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Series: The Blacklist

"I'm talking about the criminals who matter. The ones you can't even find because you don't know they exist. Let's call it the blacklist, that sounds exciting."
Raymond Reddington

The Blacklist is a television crime drama that premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013, starring James Spader and Megan Boone.

Raymond Reddington, former government agent and wanted fugitive, calmly strolls into FBI headquarters and turns himself in. While in custody, he claims to have a list that the they would be very interested in, containing the names of criminals so cunning and careful in their plans that law enforcement doesn't even know they exist.

Reddington is all too happy to help catch them, but he has some conditions. First and foremost, he'll only speak to one person: Elizabeth Keen, a rookie profiler. She's never met him before, but he knows a startling amount of information about her, and he's reluctant to reveal why.

Feel free to have a look at the recap page. Due to good reception, NBC has renewed The Blacklist for a second season.

The Blacklist provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: After one episode as a psychological profiler (see The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything), Liz took this role. Although clearly a rookie at the start, she leveled up rapidly, achieving badass status by the episode "Anslo Garrick".
  • Advertising Campaigns: This show virtually took over a number of stations on the New York City Subway.
  • Affably Evil: Reddington comes off as this whenever he speaks to someone he's on good terms with. Get on his bad side though, and it quickly goes away.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In "Anslo Garrick", the titular character storms the FBI site in order to kidnap Reddington.
  • Arc Welding: "Berlin, Part 1" confirms what was implied throughout the series, that the Blacklist is just a cover for a bigger plan on Reddington's part. While some appear to have truly just been chosen randomly, most were either targeted as a means to help Red find information on Berlin, or were actively Berlin's agents.
  • Artistic License - Geography: One episode shows Liz and Malik chasing a Blacklister through what is supposed to be Alexandria, Virginia. Except "Alexandria" looks like a small rural town and not the much larger metropolitan suburb it is in Real Life.
  • Asshole Victim: Every single one of the victims of the Good Samaritan. He only targets abusers, giving them the same injuries they inflicted on their victims.
    • Milton Bobbit's final victims are personal hits on the people responsible for testing a flawed drug.
    • The Judge pronounces judgement on the people responsible for miscarriages of justice, which is why Cooper is targeted, for beating a confession out of a terrorist.
  • A-Team Firing: In "General Ludd", Liz and Ressler engage in an extended shootout from their SUV to a bank truck which the episode's Big Bad is standing behind. Despite the range of less than 30 feet, the large number of shots fired, and all participants making poor use of cover, neither the agents nor the criminal are hit (of course, killing the antagonist in a gunfight would have deprived Reddington of the opportunity to out-villain him at the end of the show). Although to be a bit fair, the pistol-armed Ludd militant was using the bulletproof door as cover.
  • Bad Ass: Ressler, Reddington, and a number of the Blacklisters. Ressler, for all his Butt Monkey moments, is consistently brave and willing to risk life and limb.
  • Badass Boast: Reddington explaining the people on the blacklist:
    Reddington: "He's just a small fish...and I'm Ahab."
    • And again in the second episode: "The FBI works for me now."
    • Reddington gets another one when telling Fitch that he and his colleagues in the Alliance will regret not helping him in his war with Berlin:
    "Iím going to win this war. This enemy of mine will lose, even with you and your shortsighted brethren watching safely from a distant hill. Why? Because as bad as you think I am, as far as you think Iím willing to go to protect that which I hold most dear — you canít fathom how deep that well of mine truly goes."
  • Batman Gambit: Anslo Garrick leaks intel that someone wants Reddington, forcing the FBI to bring him back to the base and put it in lockdown. Which makes it easy for Garrick and his men to storm in and capture Red.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Reddington rarely raises his voice, but is probably the deadliest character in the series.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: While Reddington himself could count, given his manipulations of the FBI and the Blacklisters to his gain, there's also Fitch, who seems to run The Omniscient Council of Vagueness that Red is aware but independent of, as well as "Berlin", the mysterious third faction that Tom and Jolene report to.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Floriana Campos, the leader of a human trafficking ring, who posed as a activist trying to rescue girls from the industry.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. It was Luli who was killed onscreen by Garrick before he turned his gun to Dembe.
  • Broken Pedestal: Floriana Campos for Liz.
  • Butt Monkey: Ressler and the FBI as a whole basically exist to be incompetent, giving Reddington someone to be super-competent in contrast with. Reddington never tires of pointing this out.
  • California Doubling:
    • In "Frederick Barnes", the titual criminal puts a briefcase full of a toxin on a train in the Washington, D.C. Metrorail subway system (which in the background you can hear them announcing Washington subway stations over the Public Address system ["Woodley Park", "Dupont Circle"]) which kills dozens of people. Only thing is, the trains and stations are not from Washington. They're probably from California or someplace else. The reason being is that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates the D.C.-area system, has a policy that they will not permit filming of any program or movie that shows violence committed on a Metrorail train or in a station.
    • It happens again in a courtroom in the courthouse in Arlington, Virginia (which is about 6 miles from Washington). The building used is not the Arlington County Courthouse, as it's more like a Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles or New York. The Arlington County Courthouse is on a plaza across from the county jail; the courthouse shown in the episode was approached by a long staircase similar to the New York City one seen in Law & Order.
  • Camp Gay: During "Madeline Pratt", Reddington plays this to get the drop on the man standing guard over a captive Liz, thus getting close enough to punch him out and rescue her.
  • Cardboard Prison: Reddington moves into one of these as of episode 2. He is nominally still being tracked by the FBI, but his bodyguard and friends live with him, he apparently changes residences and travels the country at will; he even has his own plane, as seen in "General Ludd". Even when he's actively involved on a Blacklist case, Reddington walks out of the FBI's custody with ridiculous ease whenever he wants to.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In an early scene, Liz's husband shows her two brochures for possible school trip destinations. This ends up being crucial later on when Liz realizes that the symbol on Zamani's hand matches a logo on one of the brochures. The logo represents the National Zoo which is the target of Zamani's attack.
    • The burn scar on Liz's hand is initially presented as just the result of a childhood accident. However, by the end of the pilot it is clear that it is a important part of the Myth Arc.
    • One episode has Reddington argue with a client about shipment, after his payment was diverted from the port of Houston without his approval. That's because there was a plan to attack that port with a dirty bomb, and attack planners instructed all illegal players to divert cargo to New Orleans.
    • The elaborate Glassy Prison cell the FBI initially holds Reddington in proves to be unneeded once he makes his deal. However, a few episodes later, in "Anslo Garrick", we discover that the cell can also function as a very secure safe room during a All Your Base Are Belong to Us situation.
    • The Uncle Flippo toy that Liz gives Tom in "Ivan": at the end of the episode, she finds it among the evidence from his and Jolene's observation base, thus finally proving to her that Tom is a spy.
  • The Chessmaster: Reddington himself, as well as many of the Blacklisters.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Invoked in Episode 2, with FBI agent Donald Ressler and CIA agent Meera Malik, who sweetly informs the Freelancer that she's CIA, so she can do things the FBI can't do openly. Such as torture him by poking around his broken leg.
  • Cleanup Crew: Mr. Kaplan is a one-person cleanup crew.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Reddington sets himself up as this. He wants the FBI to consult with him, but on his terms.
    • And he eventually gets his way.
    • The FBI accepts he's a lot more valuable if this clients and contacts don't know he's working with them, and that means allowing him to go about his illegal business.
  • Content Warnings: Both parts of "Anslo Garrick" aired with warnings about the violent content.
  • Cop Killer: The FBI gets into this part when they face off against heavily armed criminals and terrorists, resulting in their deaths.
    • Anslo Garrick is this, in spades.
  • Creator Provincialism: Despite the task force being set up to catch the most dangerous criminals in the world, nearly all of the action takes place in the United States, and while many Blacklisters are non-American, Americans are disproportionately represented on the list (to date, at least). There are allusions to Blacklisters operating all over the world, and the task force is willing to operate abroad to pursue either criminals or its investigations, but the bulk of any episode will take place in America. Sometimes this is Justified as some Blacklisters are based out of America, and occasionally it will turn out that Red actually helped lure them to America to make the apprehension easier, but in most cases its just a Contrived Coincidence that a Blacklister happens to be doing a job in America which therefore gives the task force an excuse and opportunity to go after them.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In "Anslo Garrick", the titular villain's mercenaries curbstomp the FBI SWAT Team guarding the Post Office blacksite and the FBI agents inside. Later, Reddington's mercenaries easily destroy the surveillance outpost, and the FBI reinforcements overwhelm Garrick's mercenaries by surprise.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Reddington, to the point that he buys back the house he raised his family in, simply to blow it up.
    • Then there's Tom, whose relationship to the fake passports and gun Liz found under the floorboards in Episode 1 is still unclear. As well as a evidence of a romantic relationship with the terrorist Gina Zanatakos, which is neither confirmed nor denied.
      • The ending of "The Judge" finally clarifies things: it seems Red was completely right about his accusations of Tom the whole time.
  • Deal with the Devil: Reddington is a traitor, consummate liar and is clearly using the FBI to further his own unknown agenda, but the information and assistance he's providing is so valuable that the FBI and the Justice Department have no choice but to work with him for the forseeable future.
    Liz: (hears her phone ring) Speak of the devil, it's the devil.
  • Decapitation Presentation: With Mako Tanida, via Finger in the Mail, but subverted as it is done as "head on a platter" rather than "this is what happens."
  • Die Hard on an X: "Anslo Garrick" has the titular villain invading the FBI's black ops compound. As an extra Shout-Out, Liz loses her shoes early on and runs around barefoot for about half the first episode, just like John McClane.
  • Dirty Cop: One of Ressler's ex-FBI partners became Tensei, covertly taking over Tanida's drug and gun running operations.
    • Cooper was one as well, admitting to Liz that, following orders, he once beat a confession out of a terrorism suspect.
  • Doomsday Device: The Courier qualifies as this.
  • Driving Question: What exactly is the connection between Liz and Reddington?
  • Emergency Stash: Liz finds one hidden under the floor that appears to be Tom's. It is.
  • Episode Title Card
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: This is what drives the titular villain of "Frederick Barnes".
    • Reddington is shown to be genuinely friendly with Sam, Liz's adoptive father, and he's visibly upset at having to Mercy Kill him (both to spare him from suffering from cancer and to prevent him from revealing secrets to Liz).
    • In "Anslo Garrick", Reddington refuses to open the box and allow Garrick to capture him, but immediately changes his tune when Garrick threatens Luli and Dembe, begging Cooper to open it. He's visibly distraught when Luli is executed.
    • He even goes out of his way to try to save Ressler. At this point, it's easy to forget he is a bad guy.
    • Berlin, who's been attacking Reddington for years, had a daughter he loved dearly.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Reddington despises Floriana Campos, because she runs the Everhart Cartel sex trafficking ring, but keeps a cover as a passionate activist working towards ending human trafficking. She gets praise and charity donations for saving the girls she imprisons and abuses in the first place.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Reddington, world class criminal, versus every other world class criminal on his list.
  • Expy: General Ludd acts similar to Anonymous, except for their willingness to use terror attacks.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When it looks like Anslo Garrick is about to kill him, Dembe merely tells Reddington that It Has Been an Honor, calls him "brother", promises to see him again in the next life, and then they pray together. He doesn't die, but it still counts.
  • Faking the Dead: Terrorist leader Ranko Zamani.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Reddington and Garrick keep up a stream of friendly-seeming banter while Garrick is trying to break into Reddington's Glassy Prison so he can capture and torture him to death. Even while Reddington is hanging in chains, they still reminisce with one another.
  • First Episode Spoiler: Reddington, for unknown reasons, wants to help the FBI catch criminals on a regular basis.
    • There's something up with Tom, Liz's husband. Under the floorboards she finds dozens of fake passports with his picture, a loaded gun, and thousands in cash.
  • Gambit Roulette: Reddington's scheme in the pilot relied on all parties falling for his Batman Gambits and Liz not getting killed in the cross fire. For starters, he paid off a Serbian mercenary to help Liz survive a smoke grenade attack by handing her a gas mask, which was given to General Ryker's daughter. He also got an underground Ukrainian-speaking explosive expert to disarm Zamani's chemical bomb.
  • Gambit Pileup: The FBI has, since the beginning, not only been caught in between both Reddington's plans and those of the various Blacklisters, but on a larger scale, also Reddington's conflicts with the Alliance and Berlin.
  • Glassy Prison: Reddington is incarcerated in one in the pilot, but eventually moves out. See Cardboard Prison above.
    • He ends up using it as a refuge in "Anslo Garrick."
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Aram says this in "Berlin, Part 1" about Vogel's blackmailed agents, codenamed the "Five Horsemen".
  • Gun Stripping: Reddington uses this to time Aram; he advises that stripping, cleaning and assembly will take 2 minutes, at which point Aram had better successfully stolen 5 million dollars and transferred it to an offshore account without it being traceable.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Discussed in "The Stewmaker."
    • Very nearly happens to Ressler in "Mako Tanida" but he ultimately doesn't cross the line.
  • Hired Guns: Anslo Garrick's crack team of mercenaries, revealed to have been hired by an unknown party to spring Reddington from FBI custody.
    • Also, Mr. Kaplan has a team of contractors with her, who prove to be the equal of Garrick's mercs.
    • The Pavlovich brothers make a living out of this, and they're quite good at it.
  • His Name Is...: In "The Cyprus Agency," when Keen and Ressler corner the lawyer, he play in traffic, and is about to spill dirt on the Agency, when he gets bussed.
    The truth is... The Cyprus Agency is—
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Except for the pilot, all episodes are named after the "Blacklister" of the week, and the Episode Title Card flashes up their name and number on the list for the viewer's convenience.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Reddington offers a vile alcoholic concoction of unknown origin to Liz and she quickly declines. Later in the episode, she's only too happy to take a swig after discovering that she's married to a murderer.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. At least two children have been killed in separate terror attacks, and it's discussed that a young boy will probably die of his rare disease before the FDA approves a new treatment.
    • It is likely that dozens, if not hundreds, of children died in The Freelancer's attacks, although it's not discussed in the episode.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Dembe says something akin to this to Reddington when it looks like Anslo Garrick is about to kill him.
  • It Has Only Just Begun: When Reddington reveals his list.
    Reddington: Well, this was fun! Let's do it again. Understand that Zamani was only the first.
    Cooper: The first what?
    Reddington: Name! On my list.
  • Ironic Echo: A very fast one in "Berlin, Part 1". Just after Vogel sums up how he's been coercing his agents with the statement "That's how blackmail works, sweetheart", Liz reveals that she's infected him with his own virus in order to force his cooperation, and throws the line back at him.
  • Just A Flesh Wound:
    • The Courier whenever he's injured. Justified, since he was born with a condition that stops him from feeling physical pain. Emotional pain, on the other hand...
    • Averted when Ressler is shot in the leg. The only reason he is still alive is because the shot only partially severed an artery so it will take him a few more minutes to bleed out to death instead. However, Reddington is fairly proficient in emergency field medicine and is able to stop the bleeding but it is clear that if Ressler does not get to a hospital fast he is a dead man.
    • Red mentions this trope by name in "The Good Samaritan Killer" after Janice Krueger calls him a monster for shooting her husband, Henry.
  • Karmic Death: Reddington kicks the Stewmaker into his own acid bath, while he's still alive.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Inverted, maybe. After Reddington kills his kidnapper and escapes while he doesn't have a tracker device embedded inside him, he phones Liz, telling her if she needs help he will be there for her. Liz who has come to the realization that her father wasn't her real father, asks Reddington point blank if he is her father. He says "no," but if we remember an earlier episode, when Liz asked Reddington why she should trust him, he points out that she shouldn't, he's a criminal. So he might be telling the truth. Or he might be lying. However, in a later episode, Reddington claims to Liz that he has never lied to her.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: The FBI would prefer to keep Reddington in a spartan maximum security cell. However, when they need his help, they have to transfer him to more luxurious accommodations.
    • After the second episode, the FBI has given up on keeping Reddington locked up, because of his successful argument that in order to use his contacts and information, he would have to continue his business as usual. Reddington himself is seen in all sorts of environments, from hotels to simple houses.
  • MacGyvering: Liz improvises a bullet trap using a bucket of water and several thick phone books in Episode 3.
    • She uses a water bottle as a silencer in "Anslo Garrick."
    • Reddington does a fair bit of improvised medical treatment to Ressler in "Anslo Garrick", what with improvising a tourniquet with an emptied pistol magazine and necktie, live blood transfusion, and cauterising a wound by pouring in gunpowder and lighting it with a match.
  • Made of Iron: The Courier. Justified, in that he has a disorder that prevents him from feeling pain.
    • Ressler's not quite as tough as the Courier, but he's still pretty tough.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The Freelancer is an assassin who specializes in making it look like his victims died as a result of a major accident like a plane crash or building collapse, taking the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the process.
    • Grey pleads with Reddington for his execution to be this, for his wife's sake, since she's unaware of his real work.
  • The Man Behind the Man: As sinister as Anslo Garrick is, he turns out to be operating on orders from Fitch.
  • Mentor Ship: At least, in fanfic. Take a look at the fanfiction sites and you'll see that most stories are Reddington/Liz. Given that they have what could be seen as Belligerent Sexual Tension, it's not hard to see why.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Invoked in "Wujing." The titular villain accuses one of his mooks of being a traitor, then proceeds to give him a no holds barred beatdown. Reddington then shoots the mook and claims that he did it to spare him from more suffering, since Wujing was just going to beat him some more before he killed him. In actuality, the mook discovered the device that Reddington and Liz used to set him up, and was going to expose them to Wujing. Reddington killed him before he could say anything.
    • In "General Ludd", Reddington smothers Liz's adoptive father, so he won't have to suffer a painful death from cancer—or expose a secret about Liz's adoption.
  • Mole in Charge: Floriana Campos, who runs the group dedicated to stopping the Everheart Cartel, is its leader.
    • Fitch, the apparent Big Bad, is in charge of the national security committee that Cooper's superiors report to.
  • Multitasked Conversation: While Liz is setting up in Wujing's base, she communicates to Reddington via text on her computer screen. He, meanwhile, has a natural sounding conversation with the workers while asking questions to Liz indirectly.
  • Myth Arc: Reddington's conflicts with the Alliance and Berlin, and how Keen's backstory is tied into it.
  • Never Found the Body: This is what The Stewmaker specialises in: killing people and pretty much removing them from the face of the earth. Reddington returns the favor to him, by kicking him into his own acid bath.
    • In the Season 1 finale, Liz shoots Tom, apparently fatally wounding him, but when the FBI later raid the location, Tom's body is gone.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Inverted. The Blacklist is one of few shows where the trailers, even when it makes grandiose claims, actually underpromotes the show. The Blacklist is consistently better than what the trailers shown.
  • Nice Hat: Reddington sports the "villainous fedora" variety.
    • He also compliments one of his investigators (Lance Reddick) on his cowboy hat.
      Reddington: I love hats.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the pilot, Liz stabs a pen into Reddington's neck when she's sick of his talking. This gets him sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment. He then escapes from there and goes to meet with Zamani. She was warned that her action is giving her trouble since the FBI placed her under review for her stabbing attempt.
    • In "Wujing", Liz improvises a replacement for ballistic gel and has the FBI lab run a 9mm bullet and shell casing from the gun she test-fired. Not only does it confirm Cooper's suspicion that she's hiding something, but the gun, which was in Tom's cache, is connected to a homicide that's classified up to the level of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Lampshaded by Reddington in "The Courier." The high level criminals and government agents that deal with Reddington cannot really trust each other. Thus the Courier is hired to keep the people involved from double crossing each other. If the deal is betrayed, he kills everyone on both sides of the deal, no exceptions.
    • The very premise of the show is Reddington selling out his fellow criminals to the FBI; in some cases, he is implied to actually be friends with them. In several cases, Blacklisters and other bad guys are shown to be equally as untrustworthy, betraying or even murdering each other to cover their tracks or save their own asses.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened between Reddington and Madeline Pratt in Florence.
    • Every other line from Reddington refers to a Noodle Incident, as an indication of how eventful a life he has led.
      • He once killed a Somali with a wire coat hanger. How or why we are not informed, but another professional killer was impressed.
  • Non Indicative Number: It's not clear exactly how Reddington ordered his list other than "Rule of Drama"; capability times (dis)respect for life. Madeline Pratt, for instance, is a non-violent Con Artist and thief, and Red even lets her go at the end of her episode, yet she is listed higher than many mass murderers, assassins and terrorists. Red even includes people he isn't sure even exist, yet ranks them higher than some he knows personally. The highest ranked in Season 1, Berlin, is essentially a Light Yagami-level Chessmaster who kills pretty much everyone he encounters and is Unfettered enough to cut off his own hand to slip a pair of handcuffs. And Red considers seven people to be even worse than him.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: As valuable as Reddington is, there is only one tracer implanted in him. Which can be cut out, quickly. And it is done by his kidnappers in "Anslo Garrick" so the FBI can't find him. You would think they'd put a half dozen tracers in Reddington so you couldn't remove all of them before the cavalry showed up.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Alliance, the international group of apparent Corrupt Politicians that Fitch represents.
  • Oh Crap: When the Russian transport plane bringing "Berlin" crashes into New York city territory after being shot down by a US Navy F-14 in "Berlin".
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The end of "Anslo Garrick" sees Reddington wearing a hoodie and getting on a bus. Considering he spent the entire season in expensive tailored suits and traveling by private plane, this tells the viewer that he really doesn't want to be found.
    • Also, on the rare occasions that Reddington loses his cool, things never end well for anyone.
  • Parental Abandonment: Liz's parents. Reddington also abandoned his wife and child on Christmas Eve before beginning his stint as master criminal.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Most of the criminals on the blacklist are there because Reddington finds their crimes or methods to be particularly heinous. For example, the Freelancer specializes in assassinations that look like major accidents, thus not only does he kill the target but he kills dozens of innocent people as well.
    • The Good Samaritan is doing this as well. Every single one of his victims was an abuser and he inflicts the same injuries on them that they inflicted on their victims.
    • In "Berlin", Liz does this to Vogel, who had been infecting his victims with a disease for which only he had the cure in order to blackmail them into performing his bidding. Liz turns this tactic back around on him.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Liz nicks Reddington's carotid artery with a pen in order to get information about Zamani.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Other than in the pilot episode, Liz's profiling skills have not been used, even though this is what the FBI pays her to do. By the end of the first season she is a full-fledged Action Girl.
  • Playing Both Sides: Appears to be a running theme in all the episodes, at least on the surface.
    • In the pilot, Reddington is playing the FBI and Zamani against each other and Liz is caught in the middle.
    • Reddington plays the FBI against the Freelancer in order to get to his real target: the head of the Everheart Cartel.
    • While the FBI agents discuss giving a false translation of the coded message, Reddington points out that "either it's real, or we don't do it at all."
    • Reddington delivers up General Ludd to the FBI, but steals the printing plates for the US $100 dollar bill.
  • Police Are Useless: Aside from Liz (who still makes her fair share of mistakes), the FBI as a whole is painted as bumbling idiots who are always two steps behind and can easily be played like fiddles. This is most apparent in the first part of "Anslo Garrick", when the FBI didn't realize the intelligence they were fed was a Batman Gambit which would bring Reddington into a situation where Garrick can easily find him. Reddington never tires of pointing this out to them, culminating in him chewing them out at the beginning of "Anslo Garrick". This ultimately results in him possibly giving up on trusting the FBI's protection at the end of "Anslo Garrick Part II" by going off the grid.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Japanese government is too embarrassed to admit that a major criminal escaped from their inescapable prison so they do not make the information public. The escapee is out for revenge on the FBI agents who captured him and his targets receive no warning about him being on the loose. If the Japanese promptly notified the FBI of the escape, the criminal would have probably been recognized and stopped as he tried to enter the U.S.
  • Psycho for Hire: The Freelancer is a freelance assassin who likes to causes major accidents to disguise his murders. Reddington estimates that over 3000 innocent people died as a result of the Freelancer's actions.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Frederick Barnes grabs a security guard's gun and holds him hostage, and pulls this on Liz, who complies momentarily, then grabs her gun back, but he's lost in the meantime. Cooper chews her out for not following FBI regulations and keeping her gun with her, and warns her there'll be an official review.
  • Realistic Is Unrealistic: Many viewers criticized the show for the RCMP portrayal when they worked with the FBI in Montreal due to Quebec's "status" within Canada. However, many Canadian viewers (and viewers familiar with Canadian law enforcement) have pointed out that the former operates as a local, provincial and federal police force throughout Canada and that they are the FBI's Canadian equivalent. Due to this, criticism has largely died down.
  • Reality Ensues: Liz was warned that her stabbing attempt on Reddington was getting her in trouble with the FBI.
    • Also The Courier. After a whole episode shrugging off dangerous wounds with nary a worry or care, he's shot again. He'll just keep walking like a badass, right? Nope. His wounds finally catch up to him and he dies.
    • And then in "Frederick Barnes", Cooper chews out Liz for dropping her gun and warns her there'll be an official review.
  • Red Baron: Many of the Blacklisters are known only by their nicknames and self-appointed titles — the Stewmaker, the Courier, the Judge, etc.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Reddington goes through one in "The Good Samaritan Killer", hunting down the people involved in "Anslo Garrick."
    • Mako Tanida goes on one against the FBI agents who incarcerated him and killed his brother, which in turn causes Ressler to go on one in turn when Tanida kills his fiancee.
    • It turns out that Berlin's attacks on Reddington are this: Berlin had a daughter who was killed and mailed to him piece by piece, and blames Reddington.
  • Sadistic Choice: Mako Tanida gives his victims a choice between performing seppuku (disembowling themselves) or he'll kill them and their families.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Reddington tells Liz to contact a Mr. Kaplan at the Emissary Hotel in Chicago for help. Turns out it's actually a Ms. Kaplan.
    • "The Judge" turns out to be a woman, a fact lampshaded by Red.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Most notably in "General Ludd", where we see Liz joining Tom in the shower as the camera pans tastefully away; followed by a big dose of squick as we cut to the sinister surveillance team's location and see that the couple are being video-monitored even in the bathroom.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The episode "Mako Tanida" correctly shows the existence of Abashiri Prison in Abashiri, Hokkaido. It's still in use as an active prison site. At the same time, it also depicts the correct way of showing a Japanese address in English. Also, the abbreviation NPA, which stands for the National Police Agency in English.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the pilot episode, Liz jams a pen into Reddington's neck because she's sick of his talking. This actually may have been a part of Reddington's plan.
    • At the end of "The Cyprus Agency", Reddington confronts Diane Fowler on setting up Anslo Garrick's attack on the black site. As Fowler is going on about how Fitch won't let him get away with threatening her, Red responds by shooting her in the stomach.
    Reddington: You talk too much.
  • Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains: Red is Type III, as he knows no bounds to achieve his goals, but his goals are noble. It's lampshaded by Cooper at the end of "The Cyprus Agency", who remarks about how vile and ammoral Red is- but without Red's help, the FBI wouldn't have saved all the women and children the Cyprus Agency was taking advantage of.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly placed on the Cynical end of the scale; the lead character is a master criminal who has committed more than one on-screen murder (including one Mercy Kill, which was slightly excusable in that it spared an old friend a more painful death, but which also served to protect Reddington's own secrets). Also see Crapsack World.
  • A Storm Is Coming: At the end of "The Judge", Reddington tells Cooper that "there's a war coming" that he'll need the FBI's help in fighting.
  • SWAT Team: FBI SWAT officers appear, but are usually given the Worf Effect; the SWAT team escorting Liz, Ressler and the General's daughter in the pilot is slaughtered, and Garrick's mercenaries easily kill the SWAT officers by surprise guarding the black site. In recent episodes their performance has improved, to the point they have actually won some firefights.
  • Suicide by Cop: Zamani makes it look like he is holding a remote bomb detonator so Ressler will shoot him dead.
  • Take a Third Option: With Liz in turmoil over her Sadistic Choice, Reddington suggests a third option: hiding Tom's emergency cache in a different place in the house.
  • Techno Wizard: High school student Harrison Lee, a teenaged hacker who framed Russian cybercriminal Ivan by using his alias.
  • Threatening Mediator: The Courier facilitates negotiations between parties with a very simple rule: if either party in a negotiation tries to screw the other one over, he kills both of them.
  • Title Drop: In the page quote. Interestingly, this is the only time this happens. Every other time it brought up, it's just referred to as "the list." However, Reddington does refer to the targets in question as the "Blacklisters".
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Liz starts the pilot episode as a rookie psychological profiler, not a field agent. After only a few episodes, she's routinely engaging in car chases, foot pursuits and shootouts, and piling up the body count without batting an eyelash, which are not typical activities for FBI profilers in real life. She notably takes several levels in the episode "Anslo Garrick".
    • Agent Ressler, who started out as the more experienced agent, was also a regular victim of The Worf Effect; recent episodes have seen him steadily improving, actually winning fistfights, and generally performing as one would expect from a top FBI agent on an elite task force.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Due to the trailers, most viewers went in knowing Reddington assisting the FBI in capturing criminals wasn't going to be a one time deal, despite the fact he doesn't reveal his list until the last ten minutes of the pilot.
    • The promo for "Berlin, Part 1" spoils that "Berlin" isn't a place, but the name of Reddington's mystery adversary.
  • True Companions: The FBI agents at the Post Office rapidly become this.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X: Inverted.
    Lizzie: I'm supposed to believe you?
    Red: Of course not! I'm a criminal.
  • Villainous Friendship: Type 1 between Reddington and Dembe.
  • Villain Protagonist: Reddington.
  • The Voiceless: Dembe, in his introductory episode.
    • The Quiet One: He gets one line of dialogue in the next episode. Although averted in the other episodes.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Reddington kills Elizabeth's father this way.
  • Western Terrorists: For starters, Zamani and the Serbian mercenaries recruited to ambush the FBI convoy. They are revealed to be the "Pavlovich Brothers".
    • So far this variety has been the rule, rather than the exception, in the series. Including the American Taliban fighter who showed up in "The Judge".
  • Wham Episode: NBC's official tumblr for the show promised that "Anslo Garrick" would be this. They weren't lying. After the two-parter finished, "everything has changed".
    • More specifically, Reddington is in the wind, he's explicitly denied being Liz's father, his people don't know where he is, and the Blacklist task force's only motivation is hunting him down. Also, Liz learned about the guys who were spying on her, there's hints that Reddington is involved in some sort of high level government conspiracy. Oh, and there's a mole on the team.
    • "The Judge" plays out like a standard episode, with the FBI chasing the Blacklister of the week while Reddington pursues his own agenda in the background. Then the last scene finally clarifies the mystery surrounding Tom — he actually is the spy killer Red accused him of being, with his marriage to Liz being a sham he undertook on orders from his mystery superiors.
  • Wicked Cultured: Reddington's a very classy criminal.
  • Woman Scorned: Madeline Pratt plays Reddington as part of her heist of the effigy mostly as payback for standing her up in Florence.
  • The Worf Effect: Reddington goes a good amount describing the Bad Ass Evil Army that Garrick has who completely take over the FBI Blacksite in minutes. Only for Reddington's team to easily wipe them out later.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Reddington uses one to kill Anslo Garrick.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: The protagonists have to stop terrorists from committing mass murder and wreaking havoc on a regular basis.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Zamani lost his family when the U.S.-led NATO bombing of a chemical weapons plant poisoned his village in Bosnia during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, and he wants to get revenge before he dies by killing a lot of American children. Therefore, he kidnaps the young daughter of the General who led the attack, then returns her at the National Zoo with a bomb strapped to her back.
    • "The Freelancer" commits mass murders to cover up his assassinations, making no exception for children who would almost inevitably be among the victims.
    • The Everheart Cartel specializes in trafficking in child slaves.
    • In "Wujing", the titular villain's mooks are willing to threaten their target's young son in order to draw him out.
    • The titular villain of "Frederick Barnes" had no problem with releasing a deadly disease that killed a child. Ironically, he did so as part of a plan to save his own son.
    • "General Ludd" has an accidental example. The debris from a cargo plane the terrorists blew up kills a father and son who picked the wrong place to play football.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The titular villain in "Anslo Garrick" engages in an extended game of this against Reddington. By the end of the episode, it's far from clear who's going to win.
  • X Meets Y: White Collar meets The Silence of the Lambs.
  • You Monster!: Liz says this to Reddington after he dumps the Stewmaker in his own acid bath.
    Liz: You're a monster.
    Reddington: Yes.
    • Invoked by Reddington in Part Two of "Berlin"; a man hears a disturbance in his home and finds Reddington siting at his kitchen table, eating peaches and holding his dog. The man asks what Reddington will do to the dog if he doesn't get what he wants.
    Reddington: I'm not going to hurt a dog. I'm not a monster. [Throws knife into the man's leg.] You, on the other hand...
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Zamani is Secretly Dying, which is the impetus behind his plot to get revenge for the death of his family.
    • The Undertaker's MO - he finds people with a terminal diagnosis and convinces them to carry out a murder suicide, in exchange for taking care of their families financially.

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