A new show that I am just getting hooked on is called “The Blacklist.” A major reason that I am watching the show is because it has one of my favorite actors in it – James Spader. In fact, Spader plays the role of the series primary protagonist – Raymond Reddington. And his role is the fundamental glue that holds a series that is becoming more convoluted than Lost together. The reason for this is because this is quite possibly one of the best anti-heroes that I’ve ever seen in any series. Ever.
Reddington, or Red, as most people call him, is a former officer in the American Navy who, seemingly out of nowhere, turns on his country and deserts. He appears some time later, having become one of the most powerful criminal masterminds on the planet. He is nearly at the top of the FBI and CIA’s most wanted lists, with a record of being a kind of intermediary between criminals. He knows who to talk to and can get things done. This kind of business is what his empire is built on, with Red being viewed as one of the biggest traitors to his country in history. There is a larger story to what happened with Red, but as of now, you don’t know what it is. As is typical with him, nothing is as it seems.
Twenty years into building his empire, Reddington comes back to the FBI on a mission that is both complex and confusing. More than anything else, it is confusing because it has him betraying fellow criminals, some of whom he has personal ties with. But again, nothing is as it seems.
The reason that I absolutely love this character so much is because of the fact that James Spader is playing him. For real, I genuinely don’t believe that any other actor could have pulled off this character with the style and grace that Spader does. Reddington is probably the most hard-to-read character there is. This series would die in a SECOND if he were ever to leave it. Indeed, because his character is so central to everything and so pivotal to the plot of each episode, he is given far more development than all the rest. The only one who comes close to his level of depth is the other primary protagonist, Agent Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keen. A lot of that is because of how closely she is tied with Reddington, both in their work and outside it.
But back to Spader’s performance, it is as I said. No other actor could truly pull this off. It is amazing how difficult it is to gauge this character’s motives and reactions. He will laugh at the most random of things. He will have a very serious moment with a character and choose to not treat it seriously in the slightest, only to have a sudden burst of anger at the most jarring moments. But even his rage is really off-putting. This character has a facade of nonchalant amusement most of the time, yet when he gets serious, you pay attention. He will often devolve into a story from his past when a serious moment comes into play, which put both is foes and the audience at a loss because you have no idea what he is going to do next. The very few times in the series when he loses his repose are almost frightening, because you have to wonder how much rage is in the guy if he is dropping his character. Though his happiness is also a little off-putting, because it always feels disingenuous. The only character that I have seen in something that is this unpredictable is the Joker. With both of them, you never really know what they’re feeling, and each time I hear them laugh during a serious moment, it sends a shiver up my spine.
The series itself is not always completely engaging, but sometimes having a good central character is enough to make up for that. Think of Death Note after L died. The series got REALLY terrible for a long time, until the last episode, which was a masterpiece. You can have a series modeled after a single strong character. It’s what kept House MD going for eight seasons (yes, I also like that show. So sue me). I do very much enjoy this show and look forward to seeing what happens next.
So, what are some main characters who made an entire series work for you? Let me know down in the comments section.
Until next time, a quote,
“People think it matters who occupies that house. It doesn’t. Multi-national corporations and criminals run the world.” -Raymond Reddington, The Blacklist