Two new fall dramas.
Both premiered on the same Monday night a couple of months ago.
Both set in Washington, D.C.
Both based on completely and utterly implausible scenarios, each practically begging you to disregard the improbability.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a recap:
Hostages: A top surgeon, Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is chosen to perform a surgery on the president of the United States. A gang led by a crooked FBI agent Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) takes her family hostage in their home for the two weeks leading up to the procedure, their intention being to force Sanders to “accidentally” kill the president on the operating table, for reasons which will be revealed slowly over time. From there the show enters a downward spiral of complete insanity, with practically every character making ridiculously stupid decisions. It will have your screaming (“What the fuck are you doing?”) at your TV at least once during every episode.
Now, don’t get me wrong. When I say a show is completely unrealistic and its characters’ decisions defy all logical reasoning, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. In fact, I really like it, and I watch it every week. It’s TV. It’s allowed to be stupid and unrealistic and enjoyable and addictive all at the same time.
The Blacklist: A former intelligence agent and notorious criminal, Raymond Reddington (James Spader) shows up at FBI headquarters one day and voluntarily surrenders himself. It happens to be the same day that one of the FBI’s newest recruits, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) shows up for her first shift. Yes, you guessed it. The timing is not simply coincidence. So, to cut to the point: Over the years, Reddington created a list of criminals worldwide which are all high value targets for the FBI. And he knows how to find them all. But he will only speak to Elizabeth Keen.
It’s probably more realistic than Hostages, but not by much. Actually no, it’s not realistic at all. Moving on.
So, which one wins for Monday night viewing?
First of all, in fairness to Hostages, it has only been slated as a 15-part mini-series, so it’s got a lot to fit in to a few episodes. The Blacklist on the other hand has been renewed for a 22-episode second season.
My initial reaction, after the pilot episodes, was that Hostages was the winner. I like Toni Collette and that first episode made me think we were going to see a lot of clever bad-assery coming from her and her family, which didn’t really happen, and although I do enjoy the show, there might be one too many holes in the plot for it to be taking many prizes.
About three episodes into The Blacklist, I stopped watching because while I was interested in both of the main characters, the weekly take-downs of yet another baddy from ‘The Blacklist’ weren’t really holding my attention. I’m not really one for those dramas where it’s a whole new criminal case every week, like CSI etc. I generally prefer a prolonged, detailed, everlasting dissection of one case. But a couple of nights ago I decided to pick up where I left off and watch the five or so episodes that I had forgotten about.
The final verdict, having fully caught up with both shows?
The Blacklist wins.
Not because of the weekly chase of the newest criminal on the list, although some of the more recent cases have been very good — the episodes ‘General Ludd’ and ‘Frederick Barnes’ come to mind.
But the real reason this show is the winner is the development of the relationship between the two main characters, Elizabeth and Reddington. In some strange way, for me it’s reminiscent of the relationship between Ellen Parsons and Patty Hewes in Damages. It’s kind of like a game of cat and mouse and you’re not really ever quite sure what kind of relationship they have.
Reddington has that same kind of creepy, protective, obsession and infatuation with Elizabeth that Patty had with Ellen. Elizabeth doesn’t want to be controlled by Reddington, doesn’t want her personal life affected by him, but ultimately there will be no way she can avoid him and in an unconscious sort of way, she doesn’t want to.
So, there you have it.
If you haven’t been watching, you should check both of these out and see if you come to the same conclusions.