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The Blacklist: The Complete Third Season

(2013) ** 1/2 Unrated
980 min. NBC. Directors: Michael Watkins, Andrew McCarthy, Steven A. Adelson, Omar Madha, Alex Zakrzewski, Ami Canaan Mann, Terrence O'Hara, Mary Lambert, John Terlesky, Bill Roe, Tim Hunter, Anton Cropper, Don Thorin, Jr., Eagle Egilsson, Michael Dinner. Cast: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix, Hisham Tawfiq, Ryan Eggold, Amir Arison, Mozhan Marno, Brian Dennehy, Tony Shalhoub, Susan Blommaert, Edi Gathegi, David Strathairn, Christine Lahti, Lance Henriksen, Ulrich Thomsen, Fisher Stevens, Kevin Weisman, Benito Martinez, Famke Janssen, Tony Plana, Reg E. Cathey, Jake Weber, Celia Weston, Chris Chalk, Harris Yulin, Oded Fehr, Paul Reubens.

/content/films/4943/1.jpgAmong master criminal Raymond "Red" Reddington's quirks: he's a gourmand of refined tastes. It's a trait the character on NBC's popular action series The Blacklist has in common with the man who plays him. Clearly, James Spader knows a delicious role when he sees one, or at least a role that he knows he can make tasty and pleasing to the eye by drizzling his special sauce on it. Reddington spends much of his time as a ruthless mercenary and a cold-blooded killer comfortable acting as judge, jury and executioner, but his devilish charm and incredibly soft spot for now-former FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) help audiences to forget they're falling for a rapacious thief and murderer.

Season Three of The Blacklist upped the show's game with slightly more adventurous writing that made the show a more consistent bet from week to week. Though creator Jon Bokenkamp and his team of writers still had to pump twenty-three episodes through the pipeline, the early part of the season emulates short-run reasons by resolving the Season Two cliffhanger with a story arc spanning the new season's initial ten episodes. The remainder of the season sustains the show's mythology but, for its six-weekmidsection, settles back into the familiar investigatory procedural routine of Red—and, now, the ousted Keen—"consulting" with the FBI as they track down the horrifying and elusive criminals on the top-secret "Blacklist." Six of the season's last seven episodes also technically deal with Blacklisters, but with a hard focus on another mythology-heavy arc.

The odd episode out here, "Cape May," is the show's most daring yet: though it still includes the requisite bloody action, it's the only episode not to be named and numbered for a Blacklister since the "Pilot" (and that's only a technicality, as the "Pilot" plot inlcudes tracking a Blacklister). To reveal the plot of "Cape May" would be to spoil the season's biggest twist, but suffice to say the episode finds Reddington out in the cold, without any of the FBI "Post Office" regulars (Harry Lennix, Diego Klattenhoff, Amir Arison, Mozhan Marno), Liz's slippery love interest Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) or even Red's right-hand-man Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq). Like the best episodes of The Blacklist, "Cape May" gives Spader something to sink his teeth into: usually that's just a smug or wistful (or both) monologue, but in this case, it's deep psychological pain.

The season also strongly benefits from a conspicuously good supporting cast and roster of guest stars:
Susan Blommaert as the fussbudgety pro Mr. Kaplan, Edi Gathegi as a Cabal operative almost as smug as Red, David Strathairn as Cabal-corrupted Director of the National Clandestine Service, Christine Lahti as the National Security Advisor, Paul Reubens as double-crossing Mr. Vargas, Tony Shalhoub, Brian Dennehy, Lance Henriksen, Ulrich Thomsen, Fisher Stevens, Kevin Weisman, Benito Martinez, Famke Janssen, Tony Plana, Reg E. Cathey, Jake Weber, Celia Weston, Chris Chalk, Harris Yulin, and Oded Fehr. Unfortunately, your mileage will vary with the regulars supporting Spader. One of those, Eggold (along with Janssen and Gathegi), will be heading up next season's spinoff The Blacklist: Redemption, for which the mothership's two-part Season Three finale serves as a backdoor pilot.

Overall, the entertainment value provided by Spader and stunt-heavy action, along with slightly sharper writing, made a good case this year for sticking with The Blacklist a bit longer. Whether the feat can be repeated after the rug-yanking twists of Season Three is anyone's guess, but I'm willing to see Bokenkamp and company give it a try this fall.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 5

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 8/2/2016

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony presents The Blacklist: The Complete Third Season on Blu-ray in a special edition with faultless A/V. Each transfer shines in high-definition with moody cinematography that always looks tight and often, in the frequent daytime location sequences, looks bright and colorful. Detail is excellent and, having watched the whole season on Blu-ray, I can report that there's nary a compression artifact to be found in these transfers. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes are equally impressive, with nice use of surround channels for ambience and, in particular, action. Car chases particularly rev to life in the rear channels, and it's not just the explosions that engage booming LFE: the bass-heavy score also pokes at your gut when matters get pulse-pounding.

In special features, the majority of the episodes get "Deleted & Extended Scenes," while two pivotal episodes get commentary tracks by creator Jon Bokenkamp, writer Brandon Margolis, and producer Kat Goodson: "The Director (No. 24)" and "Cape May."

The Blu-ray set includes five featurettes, most of which include behind-the-scenes B-roll and interviews with cast and crew. Two of these are Blu-ray exclusives: “Creating The Stunts: Script to Screen” (11:10, HD) and “From the Shadows: Villains of Season 3” (14:21, HD). The other three are the character profile “All About Aram” (10:49, HD), “Outside the Box: Making The Blacklist Comic Book” (8:42, HD) and the not-so-special clip reel “Red’s Gems: Favorite Lines From Season 3” (7:05, HD).


Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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