‘Blacklist’ Bosses on Finale’s ‘Mythic’ Character Intro and What it Means for Liz and Red in Season 7

“It will reignite some fundamental questions that [Liz] has about [Red] and her ability to trust him,” John Eisendrath tells TheWrap

The Blacklist - Season 6
Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 6 finale of “The Blacklist,” titled “Robert Diaz”)

Remember that “mythology bombshell” TheWrap previously told you “The Blacklist” had coming on Friday’s Season 6 finale? Good, because now we can finally reveal the story behind the bomb, which was dropped in the final moments of the episode: Raymond Reddington (James Spader) goes to see Katarina Rostova, who is alive and well in the present day, to warn her she’s in some kind of danger — and then she injects him with something, has him taken away, and we’re left wondering what the heck is going on.

Because that scene — and some of the rest of the episode — gave us more questions than answers, TheWrap broke things down with executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath to find out what the older Katarina’s introduction into our story means for Red and Liz (Megan Boone) next season.

Read our Q&A with “The Blacklist” bosses below.

TheWrap: Why did you finally decide to introduce an older Katarina Rostova in the present day and what the heck did she do to Red in the final moments of the episode — and where is this going next season?

John Eisendrath: So, we’ve told many stories about Katarina Rostova through flashbacks with the actress Lotte Verbeek. And she has been a character that has loomed large over Liz and Red throughout the entire series. And we are incredibly excited about the fact that now is the time where we are bringing that story into the present. And the way that we bring the story into the present seems fitting of a character who is as mythic as Katarina Rostova, because what does she do in the one minute she’s on screen in this episode? She gets the best of Ray Reddington. And very few people have ever been capable of doing that. And he has come to her in a way that seems open and earnest and hopeful, and he’s warning her that they’re watching and they’re looking. And he seems concerned for her well- being, and what’s her response? She injects [him] with some mysterious poison and he collapses. So we feel like it’s an introduction worthy of all the years we’ve spent building up her character.

TheWrap: Dembe is back! Is he here to stay?

Jon Bokenkamp: Yes, he’s here to stay. Dembe is and has always been one of, if not, Red’s closest confidant. We heard Red speak about that in Episode 16, I think, where he sort of apologized and took Dembe back. So we thought it was time after all these seasons for Dembe to really have a crisis of conscience and go on this walkabout and this journey. And he’s always been written, from Episode 8 when he was praying with Red … as a spiritual man and a clear moral center for Red. So we wanted him to have a real struggle with what Reddington has been doing. And like he said in tonight’s episode, he went to look for his own path, and his path led him back to Reddington. So the character is beloved and it’s great to have him back.

TheWrap: How long do you  see the series continuing from here, given that the decision to introduce Katarina is such a big move?

Eisendrath: We are really proud looking back that every year we’ve had a big move, that we have not, you know — we’ve always been respectful of the audience. We’ve always given the audience real handfuls each year of the relationship between Red and Liz and the truth about Red and Liz. I think that has helped keep the audience engaged. We haven’t stalled, we haven’t lied to them. And I think this season with Katarina is no exception.

TheWrap: Liz and Red went through a real turning point this season after she learned yet another shocking truth about him — but they ended up pretty much OK. What is this Katarina situation going to do to them?

Eisendrath: A couple things. First, yes, Liz learned a truth about Red and has concluded that she feels better about Raymond Reddington than she did before she knew the answer. I think that moving forward, she is at the end of the year unaware that Katarina is present, that Katarina is someone Red might meet, and certainly unaware of the fact that Katarina has gotten the better of Red. So she has a lot of catching up to do and I think that will make her question, first of all, if he’s safe, but also, what does Red know? Has he been honest with her? Why was he keeping it secret? What was he planning on doing without telling her? It will reignite some fundamental questions that she has about him and her ability to trust him.

TheWrap: Can you break down that big twist to the President’s conspiracy to assassinate himself, when it turned out he was trying to have his wife killed?

Eisendrath: A show like this often has big plots about terrorism, about world events, about the fate of nations. And we almost always agreed the best answer to the big stories like that are the small ones, and that the bigger the story, the better answer is the small one. So that is the underlying motivation for us to find a small — and when I say small, I mean a relatable, personal answer — to a question that seems unanswerable. Why would the President of the United States want to kill the President of the United States? It felt like we hit on the perfect murder. What better way to come up with the perfect way to get away with murder than to concoct a presidential assassination that would result in the accidental death of the First Lady? And the President would be looked at by the world as a victim, as someone who narrowly escapes his own murder, and is now a widower and mourning the death of his beloved First Lady. And no one would ever think that he plotted this in order to kill her. And it seemed like the absolute perfect murder, and those are hard to come up with.

“The Blacklist” will return this fall Fridays at 8/7c on NBC.