The Blacklist bosses on the Liz-Katarina dynamic and the latest chapter of 'Who is Red?'
After half a season of Katarina and Reddington maneuvering around and hunting one another, the fall finale brought Liz into the action. Naturally, things got far more complicated and messy on The Blacklist than when the hour began.
Katarina holds Liz captive while she tries to get to know her daughter and explain her side when it comes to Reddington. While Liz initially defends Red, her mother provides shocking news: Red is lying, he is not Ilya Koslov. With that Liz's world blows up again and she ends up helping Katarina and her comrades evade the FBI and Red.
This time, it's Katarina with the trick up her sleeve. She allows Red and Dembe to follow her in order to stage a dramatic death at the hands of who they believe is the Townsend Directive. Liz doesn't tell Red she knows Katarina's back when he delivers the news of her death. Her tears are short-lived though because Katarina calls checking that Red believed her rouse and lets her daughter know she'll be back soon.
We spoke to Blacklist executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath about Liz's latest moves, Katarina, and returning to the "Who is Raymond Reddington?" mystery.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you decide how that first Katarina-Liz interaction would go down?
JOHN EISENDRATH: Katarina Rostova is an incredibly smart, incredibly wise spy, who is always on her guard. So, here, Liz surprises her. Katarina didn't expect her to show up, but the minute she did, what does Katarina do? She knows there's a listening device in Liz's apartment and she uses that listening device to signal her colleague, Berdy, that she is in trouble. What we liked about that dynamic was that you see that Liz is filled with rage and anger and directing her energy do all at her mother while her mother is calm and seemingly in a weak position because there's a gun on her. But, in truth, she is more powerful than Liz thinks because she is confident that she is going to get the upper hand. It felt like that dynamic encapsulated who the two of them are, where the daughter is livid at the mother, but the mother is thinking three moves down the chessboard and able to get the upper hand. This demonstrates Katarina's wisdom.
What are viewers supposed to take away from Katarina's version of events?
JON BOKENKAMP: Katarina does have truths and she reveals a big one to Liz, but, at the same time, she does have questions. It's not that Katarina is able to unlock everything, but she is able to take what we've seen before and reconfigured it through her perspective. It's quite a different story than what Dom told Liz last year. So, that story of what really happened between Dom and Red and Katarina is put into a new light.
After the episode, I think we come out with some very clear answers and Liz is shown what the audience was shown last week, which is that Reddington is not Ilya Koslov. What Dom told her, the core of what he told her about who Reddington is, was a lie. It doesn't mean that all the pieces of what we saw in last season were not true, it's just the ultimate truth about who Reddington is was not true. We should trust what Katarina says and come out of this episode with the firm knowledge that Liz has, which is that Red allowed us to believe that he was Ilya and he is not. The identity of Reddington is a lingering question mark.
What does Liz helping Katarina mean for her and the task force? Her relationship with Red?
EISENDRATH: Her knowledge at the end of the episode, that Red has not told her the truth about who he is and the situation being as life or death as it is in the fall finale, Liz has a choice to make. She can either let her mother get arrested, turn her mother over to Reddington or side with her mother. In the moment, and going forward from the fall finale, Liz has made the choice to pick her mother over Red. So, moving forward, we have this symbolic family triangle going forward and that is a great story to tell.
Liz obviously has a huge advantage over Red at the beginning of the next half of the season. She knows that Red is not Ilya and she knows the woman who lived across the hall is Katarina, but Red is unaware that she's learned that information, so she is going to use that advantage to try to figure out who he is. And, as Katarina explains in the episode, there is a truth out there that could save Katarina's life , so Liz will be assisting Katarina in that effort as well.
BOKENKAMP: In addition, Liz knows that her mother is alive and Red believes this has all put to bed. That's one of the biggest secrets that she's holding on to, that her mother will return. There's the promise of them going to work together.
How will Liz's search for answers this time be different than when she teamed up with her sister Jennifer to get to a truth of Red's?
EISENDRATH: This time around there's a couple of things to consider. First, Liz has an incredibly powerful ally. Before she had her sister, who was not even in the spy business, now she has an ally who is going to be able to help her in ways that Jennifer and others have not in the past. That gives her a completely different set of tools to work with. Liz is also looking for this truth that Katarina wants. She's interested in who Red is, but she's really interested in what the truth is. It's not exactly the same question that she was asking in the past.
We've established this year the lengths to which Red is willing is to go to not let this truth be told. Because remember, in the beginning of the year, Katarina captured and tortured him. He nearly bled to death and he still wouldn't tell her what she wanted to know. And now Liz is on that same quest to try and find that out.
What can you tease about what comes next when the show returns next year?
EISENDRATH: The whole back of the season is ultimately going to lead up to the climactic coming together and conflict between Raymond Reddington and Katarina Rostova. That is ultimately where we're going. This is a huge family fight and we're not going to get out of the season before resolving the family fight.This fight has not only has been building this year, but feels like it's been building for seven years.
BOKENKAMP: What we're also building toward is the truth behind the show. What Katarina is after is at the heart of what the show is about. It unlocks everything. There are big clues that have been laid out there that as they're starting to fall into place. The promise of what is to come is the ultimate endgame, which we are marching toward and Katarina is incredibly close to. I think that's super exciting.
The Blacklist season 7 returns in 2020.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.