The Blacklist is arguably still a solid title, although as it marches on towards later seasons it has become more convoluted and less beloved by larger audiences. Hoping for its continued success over a gracious bowing out is difficult. Similarly, giving The Blacklist: Redemption a chance as anything other than an attempt at breathing new life into a show on its last legs is quite difficult. For any who wish to play catch-up (which is admirable, but far from envious), there will be spoilers ahead for both The Blacklist and The Blacklist Redemption.
Redemption premiered 2/23/2017 on NBC, at 10p.m. EST, and much of its promise was lost beneath densely-woven plot threads and an attempt to remind viewers of its premise established back in the “Susan Hargrave” episode of The Blacklist. Forgot Mattias Solomon (played by Edi Gathegi) was left for dead before? Here’s a punchy bit of dialogue and his immediate, on-screen return. How about Tom Keen (the role reprised by Ryan Eggold) actually being Susan Hargrave’s (played by Famke Janssen) son? Here’s a scene showcasing how his dad is actually not dead with some rambled exposition ending in Howard Hargrave narrowly escaping before Susan Hargrave shows up with another attempt to enlist Tom Keen in Halcyon Aegis’ endeavors.
By the middle of the episode, everything feels so dense, bloated, and overly-convoluted that it’s difficult to persist through the remainder of the show. What the show tries to showcase as elaborate plots comes across as waving shiny technology and complicated plots in the audience’s faces and hoping they don’t notice how, with the right tweaks to dialogue, this could play out as a parody to spy dramas and procedural crime shows.
Redemption’s biggest failure is trying to build the same rapport with viewers The Blacklist developed over multiple seasons. By the end of the first episode, so much has happened that any substance or emotional impact that could have happened feels more like a bad hangover after a blurred, difficult to remember night of ill-planned misadventures and heavy drinking. The clips in the season preview were likely meant to be intriguing, but they came across as a hastily thrown-together trail of breadcrumbs that aren’t terribly appealing to follow; not enough substance in what is shown (and not enough mystery by what’s not shown) to make watching future episodes terribly appealing.
It would be nice to see Redemption succeed. Perhaps even for it to outshine its source material, as it has a great deal of potential. The bulk of the main cast neatly occupy the moral gray area of anti-heroes, with equal parts likability and loathsomeness. With thirteen episodes to prove itself and, perhaps, realize it can spread its plot points over multiple episodes instead of trying to shoehorn them all into one episode after another—which, based on the series premier, seems to be the intent of the writers—there is still hope. Not a tremendous amount, because if episodes 2 through 13 are anything like the first episode it will be a struggle to not tune out. To that end, my challenge to the show is simple.
Redemption, please redeem yourself.
By Phil Gorski