Is ‘The Blacklist: Redemption’ as Good as ‘The Blacklist’?

Bob Aquavia

Spinoff! Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul? Simpsons references notwithstanding, the makers of The Blacklist hope so. This past week had the first spinoff of Raymond Reddington’s universe with The Blacklist: Redemption. The new addition is temporarily replacing The Blacklist on the schedule for its eight-episode first season, with the original show returning after its run. So far it seems Redemption will be able to match wits with the original series, but there are still some questions for the long run.

Smartest Man in the Room

[James Spader’s ‘The Blacklist’ character] is the mix of Lex Luthor and Don Draper that you didn’t know you needed.
 If you’re new to both shows, let me bring you up to speed. To quickly summarize The Blacklist is to use two words: James Spader. The series has Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington, a master criminal above all others, work with an FBI task force headed by FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). This task force takes on assassins, money launderers, hackers, and more who all form the eponymous worst-of-the-worst list. While there is a mix of procedural and serialized elements to the show, the main hook is Spader’s performance.

Red is the mix of Lex Luthor and Don Draper that you didn’t know you needed. A lot of the plot elements have him maneuvering behind the scenes, not simply for getting these criminals off the streets but to also benefit his long-term plans. He orchestrates double-crosses, triple-crosses, and once even a quadruple cross (I believe it was a hovercraft of some sort). On the rare occasion, he runs into others that can match him, step-for-step. One such person matched him so well that she’s now his counterpart on Redemption.

Here’s the New Boss…

Susan Scott “Scottie” Hargrave, played fiercely by Famke Janssen, is the head of a multinational corporation that routinely takes on “gray” tasks for various governments. With her private mercenary force, she takes on jobs that others can’t or won’t do. As part of the backdoor pilot for the spinoff, her team and Red’s cross paths for a common goal. This team-up also set a few things in motion that are just now starting to pay off. Namely, the truth of Tom Keen’s past.

Now with [Tom’s] story continuing in ‘Redemption’, he’s closer than ever to discovering the truth.
Tom’s character was one of the more intriguing elements of The Blacklist‘s early seasons. His character has run the gamut from doting husband to being revealed as a spy to being a roguish anti-hero to finding peace and back now on the side of the angels. His ties to Scottie are more personal, though: it’s revealed to him (and us) that he is her long-lost son who, for years, she thought was dead. The past few episodes of The Blacklist had him trying to piece together his past, and now with the story continuing in Redemption, he’s closer than ever to discovering the truth.

Go Your Own Way

So far, Redemption looks to be making its own mark in the Blacklist universe. It still has the mix of serialized arcs with “task of the week” episodes. Where it starts to split is in its characters and energy. The characters give off a Suicide Squad vibe, with former criminals of the Blacklist working together for the greater good. The energy is also different, with the first couple of episodes unfolding like Ocean’s Eleven capers with quick cuts, montages, and improvisational heists.

The Blacklist: Redemption - The crossover

My one big issue with Redemption so far centers on that main plotline of Tom’s past. (SPOILERS AHEAD) I understand keeping it hidden for plot reasons, but so far it’s also led to the biggest “ick” moments so far. Mainly because Scottie has no idea Tom’s her son, so she has hit on/flirted with him very heavily on multiple occasions. And of course, he looks like an awkward deer in headlights because he can’t tell her he’s her son because reasons.

Run the Numbers

To truly succeed, ‘Redemption’ will have to … make sure it finds its own voice.

It will be interesting to see how the creators use this new corner of The Blacklist universe. If done right, these new characters could serve as a counterbalance to the original cast, and if they ever cross over properly, there could be some A+ interactions and character moments. To truly succeed, though, Redemption will have to be concerned with self-sustainability and make sure it finds its own voice.

I’m still a huge fan of the original show, and the potential for Redemption is very high so far. I’m also wary; call it “once bitten, twice shy”. TV shows that mix this type of storytelling with no endgame in mind remind me of The X-Files. You have a great overarching plot and story-of-the-week episodes, but after a few years you’ve replaced the cast, added Poochie the Dog, and made the mythology completely muddled.

So I say, let’s be optimistic. The Blacklist has slowly been declining in viewership over the last four seasons: from ~11 million each episode in the first season to around 5 or 6 million more recently is a significant drop. But Redemption is good. Very good in fact, and has a high chance to be as exciting as The Blacklist was in the beginning. So here’s hoping the new addition helps boost both shows to their full potential. If nothing else, here’s to hoping we get to see more Red on both shows.

Bob Aquavia
I occasionally put words to page as a Fan Contributor by way of sunny Las Vegas. A fan of books (comic and otherwise), movies, tv, pro wrestling and video games. A periodic traveler and wanderer; also, more coffee than man.
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