In the last ten years or so, there has been a notable shift in the genre of American television series that are being put out. Following on from the terrible events of 9/11, many networks have greenlighted spy shows focused not on traditional spy antics, but on counter-terrorism and domestic terrorism. Covert Affairs, Burn Notice, Chuck, Nikita, 24, Quantico, State of Affairs, The Blacklist, and many others. Strangely enough, many of these also star female characters, which is an interesting change from the previous era of James Bond styled shows with male characters. Focusing on one of the many intelligence agencies of the American intelligence network, these shows follow the lives of intelligence officers and experts as they head off one threat after another.
One of these shows is Homeland, starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, which premiered on Showtime on October 2, 2011 just a little over five years ago and has recently announced its sixth season, which will begin next month. I recently started watching the show, and I’ve been very impressed with it, which is probably why I binge-watched the first season in a mere three days. Danes, Lewis and the rest of the cast and crew have turned in a fantastic political spy thriller with some extremely nuanced and conflicted characters.
Note: Spoilers from the first season will be mentioned so proceed at your own risk. Read the rest of this entry
NBC’s The Blacklist has had an interesting second season so far. Lots of new characters have strung up in the wake of season one’s finale, and the Reddington Task Force has experienced some big changes of its own, whether that is losing some people or gaining some new allies. But things are still in flux, as they ever are on this show, and that is a good thing, since there are some mysteries still left unexplored, which define the show itself, and none more so than the relationship between Red and Liz, which got murkier and ever more mysterious in last week’s “Dr. Linus Creel“.
In “The Front” this week we see the heroes go up against a group of eco-terrorists, who have some grand plans for cleansing the world of the species that eradicates dozens of species a year. It all starts off with a murder, and by the end we are left with the team redefining some of its interrelationships and also Red finally getting one of the things he has wanted since the start of the season.It is not all that interesting an episode, personally speaking, since the eco-terrorists were rather boring, but the good thing is that the subplot involving Red and his investigation still remains a strong story, despite everything else.
One of the biggest things last season in this show was the whole mystery of the relationship between Red and Liz, something that showrunner Jon Bokenkamp teased often, but never really committed to. It was really fascinating to watch regardless, and going into the new season, it was also something that I was quite looking forward to, especially when it turned out that Red did have a wife, Naomi Hyland, who was still living, and that she was going to play sort of a major role this season. Not much has been done with her to date, but I think that’s changing now.
“Dr. Linus Creel” is this week’s episode and it deals with an old US government black budget program that investigated the possibilities of mind control. Where the Reddington Task Force is concerned, someone of late has been causing people to go total violent psycho and commit some horrible murders, and this is what Red has to offer to them, even providing some crucial leads. It was a good episode, partly because of how well-performed the role of Dr. Linus Creel was, but also because we got a serious peek at what Red and Naomi’s life was before it was all upended several years back, and that was the true strength of the episode, the villain himself being somewhat lackluster.
Last week The Blacklist closed out one phase of the ongoing feud between Red and Berlin, leaving viewers with a vague promise that the two might be able to ally with each other to root out whoever had caused the feud between them in the first place. It was a pretty damn good episode, especially since it marked the two meeting each other face-to-face for the first time. While the first season finale and the second season premiere showcased a lot of changes on the FBI’s Reddington Task Force, things are also setting in the same kind of groove they were in towards the end of the first season.
This week’s episode, “Dr. James Covington” does some really great things, such as bringing back Tom Keen for a brief cameo and forcing Elizabeth to once more question Red’s motives and his longer game plan. Along the way she also helps take down a rogue surgeon who has been running an organ scam for a number of years, ruthlessly and callously so. Some of this episode is a bit filler, but by and large I loved it since it continued some of the mysteries from the previous two episodes while also creating some interesting new ones, keeping me hooked.
NBC’s The Blacklist kicked off its second season last week on a very good note. With the introduction of the Berlin plotline last year, the show gained on a very personal, very emotional aspect that came to the fore by the end of the season when we learned that Berlin wanted Red because Red had had his daughter killed. And in last week’s season two premiere we saw that Berlin upped the stakes of his mission for revenge by kidnapping Red’s estranged wife. The character interactions and the tone of the new season were all pretty damn strong and this week’s follow-up episode builds on all of that.
The promos at the end of the first episode promised a meeting between Red and Berlin in this week’s episode. That was pretty mind-blowing in itself and something to really look forward to this week. In a game of cat-and-mouse that has all been about leverage from day one, Red gains the upper hand on Berlin this week, despite the fact that the latter is holding Red’s wife hostage and is breaking her apart piece by piece (a finger last episode, a tooth this episode). And in the midst of all this are Elizabeth and Donald, trying to keep ahead of the game of deception that Red is playing with everybody. And as a friend said, this week’s episode floored me.
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.
Last night was the season finale of one of NBC’s top-rated dramas of the 2013-14 season, The Blacklist. A crime drama with a focus on espionage and intelligence politics, the show was headlined by James Spader and Megan Boone, both of whom delivered handsomely throughout the entire season. As I keep saying in my reviews of the show, their performances are one of the many reasons why I like the show as much as I do. By this past weekend, I had finally caught up with the show, ready for the finale, and while some of the episodes along the way were less than good, all the good ones more than made up for them.
Episodes 21 and 22 form a single story that brings to conclusion the subplot that has been running throughout the entire show this debut season: the mystery of the connection that Liz and Red have, and just who the hell is targeting Red and his operations and consequently, why Red surrendered to the FBI in the first place back in the pilot. The finale does leave you with some more questions, but between these two episodes, we get enough answers that the big season cliffhanger rubs you just the right way.
Notcounting today, there are just three days left until the debut season of The Blacklist comes to a close. When I reviewed episodes 14-16 of the show a few days ago, I talked about the critical success of the show, as well as the fact that the show has had a pretty stable viewership of around (just shy actually) 11million viewers. I’m no expert, but that sounds good to me! When you have a great show that combines some great acting, some great casting and some great stories, then this is, inevitably, the result. Doesn’t work out in a few special cases, but more often than not it does, and when it kicks off like The Blacklist does, that’s when the fun really starts to kick off.
With all the revelations that happen in episodes 15 and 16 that all of Red’s suspicions about Tom were correct, episodes 17-20 deal with the fallout of that as Liz, inevitably, finds out about all of it, marking a big emotional downturn for her, even as things heat up significantly for Red in that someone is targeting his entire network with the intention of taking him down. As with all the other episodes, while the main episodic stories are fun, the meta-stories about the web of relationships between the main cast is what makes this show truly worth watching.
The Blacklist will come to a close next week when the twenty-second and final episode of the first season airs on Monday evening. The show has garnered high praise in many quarters, and justifiably so. James Spader’s performance has been especially good and so has Megan Boone’s, as far as I am concerned. I am still behind on the show, having only watched up to episode 16, but that will be rectified this coming weekend, because I don’t want to fall too far behind, especially now that the end is so near. In the last three episodes, we saw how Red went on the warpath to hunt down everyone who had betrayed him and get his revenge, and it was extremely thrilling.
In episodes 14-16, we see the fallout of the last three episodes as Red joins back with the FBI and with Elizabeth Keen. Additionally, these are the episodes where the truth about Tom finally comes out and we find out just who he is, although the show still plays some cards close to the chest. In many ways, these episodes were the best of the show’s debut season, but that is largely because of the subplots involving Red’s capture and Tom’s real identity. Otherwise, the episodes are a bit boring and too on point.
After going so long without watching The Blacklist, I finally caught up to episode 16 this past weekend, watching the episodes back to back without break on Saturday night. It was quite fun. The show has only gotten better as far as I am concerned. The previous episodes that I watched for the review last week, episodes 7-10, were quite intense episodes in part because James Spader’s character Raymond Reddington was directly threatened, as were the people closest to him, and one of them even died, sadly. When the tenth episode ended, Red pretty much said it flat out that he wasn’t going to come back until the FBI had cleaned house and he was certain of that.
These three episodes are focused on Red getting his revenge on all the people who have betrayed him and all the people who talk part in his capture by Anslo Garrick. He is a man on a mission and he isn’t going to rest until he has balanced the ledger. And what follows is a very bloody state of affairs that eventually draws the eye of the FBI as well, although peripherally. At the same time, we continue to get more bad guys in each episode and the mystery of who and what Tom Keen is continues to deepen, especially at a time when Liz’s marriage to him is on the rocks.
Staying current on more than three concurrent ongoing television shows is a humongous task, especially if you have other things to occupy your time as well, like me with my reading and writing. I didn’t have a problem staying current with Arrow and Agents of SHIELD but with Intelligence, The Blacklist, Black Sails and Dracula thrown in the mix, I found it progressively harder. Thankfully, The Blacklist has been an extremely good show packed with great acting and great story/characters, as the first six episodes of the show’s debut season have proven to be. Elizabeth Keen, Raymond Reddington and others are characters I love to tune in for, and I recently finished watching episodes 7 through 10 in an effort to catch up to the show before the season finale next month.
Much as I expected, the show really amped up the tension in these episodes. The previous episodes served to introduce us to the characters and establish where they all are in the grand scheme of things, but with these episodes things go further. Now it is not about introductions but sustaining and maintaining the viewer’s interest. Chemical attacks, potential economic disasters and assassinations, it is a heady mix indeed and Team Keen is right in the middle of it all, as always.
The Die Hard films can be a bit hit and miss, especially of late. The original movies are fairly decent, the new ones not so much. Last year, we got to see the fifth film in the franchise and its the worst of them all to date. As I said in my review of it last year, even the fourth film was quite a bit better than this. This one is just a regurgitation of the kind of things that made the previous movies good, but executed poorly.
A Good Day To Die Hard, apart from a ridiculously long name, is just not the kind of action movie I want to see, especially not one with Bruce Willis’ acting power behind it, which suffered here in fact. When the material is bad, not even one of the world’s best actors can do much about it.