NBC’s The Enemy Within wasn’t that great the first time around, when it was called The Blacklist (what’s that? The Blacklist is still on? Really?) Both shows involved criminals turning informant, but at least on The Blacklist, James Spader’s character was actually a criminal mastermind.
Here, Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) plays Erica Shepherd, a former CIA agent turned the country’s “biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold.” She’s been locked up for three years for selling out a few agents to a terrorist mastermind, Tal. She’s the “worst of the worst.” She’s been living in a glass cage for three years with no visitors and no outside contact with the world. She’s really, really bad!
Except that she’s not. We find out in the pilot episode that the terrorist mastermind basically had a gun trained on Erica’s daughter and if Erica didn’t give up the names of her CIA colleagues, her daughter would die. “People say they would die for their children. The truth is, that’s easy. Living for them is hard.” Blergh.
Anyway, this Tal guy is still on the loose. He’s recruited “thousands” of regular people — teachers, doctors, fireman, etc. — as his operatives, and the only person who can help the FBI track him down before Tal does whatever he is going to do is Erica, which means working with Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut), whose wife died in an attack for which Erica is responsible. Awkward.
It is exceedingly by the numbers, and while that may also be true of Whiskey Cavalier, at least that show has the decency to be fun. The Enemy Within boasts a fine cast (Raza Jaffrey and Kelli Garner are among those playing agents), but it’s all clipped, grim dialogue and no patter. No charm. No camaraderie or sexual tension. It’s just familiar faces regurgitating dry, boring dialogue, as though reading from cue cards. It’s like listening to people give directions, only it’s about terrorists and bombs and profiles instead of taking the 405. At least The Blacklist has Spader being all weird and kooky. The Enemy Within honestly isn’t even worth a flyer on the pilot. It almost makes me miss Manifest.