What Jenny's Reading

{September 7, 2014}   The Blacklist: Pilot

Back in May I recapped the season finale of this show.  I recently bought the season and thought I’d do the same for the rest of the episodes.  Good excuse to re-watch before the second season starts later this month, right?

1. Okay, here we go. I love this show, you guys, I really do. I apologize in advance, but there will probably be some squee-ing.
2. A guy sits outside a federal building wearing sunglasses and the world’s most Dad jacket. Seriously, if you looked up “stuff Dads wear” there would be a picture of this jacket, right next to an oversized football jersey and ugly sandals. I think they give these to you free after you have a baby, along with a carseat.
3. Dad Jacket walks inside and asks to see Assistant Director Harold Cooper. The woman at the desk is unimpressed to the extreme until she runs his passport and realizes he’s 10 Most Wanted criminal Raymond “Red” Reddington. Or at least, a guy with Red’s passport.
4. Can I just tell you, I have seen this episode more times than I care to admit, and I didn’t notice till today that the noise that accompanies the alarm is the shutters closing up the building. I don’t really know what I thought it was before. Maybe a noise from the guns? I guess I thought the FBI had toy guns that made noises instead of shooting bullets, to frighten criminals. That’s dumb. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that.
5. We meet Harold Cooper and Donald Ressler. Yay, Ressler! I love him. He is also wearing a weird coat. This coat is so strange, you guys, and he wears it A LOT. I have still not figured it out. It looks like a peacoat, except the material is very thin and in some shots looks like cotton, not wool. For awhile I thought maybe it was a long suit jacket, and he was just being trendy or whatever. Then I realized it was an actual outdoor jacket, and I was super confused, because it doesn’t look very warm. I have been losing my mind over this stupid coat for months.
6. I mean, it’s not like I think about it every day. But when I see an episode with the coat, I go, “Oh yeah, what the fuck’s up with that coat?” And then I totally lose my place and have to back up to find out what was going on when the coat appeared.
7. Oh, the show? Okay. Ressler is on the Red task team and provides us with an exposition dump. Cooper seems to be asking for the exposition for himself, but I don’t know why, because later in the season we find out Cooper and Red are pretty familiar with each other. I guess this was a quick way to explain stuff. Red was in the Navy, would’ve been Admiral, disappeared on Christmas Eve in 1990 on his way to see his wife and daughter, and became a dirty sellsword (does that analogy work? Whatever, I’m leaving it).
8. This brings up an interesting point. The details of that Christmas Eve, and a lot of other details, are different in the rest of the season than they are the pilot. For example, I’m pretty sure Liz says the fire happened when she was fourteen, and we know that’s not the case in later episodes. Which, pilots are usually like that so I don’t take a ton of what they say as canon. I just thought I’d point that out.
9. Red sets up the plot by telling Cooper he wants to give him notorious criminal Zamani, who is supposed to be dead but is really alive, but dying. But he (Red) will only give details to Elizabeth Keen.
10. Ressler: “Who’s Elizabeth Keen?” Me: Your new best friend you haven’t met yet!! And probably eventually your true love! (But not too soon. Their friendship is the best.)
11. Elizabeth Keen is a new profiler who is very late for her first day. She and her husband (I can’t even with his glasses, honestly) flitter around their home and then discuss that they will be adopting a baby, and they have an appointment that afternoon with the adoption agency.
12. Okay. Back the fuck up for a second. Who makes an appointment like that on their first day of a new job? I mean, I know from a storytelling point of view it’s an easy way to explain they want to adopt a baby and are pretty far along in the process. And I guess it’s somewhat plausible when she interviewed she mentioned, hey, I have this huge appointment I can’t miss on this one day, and they agreed she could take the afternoon off. I know people this has happened to. A friend of mine once took her second day off a new job because she was closing on a house, because that’s just how the dates fell. But this feels really weird to me. I’ve never worked for the FBI, but I assume maybe she would have training that first day?
13. Also, it’s weird because the story strongly implies they moved to DC recently from New York. And this meeting is their “last meeting.” So does this adoption agency have branches all over the country? If they recently moved, how do they have this last meeting scheduled? I’ve never adopted, but I know it’s a really long process full of background checks, probable disappointments, and lots and lots of money. So…when exactly did they apply with this agency? How long have they been working with them? Did they just wander in one afternoon and the agency people were like, “Yeah, you guys are cute. This works.” I wonder what kind of baby they will end up with, if that is this agency’s idea of quality control. Will it even be human?
14. Luckily we can stop wondering about this mysterious adoption meeting, because Ressler has arrived with the full force of the FBI to whisk Liz away! Seriously, I’m not being silly here. He’s got a giant fucking helicopter. I have no idea where that thing landed.
15. More exposition! Liz meets Cooper and was obviously filled in offscreen about the whole Red deal. Cooper wants her to profile herself. I’m going to skip that because most of what she says doesn’t jive with the way her character is written, either in the pilot or during the rest of the season.
16. They takes her to a black site, an old post office. I’ll be calling it the Post Office or the PO. He tells her all about it and there’s this really weird shot of him walking like thirty feet in front of her, talking. I think it’s supposed to establish he’s in a hurry and she’s still floored by everything happening, but in reality, it just makes him look sort of like an unobservant dick. Honestly, I think that’s what they may have been going for. I forgot how much Ressler and Liz didn’t like/trust each other at the beginning of the season, and it’s a little jarring.
17. Holy cats, I have a lot to say about this Pilot, don’t I? We haven’t even gotten to Liz and Red’s first ever meeting (OR IS IT???)!
18. I really like how Liz behaves during the meeting with Red. I know a lot of people criticize Megan Boone, the actress who plays her, as not being very good. I don’t think she’s bad, I think she’s just weaker when it comes to big emotional stuff. Subtle things, I think she does well with. And I really liked how she portrayed how freaked out Liz was by meeting her very own stalker.
19. Again, not being silly. Red knows way too much about her. We learn she’s from Baltimore originally, and that he’s traveled a very long way to see her. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to know she is wearing a wig, although he does mention her hair is different. (Once you realize she’s wearing a wig, it’s super distracting.) He finally gets to the point, that Zamani is going to kidnap a specific general’s daughter.
20. James Spader is like a force of nature in this role, you guys. He is so, so good at being creepy and mysterious.
21. Liz and Ressler fight over whether Red’s telling the truth. Liz wins, and they go pick up the girl. Liz calls Tom (the husband) to tell him she’s busy and can’t make the appointment. He’s sweet and understanding about the whole thing, and says maybe they shouldn’t adopt this year. Uh, yeah, maybe you shouldn’t adopt from the possibly-shady adoption agency that apparently took your word that you’d be good parents?
22. Liz bonds with the general’s daughter, named Beth, since they have the same name. Everything seems to be going really well, until a giant tanker truck runs right into Liz’s car. Whoops.
23. Action scene! I suck at describing action. Lots of bullets, lots of people die (six, we find out much later in the season). Ressler runs around, shooting a bunch of dudes. This is one of his favorite things to do. He even vaults off a bridge and surfaces, completely uninjured. Ressler is a badass, you guys.
24. Liz does pretty well herself, until Beth is threatened. Then she capitulates and the kidnappers take Beth.
25. Red uses this as leverage to get out of the glass box he’s been stashed in and into a nice hotel. Ressler mocks him, and karma decrees Ressler must then tip the bellman. Hee!
26. With Red’s prompting, Liz figures out that Zamani is making a bomb and is going to use Beth to set it off. This is the one scene in the whole episode I didn’t like. I don’t know how to explain why I didn’t like it. It just felt a little off.
27. The FBI finds the guy who made the bomb. They think they found him before he delivered the bomb, but would the rest of the episode be interesting if he didn’t?
28. Liz heads home to see Tom, and Zamani is waiting there for her with a gift! Unfortunately, the gift is Tom, tied up and stabbed multiple times. This guy is probably the worst at surprise birthday parties, you know? He bitches to Liz about how Red is obsessed with her and hey, he’s got the bomb already.
29. Tom lives, but is in the hospital. Liz is pissed, and stabs Red in the neck with a pen while trying to find out why Red is so obsessed with her and why Zamani was in her house. This puts Red in the hospital, and he escapes. With a recently-repaired punctured carotid artery. Red is also a badass, in case there was any doubt.
30. Red and Zamani meet up in DC while Ressler chases them and Liz puts together the pieces of the puzzle. It all ends with Liz realizing Zamani is bombing the zoo, and Ressler shooting Zamani off the top of a building. Ressler is pretty disappointed he didn’t get to shoot Red, but hey, whatever works, right?
31. Coatwatch: Ressler is not wearing the weird coat here. He has one of those windbreaker things that say FBI on them. I’ve never understood those things. Do they exist in real life? Seems like a great way to let criminals know you are on to them. (“Oh, this? No, I don’t work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I work for the Florida…Botanical…Institute.”)
32. Of course Liz finds Beth almost immediately at the zoo, and of course the bomb is going to go off in like three minutes. Red sends a friend of his to disarm the bomb. Liz tells Beth a story about a scar on her hand, and says she got it from her father. (It was from a fire when she was younger. I forgot to mention the scar earlier.) She says when she’s sad or afraid, she touches it and it helps her be brave. You know, Liz is doing a great job here, keeping the kid calm when you know she’s internally screaming. Good job, Liz. You are officially our third badass of the evening!
33. The friend disarms the bomb and runs off with it, and Red just strolls right up to them like nothing happened. The FBI and the general are there too, and Red is re-arrested. He meets with Cooper and Ressler to set up the series premise: he knows about tons of criminals who the FBI doesn’t know exist, and he’s willing to help the FBI find and capture them.
34. We’re supposed to wonder if Red is Liz’s father. Personally, I have revised my opinion on that since the Berlin: Conclusion recap. I’ll save the full explanation for a later episode. I will say that I want him to be her father, but I don’t think he is anymore.
35. Oh, and while Liz is cleaning all the blood in her house, she rips up the carpet and finds a trapdoor hiding a box full of passports, money, and a gun. The passports all have Tom’s face with different names. So, you know. Tom might be spy! Or maybe he has a spy fetish!


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