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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Spin-off Loaded With TV Veterans? I'm Down #BlacklistRedemption #3weekroundup #NBC

A Spin-off Loaded With TV Veterans? I'm Down #BlacklistRedemption #3weekroundup #NBC

All pictures courtesy of NBC 


Another new show means another review/recap of either the first full abbreviated season or the first three episodes. Take a wild guess of which category this one fits into. Today, we'll be looking at NBC's The BlackList Redemption. So, does this show live up to its suggested title and redeems the middling but still strong plot of The Black List, or is it already DOA and waiting for a double-tap just to make sure? Let's explore.

The Black List: Redemption is the much-talked-about spin-off of The Blacklist which stars the always in high form James Spader, and Megan Boone. In this new show which was set-up as a potential spin-off a year ago, Boone's Elizabeth Keene's husband Tom Keene is the star as he ventures back into his own world of espionage and danger around every corner. For those not in the know, Tom Keene (played by Ryan Eggold) was himself a spy originally put in Elizabeth's life to watch her. Through a few ups and downs and a few times trying to kill each other, they somehow found love with the real people beneath all of the lies. This espionage never quite bothered Tom as much as one would think, due to his upbringing. Though much of his childhood was shady, he did know that he had a mother and father at one point. Back on The Blacklist, he discovered that not only were his real mother and father still alive but that they were both working for this organization called Halcyon. When he found out all about his father, I don't know. But he did and now he sees that his father may need his help.

His father, played by Terry O'Quinn, is Howard Hargrave. Here, the Lost veteran is playing the conspiracy coot that thinks someone is out to get him. Only problem is that he may actually be right in this case. See, he was reported dead in a plane crash a few weeks ago. He faked his own death in order to make the people he thinks tried to kill him that he actually did die. And who does he think is trying to kill him? Susan Hargrave, his wife.

Susan Hargrave is played by another TV and film veteran Famke Janssen. Still looking hella sexy, she plays the widow-now-made-boss of Halcyon, her husband's company. They specialize in practically anything and everything that the government thinks is either too risky or that people who don't want government involvement to truly know about. In other words, they are mercenary spies for hire by any kind of organization, though they do mostly government black-ops stuff. Howard believes that Susan has wanted to overthrow him at the company for a while now and this was the perfect time for her to do just that. He also believes it goes deeper than just her. He doesn't trust her for many reasons and that drove a wedge in their relationship. Another reason they weren't close in the moments before Howard's faked death is that he, unlike her, had never given up on finding their long-lost son—Tom, but they knew him as a different name. Seldom common (usually its the reverse sexes), the father obsessed over finding their missing son who had run away or was kidnapped. At some point, Howard discovered Tom Keen was, in fact, his son. Again, I can't remember when he figures this out, but it's led to some very strange questions.

You Can't Tell Me She Doesn't Want To Jump Her Son's Bones. Granted, She Doesn't KNOW He's Her Son, But...

Continuing, Howard wants Tom to go undercover within the Halcyon organization (Susan already offered him a job last year and she does again) in order to figure out what Susan is really up to. For whatever reason, Tom agrees to do this. I say that with skepticism because Tom is a spy by trade, yet he seems too trusting of his long-lost father here, but I digress.

Tom agrees and goes on the first mission for Susan. A former CIA agent has recently been kidnapped by some ruthless international cartel guy. Very rich, the man has taken both her and her son and is interrogating her over something about other undercover agents and whatnot. They have to get the woman and her child back before she divulges anything of importance to the government.

Meeting the team, we finally sorta see why this show is called redemption. Along with Tom, who himself was a bad guy for a few seasons on The Blacklist, the team consists of other former baddies. We have Mr. Matias Solomon who, fans of The Blacklist will know, tried to kill both Elizabeth and Tom while Elizabeth was carrying her and Tom's baby, and in a church no less. Supa bad guy! We also have Nez Rowan who was also a woman on the run and committing some pretty serious crimes as the FBI chased her around The Blacklist territory. And finally, we have Dumont, the nerdy tech geek that all of these shows need to have him explain stuff and do all the gadgetry stuff. Rarely leaving to go into the field, there's been no talk about what he's done in his past, and I can't remember him making it on Red's Blacklist. With all of these criminals looking for redemption, they come together to do some of the toughest jobs in exchange for Halcyon keeping their butts out of jail and off the various intelligence agencies' radars. Essentially, think of the A-Team or the Expendables but with less buff guys, and seemingly more smarts.


Back to the cartel/terrorist guy, the group decides that the best way to the man is through his woman, a supermodel who takes a daily swim always at the same time in her indoor pool in her beau-bought apartment building (it's New York so it could be a townhouse, brownstone, full-building or a thousand other real estate terms). They bomb the pool, blow a hole in the floor, drain the pool directly beneath her and catch her in a net beneath. They knock her out, take her to an apartment where they put on a little charade that allows her to escape and call her terrifying boyfriend. In reality, they inserted a camera-contact into her eye, giving them video back to them of where she is going, not to mention tracking her movements.

The gangster brings his terrified girlfriend across the pond to a UK castle where he has the woman and child. The redemption gang go over there (usually, only three of them, though Susan goes sometimes) and sneaks through old tunnels that had been built to stave off and escape an attack by Napoleon. They get to the house right as the woman is blooding from her stomach and in bad need of medical attention. The rescuers of the woman and the rescuers of her little boy get split up during the brouhaha that winds up killing practically all the thugs, including the main guy. Tom takes her to the hospital where the doctors have found something strange about her X-rays. He steps out of the room for a second to hear about if they found her son or not. They have and he's safe, but she doesn't know that. As soon as Tom returns to the room, she is gone, escaped out the window to finish the task given to her by the gang guy.

Still believing the man has her son, she goes to her undercover safe house where her fellow undercover CIA agents are. That strange thing inside her? A bomb. She threatens to blow the place up if only to save her son.

Tom and Solomon
Tom, Solomon, and Nez all show up in the nick of time and prove to her that her son is OK. But the bomb still must be removed and nobody's a bomb expert in the room. Tom gingerly slips it out and snips the wires, saving everyone. The day is saved and the team has successfully completed its first mission. Susan goes to her husband's funeral and talks about how she is still in mourning. Tom goes to his father and listens to the man's paranoid rants about his mother and how he must keep close watch on her because she's up to no good.

Episode two gets even more personal for both Tom and Susan as they are now tasked with rescuing a journalist in some foreign country (I think it was one of the stans). Accused of being a US spy, he was arrested, taking to jail, beaten and forced to record a confession of his guilt, though he swears he is not a spy. Apparently, the ruler of the country is known for doing this kind of thing. It gets personal when Halcyon gets involved. The man's family contacts Susan directly, who takes the case for free as this boy and his family were friends with Susan, Howard, and Tom since the boys were little. In fact, this boy used to be Tom's best friend before he went missing. Though it isn't explored in great detail, Tom feels a certain way about this person from his past coming back into his life in need of rescue. So, they have to get into the country, get into the jail in which they are keeping the journalist and break him out.

Things go awry when they are in the jail and try breaking him out but a guard comes and calls his radio to signal the others. Pinned down in the kitchen, they are almost killed when they can't get the door to the exterior open and their tech guy can't hack the code from halfway around the world in time (what good is he if he can't do that? Seriously). Outside, Nez improvises and hooks a chain from a van to the door. They zoom off with a door rattling on the ground behind them.

To a safe place, the three spies gameplan over what to do next because the entire nation will be looking for them. All they need to do is to get to the embassy which is a few blocks over. They hope to wait until nightfall. But the journalist wants to go and get his research he left back at his apartment building, with a neighbor lady who doesn't know he hid it in her place. It's vital that he gets the story told. The group turns away for just a second and when they turn back he is gone, and you are left to wonder if they're going to do that particular trope every single episode as they were already battin' a thousand, two for two.

Journalist Guy Being Interrogated

The journalist does get his research but the others catch up with him and then the cops start to show and things get hectic. As they make a daring escape through the streets, bullets fly and riddle the cars. The journalist is hit and dies 20 feet inside of embassy lines. A failed mission, they get back to the U.S., and, as it turns out, the journalist was a spy. He was a real journalist being used as a CIA operative who had collected intel on possible war crimes within the country. He died a hero but no one, not even his parents can know about that. Susan does a little hitting on Tom as she has been doing for a while now and things get very creepy (this is how the show Taboo should've felt) as we know that Tom knows it's his mom and she doesn't, but he doesn't spurn her advances nearly hard enough, especially not for a married man. Sometimes, he has this “willing to risk it all” look on his face but it hasn't happened... yet. Strangely, there is actually a name for this, when one family member feels a romantic attraction to another long-lost family member. There have been a few cases in the news in recent years.

Episode three was the most interesting so far to me. The U.S. Government crashed a plane on purpose onto Russian soil (don't worry, the plane was full of pre-dead people dressed up to look like regular passengers. I'm also assuming the plane was either piloted by people who parachuted out or it was a drone). Why did they do this? Because they were trying to get as close as possible to a Russian black site that they haven't been able to map with satellite imaging. They think the Russians are hiding some kind of nuclear bomb threat. But what Keen discovers is that they're really hiding an entire make-believe American town named Independence (funny enough, there is an Independence, Ohio not too far from Cleveland and Akron, though I don't think this was the specific town they were spoofing). This serves as a testing/training ground for Russian sleeper agents to blend into American society more thoroughly. In the town, they must talk in only English, act like, sound like, look like Americans, and they must remain completely faithful to their cover stories given to them by the Russians. Right up Tom's alley, he slides into it easily, along with Nez. While Tom refuses to sex-down his “new wife” in the shower, Nez gets the go-ahead to graduate from the program and become a full-fledged spy on American soil.

But when Nez discovers that the identities given to everyone were of real American citizens and that they are to receive plastic surgery to look more like those citizens, she and Tom must escape and try to stop an imminent attack. One of the other graduates has already gone to America and killed his doppelganger. Now that he looks just like him, he is the new American. They determine that these Russian sleepers have a bomb attack planned to make America think that they've been attacked by their own people. Solomon, who stayed behind on US soil, has all three of the American would-bes shot in the head before they can detonate the bomb. The day is saved once more. But the most intriguing part comes at the end when Tom meets with his father and tells him of this secret mission. See, this case had been started by Howard before he faked his death. It was kept secret even from Susan. Why? Because Howard thinks Susan is from this program. That's right, after the death of their child, he thinks that Susan was somehow replaced with a phony who has been made to look and sound like her but isn't her. Now that is some top-level Mission Impossible type of shiznit. Even more, Susan just got info from a PI that Howard hired before his fake death. She now knows that their long-lost son is alive, and tells that straight to Tom, who still gives no reaction.

What's my grade? I give it a B. While the writing is OK, it doesn't quite have the allure or bite of The Blacklist, season one. Also, it's very limiting in its scope as far as world-building goes. In other words, it relies too heavily on you having to have already been a fan of The Blacklist franchise in order to get it. I've seen all the Blacklist episodes and still got confused on a few things. Worst of all, the characters seem watered down, which is similar to how the latest season of The Blacklist has felt. The hatred between Solomon and Tom should be palpable, but it isn't. Dude, this black guy literally tried ending your entire family multiple times. You should want to kill him every chance you get even if he is on your side now. While Famke is good, Terry O'Quinn is neutered, kept to the confines of a tiny apartment where he must live out his days as a presumed-dead crackpot. So far, we've only seen glimpses of him that haven't amounted to ten full minutes over the course of three episodes. And, as mentioned earlier, you don't know why Tom is so trusting of this man over and above his mother who wants to jump his bones. There has yet to be a good dilemma scene where he assesses both sides to see who is more believable as both have called the other crazy for believing (or not believing) their son's existence. It almost makes you question why Tom is in such demand from Susan in the first place as he doesn't seem to be that great of a spy (Elizabeth was fooled but it didn't take long after Red came into her life and she officially started as a field agent for them to be at each other's spy throats).

Should you be watching? If you're already a fan of the Blacklist, sure. It's a worthy supplementary series to The Blacklist while it is on its winter/spring hiatus. But if you aren't already a fan of The Blacklist, I can't see what this show might have to actually offer you. It's certainly not groundbreaking spycraft, so... I'd say maybe check it out one episode just for Famke and tech nerd Dumont, but otherwise, I probably wouldn't recommend it.

What do you think? Have you heard of NBC's The Blacklist: Redemption? If not, do you think you'll check it out now? If you have heard of it, have you seen it? Was I too rough on it or is it in big trouble like Dembe is on The Blacklist? And who do you think is telling the truth, Susan or Howard? As always, let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “Is this where I find redemption?”
'No. But you can get two calzones for the price of one.'
“I'll take that, then.”


P.S. What? Calzones are delicious. Ad with malls across the U.S. Suffering, who knows if I'll ever be able to visit another Sbarro and get me a pepperoni and cheese-stuffed calzone. Mmm... Calzone! I'll think of a better sign-off next time.

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