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Scott D. Pierce: 'Blacklist,' 'S.H.I.E.L.D' deliver on promises

Published May 13, 2014 10:03 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The producers of 'The Blacklist' promised that their show would be something more than your average procedural crime drama.

Check.

The producers of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." promised that things would get going in the second half of the season.

Check.

As we head toward the season finales of these freshman series, they stand out as two of the best new shows of the season — in no small part because they did exactly what we were told they would.

And, believe me, that doesn't always happen in television.

Before it debuted, "Blacklist" executive producer Jon Bokenkamp acknowledged that his show would be a "strange hybrid." On the one hand, it's crime-of-the-week as an FBI team, working in concert with former American operative-turned-rogue, Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader), helps them hunt down bad guys.

But as the series progressed, we learned that Reddington turned himself in for a reason. That not only are the bad guys somehow tied, but they're after him.

And there's a reason Reddington will only work with newbie FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), although we don't know what that is yet.

"I think the reason you come back to the show [is] the people and the secrets that they have and what's happening at home," Bokenkamp said. "It is a little bit of a delicate balance of going out and solving a crime each week and also going home and meeting these people. But I think that's what's sort of special about the show."

Pending Monday's season finale (9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5), he's right.

There were high expectations for "The Blacklist" — it got great reviews — but nothing compared to the extraordinary anticipation for "S.H.I.E.L.D." Pegged as a sequel of sorts to the blockbuster "The Avengers," it was pretty much a lock that it couldn't live up to expectations.

And, initially, it didn't. The pilot was good, but the first half of the season wallowed in mediocrity. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't must-see viewing by any means.

Series star Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) went so far as to compare the first dozen episodes to eating "healthy stuff first" and saving "the dessert" for later.

Turns out he was correct as well. "S.H.I.E.L.D." is much better now than it was in the first half the season — more action, more character development, more fun.

And the way the storyline was integrated with what happened in the movie "Captain America: Winter Soldier" was downright remarkable.

It's easy to eagerly anticipate Tuesday's season finale (7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4).

And if you didn't keep up with these shows, they're worth checking out this summer.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.