This article was written in Italian and published in three parts in July 2021 on the "Italian Spader Web" page.
It has been translated into English and merged for international fans to read.
I apologize if the English translation contains errors.
"Liz was not supposed to die", "Liz died without discovering Red's identity", "Liz / Megan will come back somehow".
"Red can't be Katarina", "Red can't be a woman", "Red is bad".
In The Blacklist fanbase, these are common thoughts right now.
A very strong emotional wave followed like a tsunami the airing of "Nachalo" and "Konets", the double season finale which is also a series finale, at least as far as the mythology of its two protagonists is concerned.
Like all the endings of the most followed series, it brings a chorus of disapproval, because it is literally impossible to please everyone but it is very easy to displease many, especially when the creator remain faithful to his unusual initial idea as Jon Bokenkamp did and despite the fans, over time, invented dozens of alternative theories.
I really hope that time and the ebbing of this tide lead to re-evaluate those two episodes because, both technically and emotionally, they are a little gem in an all too prolific historical moment for TV shows.
The editing, the music, the black and white of "Nachalo", the fun and carefree moments in "Konets", the small details that only the most die-hard fans have noticed, James Spader who for this season would have deserved an Emmy Award nomination. Everything flows into a very difficult ending to tell without sounding out of place, cringe or even disrespectful.
Although I was not a fan of the Redarina theory, I had to change my mind and I had to wipe my tears after "Konets".
In many years, I don't remember I've ever come across a fanbase happy with how its favorite story ended. It is natural that the very idea of the end triggers frustration but also out-of-scale expectations.
As for The Blacklist, the writers immediately played with viewers, putting Red's identity in a safe and asking everyone to find the combination. It was to be expected that after eight long years of waiting and exchanging theories on social networks, many wanted to be right and felt cheated when their theory was denied by the show and it proved right others with whom they were animatedly arguing for years.
Also The Blacklist continues, we will have at least a ninth season without Megan Boone, but for some this makes things worse, because those who do not accept what they saw in "Konets" now pour all sorts of theories and expectations into the new episodes, ready to start again with the criticisms when they will inevitably not be satisfied.
"Liz was not supposed to die" - "Liz / Megan will come back somehow"
It is very likely that if Megan Boone had not decided to leave or if the series had stopped with the eighth season, Liz would not have died. Everything suggested that Red was preparing her to be his heir, including the mysterious degenerative disease that is leading him to an untimely death.
But Megan Boone decided to leave and The Blacklist has been renewed, this changed a lot of things.
One could argue that the show could have ended this year, but it would not change the facts and honestly I think it is a very selfish position, given that the series still amuses millions of viewers and employs hundreds of people.
Megan Boone hasn't shot more scenes for season 9 as some desperate fans are speculating (we would have noticed following the cast and crew and their timing on social networks) and she will not return. Megan Boone's goodbye is final. Probably without particular resentment, since she will remain under the protective wing of Sony, but without great regrets, knowing that in the past there had been complaints, including public ones, for what she saw as an economic and treatment disparity between her and James Spader.
Furthermore, it cannot be said that her goodbye was painless for the production, as it arrived during a pandemic and brought with it eight episodes in which she was not on the set. This will have involved having to quickly rewrite many things to give viewers the usual quality and an ending worthy of eight years of the show, despite all the limits imposed by Covid.
What for us is an hour of fun once a week, for others it is a job and it is easy to imagine how things are not always sunshine and rainbows, especially having to face so many unexpected events.
Megan Boone owes a lot to The Blacklist because she has been trusted when she was young, inexperienced and unknown, and it made her grow to the point of being able to decide, in such an uncertain time, to leave a safe role as co-star to tempt fate with her new production company "Weird Sister".
Precisely for this reason, her decision should be accepted and respected by her fans, without asking her insistently on social networks to reconsider and come back.
The same social networks on which Megan, from time to time, makes little tantrums; after leaving Twitter she switched to Instagram, but many have noticed that she deletes or modifies her posts, especially when she realizes that she has exaggerated. It is an attitude I have proof of because, in the aftermath of her farewell to the series, she deleted and modified several old posts relating to The Blacklist, including the repost to a message of mine from more than a year ago.
These are just small details but they denote a certain desire to distance herself from the show, from her character and, in part, from the fans who have not always been kind, neither to her nor to Liz.
Having established that only a miracle could bring Megan Boone back to the set of The Blacklist, let's ask ourselves which is the motive of wanting her character to return.
The only way Liz could return would be with a resurrection and a plastic surgery that allows another actress to play the same character. A gimmick that is usually exploited to cope with a sudden death (like Brian Dennehy) but which would result as a lack of respect towards an actress who decides not to renew the contract. And we are talking about the co-star! In order to face her decision we have been given the answers we have been waiting for eight years and which also led to the farewell of Jon Bokenkamp. If they simply decided to replace her, they could carry on with the story as if nothing had happened.
Moreover, they have already used the fake death trick in the third season, when the actress was absent on maternity leave, repeating the same mechanism would be cheesy.
"Why kill her and not make her disappear on a plane headed towards sunset?"
Because anyone who knows her character knows that such an ending would have meant a future worse than death. She herself has postponed her trip to Europe, where she would have lived as a fugitive with her daughter with the help of Mrs. French, to continue the adventure proposed by Reddington.
Liz as an housewife in a remote French village would have been as credible as Rambo retired, and for us viewers nothing changes, except on an emotional level, because in any case we would never see her again, exactly as it has happened with Samar / Mozhan Marnò.
Personally, I think it is much more fair to give the co-star a courageous and definitive ending, even if it displeases the fans, because it also opens new perspectives to the other characters, forced to deal with mourning and defeat.
Red and Liz are two tragic characters. The only things Red has known in life are deceit and violence, he tried to help her daughter in the only way he knew.
Liz on the other hand could have been a better person, but she hasn't, not even towards her daughter, often left at the mercy of events and third parties as she pursued her past. This is the main reason why I find this tragic ending the right ending for both of them.
"Liz died without discovering Red's identity"
This is a much debated point which, unfortunately, sees people perched without the possibility of changing their minds.
Obviously killing Liz without knowing who Red is seems horrible from a narrative and human point of view, even if literature, cinema, TV and life itself are full of tragedies of this kind.
For those who, like me, see a clear explanation of everything in the final editing, both the choice of images and the last dramatic exchange of glances between Red and Liz are proof that she has understood.
Unfortunately, however, I cannot convince anyone of this.
"Nachalo" and "Konets" are like a stereogram, incredibly three-dimensional and deep but not immediate.
The Blacklist is a drama, we can't expect "happily ever after". It will never happen, not even to Red at the end of the series.
"Red can't be Katarina" - "Red can't be a woman"
I cannot go into the many clues left in eight seasons now, I would write a book and not an article. To discuss the single quote, the single scene, there are more suitable contexts than this.
What I think is that the clues that seem to be against this theory are less and less important than those that support it, the inconsistencies are less than those that the other most popular theories would have (lover, father, the real Reddington, the brother of Katarina, SeaDuke, a stranger, etc.). Sometimes searching for the needle in the haystack, people don't notice the gigantic barn in front of them.
On some issues both the show and Jon Bokenkamp in the interviews were clear and peremptory, such as the fact that Red is an imposter and the real Reddington is dead (the famous bones in the suitcase), yet there are still many people repeating like a mantra that Red could be the real Reddington. As we say here, there is no worse deaf than someone who does not want to hear.
It is obvious that after 170 episodes and dozens of different writers who have worked on the screenplays, something may have gone wrong: a date, a name, the choice of a word, the shape of a scar. Yet looking back at the series bearing in mind the possibility that Red could be Katarina, everything takes a different turn, it's like watching a new show. Lines that did not seem important become witty jokes and, above all, episodes and dialogues that were already very interesting acquire a new awareness and drama. I think about the dialogues between Red and Dom and about "Cape May", for which we should never stop thanking the genius of Daniel Knauf (from Piacenza I even forgave him for having married a Cremonese!).
Clearly, one thing is the consistency of the plot and another is whether you like it or not.
It was expected that a revelation like this raises criticism, both Jon Bokenkamp and James Spader were fully aware of it. He giggled when Jon explained his idea to him in the aftermath of the pilot but he also replied "I'm in!".
Redarina is what is expected of James Spader, very motivated not only to accept the part but to immediately commit himself as an executive producer, sticking his nose on everything, from the scripts to the decisions about other characters and actors.
It also doesn't surprise me that a noisy minority of the fandom turned against him, blaming him for endorsing this ending, Liz's death and even Megan Boone's farewell. Those who have known and appreciated him only for The Blacklist, have only seen a small part of his long career.
I think it's insane to accuse James Spader of anything, after he has literally held this show on his shoulders to this day. If The Blacklist has gone beyond the first season and after eight years we're discussing how Elizabeth Keen was supposed to leave the scene, we owe it to him. He's the one nominated for two Golden Globes.
Back to the finale, there are some aspects that more than others may raise some eyebrows, not because they are real inconsistencies but more for "technical" issues, suspension of disbelief and prejudices (often based on ignorance) towards transgender people.
The first is that the beautiful and feminine Lotte Verbeek may have transformed into the bald and chubby gentleman that is James Spader today, without thinking that any comparisons should be made with the thirty-year-old James, who had very delicate features.
We would not recognize many transgenders as such and anyway let's not forget that The Blacklist is a show starring actors, not a glimpse of reality.
The second is what I have argued for months, namely that it is impossible to hide the transition surgery so well.
If The Blacklist were 100% realistic, Red would hardly have made it through medical examinations in prisons and hospitals nor he may have had partners without these people noticing his secret, and when many people know a secret, it is no longer such.
This point has been left open to interpretation, on the other hand the show is not finished yet, but it is clear that in the alternate reality of The Blacklist, medicine and technology are much more advanced.
If you have doubts about the show having a strong science fiction component, think about how easy it was to introduced the manipulation of memory and DNA, as well as having shown us over the years a computer that has become self-aware, a nerd who pilots war drones from the back of his game store, the cyranoids and dozens of other DC Comics-worthy gimmicks.
If Red is Katarina, we have to accept the fact that, like in a superhero comic book, the transformation was complete, without asking ourselves how it happened.
On the third one, no one wants to listen to reasons because it is not dictated by reason but by the heart.
James Spader is... James Spader. Red is one of the most charismatic characters in the history of television.
Women fell in love with him for his charm, men took him as an example for his class.
The writers have deceived us until they can, just think about "Anne" where, despite his age and a few extra pounds, Spader has shown us that he can still be the seducer who made him famous in Hollywood.
It is normal for those who have a crush on the character and for those who have taken him as an example of masculinity to be bewildered if not shocked by such a twist.
Being able to overcome our prejudices or not is a very personal issue, but it's important to not fall into homophobic judgments and criticisms, because it's wrong and because it means you don't really understand Red as a character and James Spader as a person as well as an actor.
"Red is bad"
This comment makes me smile, especially after a season where Liz did all sorts of horrible things.
There are probably millions of people in the world who will never discover the identity of one or both of their biological parents but, fortunately, they do not team up with powerful mobsters or plant bombs in hospitals.
To justify her, Red is given many blame, especially not wanting to tell her the truth about his identity. Given how some fans of the show have reacted, perhaps Red was not entirely wrong in fearing Liz's reaction as well!
Seriously, it seems clear that Jon Bokenkamp's intentions were to hide the truth until the end, perhaps out of fear of viewers and networks reactions or maybe he had not foreseen that the story could continue after that revelation. It may even be that Liz's death was planned from the start.
From my point of view, the positive side to Megan Boone's farewell is that the situation is finally unlocked.
This aspect of the story was becoming too prominent and repetitive, creating high expectations for the ending which, as we have seen, generated discontent. For Jon (and Red) Liz was very important but writing the series around her was impeding the development of the other characters (think about how little we saw the task force in action in season eight) and Red's freedom of action, forced to chase her, to prevent her from hurting herself and others (failing miserably).
Evidently the transition to Liz's dark side was also very important to Jon Bokenkamp. In the pilot we see a young woman capable of violent responses and although Red has always protected and saved her, she rarely had second thought betraying him as soon as a new character told her something about her past (real or alleged). Liz has literally trusted everyone but Red over the years. The most striking example is in the episode "Victoria Fenberg", when he clearly tells her that the woman from Paris is not her mother and yet...
While it's clear from the first minute that Red is a criminal by his own admission and we love him as an anti-hero, things could have been different for Liz, despite the misfortune of being born Masha Rostova. But it's not by counting how many villains Red has killed over the seasons or blaming him for everything, including the death of Tom Keen, that one can entirely forgive Liz's journey as a mother and an adult.
Red is right in "Konets" when he, unlike Ressler, tells her bluntly that she is a criminal, as a super partes character like Cynthia Panabaker rightly points out too.
Understanding this aspect of the character is very important to understand why Red's request in the finale - to kill him - isn't as cruel and foolish as some disappointed fans are trying to make you believe.
First of all, there is one factor to take into account: Red is dying.
He talks with Dembe about it in the last episode too, telling him that although the treatment is working, he still has a year or two to live. This would have given a strong extenuating circumstance to Liz.
Furthermore, the context in which the characters move is very important. Red needs an heir, someone to take his place. In the beginning Liz refuses because she is in the midst of her teenage-like rebellion against him, but by allying with Neville Townsend she sends a clear message to everyone and it is certainly not wanting to be a housewife.
Knowing how the mafia world works, it is not at all surprising that there are feuds within families and that even close relatives are killed to gain power or to set an example, as Townsend demonstrates with her sister.
It may be that this was not overtly Liz's aim, more interested in uncovering her past and stopping an alleged Russian spy, but it is the idea she gave to Townsend and anyone else into that criminal world. On the other hand, her real motive was clearly revenge, not a noble reason. Liz didn't want to frame Red or have him arrested as N13, she wanted to kill him convinced that he killed her mother and she stopped at nothing, including an innocent woman like Anne.
The fact that she was unable to pull the trigger when she had the chance to shoot him, perhaps proves that a small part of her understood who he was, but that didn't stop her from pursuing her plan.
Red's proposal wasn't wrong, it gave her the possibility to do what she was heralding for months (kill him), inherit his empire and give a clear warning to the other criminals. Because one can't decide overnight to leave, to sever relationships with crime and hope to get away with it.
The criticism that some move to Red is that by doing so not only would Liz killed her father (she was the one who shot the real Raymond Reddington) but also her mother.
I like this criticism because, at least, it assumes that Red is Katarina but, from my point of view, Red still has all the extenuating circumstances described above.
"Konets" is not a perfect episode, it has in important flaw: having to say goodbye to Megan Boone / Liz the production thought it was right to create a bit of what is called "fan service", satisfying for the last time fans demands.
For twenty episodes (even more if we add up the finale of the seventh season) Liz was Red's number one enemy, to the point of literally ending up at number one on the Blacklist. Even in "Nachalo" she has a tracking device on her to help Townsend find Red.
Suddenly, after his death, she seems to come out of a trance and she goes back to being the sweet and caring Liz we've seen intermittently over the past few seasons. Clearly this is a ploy to give us a last glimpse of the love between her and Ressler, between her and Agnes but above all between her and Red, to prevent the season from ending in tragedy without having the opportunity to watch them take each other hand one last time. Her character needed redemption, to the point of letting her meet the little girl she saved in the pilot episode.
All of this made us smile before the tragedy but made Red's plan less credible. If Liz had been consistent and kept on hate him, accepting his offer would have made more sense.
It is a question of weighing the pros and cons of the "fan service" that has been given to us. I, for example, am very happy to have heard Aram, Red and Dembe speak after breathing in the helium.
After trying to respond to some of the arguments leveled at the series after the double ending, I do what all fans of The Blacklist prefer to do, I try to anticipate the plot and moves of its characters.
What does Season 9 have in store for us?
The most debated hypothesis is, of course, Liz's death. Many fans have analyzed frame by frame the final scene focusing mainly on the trajectory of the bullet and the fact that it seems to have no exit hole in the chest, while others find it strange that Dembe drags Red away, etc., hoping that Liz will return somehow.
Others simply do not accept that the series can continue, now that the starting plot can no longer be continued.
I have reasoned a lot on this last point.
How to continue the story of a man who suddenly lost his daughter (if you believe that Red and Katarina are the same person), the purpose of his life and the future of his business?
We have already seen Red grappling with mourning (which later turned out to be a cruel deception) and we know how close he was to suicide.
Having already dealt with this situation, I think that Red is able to get over it, having in the meantime accepted Liz's passage to the dark side and having a granddaughter who calls him Pinky to protect and educate, trying not to repeat the same mistakes. And having little time available, given that the mysterious disease that afflicts him is leading him to an early death.
If he really wants to carry on his Blacklist, secure Agnes and find another heir, he won't have much time to mourn Liz and his own failure.
All this makes me think that the series could restart after a small time jump (not many years for obvious casting reasons), at least after the funeral has taken place.
This time it is likely that Ressler is having some difficulty getting back down to earth. If he believes Red guilty of Liz's death, he could become, at least temporarily, an "enemy". On the other hand, no one in the task force knows who Red really is and maybe the elusive letter written to Liz, and which should be in Dembe's possession, could play a role in all of this.
Without Megan Boone there is no longer Liz wanting to discover the truth, it may be that the task passes to someone else and Ressler would seem the most suitable character, even if it is not certain that the production intends to return on the subject. Many are convinced that all the explanations on Red's identity have been given in "Konets", so those who are waiting for further confirmation may be disappointed.
However, it will be very interesting to see how the task force or its members individually return to be protagonists.
With Liz's death will we see Panabaker announce that things will return as they used to be, or will the US Justice Department shut everything down as it threatened to do?
The destruction of the roof of the Post Office and the theft of the famous glass cell would seem a drastic but fun way to anticipate that we may never see that place again. It would be much more convenient for the production to stop pretending to be in Washington and move the story and base to New York.
Will Red continue to provide information to the FBI or will he have another plan in mind?
It would be downright odd if everything we discovered in "Nachalo" didn't get used in season 9. I am thinking especially of the explanation of what the Blacklist really is: a network of 17 hyper-technological locations around the world that gives Red information of all kinds.
As much as he may have initially created it to defend Liz and Katarina, it is obvious that this piece of technology can now serve a greater good (I don't even take into consideration that Red could become a villain). It was no coincidence that Red's aim was to have his heir in Liz, someone to take over the "plan".
When he asked her to take his place he was referring not only at the head of a criminal empire (which he needs to finance himself and have eyes and ears everywhere) but also of this structure that Liz, at the time, still knew nothing about.
After this twist, infinite possibilities open up.
What Red can do with the technology he has at his disposal has no limits and it explains how he was always one step ahead of everything and everyone.
If Red wants to continue helping justice or wants to stop a particular enemy, the task force could still have an important purpose and role or, now fond of Aram, Cooper, etc., he could convince them to help him without the approval of the FBI.
Or, and this is one of the boring hypothesis I really don't like, the task force could change its purpose and become an operation to find and stop Red.
Or all of this may not be used by the writers, more interested in carrying on the mythology begun by Bokenkamp. So we would have Red in mourning, suffocated by guilt, looking for a revenge that he cannot have, having everyone against it, with the advancing disease, etc. etc.
Or, as we hypothesized before, Liz could come back with a new face and the story continues as if nothing had happened.
These last two options give me the chills, because after 8 seasons I think that mythology is over, gone with its creator.
It is very likely that I will be proven wrong by the writers but what I expect is a The Blacklist 2.0, a sort of reboot that sees Red and his wacky helpers grappling with new villains, assisted by the members of the task force (no matter if officially or not).
Without Liz there is more room for the stories of the other characters: regular, recurring or new.
Without two important salaries to pay, maybe there is also more money to invest in action scenes and special effects, more and more rationed due to costs.
What is certain is that John Eisendrath and the writer room have the rare chance to start over with characters that viewers already know and love, and an actor / producer like James Spader, able to make any dialogue credible.
The situation is interesting but the responsibility is great. There is enough room to create something intriguing and fun that can attract new audiences, but also the risk of falling into old or new mistakes that could prove lethal in the ninth year of production and without the co-star.
There is certainly a lot of curiosity, both from fans and detractors.
Personally I am positive that the great experience of Eisendrath and Spader plays in favor of The Blacklist.
I don't know if we will have a tenth season because it depends on many factors but I'm sure we will have an unforgettable ninth.