Pulse Pause Moments – A Really Bad Guy to Love

Spader todayI got home a few weeks ago and found Mark vibrating with excitement.

“I’ve found a new series to watch!” he declared.

So I sat down to watch the first episode of The Blacklist without a clue about what it was.  I hadn’t seen the series trailer.  I didn’t know who was in it.

It was a shock to finally recognize James Spader.  I instantly remembered him from all the brat pack movies in the 80s – usually in a role that was determined to spoil Molly Ringwald’s plans to be a prom princess.  I didn’t much like him then…but he wasn’t playing sympathetic roles, either.

In The Blacklist he’s playing another bad guy.  A very bad guy, Raymond “Red” Reddington.  A former intelligence agent gone rogue and who has been a master criminal for the last twenty years, he’s back helping the FBI catch other master criminals (hence, “The Blacklist”).  He’s helping for reasons he hasn’t explained and doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to share with anyone.  He insists that Elizabeth Keene, FBI profiler, be his go-between with the FBI and refuses to talk to anyone else.

I was sucked in from Episode 1.

I don’t think I’m going to lay down any spoilers if I point out that it was obvious from Episode 1 that Keene is Reddington’s long lost daughter, which means that some of the reasons he’s helping the FBI now have to do with her.

That’s where the angst and pulse pause moments come in.  Because he is who he is, Liz Keene is thrown into acutely dangerous situations on a regular basis, and Red has been instrumental in saving her – always indirectly and while maintaining his criminal master-mind disguise.  He usually manages to twist things so that he profits handsomely at the same time, too.

Spader in the 80s
Spader in the 80s

He has his own set of rules, that pass for a unique take on ethics and morals.  Perhaps that’s why I like him.  He thinks for himself and acts with gusto.  This is despite a very conservative appearance (hats and waistcoats!), which is a nice statement on just how conservative he isn’t.

This is a guy who kills frequently and without hesitation.  He went on a killing spree in one episode, wiping out everyone who had double-crossed him in the previous few.  He did all his own dirty work: no hired killers to deal with his enemies.  He investigated himself, and did the deed himself.  I don’t think his blood pressure lifted a beat while he was doing it.

But the one moment I’m thinking about, the one that did make him pause – and the audience, too – was when Liz asked him if he was her father.

He literally did pause.  It was a ten second long moment of silence before he answered, and that silence screamed.  I know I held my breath.  I’m sure a lot of other viewers did, too.

I won’t spoil the moment by telling you what his answer was.  But it was this moment and others that assure you that Red has a conscience, and he’s very human – he feels strongly about things and he can be hurt both physically and emotionally.  He just covers it up and protects himself with steel reinforced plating that no one gets to see behind.

It’s hard to cast Red as a romantic lead in any shape or form.  Nevertheless, he’s the sort of self-made independent, smart and successful man that makes the best sort of heroes – except for his unfortunate habit of knifing/shooting/strangling people that don’t agree with him.

I’m totally hooked.

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