By Natalie Abrams
May 17, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT
  • TV Show

Remember when The Blacklist finally revealed that Raymond Reddington (James Spader) is indeed the father of Liz Keen (Megan Boone)?

Yeah, that twist pales in comparison to the season 5 finale shocker: Spader isn’t actually portraying the infamous criminal mastermind. The man we’ve been following for years has just been posing as Red, who is actually very much dead. He’s, quite literally, the bag of bones that Faux-Red has been trying to get his hands on since last season!

“If you go back and look at The Blacklist again, you will see numerous examples of us working toward this big reveal,” executive producer Jon Bokenkamp tells EW. “It goes all the way back to the very first time Elizabeth Keen met Raymond Reddington. This trail of breadcrumbs has been five years in the making.”

Below, Bokenkamp breaks down the clues that pointed to the ultimate truth — that Raymond Reddington is an imposter. (Read our postmortem with Bokenkamp on what’s coming in season 6 here.)

PILOT (season 1, episode 1)

David Giesbrecht/NBC

“The Imposter Theory can be traced all the way back to first time Reddington met Elizabeth Keen and told her: ‘I’m a criminal, criminals are notorious liars. Everything about me is a lie.’”

ANSLO GARRICK: CONCLUSION (season 1, episode 10)

Will Hart/NBC

“Before Reddington vanished for a spell in season 1, Liz asked Red point blank: ‘Are you my father?’ He answered with one word: ‘No.’ This was the truth. He is not her father. Raymond Reddington is her real father.”

GENERAL LUDD (season 1, episode 8)

David Giesbrecht/NBC

“Reddington and Liz were paying a visit to plastic surgeon Dr. Maltz (Andrew Dice Clay) when Red proclaimed: ‘What other secrets have you just given away? Who knows about the work I’ve had done?’”

DR. JAMES COVINGTON (season 2, episode 3)

David Giesbrecht/NBC

“Back in season 2, when Reddington first laid eyes on his ex-wife, Naomi Hylajnd (Mary-Louise Parker), he proclaimed ‘You look so different.’ To this she replied, ‘Not as different as you.’ From this we now know Naomi Hyland was married to the real Raymond Reddington. She knows that this is not the real Reddington. Naomi Hylajnd is one of the very few people in the history of our series who knows the truth — that this man is masquerading as her husband. The lingering question: Why on earth would she let him into her life? Out of love? Obligation? Fear?”

TOM CONNOLLY (season 2, episode 22)

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

“By the end of season 2, Liz made a horrifying discovery: ‘I know why my father died that night. I shot him. That’s why you blocked my memory. Not to protect yourself. To protect me.’ Red: ‘Yeah.’ Again, Reddington told Liz the truth: She shot and killed her father, the real Raymond Reddington.”

MR. GREGORY DEVRY (season 3, episode 11)

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

“In season 3, we devoted an entire episode to the Imposter Theory. A man presenting himself as the ‘real’ Raymond Reddington (Jake Weber) surrendered himself to the FBI and proclaimed the man we know as Reddington (James Spader) was a fake. Ressler directly acknowledged this possibility to the audience when he stated: ‘In the five years I hunted Reddington, we had one photo of him. And that only had a passing resemblance to the man we’ve been working with.’ Cooper echoed: ‘He disappeared 25 years ago. He could have had surgery. Truth is, nobody really knows what he might look like today.’”

MR. KAPLAN: CONCLUSION (season 4, episode 22)

William Hart/NBC

“By the end of season 4, a frustrated Harold Cooper stole Raymond Reddington’s bloodstained shirt out of the FBI evidence locker. He told Liz: ‘The blood on this shirt from Raymond Reddington has been sealed in an evidence locker for over three decades. I procured a sample and submitted it for a DNA profile.’ Of course, that blood confirmed that Raymond Reddington is Elizabeth Keen’s father. What the audience didn’t know is that the blood on that shirt belonged to the real Raymond Reddington.”

RALEIGH SINCLAIR (season 5, episode 14)

Eric Leibowitz/NBC

“Just this season, Liz asked Red: ‘You’ve gone to therapy?’ Red confidently boasted: ‘God, yes. Therapy helped me become an entirely different person.’”

The Blacklist will return in 2019. Read our full postmortem with Bokenkamp here.

Episode Recaps

James Spader returns as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.
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