Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Friday’s episode of The Blacklist.
Raymond “Red” Reddington is on a mission to find out who betrayed him and he’s not going to like the answer.
On Friday’s episode of The Blacklist, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) made the bold move to maintain her advantage over Red (James Spader) — the man she thought was her father, but turned out to be an impostor — by betraying his trust and turning him into the feds, prompting him to start a stint behind bars. The act alone positions Liz with a major leg up on Reddington for the first time, as she races to put the pieces together on who he really is and why he came into her life all those years ago. With Red vowing to hold his own investigation into who turned him in, things are about to get very dangerous.
Creator Jon Bokenkamp spoke with ET to break down Liz’s “bold” move against Reddington, when he will find out about Liz’s betrayal and when the mystery of Reddington’s true identity will be revealed.
ET: At the end of the episode, Reddington makes an ominous declaration that he’s going to make it his mission to find out who betrayed him. What he doesn’t know is that it was Liz. Before we go any further, can you confirm that he doesn’t know?
Jon Bokenkamp: I can say with confidence he doesn’t know. That’s what’s fun with this new dynamic between Red and Liz. She has made the bold step to stay in charge, to stay in the driver’s seat and to run out this mystery. She knows to do that he has a lot of resources, so she has to sideline him. It’s a very smart move on her part to park him, so she can get a real foothold on Jennifer and try and make him figure out what’s going on. It will create incredible tension between them and put her in a dangerous place. Reddington, as he says, is dead set on figuring out who betrayed him. He has one goal; it might be more important than getting out of prison is figuring out who betrayed him. I think it’s fair to say that at some point, he will figure that out. You can only imagine what that will do to this dynamic between Red and Liz. We’re entering uncharted waters and what they’re choosing to tell each other and how they’re reacting to this big reveal — that Red, in fact, is an impostor. It offers us some really great storytelling and a really fun game of chess between Red and Liz.
Liz has an incredibly emotional reaction to what she’s just done. There seems to be a mix of regret, sadness and guilt. What is going through her mind in that moment?
Megan played that very well and it’s a very complex state of mind that she’s in. On the one hand, it’s a bold choice and a smart choice, but at the same time, it’s a dangerous choice and she knows that. Not only when he, will he find out, but there’s an emotional chink in her armor that has happened here because he has so much love for her. He has gone to the end of the Earth to protect her and to care for her and to teach her how to survive in this very dark world, and it’s changed her. She’s a very different character than she was when we met her in the pilot. Partly what you’re seeing is a very conflicted Elizabeth Keen grappling with what all of this means, less so about turning him in and more so emotionally what this means to her.
How worried should we be about Jennifer? Could she be a wild card who could unravel everything for Liz?
It is The Blacklist so we should always be careful with these characters as we get to know them. What I would say about Elizabeth and Jennifer that should instill some confidence is these are two women who are from incredibly different backgrounds and the only thing they share is that they are the daughters of Raymond Reddington and they’ve both been lied to about who he is. Jennifer growing up a very troubled life in the shadows in witness protection and Liz growing up on the legal side of things, following a career in law enforcement — they have very different perspectives and how to handle the situation and what the right thing to do is and what lines they should cross. At the end of the day, I suppose there is some question about how much we can trust her and I’m sure Jennifer feels the same way about Liz.
Last May, you said that a major season six mystery would be unmasking the true identity of James Spader’s character and that it will play out over a long period of time, not necessarily a question answered this year. How closely are you sticking to that plan?
Yeah. Identity is a driving force on the show and has been from the beginning. Who he is, why he stepped into her life six years ago and blew everything up is, was and continues to be a very central question. We will continue to answer it. Oftentimes, an answer comes with more questions on this show but that’s part of the enigma of Raymond Reddington. One of the things that’s interesting and fun for me writing the show is after five seasons, after all that we’ve come to know of him and as close as we’ve come to him, we find out that the bones in the suitcase are the bones of Raymond Reddington and we sort of know nothing at all. Yes, we will answer questions and we will find out more about his origin and the family dynamic and we will build that out this season, hopefully to a satisfying conclusion.
Will the mystery be answered by the end of this season?
I remember James said in season one, “When you know everything, the show is over.” You won’t know everything by the end of the season, but what you will be left with will be satisfying answers that stack up and make sense with everything we’ve learned from the past five seasons.
How excited are you for fans to discover it when the time comes?
Oh my god, absolutely. It’s something we’ve talked about daily on the show. If we didn’t have a very clear answer to what we were doing, it would be very difficult. I hope now that people can look back at the five years of clues that have pointed us toward this and realize that this isn’t something we’re just pulling out of our pocket with last-minute thinking, “Well…” This is a very deliberately-plotted story that is unraveling slowly but is ultimately pointing us toward a truth that I think will be incredibly surprising.
How surprising is the reveal of Reddington’s true identity?
On a scale of one to 10, it would have to be an 11.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.