Do you know about The Spader Factor (TM, me, naturally)? Allow me to briefly elucidate. Take your standard procedural television drama, one that is at the top of its class. Next, cast an actor whose charisma and weirdness makes them compulsively watchable. You have taken your B/B- show up a full letter grade.
Examples? We saw it on Criminal Intent with D’Onofrio (though, regrettably, not with Goldblum though the Fly can hardly be blamed) and we’re seeing it again on The Blacklist with Spader. I guess I should, all things being equal, call it the D’Onofrio factor, but I had recurring nightmares after watching Men In Black (though weirdly, not Full Metal Jacket) when I saw it in high school, and also I feel like D’Onofrio would be considerably less fun to hang out with than Spader. In fact, to further reinforce Spader as namesake, one could argue that both he and William Shatner bought The Spader Factor to Boston Legal. Yup, I referenced Boston Legal. That happened. Now that I’ve done that, I’ll go further with it: Let’s give David E. Kelley his due — the guy recognizes mesmerizing talent. Remember how he tapped Robert Downey Jr. back in the hot-mess Ally McBeal days? That happened and it was the greatest.
The Blacklist has The Spader Factor working in its favor, something it uses with great alacrity when casting not just the man himself, but with its featured guest stars. Casting Peter Stomare as Berlin, Red’s big bad wife abducting enemy in extremis is just the perfect amount of strange. Stormare’s no stranger to playing villains, yet, as a guy who cut his teeth on Fargo and The Big Lebowski, it’s weirdly subversive to see him playing an over-the-top baddie, complete with a hook for a hand on network TV.
By the same token, it’s the same amount of not-quite-right to have Mary Louise Parker playing Red’s seemingly helpless ex (minus the whole part where she stabbed a dude in the face with a chicken bone). Fans of Weeds have learned to see Parker as anything other than a wilting lily. Suffice to say, the stage has been set for the season in a manner that’s totally enticing. Red’s past is catching up with him. His wife may be returned to her new life, and Berlin placated for the moment, but the strength of their personalities alone promises gripping things to come. It’s The Spader Factor times three!
But that’s not all the gushing I intend on doing tonight. Only two episodes into its second season, and it has seamlessly integrated itself into the primetime major network lineup as though it burst full-formed from the head of Dick Wolf. There is something so deeply satisfying about each episode of the show, and that’s even more the case now that we’ve successfully landed in season two.
Give the hapless, lackluster FBI goons a case to solve, but only in as far as it serves Red. It’s much the same for us at home, spoon feed us our crime of the week, provided you continue to sustain the taut drama of Red’s life. This is why none of us are clamoring for more information about Lizzie, and why we weren’t bothered as viewers when Red crossed the agency this week — we trust Red, as contradictory a choice as that may seem, and we know that when the time is right, all will be revealed. Until then, crime of the week it is.