The Blacklist is an American crime drama television series that premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013. It stars James Spader, Megan Boone, and Harry Lennix. Former government agent Raymond Reddington has eluded capture for decades, but he suddenly surrenders to the FBI with an offer that can't be refused and under one condition: Reddington will co-operate only with Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler. The pilot episode was written by Jon Bokenkamp and directed by Joe Carnahan. Executive producers for the series include Bokenkamp, John Eisendrath, and John Davis for Sony Pictures Television and Davis Entertainment. On October 4, 2013, NBC gave a back-nine-order, filling out the series' first season. On December 3, 2013, NBC renewed the show for a 22-episode second season.
The show has been met with critical acclaim, with many critics singling out Spader's performance.
Raymond "Red" Reddington, a former government agent and one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, surrenders at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.. He claims the FBI and he have similar interests in getting rid of dangerous criminals and terrorists. He makes an offer that the FBI can't refuse and insists on one condition: Reddington will co-operate only with Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler. Keen questions Reddington's sudden interest in her, but Reddington will only reveal that she is very special. After the FBI uses Reddington's information to locate a terrorist, Reddington reveals that this terrorist is only the first of many criminals that he will help them neutralize. Over the course of his own criminal career, he has made a list of global criminals who he believes are truly dangerous to society, most of whom are unknown to the FBI. He calls it The Blacklist.
James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington, a former government agent and one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives. He is known for brokering deals between criminals, and is called "The Concierge of Crime". Red surrenders to the FBI and provides information on a roster of criminals that he refers to as The Blacklist: dangerous criminals who are so careful with leaving any traces behind that the FBI has not detected their existence. His ethics are somewhat murky, and he espouses the use of some crimes (such as murder, torture, and extortion) in the service of "the greater good". He uses his arrangement with the FBI to pursue his own secret agenda. He has an unexplained interest in Elizabeth Keen, and knows personal secrets about her that she has never made public.
Megan Boone as FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen, a rookie profiler. She is the only person with whom Reddington is willing to work. She has yet to learn why, but he has told her that it has something to do with her missing father.
Diego Klattenhoff as FBI Special Agent Donald Ressler. He is a stickler for procedure. He dislikes having to work with a criminal like Reddington, but he acknowledges that Reddington does get results.
Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen, Elizabeth's husband. He's a schoolteacher and has a somewhat hipster appearance and disposition. He is possibly living a double life, accused of being in bed with terrorists.
Harry Lennix as Harold Cooper, Assistant Director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division. He had a particular interest in Reddington's past, and is willing to oblige Reddington's unusual requests due to this understanding of him.
Parminder Nagra as Meera Malik, CIAfield agent assigned to Reddington's security detail. She is accused of being a double agent in episode 12 of season 1, "The Alchemist (No. 101)". However, the next episode, "The Cyprus Agency (No. 64)", reveals that she is not a double agent. She unwittingly gave up blueprints for The Post Office on a classified order from Director Fowler.
Amir Arison as Aram Mojtabai, an FBI computer specialist. Among his many technical skills, he is very adept at finding electronic money trails where others can't.
Charles Baker as Grey (Newton Phillips), Reddington's mysterious aide and bodyguard, whom Reddington discovers betrayed him to Anslo Garrick. He is killed by Reddington in episode 11 of season 1.
Hisham Tawfiq as Dembe, Reddington's bodyguard, driver and confidante. In episode 2, it is revealed he is a former sex slave.
Deborah S. Craig as Luli Zheng, one of Reddington's bodyguards. She has evaded the SEC twice. She is killed by one of the members on the Blacklist (Anslo Garrick) during episode 9 of season 1.
Jane Alexander as Diane Fowler, Head of Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. She is revealed in episode 13, "The Cyprus Agency (No. 64)", to have ordered a leak that resulted in Reddington's location being given up to Anslo Garrick. She is killed by Red at the end of episode 13 of season 1.
Alan Alda as Fitch, an unknown government official in a position of power. Fitch worked with Anslo Garrick on the siege at The Post Office, but forced him to keep Reddington alive so he could talk to him about a longtime, secret deal the pair has made. He, along with other unknown officials, is later seen confronting Diane Fowler about the attempt on Reddington's life.
Susan Blommaert as Mr. Kaplan (who is actually a woman), Reddington's personal "cleaner" that comes in to scrub crime scenes. In season 1, episode 10, "Anslo Garrick Part 2", she cleans up after Liz kills one of the men watching her from across the street, then helps Liz find Reddington. Later, she helps Reddington clean up after he kills Diane Fowler at the end of episode 13 of season 1.
The first season of The Blacklist received generally favorable reviews. As of December 12, 2013, The Blacklist has a Metacritic score of 74/100 based on reviews from 31 critics.
David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said about the pilot, "You think you know this situation and how it will turn out, but there are surprising, yet entirely credible, twists throughout Monday's episode."
Robert Bianco of USA Today said, "The Blacklist is a solid weekly crime show built around a genuine TV star. That's the kind of series the networks have to be able to pull off to survive. And with Spader in command, odds are NBC will."