Why You Should Watch The Blacklist


Chris Chalker, Managing Editor

It has always been famously quoted that “you can judge a society by how it entertains itself,” and in the modern setting, more often than not, television is the means through which people entertain themselves. Popular shows drive audiences to continue viewing to get answers to long-asked questions and see the results of uniquely interesting stories and arcs surrounding the characters, while others rely on moments of high emotional intensity, twists and cliffhangers to keep viewers hooked and on the edge of their seats. One show combines all of these aforementioned traits with the added emotional fluidity and the mysterious yet simultaneously intriguing and complex dynamic between its two series lead characters and that of the ensemble of other characters it follows. A show that takes a seemingly simple concept and grants it an immersive story with morality, truth, justice, and legal issues sitting front and center. The construction of these stories have been intricately done in ways that cannot be anticipated nor expected. Meanwhile, the show demonstrates depth, layering, and pacing, all of which is among some of the most oxymoronically relaxed yet crazily executed in recent memory. That show, of course, being The Blacklist. With the sixth season drawing to a close and a seventh season coming soon, it’s time to address just why Weedsport students and staff should tune in to The Blacklist.

The primary reason The Blacklist drew in over 14 million viewers in its first season was the narrative it told. As with anything, be it movies, TV shows, plays, or anything even remotely related to the field of entertainment, there’s always a story to be told and The Blacklist is no exception. In the very quick opening minutes of the series, Raymond Reddington, a fugitive on the run for over 20 years, turns himself in to the FBI and offers to assist them with tracking down criminals from a list he has compiled over his criminal career which he calls “The Blacklist”, including criminals the FBI doesn’t even know exist, but under one condition: he will speak only with Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler fresh from Quantico who is starting that very same day. The series focuses primarily on the search for criminals on Reddington’s blacklist by a special FBI task force, the lives of the agents as they continue to work with Raymond Reddington, and simultaneously, leaving audiences in search of the deeper meaning between Red and Liz’s relationship as they dive into Red’s world and blur the lines of morality and personal lives are uprooted in an attempt to discover the truth, including questions like who Red really is to her and questions pertaining to Liz and Red by themselves, such as their pasts and the skeletons in their closet. Throughout six seasons, The Blacklist consistently changes up its storylines and the dynamics between its characters to keep viewers interested and enthralled in the story, allowing things to flow in a way that is both captivating and compelling to viewers

“I enjoy the storylines because of how they turn out,” says Weedsport senior Matthew Delmar, a recent fan of the series. “Sometimes they are cut and dry, but most TV shows have storylines like that. Most of the time they are not and you don’t see them coming. For this season and for the series, most of the twists you don’t see coming.”

“They have done a good job of developing secondary storylines, and it hasn’t run out of steam like other shows do after a few seasons,” says Mr. Hay, a longtime fan of the series.

“I like it because every episode adds a new element and dynamic to the show overall, and it’ll never make you bored. Each blacklister creates a new threat and challenge and I think a show needs that for it to be good,” says Anthony DeFazio, another Weedsport senior and recent fan of the show.

At the forefront of every good show on television, good movie, or anything of the theatrical sort is that of the cast, writers, producers, and crew who made it all possible. The Blacklist holds up to its name as one of the best shows on television because of numerous guest stars who appear as criminals on Raymond Reddington’s “blacklist” as well as the talent of the main cast of characters. As aforementioned, the series focuses on lead characters Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen. Played by James Spader, Raymond Reddington is a criminal mastermind who has been evading law enforcement for over 20 years. Actress Megan Boone portrays Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler with a hidden past and numerous questions about herself that only Red has answers to and in order to get those answers, she has to play by his rules. Upon doing so, Liz is forced to face secrets about her past and present that she may not be ready for.

“James Spader’s Red is one of the best characters on TV,” says Mr. Hay. “Spader’s a person who can carry a show even if it’s bad, but that’s not the case here. And even though Liz isn’t my favorite character, there are enough good things around her that continue to make the show fun to watch.”

“I like how complex their relationship has become over the course of the series,” says Weedsport senior Kody Swartwood. “They both do a good job of portraying their character’s feelings, however, I do feel that Megan Boone may be overselling it a bit. At times she appears to get a little dramatic over situations you would think she’d be able to handle calmly and collectively. James Spader, on the other hand, does fantastic when it comes to those same aspects and captures the essence of Red’s characteristics. His subtle mannerisms and expressions are convincing to the point where it becomes intimidating.”

Spader and Boone are only a drop in the proverbial bucket in this instance, as numerous other characters exist within the “blacklist universe”, each with their own unique quirks, skill sets, and talents. The ensemble of other main characters is a well-cast group of individuals who add an element of their own to the show and play their characters exceptionally well. Tom Keen, played by actor Ryan Eggold, is Liz’s husband who is seemingly hiding something from Liz that Red intends to uncover and expose to her. Meera Malik, a former CIA agent brought to the FBI as part of Red’s immunity agreement is played by Parminder Nagra. FBI Director Harold Cooper is portrayed by actor Harry Lennix, who brings morality, personal responsibility, and integrity to the table as a seasoned agent while he forms deep bonds with his fellow agents. FBI agent Donald Ressler is played by Diego Klattenhoff. As Ressler, Klattenhoff brings the traditional rule-abiding boy scout agent to the next level, adding layers of complexity to a man so simplistic at first glance. Dembe Zuma, a confidant and associate of Reddington’s, played by Hisham Tawfiq brings a unique and interesting element to show and allows us to humanize and sympathize with Reddington. Mossad and FBI agent Samar Navabi is portrayed by actress Mozhan Marno and she is a tough and hardened agent with tons of experience under her belt. Finally, FBI tech analyst Aram Mojtabai is played by actor Amir Arison. Aram is equally intelligent and nerdy yet humorous and charming in his own ways. Each character brings their own energy to the show and the way the actors carry out their roles shows the dramatic impact in which they have on the series overall.

“The ensemble characters are also main characters as well and The Blacklist gives these characters depth and meaning,” says Matt Delmar. “No one is left as a side character, everyone is touched upon and has something to love about them. The Blacklist leaves no character unturned or without depth. You’ll love them or hate them depending on the story but that’s the way it should be”

Kody said, “Samar and Ressler were both a struggle to get an understanding of, especially during their introductions. For example, both had very bitter attitudes towards the other characters for no apparent reason. Samar, in my opinion, took quite a bit longer to like than Ressler but they have slowly been improving and I’m glad to see this change. Dembe is still a wildcard. His efforts to help Liz were very admirable and his backstory, while vague in some parts, still manages to make him an interesting character. Cooper naturally has become a sort of father figure for Liz and it suits his acting style, strong and assertive yet caring and compassionate. Aram has also come a long way from the computer nerd that he was at the beginning of the series. He performed terrifically when under pressure during the arc where Liz was on the run, wanting to help and defend his friend.”

“The ensemble is very well done, and it’s one of the strengths of the show because I don’t like Liz very much, so the ensemble makes up for that,” says Mr. Hay. “The characters are very well developed and they have changed over time. They don’t stay two dimensional like some shows do with characters like this.”

The reason many of us watch shows on television is the stories, as was mentioned earlier, but the best kinds of stories are ones that are intricate and layered while not necessarily being complex in a distracting way. The Blacklist has managed to successfully blend its stories in just the right way that audiences continue to enjoy the series throughout its ever-changing storytelling methods, use of characters and actors in an effective and extravagant way, and, perhaps the most important aspect, hitting home a bigger and deeper message than what is at the forefront of the characters and the world around them. Prompting audiences to not just take what is given to them at face value and continue to examine everything around them through the lessons the show subtly teaches us, making lessons within the show applicable to people in real life, even if the circumstance in which we find ourselves in is nowhere near as complicated as it may be for the characters.

Mr. Hay said, “I think the good thing about it is the story is very interesting and it looks at the morality of the legal system. Most shows stick to things being black and white, good and bad. The Blacklist shows that life is in shades of grey and not everything can be as simple as black and white. You can be a bad person and do good things, or be a good person and do bad things, it’s an added layer of complexity. The characters are morally ambiguous at times and it’s interesting.”

“I like how the story is sort of taking a turn away from most crime related shows and turning it upside down,” says Swartwood. “Instead, they’re focusing on the relationship between Liz and Red more and starving us for those details we want. Every episode is like handing us a single puzzle piece, where that piece goes depends on our own interpretation and using the other pieces we’ve received to put the rest together. It’s like a game Red himself has set out for the viewers to play along with.”

If you’re looking for a new show to watch, The Blacklist is one that cannot be recommended enough. It’s a whirlwind roller coaster-esque experience that you won’t regret. Each episode offers varying degrees of compelling storylines, relatable and likable characters, a phenomenally acted and well-rounded cast, and an overall mix of everything you could want or even expect from a series. I implore you to give the series a try sometime but don’t just take my word for it.

“Even if you are not a big fan of the genre, it has very interesting characters and it always manages to keep you thinking about the truth,” says Swartwood. “It is a perfect example of the human condition and what happens when you embrace your own desires, those of whom these characters channel perfectly. Many of the characters are relatable and everything may not be as black and white as you would be led to believe… it’s Red.”

“There’s a lot of bad shows on TV, but The Blacklist has stayed consistently good,” says Mr. Hay. “It would be a good show to binge-watch over the summer.”

There you have it. The Blacklist is ending it’s sixth season shortly, but you can easily catch up over time by watching it on Netflix or you can check out the NBC app to find recent episodes to prepare yourself as season seven starts later on. The series airs every Friday night at 9 on NBC. If you’re looking for a series that will be gripping and enthralling while shrouded in mysteries and secrets, then this is the show for you!