(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 8 finale of “The Blacklist.”)
“The Blacklist” has at long last revealed the answer to the show’s central question — who is Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) and how is he connected to Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone). Well, kind of.
Though the origin of Red’s connection to Liz isn’t fully explained by the end of Wednesday’s Season 8 finale, the hints laid out across the last two episodes of the season strongly suggest that Raymond Reddington is actually Liz’s mother, Katarina Rostova (played in flashbacks by Lotte Verbeek).
On last week’s “The Blacklist,” titled “Nachalo,” Red, who revealed on the previous episode that he is in fact N-13, the elusive spy she’s been hunting this entire season, brings Liz inside the “epicenter” of his operation in Latvia and begins to tell her the story, the true story, of her life and how he came into it.
Through black-and-white scenes featuring multiple “Blacklist” characters we know and love reliving events in front of us, Liz is given a detailed explanation of how her then-married mother, Katarina Rostova, became a spy and struck up a relationship with her father, the real Raymond Reddington, to gather intelligence on the U.S. operative at the request of Dom, Katarina’s father, and the KGB.
The big truths we do have by the end of the hour are that Liz’s mother Katarina Rostova is still alive — because the now-dead woman Liz thought was an older Katarina Rostova (played by Laila Robins) is not Katarina Rostova. And the Red we’ve come to know on the show is actually an identity “constructed” by the real Katarina to watch over Liz.
We were left with some big clues as to who assumed the Red persona and became the character played by James Spader, but we got no outright answer, because Townsend stormed the epicenter and shot Liz before she could get the conclusion to the story. The penultimate episode concluded with Red pressing a button that put the entire epicenter of his intelligence up in flames, both killing Townsend and destroying his decades of collected intelligence.
Tonight’s finale episode, titled “Konets,” saw Red hatch a plan to have Liz kill him and take over his operation. Red is convinced that his mysterious illness is terminal and the only way to keep the criminal underworld at bay in the wake of Townsend’s death is for Liz to rise up as a formidable enough threat herself. He shows her a letter from her mother, promising that it will answer all her questions once the plan is complete.
Unfortunately for Liz and for viewers hoping for concrete answers, she never gets a chance to read the letter and find out the full truth. As she’s about to go through with the plan and kill Red, Liz is shot through the chest by Townsend’s right-hand man Vandyke (Lukas Hassel).
(As TheWrap previously reported, Wednesday’s finale is the last episode of “The Blacklist” to feature Boone as a series regular. She is exiting the show, which was renewed in January for Season 9, after eight seasons of co-starring with Spader.)
An emotional montage closes out the finale, with highlights from Liz’s life and relationships replaying on screen. Particularly notable are the tender moments from Liz’s early life with her mother, which get cut together with scenes of Liz and Red from the last eight seasons.
All signs point to the “Redarina” fan theory that has been circulating online among “Blacklist” fans for years. (At one point in Wednesday’s episode Liz asks Red if he knew her mother well, and he responds that he knew her “better than anyone.”) But as always with “The Blacklist,” the full truth remains elusive and fans will have to tune in for Season 9 to find out more.