I've been interested in watching NBC's The Blacklist, but I've been busy and haven't had the time. And now when I have time, Hulu only has later episodes in the season.

So do I need to see the pilot to understand later episodes? Does each episode build upon each other, ala 24? Or are episodes standalone strung together by a similar cast, ala NCIS?

3 Answers 3


The show's creator Jon Bokenkamp called it a strange hybrid of serial and procedural elements:

Each week there's a different criminal,...

... but the reason you come back to the show are the people and the secrets that they have...

Every episode usually has a "case-of-the-week" story, i.e. one criminal from the titular "blacklist" gets introduced and is dealt with. That part of the show is "procedural".

The "serial" element of the show has to do with the mysteries that the characters hold, e.g.

  • Why is Reddington so fond of Elizabeth Keen?
  • Who is Reddington's adversary?
  • What happened to Reddington's family?
  • Is Elizabeth's husband who he says he is?
  • How did Elizabeth's father get to know Reddington?
  • What's the deal with Mr. Fitch and the organization he works for? ...
  • Ok, cool. I was hoping for something like this
    – SSumner
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 22:56
  • 3
    "called it a strange hybrid of serial and procedural" - Indeed very "strange", if one ignores the fact that this applies to, well, don't know, say, every TV-show produced nowadays.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:40
  • So it's like House MD or early Arrow. Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 9:05

It is a serial (rather than "episodic") TV show - there are references to previous episodes, and several on-going story arcs which have a little more revealed every few weeks.


Your question is wholly inaccurate. Every show builds character development on previous episodes. Can individual episodes be viewed without understanding character dynamics from previous episodes? That depends on the episode you are watching! Cheers, The Big Bang Theory, Friends and Seinfeld all have independent episodes but watching most "series" expect an understanding of the characters that won't always be re-explained.

To be clear, The Blacklist regularly introduces episodes with "previously," so while you may not need the pilot to understand, you need previous episodes to understand some dynamics. Regardless if you know those previous episodes, each episode does stand up individually...so far.

  • I'm well aware that even standalone episodes build on each other somewhat. This does not really help at all. The other answers were far more helpful
    – SSumner
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 13:29
  • All episodes so far can be viewed individually. However as my answer said you may miss some dynamics. Even in your own example of NCIS, without watching previous episodes you may not understand some character interactions or prejudices. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 21:42

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