The Blacklist bosses on that shocking return
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of The Blacklist. Read at your own risk!
Though some fans may have seen it coming, surely they didn’t expect this twist at the close of The Blacklist finale.
As Red (James Spader) and the Post Office aimed to take down Alexander Kirk (Ulrich Thomsen), the new big bad set his sights on abducting baby Agnes, following Tom (Ryan Eggold) to Cuba. Why? Because Tom was going to meet — wait for it — his still living wife, Liz Keen (Megan Boone).
That’s right. Elizabeth Keen is still alive. Some fans saw that coming, while others truly believed her dead. What they may not have seen coming was the fact that her happy reunion with Tom is short-lived because Kirk kidnaps her and drops a big bomb: He’s Constantine Rostova, Elizabeth’s father. Dun. Dun. Duuuun. EW turned to executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath to get the scoop on that fake-out. (Read our exclusive postmortem with Megan Boone here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Fans were outraged when Liz ended up in a body bag. Why fake her death?
JON BOKENKAMP: When we [found out] Megan was pregnant, it felt like something we couldn’t ignore in a show that’s all about the nature of identity. Elizabeth Keen was adopted, doesn’t know where she comes from, and in a show that is so steep in that conversation, how do we ignore the fact that our lead actress is pregnant? As a natural progression from that, it seemed like Liz would want to protect her child from Reddington.
Were you scared of fan reaction?
JOHN EISENDRATH: Some will probably be angry, some will be surprised, and some will be thrilled that she’s not dead. We not only accept the range of emotion, we embrace it, too.
BOKENKAMP: People felt it would be a very sad and unfortunate turn of events because [Red and Liz’s] relationship is so important to the show. That was nice to see. It feels very organic to the story we’re telling, so if it were just a trick then, yeah, I could see how that would be a rip-off, but I think this is anything but that. I think this is a very organic story we’re telling, and it feels like something that her character would really do.
It’s surprising that Mr. Kaplan was able to pull this off without Red knowing.
BOKENKAMP: It’s like Clue: Mr. Kaplan in the library with the candlestick.
EISENDRATH: We think it will be great when it’s revealed to the audience that it’s the person that Red trusts more than anyone else in the world who turns out to be the one that’s betrayed him.
How hurt will Red be in the wake of learning that Liz faked her death?
BOKENKAMP: Red is devastated. On one hand, he understands the danger he’s brought to Liz by being part of her life the past three years — he knew the dangers — but on the other hand, he’s only cooperating with the FBI so he can be part of her life. Emotionally, Reddington is in a very tricky and precious place. There is nothing worse than blatant rejection.
What’s going on in Liz’s head in those final moments of the episode as Alexander Kirk reveals himself to be her father?
EISENDRATH: She doesn’t know what has happened to either Tom or her child, so she’s concerned about her family, and she’s terrified that the fantasy life that she had hoped to carve out with Tom by faking her death is destroyed.
Can Liz trust Alexander Kirk?
BOKENKAMP: I don’t know why we wouldn’t believe him. Red’s said before that he’s not Liz’s father. This man shows up in her life and says he’s her father. Liz should take him at his word. She thought she shot her father. It raises a number of questions, which is going to be the joy of season 4.
EISENDRATH: We cannot unpack a story point like she thinks she shot her father and then introduce a new element that completely negates it, because that would damage our relationship with the audience and their trust in the story that we’re telling. All of the things that you would point to and add up on one side of the ledger that might discount this guy’s story about his being her father, we are responsible for next year and in years to come to incorporate it into the story that we’ve already told.
BOKENKAMP: Truth is, this is a big turn in the life of our series.
EISENDRATH: He says he’s her father, but is he going to hurt her, help her, be kind to her, or does he want to destroy her?
BOKENKAMP: What I do promise is that Alexander Kirk and his relationship to Liz will ultimately give us a far deeper understanding of Red’s relationship to Liz in season 4.
Why was Kirk so desperate to get his hands on Agnes and Liz?
BOKENKAMP: All of this came about because of Liz being exposed to the world while she was on the run. Alexander Kirk had no idea where she was, if she was alive, where she was, but once that name was spoken to the world, Masha Rostova, he knew. None of this would have been possible had Liz not been exposed as Masha while being a fugitive on the run.
Does part of Liz regret not finding out who Red is to her?
BOKENKAMP: Oh, that is still a big question to her. That’s still something that she will want answers to. She’s also resigned to the fact that there’s only so much that [Red] is going to tell her; he withholds information, he tells partial truths. He doesn’t really lie to her, but he’s also not always giving her all the information. For reasons that are very important to both of them, he is protective of that.
EISENDRATH: If you felt that the devil might be your biological father, you might be loathe to really know the truth. You might accidentally on purpose not ask the questions, because you really don’t want to know that. Now, as we go forward, she probably will be more inclined and more ready to face some of the truths that subconsciously she was unwilling to face in the first few years.
Does Liz regret letting those on the Post Office team think she’s dead?
EISENDRATH: A big part of next year, or certainly the first portion of next year, will be spent addressing that. Some will think that it’s a huge betrayal.
[Editor’s note: This interview took place prior to NBC ordering The Blacklist: Redemptionto series.]
Will the spin-off see Tom trying to find out what happened to Liz? Or is it time for them to go their separate ways as Tom discovers where he comes from?
BOKENKAMP: I think the “What happened to Liz?” question and that entire storyline is very Blacklist specific. It’s exactly what we’re going to be exploring at the top of season 4, and I think it’s going to be a really great story for us. Tom will likely factor in somehow — he cares for Liz as all our characters do — but I’m confident Red will be driving the story.
So what does this meant for Tom then?
EISENDRATH: With any outcome, the spin-off or no spin-off, Jon and I have thought from the beginning with Liz and Tom that there was true love there. There was a real relationship at the core of a couple who had every reason to ultimately fall apart, because it was based on so many untruths. Moving forward, and now that they have a child together, we take very seriously that there’s a family there. We hope that whatever the outcome, spin-off or no spin-off, that we will be able to tell stories where they are struggling in a way that the audience can relate to with obligations of parenting and desires to find out truths about themselves that might pull them apart from each other. Hopefully the audience can appreciate that they are a young couple who care a great deal about each other who have an have incredible amount pulling at them.
BOKENKAMP: It’s incredibly complex. And believe me, we’ve had long conversations like, “How do they handle this?” The only thing that we feel confident in is it won’t be Tom and Liz with a baby, changing diapers, and becoming a domestic drama of a perfect little family who are raising a child. That’s not what our audience is interested in, that’s not what the show is. The show is about turns, and surprises, and identity, and secrets. We intend to have a lot of fun with the complexity of the situation that they are confronted with.
The Blacklist will return in the fall on NBC. In the meantime, read our exclusive postmortem with Megan Boone here.
To continue reading about The Blacklist, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday or at ew.com/xmen — and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.