in on The Blacklist, which aired its fall finale last night. I wrote last spring that James Spader was single-handedly keeping the show together with his virtuoso turn as Raymond “Red” Reddington, and the NBC drama should wipe the slate clean of his costars and reboot with a group more worthy of sharing the screen with Spader.
So why does Season 2—which just had its fall finale Monday night—feel like such a disappointment so far? Because in focusing on all those necessary fixes, producers lost sight of the show’s raison d’être: Spader. Two steps forward, two steps back.
Few shows have been as agonizingly schizophrenic this season and NBC’s The Blacklist, which is unmissable whenever James Spader is on screen as Raymond “Red” Reddington, and unwatchable whenever he is offscreen. As I wrote at The Daily Beast, the producers have done a superb job at dialing back on Red’s camp from the pilot:
Rather than going over-the-top, Spader has chosen a markedly more intriguing route. While he’s always the only one on screen having fun, he’ll frequently pull back the curtain to reveal the heartache and torment lurking underneath, especially in a rapt monologue about the torment of discovering his wife and child’s murdered corpses, or a recent conversation with Keen about how one comes to terms with taking a person’s life. More heart than ham, Red has become an intriguingly complex character, a 10-course-meal the likes of which broadcast television rarely concocts these days, and Spader has dug into each new dish with relish.
At Parade, I spoke with James Spader about his new NBC drama, The Blacklist. He told me that his character, Raymond “Red” Reddington, might turn out to not be as bad as he first appears:
I think there’s no question that the audience is going to be wrong about things, [and that] a presumption is going to turn out to be just that. Hopefully just when you’re starting to feel comfortable, he’s going to make you feel very uncomfortable in a startling way. But the opposite is true as well, I think.
At TCA summer press tour in July/August, I spent a lot of time speaking to the stars of fall’s most anticipated series — including several of my favorite freshman shows, like The Blacklist, Masters of Sex and Brooklyn Nine-Nine — for this Parade roundup of Fall’s Top 10 New Shows. Look for more extended Q&As with each star in the weeks ahead.