Last year NBC debuted the FBI procedural The Blacklist, starring James Spader, Megan Boone, Parminder Nagra, Harry Lennix and others. It was a show that quickly built up a great following and, owing primarily to the performances by both Spader and Boone, become one of NBC’s top breakout hits. The first season championed stand-alone storytelling to a great extent and it ended on a great note with some pretty big shakeups in the status quo of the main cast. I came on to the show quite late, but I too quickly became a fan of it, especially since I love James Spader in everything he’s been, and I found myself a great new show to get excited about this Fall.
Two nights back NBC aired the first episode of The Blacklist season 2, which introduced us to the main cast and showed all the changes that have been made since the team’s big shakeup. Given that the season finale finally showed us Red’s big nemesis, we revisit him too, and it seems as if the show is definitely working towards building Berlin up to be a major villain this season, which is fine with me, though it might become a bit too unwieldy. Still, what matters is that the new season premiere was rather explosive on all counts, figuratively and otherwise and was a great start to a new chapter in the lives of Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen.
Admirably, by the time that the season one pre-finale and finale rolled out, The Blacklist was attempting to do a lot of things and solving almost all its major plotlines. The first season had built up a lot of mythology and it needed to resolve as many things as possible before it ended. The season finale was certainly a cracking episode, and it delivered on a lot of my built-up expectations.
Going into season 2, one of the many things that I expected to see was the new status quo for the team, what with task force senior agent Harold Keeper in intensive care and the task force’s CIA liaison Meera Malik having been murdered by Berlin as part of his revenge on Raymond Reddington. The first few minutes of the season premiere are taken up with Red being “escorted” by rebels in Cameroon to their jungle heardquarters and we get to see some explosive action featuring Red, but once that’s over we quickly turn to the rest of the main cast and see what all they have been dealing with in the time since the finale.
The world has certainly changed for many of these characters, and part of the fun of the new season premiere is watching them all come together to take down another Blacklister. Red is now full-fledgedly on the hunt for Berlin and he gets a lead on his hunt that involves neutralizing another criminal, the data-mining specialist known as Lord Baltimore. That’s the team’s main mission this episode and it involved a really interesting psychological twist. The show has often done something different with its villains and Lord Baltimore is no different. That the new season starts off with such a good twist to a villain is most commendable since I think that it establishes the tone and mood of the rest of the season. Which is what we all want to see from a season premiere right?
Getting back to the characters, we see here that after all the tumultuous events of the previous season, there is some healing going on with and between the characters. Elizabeth is kind of on the run from Berlin, trying to stay one step ahead while still keeping up with her job at the FBI. Donald is trying to not focus on the traumatic events where his fiancee got murdered and the rigours of being a part of the task force which have led him to avoid the psychiatrist assigned to the team as much as he can. Harold has given up on the whole thing following the assault on him, and is looking to finally settle down with his family. Aram… he is kind of in limbo in that we don’t know what he’s been up to. But when you get to Red, you see and know that he is working really, really hard at finding out who the hell Berlin is and which bounty hunters he has hired to bring him in.
The personal lives of all the characters are in flux and as they all start in different places. But, they all slowly come together as the episode progresses, and that made everything worth it. The characters were the foundation of the show last season and if this premiere is anything to go by then that holds true for this season as well.
There aren’t a whole lot of mysteries in this episode, except for one big kicker: the identity and appearance of Red’s wife, Naomi Highland, played by Mary Louise Parker, who was last seen in last year’s RED 2 opposite Bruce Willis. She was great in the movie, and definitely a highlight, but here in this episode she is thoroughly underused. We see some causations of her relationship with Red, how her life was thoroughly changed for the worst because of being his wife and a part of his family, but it never really delivered because, first and foremost, the show was trying to do too much. That’s really the only major drawback of this episode. With all the characters returning, adding in a major character like her didn’t really register as well as it should have, and so Naomi was largely relegated to the background.
Still, there is a great story here because Berlin has moved on from tracking down and killing members of the task force to going after Red’s remaining family directly. Given the revelations about his backstory and his feud with Red, there’s really no surprises as to what he is going to do to make Red suffer, and in a morbid sort of way I am looking forward to that, if only because I want Red to thoroughly obliterate him. That Peter Stormare plays Berlin so well, in a very violent and creepy and badass kind of way only adds to the overall dramatic tension of the whole thing.
In all respects, this was a great season opener, and I’m looking forward to more!