The American Renaissance: Chapter Five: The Blacklist’s Deus Ex Machina
By Michael Moriarty
According to a Dartmouth College course in world drama, the “Deus Ex Machina” lived a reasonably long time, until branded by “The Literati” as a “Cheap Cheat”!
“The term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.”
As drama increasingly approached “Realism” as the only acceptably serious, dramatic genre, the Deus Ex Machina was not only derided as unworthy of any serious consideration but condemned to what was branded as “a facile shortcut”.
Then painting, particularly in the 20 Century, exploded from realism into a vast array of “isms”: symbolism, abstractionism, modernism, etc.
Film, however and particularly American film, found the gravitational pull to realism far too magnetic.
Theater, on the other hand, and novels, particularly the French men and women of letters such as Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, created the first set of Raymond Redington’s from The Blacklist, the fashionable “anti-hero”; and they thumbed their noses at what can be described as “the melodrama and naiveté of Good and Evil!”
My recent and all-too-late discovery of the television drama, The Blacklist, displaying the exceptional acting gifts of James Spader, has quite shamelessly created a 21st Century, breathing, walking and eloquently talking Deus Ex Machina: Raymond Reddington.
There’s nothing Reddington doesn’t know, nothing he can’t find out, nor little in The Blacklist he hasn’t prophesied.
What he claims to not know soon becomes increasingly a lie and utterly irrelevant.
Raymond Reddington is, indeed, the very Deus Ex Machina which writers had become so afraid of: The Man-God, God-Man.
What has made the man-god suddenly acceptable?
If he’s also evil as well as good, he is, in strictly “Existential” and “Progressive” terms, a hero.
No maudlin sentimentality here!
And Evil, for some perversely knee-jerk reason, makes him much more credibly real!!
The Evil Man-God, for the Modern World, is apparently a breath of fresh air, particularly for the millions of Americans who eagerly await further seasons of The Blacklist.
Is there really such a mind-boggling know-it-all on the earth as Raymond Reddington?
Yet he can repeatedly redeem himself in our eyes by arias such as his confession in Season 1’s Episode 9, “Anslo Garrick Part One, his “whitelist” of things he still wants to do again, of why he still wants to live, despite the nightmare he’s made of his life.
None of those desires include the outrages he apparently seems so proud of.
Those “desires” are a list of seemingly mundane moments, entirely dependent upon the considerable size of his own imagination.
The smugger Leftists who control Hollywood, the Mainstream Press and Free World Entertainment would appropriate Reddington as one of their own, “A Progressive”.
These producers and writers do have one of their Reddington enemies, Anslo Garrick, believing in and calling upon “God as my witness”, praying audibly that our apparently Godless anti-hero, Raymond Reddington, suffer unspeakably at his hands.
The seemingly flawless love couple, Romeo and Juliet theme, aside from a funeral service for our heroine’s step-father, seem to have no religious devotion of any kind.
The Marxist belief that The State is God always empowers a supremely endowed GENIUS OF SURVIVAL like Red Reddington – or Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and the Kim Jong’s of North Korea – and exalts Red Reddington as The Shavian Superman!
Why, however, does Red Reddington end up working for the FBI?
He switches sides in order to defend himself from his impressively large number of former and intensely villainous associates.
To defend himself from the fallout of his own villainy, Red needs the equivalent of an army! As “stupid” as Red thinks the FBI is, they have all the necessary equipment and manpower required to stay one small step ahead of Hell itself.
The FBI, at least according to the creators of The Blacklist, need Red Reddington almost as much as Red needs them.
Red is not, as is described here, a “Master”.
He is a perfectly Shavian “Servant of Himself”!
Dramas as unrelentingly insulting and contemptuous of law enforcement are now quite fashionable. The Good Wife and The Blacklist, both, are a sales pitch for the dramatic and Progressive appeal within heroes and heroines who are either beginning to fall into the darkening grey swamps of the legal profession or are a seasoned veteran of deliberate criminality.
The mortals among us, like myself, just settle for The Good Wife and The Blacklist being “one hell-of-an entertaining Netflix pair!”
The Blacklist is a seemingly unending set of short stories about a character we’ve grown to admire for his superhuman gifts, “balls” and all-knowing shamelessness; but know, given his history, that Reddington is as capable of Evil as Richard Wagner’s genius was proficient at paving the way for Adolf Hitler with his Wagnerian Anti-Semitism.
The villainous rights of “Supermen”.
Red Reddington is a new and very, very French idea for a Third Millennium Sherlock Holmes who carries with him the increasingly heavy weight of a very, very, very villainous past.
Who wouldn’t or couldn’t spend 45 minutes once a week with such an obsessively insulting, Phi Beta Kappa Joan Rivers with a criminal record.
All in a stunningly occasional James Bond tuxedo?
Who could possibly resist a walking, sinisterly talking and occasionally hilarious Armageddon?!
Or is it a Superhuman Progressive’s Second Coming?!
The rebirth of a new and vastly improved and profoundly more entertaining Vladimir Lenin?!
By Series One’s Episode 11, Red proves himself to be unqualifiedly a master sadist!
Such lingering possibilities are increasingly infinite, as we hear Johnny Cash sing:
“And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
This introduces a Psycho-Tony-Perkins-spin-off-cum-crazy-mother-in-a-wheel-chair as a tribute to an Hitchcockian Count de Sade; plus, the addictive necessity of increasing Red Reddington’s own calmly manic, terror spree.
With his limitless resources, Red Reddington is immersing us into Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty, my old alma mater, Dartmouth’s rowing crews on the Connecticut River, the Bible’s Book of Revelations and the most inevitable destination: a post-mortem tribute to Pigalle’s Le Theatre Grand Guignol
That limitlessly promising and very, very French infinity of horror is what keeps me, a shameless accomplice of Larry Cohen, masochistically returning to my computer screen for more of The Blacklist.
THE PROGRESSIVE NEW WORLD’S
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.