• Michael T. Christensen

My Favorite and Least Favorite Blacklist Characters

During the pandemic (man, it feels like a lot of my blogs start that way), my wife Victoria and I watched the entirety of NBC's "The Blacklist."

When we reached the end of the pre-pandemic season 7, we made a list of our favorite characters... and our least favorite.

Our favorite characters:

  1. Raymond Reddington - He's the star of the show, and he's just an absolute delight. While I think the last few seasons have really been hiding his light under a bushel, for most of the show he has been a bright spot of every episode.

  2. Glen - This annoying-yet-well-meaning tracker was a highlight every time he showed up. While I have my issues with season 8, incorporating this actor's real-life death into the show gave them a chance to write an excellent, hilarious and moving tribute to both Clark Middleton and his character.

  3. Dembe - Introduced as one of Raymond's two stoic bodyguards, Dembe is eventually revealed to be a much more complex character, with a very firm morality that sometimes brings him into conflict with Raymond. More often, however, his strong morals make him the perfect companion for Raymond, keeping his darker impulses in check.

  4. Aram - He's just a sweet cinnamon roll, and even when he graduated from "guy in the chair" to field agent and became more confident, he never lost what made him fun to watch.

  5. Mr. Kaplan - A "cleaner" who comes in every once in a while to dispose of bodies, she also eventually became an enemy to Reddington. She was great.

  6. Samar - A field agent and Amar's love interest, and also someone who had a lot of interesting story potential in her own right.

  7. Harold - The leader of the core FBI team, Harold is just the perfect Dad for this group, and his exasperated energy whenever Reddington tries to pull some stressful B.S. is very relatable.

  8. Dom - An old man from Russia who has a lot of Important History with Reddington and Liz Keen, his grumpy pathos was always wonderful. Mostly played by Brian Dennehy, who also passed away between seasons 7 and 8.

  9. Tom Keen - Liz's lying, secret agent husband is the source of a lot of drama over the first few seasons, but by the end of his run, he's a really fascinating, compelling character.

  10. Todashi - A nerd who sometimes helps Reddington. I think he's on this list because whenever he shows up, Raymond gets a chance to make fun of something nerdy, which always made Victoria laugh.

  11. Liz Keen - While it's not unusual for a main character to rank low on a list of favorites (they so often have to be the straight man surrounded by more interesting side characters), Liz is an interesting case. I remember watching the intro to season 5, when she's living alone and preparing traps for some bad men who came by her cabin (this story could've been a full movie, it was that good), and wishing we got to see more of that version of the character. Unfortunately, she's usually just the basic cop who sometimes gets to say sarcastic things or play along with Reddington's lies, and we'll get just a glimpse of what she might've been like if she'd learned more from Reddington and had a bit more fun.

  12. Ressler - I don't hate Ressler, but he's not the most compelling character on the show. He's meant to be the Heavy, the one who doesn't get along with Reddington, and while in part I think he suffers from the Skyler White Syndrome ("You need to stop Breaking all this Bad, and stop doing the thing the audience tuned in to see you do!"), his main issue is that I don't personally find most of his subplots engaging.

  13. Park - She was introduced way too late in season 7, and ever since then, the show has been playing catch-up trying to give her a strong characterization that isn't just "Samar again." Since this list was made after season 7, there just wasn't much to make of her yet (although I still stand by this ranking, Agent Park is fine.)

But there were definitely some characters who showed up on the show that we were... really not big fans of. So we made that list as well:

  1. Katarina - The woman who claims to be Katarina, aka Liz's Mom, is the main villain of season 7, and I just found her writing to be so muddled. I don't have a clear sense of what her plan was, but I could clearly tell that the writers wanted Liz's mom to be the villain for a while but didn't really know what to do with her.

  2. Liz's Mom - See above. She's not technically Liz's Mom, but that's not the point.

  3. Jolene - I don't care that she's a spy; Tom cheats on Liz with her, so that's her biggest sin.

  4. Jennifer - Liz's half-sister who helps Liz betray Reddington.

  5. Hatley - Another cleaner, but this guy worked with Ressler and then blackmailed him. He was just annoying, and spoke to what I mentioned earlier, I'm just not wild about Ressler stories.

  6. Hitchin - This is the kind of character we're supposed to hate, and who I think we hated just the right amount. She was Harold's boss, she was corrupt, and whenever she showed up she made our main characters' lives miserable for several seasons.

  7. Christof - For a while, Tom Keen went undercover as a neo-Nazi, complete with an SS tattoo on his neck. It was not fun.

  8. Liz (Season 7) - These three seasons of Liz are on the list separately, because they sometimes felt like totally different characters. In season 7, she was so wishy-washy about supporting Katarina vs. Reddington, and it just made her very frustrating to watch.

  9. Liz (Season 6) - This is the season where Liz turns Reddington in to the police. Which, fine, I don't mind that as much as Victoria did (though I will admit this is another Skyler White moment). But then for the rest of the story arc, Liz spends every episode wondering if she did the right thing or not, and it's just not compelling to draw that question out for that long and do very little with it. Stick to your convictions, Liz; I promise, strong characters are interesting characters.

  10. Liz (Season 4) - She was at her most boring this season, which had a lot to do with the character becoming a mother and then faking her death so she could live a private life with Tom and her baby. Mothers in media so often only care about being a mother, and Liz (Season 4) was no exception... and it really dragged all the fun out of her for a long time.

Oh, um, spoilers for "The Blacklist," I guess.

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