"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."
The Blacklist is a television crime drama that premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013, starring James Spader and Megan Boone.Raymond Reddington, a master criminal and one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, calmly strolls into the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover Building and turns himself in. While in custody, he claims to have a list that the FBI would be very interested in. The list contains the names of criminals that haven't been caught because they're so cunning and careful in their plans that law enforcement doesn't even know that they exist.Reddington is all too happy to help catch them, but he has some conditions. The first and foremost, he'll only speak to one person: Elizabeth Keen, a rookie profiler who he's very interested in and mysteriously knows a lot about for someone he's never met before.Due to good reception, NBC has renewed officially for a second season.
Actor Allusion: James Spader played the trope namerBunny-Ears Lawyer in Boston Legal. Arguably, he is now playing a Bunny-Ears Terrorist; one the FBI would love to dispose of, but can't afford to because he is too good at providing leads to other (possibly) even more evil terrorists. One wouldn't be surprised to hear the character called "Alan Shore" by mistake.
Affably Evil: Reddington displays degrees of this depending on who he is talking to, shading into Faux Affably Evil, with varying levels of affability and/or evil as the situation demands. Thus far, the more affable he is, the more evil he is about to be.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In "Anslo Garrick", a crack mercenary team storms the black site that the FBI team operates from. They specialize in these types of operations and this time they are looking to retrieve Reddington at any cost.
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.
A-Team Firing: In "General Ludd", Agents Keen 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).
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."
Batman Gambit: Anslo Garrick leaks intel that there will be a hit on Reddington, so that the FBI will sequester him in their Glassy Prison facility; thus putting him where Garrick and his mercenaries can storm in and capture him.
Beware the Quiet Ones: Reddington rarely raises his voice in anger, but is probably the deadliest character in the series.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Floriana Campos, the leader of the Everhart Cartel and Reddington's true target in episode 2, pretends to be a UN aid worker and chairman of an NGO that rescues girls from the sex trade industry. In reality, she's using her NGO to launder her cartel's earnings.
Black Dude Dies First: Averted. It was Luli who was killed onscreen by Garrick before he turned his gun to Dembe.
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.
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.
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.
CIA Evil, FBI Good: Invoked in episode two, 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.
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 are still unclear. As well as a evidence of a romantic relationship with the terrorist Gina Zanatakos, which is neither confirmed nor denied.
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 now.
Liz: (hears her phone ring) Speak of the devil, it's the devil.
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.
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.
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.
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 Red 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 respirator, which was given to General Ryker's daughter. He also got an underground Ukrainian-speaking explosive expert to disarm Zamani's chemical bomb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Given that the writers are hinting that Reddington is Liz's real father this ship may be abandoned sooner rather than later.
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.
Multitasked Conversation: While Liz is setting up, 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.
Nice Hat: Reddington sports the "villainous fedora" variety.
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.
Noodle Incident: Before Reddington kills Liz's dying father to prevent him from telling her something, they have a discussion in which Reddington admits that Keen was a better father figure to her than he would have been, which implies that Reddington is so protective of Liz because he's her real father.
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.
One Name Only: Dembe, one of Reddington' assets in his personal security team.
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 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."
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.
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.
Reality Ensues: Liz was warned that her stabbing attempt on Reddington was getting her in trouble with the FBI.
Also TheCourier. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Suicide by Cop: Zamani makes it look like he is holding a remote bomb detonator so an FBI agent shoots him dead.
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, which are not typical activities for FBI profilers in real life.
She takes several levels in the episode "Anslo Garrick".
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 Quiet One: He gets one line of dialogue in the next episode. Although averted in the other episodes.
Western Terrorists: For starters, Zamani and the Serbian mercenaries recruited to ambush the FBI convoy.
So far this variety has been the rule, rather than the exception, in the series.
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.
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.