The Blacklist boss on Keen's new predicament, team's double loss
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the midseason finale of The Blacklist. Read at your own risk!
The Blacklist finally brought Liz and Red’s on-the-lam roadtrip to an end during the midseason finale—but it was someone else from the Post Office who paid the ultimate price.
After a gang of highway robbers stumbled upon the biggest score of their lives upon taking Red (James Spader) hostage, Liz (Megan Boone) worked desperately to get him back. Ultimately, Liz was willing to trade the “care package” that would help exonerate her in exchange for Red’s life, but there was one tiny caveat.
After Liz turned to Samar (Mozhan Marnò) for help in tracking down Red’s whereabouts, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) kicked the latter off the team and personally arrested Liz in the closing moments of the episode. After all, Ressler believes that he can protect Liz while in custody. But what he doesn’t know is that Laurel Hitchin (Christine Lahti) is actually working for the Cabal and even kills Deputy Attorney General Reven Wright (Adriane Lenox) when she gets too close to the truth. What does this all mean? EW turned to executive producer Jon Bokenkamp to get the scoop:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Liz has finally been captured. What’s her mindset right now?
JON BOKENKAMP: We’ve had a lot of fun dealing with Liz being on the run, and her being drawn into being more like Red and having to act as a criminal, in some ways, as she is now. There is a natural conclusion to that, which is the win for the FBI of capturing her, but now comes the question of what does that mean? How does The Cabal handle this? They certainly don’t want her to talk. They don’t want to be exposed. As much as it’s a victory for our task force to capture her, it puts her in almost greater danger. It’s a race against the clock for Red to enact whatever his plan is that he’s been working on for the last eight episodes. It’s time for things to fall together, and that is going to be fun.
Ressler believes that he can keep Liz safe, but will he actually be able to?
That’s the question. All of the precautions that Ressler put into place were done through Reven Wright, who has unfortunately now been murdered, and is not there right when he needs her. He is going to have to, in a hurry, figure out that the train has gone off the rails and it’s time to improvise, which may mean turning to Red and handling things in a bit of a non-traditional way.
What steps will Red take to get her back?
He’s got a great plan that people are really going to dig seeing how all this comes together. The next two episodes are [about] the Director (David Strathairn). It’s a two-parter. His plan is less about just her safety, and more about leveling the playing field. What the audience is going to see is we’ve been laying in these breadcrumbs over the past eight episodes, everything from hits against The Cabal to the plan with Marvin Gerard (Fisher Stevens) in the second episode. It’s a very complex, and yet simple plan that he’s been hatching since the end of season 2, quite frankly.
Will Liz now be in the big glass box that used to hold Red?
I think we have to, right? That’s where she’s got to go. That’s what one of the things that’s been really fun about breaking the story and seeing how she’s evolved is that the innocent profiler, who we met in the pilot, quite soon will find herself in the orange box as she’s now been captured. She’s traded places with Red. Red’s now on the outside of the box and she’s on the inside. It’s an interesting dynamic. We’re definitely going to put her in there right away.
Ressler has kicked Samar off the team. What role will she be playing in the back half of the season?
In the back half of the season, she’s not working with Ressler and the team. That would leave her open and available to potentially have some back-channeling with Reddington. Those two have a very unusual and very mysterious relationship. I would think it might be likely to see Red and Samar perhaps teaming up in some capacity. Beyond that, what’s interesting moving forward is the dynamic between Aram (Amir Arison), Ressler and Samar, and what has happened with that very weird triangle. It has put a wedge in the task force in a way that we haven’t had before, and puts people on different sides of the aisle.
Does Aram have a lot of guilt over his role in Samar being kicked off the task force?
I think so. That’s one of those conflicts that really helps to see who the guy is. He has to do the right thing, he has to tell Ressler. He doesn’t want to catch Liz, but he did tell Ressler what he knew. He betrayed the trust of the woman who he clearly cares deeply about, but it was the right thing to do. He’s been put into a corner in a way that we haven’t seen before. In [the midseason premiere], he is saddled with a huge job, and it’s an incredibly emotional episode for Aram. Even Aram and Red have some great scenes together. Where that character and where that dynamic of Ressler-Samar-Aram is going is really complex and fun stuff.
Will Reven’s death draw more attention to the Cabal or will it enable them to get someone else on the inside of the Post Office?
That’s yet to be seen. We know that Laurel Hitchens is aligned with the Director, but there is not a simple resolution coming to that.
Laurel really does work for The Cabal, so what role is she playing in the second half of the season?
She’s the face of a very big bad, The Cabal, so I don’t imagine her going anywhere anytime soon. Quite honestly, where that goes, I’m not sure yet. We’re still figuring that out. She’s a delicious villain, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we embraced that in some way.
Is she your big villain of the two-parter?
No, I really think the Director is. The Director is really the one who Red has in his crosshairs. Yes, Laurel is clearly part of that. We’re going to see Laurel and the Director aligned, and a little bit on their heels, and making big moves to try to strike at Red and Elizabeth Keen. Yes, she’s definitely part of that, but the Director is actually the blacklister of those two episodes coming up.
The Director got an offer from Red. Will he consider that as it becomes more dangerous for him within The Cabal?
Both of those guys, the Director and Red, are big, incredibly strong personalities. They’re both very powerful men. I don’t think either of them are going to budge. Neither is going to compromise in any way, which gives us a really great story engine. It’s two big bad guys going up against each other. I think the Director intends to hold his ground and use every resource he has, which is incredibly deep. He has incredible connections. He’s the head of the national clandestine services, so he has great resources at hand, and it’s going to be up to Red and our team to find a way to wiggle out of this.
What is Solomon’s (Edi Gathegi) next play after seeing that photo on the fridge? Is this a case of Cooper’s (Harry Lennix) wife’s affair coming back to haunt them in that regard?
I think that’s exactly right. I don’t know if that reads, but I hope it does. That was a picture of Coop, Charlene (Valarie Pettiford) and the neighbor who she’s been having an affair with, so very much so. Their relationship unraveling is interesting. It’s both about their relationship unraveling, Solomon preying upon that, and Charlene trying desperately to be additive and to help. Everyone — Charlene, Tom (Ryan Eggold), Cooper, Kerikar (Andrew Divoff) — they really are on their heels. Maybe Charlene has a trick up her sleeve.
What’s in store for Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) after being brought into custody?
Dembe is the most loyal guy you can image. Dembe is by Red’s side and will certainly help in whatever capacity to try to see this plan to fruition, but as far as where he’s going and his relationship with Solomon, he has a very intimate and special place in his heart for Solomon, who beat him with a gym sock full of pool balls. Perhaps that relationship may rear its ugly head.
Will the news that Keen was caught become public knowledge since a lot of America already thought she was dead?
Yeah, one of the things that happens early in our very next episode — and one of the things they’ve been struggling with this season — is it’s super hard to contain the secret nature of their task force. The idea that Elizabeth Keen is out there and is a fugitive, and the idea that she’s been captured, that is something that’s incredibly difficult to handle in a PR capacity. It’s something they have to lean into. There’s going to be some damage control that both the task force and Red are going to have to do looking ahead, because in a certain way, they have to put the genie back in the bottle. Nobody can know that Red is working with Liz in terms of the FBI. He has a good cover; he does help criminals. He’s the concierge of crime, so he helps criminals get out of the country. He may have to take a few steps to buy back some of his street cred as we move forward. The secret is out that she’s a criminal, so when news breaks that she’s been captured, it does add a complication.
The Blacklist returns Thursday, Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.