After a nearly three-month hiatus, The Blacklist will return with an explosive episode following the Super Bowl on Sunday. When Red (James Spader) is arrested and taken to a secret facility, Liz (Megan Boone) and the task force will have to track him down without revealing he’s one of their assets. Making things more difficult is the introduction of Blacklister Luther Braxton (Ron Perlman), who has it out for Red, ‘natch. Below, executive producer John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp tease what’s in store, followed by an exclusive sneak peek at Sunday’s episode:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you were planning this episode, did you go in knowing it would air after the Super Bowl? And how did that change things?
JOHN EISENDRATH: Yes, we knew that it was going to be the Super Bowl. We felt as if, first of all, we were going to get a lot of viewers who had never seen the show before. We wanted to make sure that we had an episode that was a good introductory episode to Red and the situation that he is in with the FBI and a standalone case. We didn’t want to confuse any new viewers with anything that may linger in other episodes that are serialized. And we wanted to have a big, impactful event for those new viewers.
JON BOKENKAMP: We also knew that it was going to be a two-parter. I think that allowed us to open up the canvas a bit. As Jon said, we wanted it to be a big event. We try to think, “What’s the movie poster for that episode?” Sometimes it’s a horror film. Sometimes it’s espionage thriller. This one, this blockbuster, we sort of imagined as our version of a summer event movie.
We’ve seen a lot of crazy things on the show before. Let’s just point to a bomb exploding someone’s head in the winter finale. How will you up the ante in the Super Bowl episode?
EISENDRATH: Hopefully we will deliver in the Super Bowl episode both a big muscular event that has a ton of action and threatens the lives of Red, Liz and others on the task force. Also, and true for every episode at the core, we hope, that there’s a great intimate, emotional story between Red and Liz, that over the course of both episodes, like Jon said, it’s a two-parter, reveals dramatic, new truths about the nature of their relationship.
BOKENKAMP: I think that one of the things we’ve tried to do, again, for new viewers who haven’t seen the show before, we do sort of re-introduce what some of the core questions of the show are about. I think that will not only help the new viewers kind of very quickly grasp what the show is and how it feels and how it moves and what it is, but also give long-time viewers Easter eggs along the way. We do touch on parts of the mythology and reveal bigger truths, while also hopefully catching new viewers at the same time.
EISENDRATH: You amp up the body count, the number of missiles that are exploded, you amp up the amount of emotional revelations that are made in the course of both the Super Bowl episode and the one that follows it.
What can you tease for the Super Bowl episode?
BOKENKAMP: The episode opens with Reddington being captured and the question is where is he taken? The episode takes place in a black site prison called The Factory and it is an interrogation facility. It is a prison that is basically built as an interrogation facility where the inmates are trained to extract information from people who are trained to not give information. We go into this off-book prison where we meet our blacklister, Luther Braxton, played by Ron Perlman.
EISENDRATH: The conceit is Raymond Reddington, the man who’s been on the FBI’s most wanted list longer than any other fugitive, has been caught, which is a story we’ve always wanted to tell. What would happen it Raymond Reddington was actually captured? Well, did he get caught, did he want to be caught? Raymond Reddington never has something happen without a plan. What is the plan that comes with his capture? The fun of the plotting of the episode is to peel back the layers to realize that Raymond Reddington always has a plan. In this case, it’s a plan that no one could possibly expect because this facility, in addition to doing the things that Jon described, has a very special connection to the central nervous system of the American intelligence community and Raymond Reddington is ahead of everybody else.
BOKENKAMP: As part of the conceit of the show was Reddington working secretly with our task force is that nobody knows Raymond Reddington is working with our task force. When he is captured, we can’t go off and say, “Hey, this guy is actually a good guy—he’s working with us.” The FBI has to sort of secretly work back channels to figure out what’s going on.
What connection does Red have to Braxton?
BOKENKAMP: Braxton is somebody who has a history with Red. Braxton is somebody who is very muscular, a physical bad guy as opposed to Red who is a more refined, poetry and fine wine type of guy. The juxtaposition of that is where the fun lies. Braxton believes that Red has no interest and no ability to get his hands dirty. At the center of the episode is, eventually Red is going to have to roll up his sleeves and things get a little bit messy.
EISENDRATH: I would also add that ultimately it begins with the appearance of a large, muscular, big agenda that Luther Braxton has. What I love about the episode is that ultimately his agenda—and really in a way that is unbeknownst to him—circles back to something at the core of Red and Liz’s relationship.
In our exclusive video below, the mysterious Fulcrum is name-checked. Is that what Braxton is after? I hear Liz has a connection to the Fulcrum.
EISENDRATH: What I’m comfortable saying is that he is interested in it, yes, and that it is true that ultimately, like all things that matter to Red, Liz does play a central role in the story of that object.
Check out what’s in store for the Super Bowl episode below and check back for more scoop on The Blacklist soon:
The Blacklist airs following the Super Bowl before moving to its new timeslot Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.