Midseason Report Card: James Spader lifts ‘The Blacklist’ season 3 to new heights

RedThe third season of “The Blacklist” started off with a game-changing premise this season: Rather than Red and Liz working with the FBI to take down Blacklisters, they suddenly found themselves in the position of running from the bureau, at times even taking advantage of the strange faces in Red’s criminal network. For a show that had such strong procedural elements, this was a significant departure and a bold move for the show to take.

Was it a move that was ultimately worth it? That’s something we’re getting into now in our new Midseason Report Card entry.

What worked – James Spader. This season so far has been by far the biggest Red showcase to date, and we’ve loved every second of it. He’s one of the most complicated characters on TV right now, an often bad due with enough vulnerability that you still want to care and root for him … then at times feel bad about it. His ambiguous relationship with Liz continues to drive fans and ‘shippers alike up the wall, and his craftiness is something to behold. Also, it was really nice to see some of his team members like Dembe get a little bit more time in the spotlight. The same goes for Tom and his attempts at redemption, even though we’re not sure such a thing is possible with him.

Also, we appreciate the show not rushing to force Red / Liz and the FBI into each other’s arms again after just a few episodes. This was a rare TV reset that didn’t just get thrown out the window out of fear that people syndicating the show wouldn’t like it.

What didn’t – The show is suffering from a little bit of “The Following”-itis, and by that we mean that the FBI for the most part are made out to be complete idiots. Yes, Ressler did eventually bring in Liz in the fall finale, but it felt like more competent investigators probably would’ve captured Red and Liz about two or three episodes into this. In order to build certain characters like Liz and Red up, you don’t have to make Samar, Ressler, and everyone else on that team look terrible. We’ve never loved this show’s supporting cast very much, but this season did not do much to change that.

Overall – Issues with the FBI aside, we don’t want to be too hard on a season that has, at least so far, been a great improvement over season 1. It feels like the writers / producers made some smart decisions on what they want the show to be over the summer, and it’s translating well to us as a viewer. Grade: B+.

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