You might think that crime drama is an over-saturated genre on US TV, with so many doing the rounds that they all just blur into one.
What that does mean, however, is that the best ones really have to be special to stand out from the crowd. One of the greatest US crime dramas currently on our screens is The Blacklist, which takes a fresh spin on the familiar format of the detective show. Not just one for crime buffs, The Blacklist is a must-watch for anyone who loves classy, well-made television.
With the show’s third season out now on Digital HD and arriving on DVD & Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Monday 1 August – complete with all-new special features, commentaries and deleted scenes – here are five reasons why you need to catch up with this underappreciated series…
The central premise
What immediately raises The Blacklist above the pack is how it flips the usual premise on its head. The central idea is that Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (three-time Emmy winner James Spader), a highly wanted criminal, has turned himself in to the FBI. In exchange for his freedom, he shares with them the names of the most dangerous criminals in the world – those on his so-called “blacklist.”
The fact that Red is on his own side, and that the other characters cannot trust him, immediately gives the show a unique dramatic edge.
The supporting characters
Once he works with the FBI, Red insists that he is partnered with rookie profiler Elizabeth (played by Law & Order: Los Angeles star Megan Boone), who becomes the audience surrogate figure as she tries to unpick the truth about Red and his motives.
Other regulars include by-the-book boss Donald Ressler, who naturally has a prickly relationship with Red, Liz’s covert op husband Tom and Red’s loyal bodyguard Dembe. Together they make a strong ensemble cast of characters to revolve around Red.
Guest stars in Season 3 include Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters), Brian Dennehy (Death of a Salesman), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Murphy Guyer (Law & Order) and Margarita Levieva (Revenge).
The ongoing mysteries
While it could easily have been just another case-of-the-week procedural, The Blacklist is far more than that, as various ongoing mysteries build up over the series.
For instance, just why does Red only want to work with Elizabeth? What is the connection between them that she doesn’t know about? And just why does Red want to help the FBI in the first place? The result nails just the right balance of serialised storytelling to keep things interesting, but not so much that it swamps the weekly plotlines.
The fun yet tense tone
Crime shows often spend so much time investigating grisly offences that they have an overwhelmingly grim tone. Thankfully that is not the case with The Blacklist, as the pace is always brisk and the dialogue is reliably snappy (particularly from Red).
However, the series is never breezy and isn’t content to settle into a groove – shocks and twists abound throughout the three seasons so far. If you like an unpredictable show that will pull the rug from underneath you when you least expect it, this one’s for you.
The danger with anti-hero characters is that they can quickly become watered-down and less interesting. The brilliance of The Blacklist is that Red remains an out-and-out villain even when on the side of the law.
He’s a cheat, a liar, a thief and a killer – but you can’t fail to find him charming and charismatic. As well as some deft writing, the success of the character is down to a sparkling performance from James Spader (Ultron in last year’s Avengers sequel), which will keep you coming back episode after episode.
With a fourth season arriving later this year, it’s the perfect time to catch up on this TV gem!
The complete third season is available on Digital HD now and is released on DVD & Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Monday 1 August.
Are you a fan of The Blacklist? Let us know below…