The Blacklist

NBC at 10 p.m.

His head shaved, James Spader (“Boston Legal”) transforms into yet another of TV’s manipulative criminal masterminds who sits in confinement and yet, with a Lecter-like ingenuity and coyness, manages to unleash havoc for the poor agents who must defuse, decode and otherwise debase themselves to interpret the mastermind’s clues.

Spader plays Red Reddington, a traitorous U.S. agent who aided dozens of international criminals and terrorists. After decades on the most-wanted list, he surrenders to the FBI, offering to help them catch the remaining members of the list, but under certain conditions — among them, that he will work only with a fresh-out-of-Quantico agent named Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).

Her torment is only beginning as Reddington sends her in several directions at once. Spader seems to relish the character’s oozy pretentiousness and obnoxiousness; the only actor who would enjoy it more, perhaps, is Kevin Spacey. The pilot episode is stylish and swiftly paced, but that’s all it is, and despite some intriguing plot twists, there’s not a lot of motivation to keep coming back. Grade: C

— Hank Stuever