Spoiler Alert: This article reveals detail about tonight’s Season 6 finale of The Blacklist.
Well, that’s one way to capture the attention of Raymond “Red” Reddington. James Spader’s enigmatic Reddington is both the mystery man and the main mystery at the center of The Blacklist and no one navigates the thriller’s knotted conspiracies, underworld plots, and black-bag riddles, as deftly as the former government agent. But even Red gets blindsided by some of life’s unexpected moments. That was the case during the closing minutes of Friday night’s Season 6 finale when Red is drugged and dragged into a waiting van by minions of Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins), the very-much alive mother of Liz Keen (Megan Boone).
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The finale was packed with revelations but ended with fans wondering where the show (and its kidnapped lead) are headed next. To get some answers Deadline went to Creator and Executive Producer Jon Bokenkamp and Executive Producer John Eisendrath to help us read between the lines of The Blacklist and its intense Season 6 closer.
DEADLINE: The balance between the show’s overarching “big-question” mysteries and the pressing matters of unfolding events/active investigations is a rhythm that changes over the course of the show. Can you talk about the balance in the season finale and for this point in time in the series saga?
JON BOKENKAMP: I think our show’s really a mystery first and then a procedural, and I say that because the longer arching story almost always drives everything else. Obviously, we have a case-of-the-week, but those stories are often moved around on the board until we find a way that they can service the characters or the longer arc of the season or series. For example, in Season 6, our Blacklisters were mainly servicing one of two stories — either Red was using them to try and get out of prison or our task force was using them to unravel a presidential conspiracy. In that process, we learned not only about Red’s identity, but we learned that Liz’s mother Katarina Rostova (Lotte Verbeek) is actually still alive. In the end, all of those stand-alone cases and stories worked to platform the very last scene in the season where we finally meet present day Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins). Not only is she alive — but she drugs Reddington, has a team of men throw him into a van, and they drag him off to God knows where. That gives us a great springboard looking ahead into Season 7. I feel — and I hope the audience feels — that each season we’ve delivered on giving not just big, unexpected plot turns, but also big answers and truths as well. Sometimes those truths are only partial truths. But they are truths, and we are very much working our way toward a singular answer about Raymond Reddington and why he inserted himself into Elizabeth Keen life six years ago.
JOHN EISENDRATH: At its core, The Blacklist is thematically a parent-child story. No matter how urgent the case, that story is always a part of the show. In the season finale, Liz makes a desperate attempt to stop the assassination of the President of the United States while simultaneously making plans to bring her daughter home — after getting Red’s assurance that her mother is not a threat. Then Red goes to meet with her mother — and Katarina drugs and abducts him! So, while we solve the investigative mystery — “Why would the President of the United States orchestrate his own assassination?” — we leave the year with a new “Big Question”: “What in the world is Katarina Rostova up to?”
DEADLINE: Those kind of twists, turns and up-ended expectations are red meat for an ensemble as strong as the Blacklist cast. Can you talk about some standout work in the finale? Either an individual performance or a shared scene that really shined in your view?
BOKENKAMP: We’re blessed with an incredible cast and everyone brings something totally different to the party. In this final episode, I thought the heist sequence Liz enacted to rescue her team from the post office was a total blast. I love that our show can put our central characters in danger, and the solution is a heist sequence involving Red, a kid on his laptop at the prom, and a group of crazy German bank robbers. It’s nuts! That’s a big sequence to do on the kind of timeline and budget we have because there are so many moving pieces, but what I take great pride in — even beyond the performances — is how collaborative it is, both on screen and behind the scenes. It’s a great example of how our team makes the writing look good. [Executive producer] Laura Benson and everyone in New York [where production is based] are killing themselves to get all the little pieces. The actors are having fun and it shows. The editing is just stellar. The music brings it all to life. We have an incredible team and that heist sequence goes to show just how many moving parts it takes to make this show work every week.
EISENDRATH: I never get enough of Harold Cooper’s grace and dignity [in the portrayal by Harry Lennix]. In the finale, I love the quiet confidence he shows in Liz when talking with Anna McMahon. The rest of them have been captured, but he tells McMahon that, with Liz on the loose, sooner or later they will be set free. And they are! I love the moment shared by Ressler and Red in the finale when it’s acknowledged that Ressler knows Red is not Red. Ressler [portrayed by Diego Klattenhoff] has spent much of the season feeling betrayed by this, but here, face-to-face with Red, he promises to keep the truth to himself. These two are such polar opposites — the rule-follower and the rule-breaker — but they’ve developed a deep respect for one another that I think is evident in this scene.
DEADLINE: Every season finale presents a different challenge and a new opportunity for a show. For The Blacklist, when you sized up this year’s finale what did you identify as a challenge and what do you recognize as an opportunity?
EISENDRATH: Katarina Rostova was both [the challenge and the opportunity for the finale]. Katarina has been a mythic figure on our show from the beginning. She But we’ve only seen her in flashbacks. Epic spy. Ruthless killer. Enigmatic parent. By the end of the season, Liz and Red had settled into a peaceful status quo. If anyone can upend that, it’s Katarina!
BOKENKAMP: I think the challenge for us was trying to give real resolution to the season-long story while simultaneously blowing everything up in the process — and doing that in a surprising way. I love that the resolution to our presidential assassination plot was ultimately a very personal and small story between a husband and wife. I also love that the resolution that story gives us is totally undercut when Katarina abducts Reddington. Not because it puts Reddington in danger, which will be fun, but because it throws into question everything we know about these two people while moving the story forward in an organic way. That can be very difficult to do. I couldn’t be more excited about next season.
The Blacklist, which airs on Friday night on NBC, is produced by Davis Entertainment, Sony Pictures TV, and Universal TV. Jon Bokenkamp, John Eisendrath, John Davis, John Fox, James Spader, Lukas Reiter, J.R. Orci, Carla Kettner, and Laura A. Benson serve as executive producers.
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