The Blacklist - Season PilotTHE BLACKLIST (otherwise known as “The biggest surprise for Amrie so far this season…”) premieres tonight on NBC at 10/9c, and at what first glance is a procedural drama with James Spader at the forefront IS a procedural drama with James Spader at the forefront, but over the course of the first hour, becomes much more.

Spader stars as Raymond “Red” Reddington, one of the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives.  This man, known as the “Concierge of Crime,” mysteriously surrenders to the FBI (in what’s becoming a theme to these posts today, BREAKING BAD’s Skinny Pete plays his driver!  Hey Skinny Pete, how are you?).  He has decided to offer his help to FBI in the capture of Ranko Zamani, on one condition:  He will ONLY speak with Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone, BLUE BLOODS), a brand new profiler straight out of Quantico.  

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched him in anything (even that “lost” season of THE OFFICE where he was super creepy) – James Spader is a compelling man.  He imbues basically every character he plays with a small hint of evil (intentional or not), and here is no different.  As the first hour unfurls (and quickly – the show didn’t feel rushed, but it felt speedy), you get just a little glimpse into this man’s world.  He’s extremely aggressive, he pulls no punches, and when he wants to hurt you, he knows where exactly to hit you where it counts.  But he’s on the good guys’ side now, and he’s going to try to play by the rules, as tenuous an agreement it might be; that doesn’t mean he’s no longer out for himself, though, does it?

Boone is just fine as the new girl with no idea what’s going on, and it’s always nice to see Ryan Eggold and Harry Lennix. Added bonus – one of my favorite people on TV, Diego Klatenhoff from HOMELAND and MERCY, stars as another CIA agent we’ll see every week (the man looks good in a suit). But why am I calling it “the biggest surprise for Amrie so far this season?”  Because it actually managed to surprise me just a handful of times over the hour, and I wasn’t expecting it to get me.  And, maybe against my usual judgment, I find myself officially invested in what exactly Red’s ulterior motives might be, why he did some of the things he did, and what Episode 2 could do to up the ante!

Check it out, 10/9c after THE VOICE’s new season premiere.  Let us know what you think after watching – are you in?  Check out a gallery of the cast, and some Pilot images!