Scattered Thoughts: The Blacklist, 911, This Is Us and More

The Blacklist

I was so excited by the direction The Blacklist appeared to take in the season premiere. It looked like we were going to get a season of the dashing, fun Reddington we got in the first few seasons. Instead, we got the odyssey of killing Tom Keane. Great, that was a nice arc. But in like two episodes Reddington had all his money and cars and houses and suits back. WTF? We’e seen the Aida Turturro character what, two times?

Tom’s death was well done, and I enjoyed how the storyline played out. Less so the second half of the season with Liz trying to find his killer. Yawn. So let me offer an alternative arc:

  • The first half of the season is Reddington rebuilding his network. Starting from the hotel in the premiere and ending with him regaining his status at the mid-season finale.
  • The second half of the season is Tom’s death. Maybe Tom did something to help Reddington that led to someone wanting him dead. Maybe Reddington’s re-ascension came at Tom’s expense. Who knows.

I think this would have been a better path than such a quick return to the same The Blacklist that had grown so stale in previous seasons.

What I finally settled on as The Blacklist’s real issue is this: It has two main characters. Is it about Liz or is it about Raymond? Their relationship is the center of the show, but I think it also means the show is quick to bore.

Blindspot

Blindspot gets a little ridiculous sometimes when they’re putting together clues from Jane’s tats. Run these numbers through a random code, combine them with these numbers put in a circle, multiply them by pi—BAM!—found a bad guy. It’s a little much, but still fun. I’m glad they shipped Weller’s kid off to Denver.

I love Patterson. TV is too quick to make its technophiles into absurd caricatures (looking you, NCIS and Criminal Minds). Blindspot didn’t. Patterson is an integral part of the show and the FBI team. The show deserves credit for treating her like a brilliant professional. I loved the style and content of the Patterson-focused episode this past week.

But she should have died. As much as I like the character, I was surprised to find myself wishing she would walk into the elevator. It would have been a wonderful ending to a character that the show has given so much heartbreak.

Blindspot has handled itself very well in its third season. It’s not easy for shows to pivot away from their main storyline. The Ronan character is strong enough to be the main thorn in Jane’s side, and I expect that storyline will get most of the visibility for the rest of the season. It should be a good one.

This Is Us

I strayed a little from my “Don’t analyze this show” mantra after the over-done trilogy ended the first half of the season. It’s been dynamite since it came back. Except for last week. I don’t know what made anyone think we want a whole episode about Deja. But I do agree with the producer that NBC deserves credit for not intervening when the second-to-last episode of the season left out two-thirds of the main cast.

Remember last year when the penultimate episode was soooooo great and the finale was sooooo meh? Hoping for the opposite this year.

Y&R

When did Sharon enclose the porch on the ranch house? And come to think of it, why is Sharon still living in her ex-husband’s house on her ex-husband/ex-father-in-law’s property?

Goodbye, Chelsea. You were great with Adam but unfortunately the show let you die on the vine until you weren’t much more than someone who smiles at Nick.

Nick, you’re a brat. If they made posters of spoiled rotten rich kids, you’d be in them. You hate your father, but you love his money. Oh no wait you gave away all your money. Now you’re doing low-income housing. Sorry, that’s Randall and Beth Pearson’s gig. And your bar burned down. TWICE. My god you’re pathetic at adulthood.

I root harder for Nick & Sharon than I do for myself.

Ashby kids, you’re annoying. If my DVR had AI capabilities it would learn that I fast-forward through all your scenes.

Noah, sorry you were only good for being bad at having girlfriends. I wish they’d have done more with you, you could be a nice conflict between your father and grandfather.

I don’t care about The Hillary Hour. At all.

Nikki, that was kinda hot when you ran off with Nick’s contractor. You go!

9-1-1

It’s gotta be pretty bad for a show set in L.A. to not get my enduring affection. But 911 achieved it. Wow was this show bad. I quit after the plane crash episode. Not because the plane crash was poorly done (it wasn’t). But because this show has nothing other than emergency porn to keep your interest. The guy with rebar through his head? Come on.

The only thing worth watching about this show was the phone relationship between Connie Britton and the horny firefighter. That was awesome, but not awesome enough to keep watching. Peter Krause is terrible. Angela Bassett is terrible. So bad.

SWAT

Hey there, Shemar Moore. I’m sure SWAT is a totally unrealistic portrayal of an actual SWAT team. But it’s an entertaining hour nonetheless. The relationship between Shemar and his boss is a little forced, and the show’s attempt at addressing societal controversies is not quite ambitious enough to cram into one episode the way it tries to do.

The best character is probably the hot-headed young kid. It’s fun to watch him mature. I also really like the way they handled the story with him hitting on his co-worker who turned out to be bisexual. A show with no merit (hello, 9-1-1) would have drawn this out and probably given us at least one steamy sex scene. So kudos.

Jeopardy

Lee is a titan. If he qualifies for the Tournament of Champions, lookout. The dude was rarely wrong. Rachel also deserves credit for out-slugging him to start her run. She went on to benefit, I think, from some weak competition. This little banker twerp was pretty good, too.

Roseanne

I generally lament TV remakes (SWAT included, in this respect) because they make me afraid this great era of TV is running out of steam. So why am I curiously interested in watching Roseanne?

Africa’s Great Civilizations

This has been airing on the PBS lately. It’s pretty good.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

More to come on this show. 😉

The Man In The High Castle

WHEN IS SEASON THREE HAPPENING FINALLY?

Bosch

Season four due out in April. Bosch isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s a solid and enjoyable show. Doesn’t hurt to have Man in Black, Matthew Abadon and a house with the most gorgeous view imaginable.

House of Cards

The more time goes on, the less interested I am in the upcoming season. What if the show just ends with President Claire declaring that it’s her turn? I think that would be fine, and also somewhat fitting. Kevin Spacey’s character is deposed, out of the power he’s enjoyed for decades. Replaced by the woman he manipulated for so long.

I normally don’t like it when TV pierces the screen to mirror real life events. But that would have been perfect.

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#TheBlacklist Season 5 Premier: Back In A New York Groove

Just when we thought the male anti-hero had run its course, Raymond Reddington came along. James Spader’s awesome portrayal of someone equal parts charismatic and cunning kept the show alive as other characters found their way. Reddington is a flamboyant version of the international criminal mastermind, and you could feel how much fun Spader had bringing him to life.

Then season four happened. Red made the out-of-character decision to shoot his fixer, Mr. Kaplan, in the head and leave her (not a typo) in the woods to die. It was an overreaction to her perceived betrayal in season three, so much so that it was transparently forced into the show as a way to open up a new storyline. A metal plate no one knew was in her head saved Mr. Kaplan. Obviously pissed off, she used her complete knowledge of Raymond’s criminal organization to dismantle it from afar.

Losing his contacts, his connections and his money put Raymond Reddington on the defensive. Without his confidence he had no cockiness. Without either he was left being the one scrambling instead of the one stirring the drink. It made him uninteresting. Other storylines helped push the season along, but they weren’t strong enough to overcome the lack of fun Reddington.

The season five premiere brought back the fun.

The Blacklist has always been great with music, this year being no exception. The episode started with Reddington conning his way through a valet stand and into a classic sports car, which he promptly outran the police with – all set to “Back In A New York Groove.” He zipped his way to his new home: A motel where he holds court by the pool, giving the show a chance to let Spader’s charm explode onto every scene.

This is the new Raymond. He’s got no network and no money. Immaculate suits are out. He’s gotta hustle for his rent. So naturally he comes to the aid of a bail bondsman who’s about to lose $80,000 if a fugitive doesn’t make his court date. Perfect work for a former criminal entrepreneur.

All of this let’s the show give us the old Red back. The fun Red.

Here’s what season five shapes up to cover, based on the premiere…

Red rebuilds his empire
Season one began with Reddington already on top of the criminal world. Now that Kaplan knocked him off, season five should be heavy on him putting the pieces in place to start over. The premiere had him scheme to bring in a money launderer and a logistics man. He’ll need more, including a new fixer. And speaking of fixers…

Ressler’s in trouble
The Ressler character has been pretty stiff for most of this series. His only purpose seems to be rushing to crime scenes and reminding us of the ethical problems the FBI faces working with Reddington. Nevertheless, I like him. But now he’s got problems. Stupid ones.

At the end of season four, Agent Ressler accidentally killed the National Security Advisor. I mean, oops. Then, in a moment of extreme idiocy, he called the fixer who just betrayed said advisor and asked him to take care of it. Well guess what. The fixer is now gonna blackmail the shit out of him. It’ll cause problems for Ressler, big ones. I can’t stand inevitable storylines and this one is going to drive me nuts.

Elizabeth’s mom’s bones
Like every good fixer (see above), Mr. Kaplan kept an insurance policy against her employer. Hers? The decayed bones of Elizabeth’s mom. Big. She left them for Tom (“Hey, Tom. I got your dead mother-in-law’s bones here.”) who now has them in a brown suitcase that he keeps in the family living room.

Raymond doesn’t know all of this. He knows Kaplan left the bones for someone, but not who. He’s got Dembe on the job, so it’ll get done. It won’t be easy, but we know how it ends because…

That flash forward
At first I thought this was Tom having a flashback, then I realized this isn’t something we’ve seen. To lay the marker for how serious Reddington takes these bones, the premiere ended with a flash forward to Red and Dembe bursting into the Keane’s apartment guns out and, possibly, shooting Tom in the process. That part wasn’t clear. But it wouldn’t be surprising. Tom and Raymond have been at odds for most of the series.

How we get to that scene will be the biggest story for season five to unravel.

Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist top new fall shows

Every season new shows pop up that I enjoy but don’t earn enough time and thought to warrant the kind of attention I give to Revenge, Person of Interest and others. I broke these into two posts, the second will include two shows that I never, ever in my wildest imagination thought I would talk about on my blog.

Part One: Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Part Two: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., American Horror Story, and two surprises.

Sleepy Hollow – FOX Mondays

I came into Sleepy Hollow knowing none of the background. My ignorance made the first 45 minutes of the pilot pretty difficult as a headless horseman ran around town swatting heads of unsuspecting residents. The first to go was the sheriff who Lost fans know better as Kelvin Inman. What a let down.

The last 15 minutes roped me in. Mysterious devils appeared, a man got his neck snapped completely backwards. That’s what I’m talking about! I posted a snap reaction with more thoughts if you care to read them.

Sleepy Hollow has stayed pretty good since then but it is falling under the post-Breaking Bad hangover I mentioned in my Minnesota Bloggers Conference recap. After watching the crisp seriousness of Walter White’s story arc I can’t get into a headless horseman the way I could before the binge. I still enjoy it, but I don’t take it seriously.

Hostages – CBS Mondays

I savaged the pilot but will have more to say soon.

The Blacklist – NBC Mondays

James Spader
James Spader as Raymond Reddington on NBC’s The Blacklist.

If any show on this list elevates to more regular postings it will most likely this one. I read the pilot script from Alias right before I watched The Blacklist for the first time and couldn’t help but feel some similarities. There’s spying, a young woman, some mysterious CIA and FBI types. Okay that’s probably where the similarities end, and I must confess to never seeing an episode of Alias. Give me a break, I needed an intro.

The Blacklist is a list kept by Raymond Reddington, played wonderfully by James Spader. “Red” went off the grid 20 years ago to live a life in the information trade, before suspiciously turning himself in in the series’ opening scene. He will only work with Elizabeth Keen, a young FBI profiler played by Megan Boone. It is not a coincidence that Spader’s character re-emerged on her first day with the Bureau.

The first few episodes give us a look into Keen’s past but not a complete look. Reddington is tantalizing her with insinuations that there is more to her life than she is aware of (that’s an Alias similarity!), starting with her new husband. After he is brutally attacked in their home, Red prompts her to find a box hidden under their floor. It’s full of passports. Suddenly the man with whom she is going to adopt a child is a suspicious mystery.

Each episode features Reddington trying to take down one of the international bad guy son his list of names. Each plot gives us a little bit more of the story so we know it is clear his targets are linked for some reason and the reason likely has to do with Keen.

I like The Blacklist because it gives the clear indication that there is a lot more to what we’ve seen in its first month. Give me a show with some depth, a few shady government types and some decent drama and I’ll give you my attention. I’m a little apprehensive about Spader’s character turning into one of the good guy/bad guy roles TV has become infatuated with (see: Ben Linus, Walter White, et al). But that’s a concern for another day.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – FOX Tuesdays

Andre Braugher is back! I was excited for Brooklyn Nine-Nine only for this reason.

What a disappointment. It is as if you took the worst parts of The Office and gave it the most stale jokes Twitter has to offer. It is not funny or entertaining. After the pilot I proclaimed I would burn my television and move to Dubai if it got more episodes than the great Last Resort, Braugher’s 2012 fall effort. Brooklyn got picked up for a full season, so very soon I will come to you and admit I broke this promise.