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Pilot (The Blacklist)

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The Blacklist episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byJoe Carnahan
Written byJon Bokenkamp
Production code101[1]
Original air dateSeptember 23, 2013
Episode chronology
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The Blacklist (season 1)
List of The Blacklist episodes

"Pilot" is the pilot episode of the first season of the American crime drama The Blacklist. The episode premiered in the United States on NBC on September 23, 2013. It was written by series creator Jon Bokenkamp and was directed by Joe Carnahan.

NBC bought the rights to The Blacklist from Sony Pictures Television in August 2012 and green-lit production in January 2013. Producers said that the casting process was difficult. They initially offered the male lead to Kiefer Sutherland before James Spader accepted the role three days before filming began. Even though the series is set in Washington, D.C., the pilot was mainly filmed in the same Manhattan studio where Law & Order was filmed.

In this episode, ex-government agent and FBI Most Wanted fugitive Raymond Reddington (James Spader) turns himself in to the FBI and offers to give up information about the criminals he has worked with in exchange for sole communication with FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). After Reddington convinces Keen to work with him, they work to capture Ranko Zamani (Jamie Jackson), a terrorist thought to be dead by the FBI.

"Pilot" debuted the series for the 2013–14 season. The episode received generally positive reviews, with several critics praising James Spader's portrayal of Raymond Reddington. In its original airing, "Pilot" received a 3.8/10 Nielsen rating with 12.58 million viewers, making it the highest-rated television show in its time slot and the eleventh most-watched television show of the week.


One of the FBI’s most wanted men, Raymond Reddington (James Spader), strolls into the bureau headquarters in D.C. and turns himself in. He has information on a crime about to be perpetrated by a Serbian terrorist believed by the bureau to be dead. When the Serbian is recognized at the airport by facial identification software as Ranko Zamani (Jamie Jackson), the division head answers to Reddington’s demands in order to get his help catching Zamani. Reddington insists on working exclusively with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a profiler who had just been hired. Reddington knows quite a bit about Keen, which convinces her and the SAIC to acquiesce to Reddington’s plan. Zamani plans to kidnap and booby trap the daughter of a general responsible for destroying a chemical weapons factory that poisoned Zamani's family.

Keen gets to the girl first but loses her in a daring raid by Zamani's forces. Now aware of Keen, Zamani attacks her husband, Tom, in their home, gravely wounding him. Keen notes a stamp on the man’s hand and deduces the attack will take place at a zoo. Reddington briefly escapes custody to meet with Zamani, revealing that unbeknownst to the FBI, he masterminded the ploy, as well as the attack on Tom. Reddington removes the tracking device and places it with Zamani, which helps the FBI track down and kill the latter. Keen finds the daughter and a bomb in her backpack. Reddington calls in a clandestine bomb tech to disable the bomb, who then escapes with it. Reddington tells Elizabeth that her husband, with whom she is trying to adopt a baby, is not what he appears to be.

Returning to the FBI, Reddington offers to provide information on a number of the world’s dangerous criminals, his “blacklist,” in order to commute sentence and work with Keen. At home, Keen discovers a hidden box of cash, passports, and a gun, all belonging to her husband. She confronts Reddington to find out what he knows and stares at him as the episode ends.



NBC bought the rights to The Blacklist from Sony Pictures Television in August 2012[2] and greenlighted the show in January 2013.[3] During an NBC upfront presentation in May 2013, it was announced that The Blacklist was NBC's highest-testing drama in 10 years.[4]

After showing a screening of "Pilot" at Comic-Con, producers revealed that their inspiration for The Blacklist came from the capture of Whitey Bulger.[5] Recalling the experience in an interview with Collider, executive producer John Eisendrath stated:


Kiefer Sutherland
James Spader
Kiefer Sutherland (left) was offered the role of Raymond Reddington before James Spader (right) was considered for it

Eisendrath said the casting process for "Pilot" was difficult.[6] In February 2013, Zap2it reported that NBC offered Kiefer Sutherland the lead role of Raymond Reddington.[7] After considering other actors for the role, Einsendrath and Bokencamp called James Spader to see if he would be interested in it.[6] Feeling confident in Spader's understanding of the character, they cast him three days before filming began.[6]

Megan Boone took a week to prepare for her audition as FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen.[8] After getting called back for multiple auditions,[8] Boone accepted the role as the female lead in the series in March 2013.[9]


The episode debuted the series for the 2013–14 season.[10] Written by series creator Jon Bokenkamp, Eisendrath joined John Davis and John Fox of Davis Entertainment as executive producers,[11] while Joe Carnahan directed the episode.[12]

Despite being set in Washington, D.C., the series is mainly filmed in the same Manhattan studio where Law & Order was filmed for 20 years.[13] Producer Richard Heus said they chose to film specific Washington, D.C. locations for "Pilot" because they were "iconic American locations".[14] These locations included the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the National Mall.[14] In March 2013, NBC filmed the bridge action scene for "Pilot" on the Michael Valente Memorial Bridge in Long Beach.[15] Since it took two days to film that scene, northbound traffic had to be diverted onto one lane of the southbound bridge.[15] NBC covered all overtime costs and permit fees, as the scene involved numerous special effects, such as fire, smoke, and car collisions.[15]



"Pilot" premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013 in the 10–11 p.m. time slot.[16] The episode garnered a 3.8/10 Nielsen rating with 12.58 million viewers, making it the highest-rated show in its time slot.[17] The series premiere was the eleventh most-watched television show of the week,[18] and was the highest-rated 10 p.m. drama since Revolution on September 17, 2012.[19] In addition, the episode added 5.696 million DVR viewers within seven days after its original broadcast, bringing a total of 18.279 million viewers.[20]


Reviews for "Pilot" were generally favorable. Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly gave the episode a B+, calling the show "a slick action-adventure tale with knotty plotting and zeitgeisty villains".[21] Hank Steuver of The Washington Post praised the episode for being "stylish and swiftly paced" with "intriguing plot twists", but felt that there was "not a lot of motivation to keep coming back".[22] Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette felt that the "tone change" in the episode was "a bit abrupt", but noted that "viewers who can handle the twists and turns will be intrigued".[23] James Poniewozik gave a mixed review of the episode, noting that the show is "setting itself up to be largely a bad-guy-of-the-week show" and that its success will "depend on how interesting Reddington and Keen’s backstories become".[24] Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe said the episode was "stylish and expertly paced", saying that "it is never boring".[25] Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal gave a positive review of the episode, saying that the episode "reaches undeniably satisfying levels of menace".[26]

Several critics praised James Spader's performance as Raymond "Red" Reddington in "Pilot". Diane Werts of Newsday labeled Spader "TV's most voracious thespian", but felt that he was "the only one who actually [understood] the gameplay" of the series.[27] Mary McNamara of Los Angeles Times said that Spader was "the ace in the hole" of the episode, noting that "the sheer swoony pleasure of watching James Spader chew through scenes and scenery with epicurean delight" was the "reason to watch" the show.[28] Brian Lowry of Variety said that Spader was the only actor "that lifts The Blacklist above mundane", saying that Spader did not get enough screen time.[29] Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post praised Spader's performance in the episode, stating that Spader "digs into this part with all the relish of Hannibal Lecter tucking into some organic escarole-and-human parts pie".[30]


  1. ^ "PILOT". NBC. NBCUniversal. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  2. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2012-08-13). "ABC Buys Extended Family Comedy, NBC Goes For International Crime Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  3. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2013-01-22). "2ND UPDATE: NBC Orders Four Drama & Three Comedy Pilots". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  4. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (2013-05-12). "TV Upfronts: Five Takeaways From NBC's Presentation". The Hollywood Reporter. Lynne Segall. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  5. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (2013-07-18). "Comic-Con: 'The Blacklist' Inspired by Whitey Bulger's Capture". The Hollywood Reporter. Lynne Segall. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  6. ^ a b c d Radish, Christina (2013-07-28). "THE BLACKLIST Showrunner John Eisendrath Talks about the Show's Inspiration, Getting Inside the Mind of a Criminal, Casting James Spader, and More". Collider. Complex Media. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  7. ^ Berkshire, Geoff (2013-02-27). "Kiefer Sutherland's pilot offer is more bad news for 'Touch'". Zap2it. Tribune Media Services, LLC. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  8. ^ a b Vogt, Tiffany (2013-09-23). "THE BLACKLIST Intel: EP John Eisendrath and Megan Boone Preview their Intriguing New Spy Series". The TV Addict. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  9. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2013-03-01). "Megan Boone Cast As Female Lead In NBC Pilot 'Blacklist'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  10. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2013-05-12). "NBC's 2013-14 Schedule: 'Revolution' Moves To Wednesday, 'Parenthood' To Thursday, 'Blacklist' Gets Post 'Voice' Slot". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  11. ^ "Development Update: Monday, August 13". The Futon Critic. 2012-08-13. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  12. ^ Barr, Merrill (2013-12-06). "Joe Carnahan's Involvement In 'The Blacklist' Is More Important Than You Realize". Forbes. Forbes, Inc. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  13. ^ Moore, Frazier (2013-10-26). "James Spader, Megan Boone Talk 'The Blacklist'". The Huffington Post. Huffington Post Media Group. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  14. ^ a b Gates, Angie (2013-03-28). "Interview with The Blacklist Producer Richard Heus". Office of Motion Picture and Television Development. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  15. ^ a b c Rifilato, Anthony (2013-03-18). "NBC filming action scene in Long Beach". Long Island Herald. Richer Communications, Inc. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  16. ^ Trolio, Jen (2013-06-22). "NBC Announces Its Fall 2013 Premiere Dates, Saves Most of Its New Series for October". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  17. ^ Kondology, Amanda (2013-09-24). "Monday Final TV Ratings: 'The Voice' & 'How I Met Your Mother' Adjusted Up; No Adjustment for 'Hostages' or 'The Blacklist'". TV by the Numbers. Tribune Digital Ventures. Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  18. ^ Bibel, Sara (2013-10-01). "TV Ratings Broadcast Top 25: 'Sunday Night Football' Tops Week 1 With Adults 18-49 and Total Viewers". TV by the Numbers. Tribune Digital Ventures. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  19. ^ ""The Blacklist" Delivers the Highest Rating for Any 10 p.m. Drama on ABC, CBS or NBC in the Past Year". The Futon Critic. 2013-09-24. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  20. ^ Kondology, Amanda (2013-10-13). "Updated Live+7 DVR Ratings: 'The Big Bang Theory' Tops Adults 18-49 Ratings Increase & Total Viewership Gains; 'Sleepy Hollow' Earns Biggest Percentage Increase in Premiere Week". TV by the Numbers. Tribune Digital Ventures. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  21. ^ Jensen, Jeff (2013-10-16). "The Blacklist (2013)". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  22. ^ Stuever, Hank (2013-09-13). "'The Blacklist' on NBC". The Washington Post. Katharine Weymouth. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  23. ^ Owen, Rob (2013-09-20). "Tuned In: 'Blacklist' stands out from Monday debuts". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. PG Publishing Co. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  24. ^ Poniewozik, James (2013-09-23). "The Blacklist: America's Next Top Wicked Genius". TIME. Time Inc. Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  25. ^ Gilbert, Matthew (2013-09-22). "'The Blacklist' is slick and unenticing". The Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  26. ^ Rabinowitz, Dorothy (2013-09-19). "Broadcast-TV Writers Discover Terrorism". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  27. ^ Werts, Diane (2013-09-20). "'The Blacklist' review: Evil genius, hot fed". Newsday. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  28. ^ McNamara, Mary (2013-09-23). "Review: 'Blacklist' wows, 'Hostages' tries but fails". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  29. ^ Lowry, Brian (2013-09-18). "Review: TV Review: 'The Blacklist'". Variety. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  30. ^ Ryan, Maureen (2013-09-23). "'The Blacklist' And 'Hostages' Reviews: When Pretty Good May Be Good Enough". The Huffington Post., Inc. Retrieved 2015-09-11.

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