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Summary

  • The Blacklist’s pilot is iconic, showing Red’s power without relying on exposition. They meet Elizabeth for the first time.
  • Season 3 excels by exploring the dynamic between Keen and Red, adding action and twists. Red and Keen trust each other more.
  • The best Blacklist episodes, like “The Director: Conclusion,” maintain high stakes, significant character growth, and great performances.

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The Blacklist might have been a procedural crime drama, but it was much more than that, and the best episodes prove what a stellar piece of television it is. The series stars James Spader as Raymond “Red” Reddington, a Naval Intelligence officer turned criminal mastermind who works with the FBI to keep him out of prison in exchange for helping them catch the world’s most notorious criminals. Alongside him is the FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen, played by Megan Boone, who has a hidden connection to Red that is the major question on the audience’s lips until the end.

At its core, The Blacklist thrived when delving into the relationship between Red and Elizabeth, and when it focused on the interpersonal aspects of the series as much as the dangerous criminals.

Running from 2013 to 2023 for a total of ten seasons, The Blacklist is one of the best modern procedural TV shows, and though its ratings dipped in the later seasons, it maintained a dedication to quality of content. Many critically lauded and beloved episodes involve dramatic twists and the series’ best villains. However, those aspects aren’t necessarily what makes a memorable storyline. At its core, The Blacklist thrived when delving into the relationship between Red and Elizabeth, and when it focused on the interpersonal aspects of the series as much as the dangerous criminals.

10 Pilot

Season 1, Episode 1

Few shows can get off the ground without an unforgettable pilot, and The Blacklist pilot did an excellent job of kickstarting the narrative and introducing the audience to the world of the story. With a show like The Blacklist, this is no easy task, as the rules of the procedural are familiar, and FBI shows saturate the market, but convincing the audience that Red is as powerful and important as he says can be difficult.

The pilot works well because it shows the audience what Red is capable of instead of over-relying on exposition. Additionally, it gives a realistic preview of what audiences can expect from a typical episode of the show without giving too much away about the upcoming character dynamics. This episode will always be iconic because it has the moment when Elizabeth and Red meet for the first time, and how quickly Red inserts himself into her life and begins to unravel what she believes to be the truth.

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9 Raymond Reddington: Part 1

Season 10, Episode 21

Though the series finale will always hold a special place in The Blacklist canon, the first part of the two-part ending is the more memorable of the two.

Though fans were sorry that The Blacklist ended with season 10, the show had reached a natural conclusion, and it was time to say goodbye to Red and his team. Though the series finale will always hold a special place in The Blacklist canon, the first part of the two-part ending is the more memorable of the two. All the threads that have been woven together throughout season 10 start to come together, and it’s always a treat to see Red in action, evading capture and tracking down criminals on his terms.

It’s a fun turn of the tables as a send-off for the show to have the task force seek out Red instead of having his help to find a different criminal. Additionally, it’s a reflective episode and features many familiar faces, which is what every fan wants out of a series conclusion. Although the second part of the finale has a more satisfying conclusion, “Raymond Reddington: Part 1” feels like a fitting tribute to the show’s tone with its cliffhanger ending and amazing twist.

8 The Troll Farmer

Season 3, Episode 1

The Blacklist season 3 is one of the best seasons of the series, as it’s when the show hit its stride and began to play with the dynamic between Keen and Red. Season 3 is often the best season of a series because the rules of the narrative have been established, the characters have been tested, and all that’s left is for the show to experiment and break its conventions to shock the audience. Combining a new villain with the cliffhanger from the season 2 finale allowed The Blacklist to accomplish all of this.

In the premiere of The Blacklist season 3, Red and Keen are on the run as the FBI is trying to put Keen away for murder. This thrilling beginning perfectly evokes the themes for the remainder of the season and shows how much both Red and Keen have changed since the start of the show. There was a time when Keen would never have trusted Red to help her hide from the FBI, let alone allow a criminal to help them, and the fact that Red does so much to come to her aid says just as much.

Season

Rotten Tomatoes Score

Season 1

82%

Season 2

83%

Season 3

93%

Season 4

90%

Season 5

100%

Season 6

100%

Season 7

71%

Season 8

43%

Season 9

67%

Season 10

66%

7 Anslo Garrick

Season 1, Episode 9

In “Anslo Garrick” the audience begins to gain insight into why it’s in Red’s best interest to put away the criminals on his blacklist, and what kinds of grudges they hold against him. Additionally, it’s the first episode of the series when a major loss comes into play, and a cliffhanger is introduced. By this point in the series, the procedural format and the criminals of the week had been well-established, and The Blacklist was ready to shake things up.

It changed the tone of The Blacklist because it incorporated increased elements of action and fight sequences, which were something the show typically shied away from.

Including elements of a bottle episode, and splitting up Keen and Red were two wise decisions that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. It changed the tone of The Blacklist because it incorporated increased elements of action and fight sequences, which were something the show typically shied away from. Though little in terms of the central dynamic between Red and Keen was expanded upon, it’s come to be known as a standout of the show.

6 Tom Connolly

Season 2, Episode 22

The season 2 finale brilliantly primes The Blacklist for the excellent arc of season 3 and utilizes the excellent supporting character, Tom Connolly (Reed Birney). Though Red and Keen are the heart of the show, the stories thrive on the introduction of new characters every episode, and The Blacklist characterizes these new people and their motivations quickly and effectively. While Connolly wasn’t a new addition to the series in the final episode of the season, his arc throughout season 2 and its successful conclusion changed the show forever.

Like any good antagonist, Conolly revealed more to the characters about themselves. Through this, the episode unlocked a vital piece of the puzzle of how Red and Keen are connected. Much is answered about Keen’s backstory, particularly her history with her parents, which lets the audience get to know her better as a character and feel more connected to her. Though Red was always seen as the only one without moral scruples on the show, the season 2 finale changed that.

5 Mr. Kaplan: Conclusion

Season 4, Episode 22

In, “Mr. Kapan: Conclusion,” one of the best villains of the show, Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert) makes her exit as she reveals to Red what she’s capable of, and to Keen what Red has been hiding.

Season finales are always rife with drama and expectations, but The Blacklist consistently delivers its best episodes in the last moments of its seasons. In, “Mr. Kapan: Conclusion,” one of the best villains of the show, Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert) makes her exit as she reveals to Red what she’s capable of, and to Keen what Red has been hiding. There’s a tense face-off between Kaplan and Red on a bridge, which ends in one of the most shocking twists of the show.

However, the episode has merit for much more than its twists and should be praised for how well it raises the stakes and keeps a consistent level of tension throughout the episode. The audience gets to see a different side of Red and learns that even he can’t always keep his cool when up against a wall. Naturally, it wouldn’t be a good episode of The Blacklist if there weren’t a few loose ends at the end of the story, but that’s part of what makes the audience keep coming back for more.

4 Berlin: Conclusion

Season 1, Episode 22

Finishing out the first season of a show is a nuanced situation. The audience needs answers to the questions that have been brewing all season, there must be a satisfying payoff to the story arc, and the groundwork for the next season must be laid without it being too obvious. Luckily, there was little doubt that The Blacklist would get a season 2, and the best The Blacklist character introduced after season 1 were well on their way. However, before then, “Berlin: Conclusion” set the precedent for all future season finales.

Throughout season 1, Keen is never sure if she can trust Red or believe anything he says, but their dynamic and relationship have grown so much that their reliance on each other is clear in this episode. It delivered the blood and gore that a successful crime drama must incorporate, and packed an emotional punch, making the audience feel for Keen even more than they already did. It also provides a great villain who isn’t easily subdued and presents a real threat to Red, Keen, and the task force, which is what The Blacklist thrives on.

3 The Director

Season 3, Episode 9

Without the acting chops of Spader and Boone, The Blacklist wouldn’t have been half as successful, and when they get to put their talents on full display, it’s always a fantastic episode of the show. At the midpoint of season 3, Keen is still on the run and wanted by the FBI. It speaks to the longevity and skill of The Blacklist creators that they didn’t soften or shorten this plotline and allowed the beloved Keen to feel the full scope of being a fugitive. However, by this point, everyone was ready for her to clear her name.

“The Director” is full of double-crossing and switches, and by the end, Red and Keen are ready to assemble their team and take down the Cabal, the major antagonizing force of the season. One of the reasons that the episode works so well is because while there are complex and convoluted plot points, the main objective of the story is simple. Red needs to rescue Keen and clear her name before the Cabal gets to her and the audience gets to enjoy how big the narrative has become over the years.

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2 Ian Garvey

Season 5, Episode 8

The episode, “Ian Garvey” featured one of The Blacklist‘s most heartbreaking moments, as Elizabeth’s husband, Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), doesn’t make it out alive. Elizabeth and Tom haven’t had the easiest relationship, and the lies and betrayals that kept them apart made it difficult to root for the couple. However, seeing their story end the way it did was a blow to Elizabeth and the audience, as he was an important connection to the person she used to be before Red entered her life and everything changed.

What The Blacklist has to say about love and trust is sad after the events of the episode, but delivering such an emotionally poignant episode was a feat for the series.

Throughout the episode, Red and Keen are on parallel journeys and have different objectives, and there was once a time when neither of them could have accomplished their tasks without the other. Particularly Keen, who goes off on her own to rescue Tom, and despite her failure, it’s still amazing to see her working so efficiently and brilliantly on her own. What The Blacklist has to say about love and trust is sad after the events of the episode, but delivering such an emotionally poignant episode was a feat for the series.

1 The Director: Conclusion

Season 3, Episode 10

The follow-up to “The Director,” “The Director: Conclusion” is, bar none, the best episode of The Blacklist. The stakes have never been higher, and Keen and Red have never been further apart, even though Red is doing everything he can to save her. There was a lot of ground that the episode needed to cover, and what makes the episode so good is how it wrapped up significant storylines and character arcs without feeling rushed or unearned.

Red is at his best as a character in the story, and Spader is working hard to deliver everything he has to the performance. While Boone doesn’t have as much to do since Keen’s role is primarily stationary in the narrative, she still exudes the confidence and wit that audiences come to love about her. By the end of the episode, the status quo has been reestablished and Keen is back with the task force, but nothing is quite the same after the events of season 3.

The blacklist TV Poster

The Blacklist

The Blacklist is an action/thriller crime-drama TV series on NBC from creator Jon Bokenkamp. The show follows former intelligence officer turned master criminal Raymond Reddington (James Spader) and FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone.) Red, one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, known as “The Concierge of Crime,” mysteriously surrenders to the FBI and offers to help them catch a deadly terrorist,  with the condition that he only speaks to Elizabeth- who just so happens to be starting her first day on the job. The two continue to partner to tackle Red’s “Blacklist,” which he offers in exchange for immunity for his past crimes.

Cast
Harry Lennix , Megan Boone , James Spader , Diego Klattenhoff , Ryan Eggold , Parminder Nagra

Release Date
September 23, 2013

Seasons
10

Writers
Jon Bokenkamp

Directors
Jon Bokenkamp

Showrunner
Jon Bokenkamp



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