Season 6 of The Blacklist was a wild ride from start to finish. We had the fallout from Liz’s big betrayal of Red, a new government conspiracy leading all the way up to the President, Mozhan Marno’s exit from the show (we’ll miss you always Samar) and the big reveal of Red’s true identity. It was a mixed bag of content, some good (or great) some bad, and some ugly. Let’s break it down.
James Spader’s performance in the show continues to be a tour de force. Whenever he’s in a scene you can’t take your eyes off him. The subtle expressions on his face, the blink and you’ll miss it movements, the elegance with which he delivers his lines. He puts on a master class in acting whenever he opens his mouth or steps into a room. Seriously, just give the man his Emmy already. It’s so fun to see James Spader as Red absolutely eviscerate his enemies with a glance, knowing that he is always going to be unbeatable, a step ahead of everyone. James Spader’s incredible acting ability was on display in countless scenes throughout the season, but I think the one that stood out to me the most was when Red confronted Dembe about his betrayal, telling him that he would never need his forgiveness because his love for him was undying. Rarely have I been so moved by a scene in The Blacklist, but it was all because of James Spader and Hisham Tawfiq in this one. Do yourself a favor and go back and watch this scene again.
Red and Dembe
The relationship between Red and Dembe has been one of the best parts of the show since the beginning and season 6 was no different. Red and Dembe had a contentious relationship this season that ended up breaking them apart, but ultimately came back together and they always will. I had mixed feelings about Dembe saying he couldn’t forgive Red and leaving for a while (I still don’t understand what he couldn’t forgive Red for) but it was a literal punch the air in triumph sitting by myself on the couch when Dembe randomly showed up to save Red from being shot in the head by Anna McMahon in the finale.
— The Blacklist (@NBCBlacklist) May 18, 2019
I think this quote from Dembe perfectly illustrates their relationship and why I’ll always love the two of them together:
“I said I needed to follow my own path. I did. It led me back to you.” – Dembe
— The Blacklist (@NBCBlacklist) May 22, 2019
The Task Force Dynamic
The writing on The Blacklist finally went back to what it does best, focusing on The Task Force catching blacklisters with the help of Red. When Ressler, Aram, Cooper, Samar, Liz, and Red are all working and fighting together, exchanging their usual banter and kicking ass, it’s one of the best shows on TV. The action sequences are great, the soundtrack is awesome, and the acting is incredible. The show falters when it pushes aside certain characters because it ruins the dynamic of the Task Force. Ressler/Diego Klattenhoff and Aram/Amir Arison both got more screen time. It’s still not nearly enough for me, but it’s a step in the right direction. Luckily season 6 recognized that weakness and played to its strengths, keeping the Task Force dynamic in tact for the majority of the season. This was highlighted when Red helped break the Task Force out of their black site in the finale after they had been arrested by Anna McMahon, all set to the song “Batshit” by Sofi Tukker, which I love. Of course NBC couldn’t have the word *shit* in the song, so they changed it to “That’s It, I’m Crazy” which was hilarious, but it still made for a great scene.
— The Blacklist (@NBCBlacklist) May 18, 2019
I wanted to start off on a positive note because I really do still love this show, but it’s time to break down the less than desirable parts of season 6.
The Case Story Lines
Don’t get me wrong, there were quite a few case focused episodes that were great, but ultimately a lot of them left something to be desired, especially the government conspiracy that was supposed to end the season with a bang. It looked like we were going to see The Task Force fighting this major government conspiracy that the President was involved in, leading them to their toughest challenge yet, but it turned out to be a lot less intense than that. The plot they uncovered was really just the President trying to assassinate his wife to cover up a hit and run that they had been involved in. His wife wanted him to the tell the truth, and the president wanted to kill her for it. It’s still crazy, but it’s not the world altering government conspiracy I was hoping for.
Unequal Distribution of Screen Time
I said earlier that Diego Klattenhoff and Amir Arison did get more screen time, but it still isn’t nearly enough. The Blacklist has always had a problem with focusing on Liz and Red too much. Some would argue that this is because they are the two lead characters of the show, which they are, but this doesn’t mean the other characters have to be pushed aside to focus on them. A balance can be found between the lead characters and the characters who are more secondary, especially when the secondary characters are so complex and interesting. I’ve been invested in Ressler since day one. You know when you start watching a show and you immediately latch on to a character like “Yes, this is the one” well that was with me Ressler. So it’s extremely frustrating for me when he gets so much less screen time when Diego is one of the best actors on the show and Ressler is such a fascinating character. I could say the same thing about Cooper and Aram. Of course I love Red, but I’ve always been more invested in the rest of the Task Force than I have in Liz Keen, and the show has never agreed with me.
Now it’s time to get into the really bad parts of the season, because man I have some FEELINGS.
Time Spent on Uncovering Red’s True Identity
I’m just going to come out and say it, i didn’t care about this plotline at all. Red’s real identity is irrelevant. The viewers have never needed to know who he really is because to us, he’s always been Red and he always will be. Maybe it would have been cool to reveal the whole identity plot in the first couple of seasons, but not now in season six after we’ve spent so much time with the character. The execution of this plot was sloppy at best, and left me rolling my eyes every time they brought it up. If they were going to do it, they needed to do it quickly, maybe over the course of a few episodes, but they dragged it out over multiple seasons until it became unbearable and Liz Keen with it.
The Whole Liz Betraying Red Storyline
This whole part of the plot that the show focused on for so long made absolutely no sense. The Liz Keen we’ve come to know over the years might be a pain in the butt, but she would never go so far as to betray Red and have him face the death penalty. We know she’s been obsessed with discovering Red’s true identity for a long time, but this change in her character is just nuts. Liz isn’t stupid. She knows that The Task Force needs Red, she knows that Red has been the one protecting her and saving her life for so long, she knows that the safety of millions of people depends on Red. She may have been desperate for answers, but she never would have thrown aside everything she was supposed to stand for as an FBI agent just because of one personal matter. Liz has also always been a compassionate person. No matter how much she decided she hated Red for keeping his identity a secret from her she would never show such a lack of compassion for someone who she knows cares about her and has saved her so many times.
Has Red done some bad things? Obviously, yes. Has he kept secrets? Obviously, yes. But nothing he has done to Liz would ever come close to deserving the death penalty, and Liz would never let it go that far. I could go on and on about how much I disliked this storyline, but I’ve already done that in pretty much every episode review this season so I won’t harp on it here. I just don’t understand why you would pit the two characters the viewers are supposed to be invested in the most against each other.
Liz Keen’s Character Regression
So I’ve never been the biggest fan of Liz Keen, but man have they committed an act of character assassination with her (yes, it’s almost Game of Thrones Jaime Lannister level.) In the beginning, Liz was a badass, smart, complex character. She was a capable FBI agent and strong woman who I wanted to root for. But now, the writers have turned her into an insufferable, selfish, whiny, hollow shell of herself. She used to be motivated by a desire to help people and administer justice, but now she doesn’t do anything unless it’s for a selfish purpose. She doesn’t really care about saving people, she doesn’t really care about anyone else on the Task Force. She only cares about finding out the truth behind secrets that are supposed to give her life meaning, but in the end don’t do anything besides hurt other people and put them at risk.
It’s impossible for me to root for a character who has become so self absorbed. It’s even worse because Liz is arguably THE lead character, and if you absolutely loath the lead character, how do you continue to watch the show without being constantly infuriated? It’s gotten so bad that I almost want to mute the TV every time Liz is the focus of a scene. It’s just sad because they took a character with so much potential to become another iconic female FBI agent on TV along the lines of Dana Scully in The X-Files, and just destroyed all her character development. The opposite of character development is regression, and that’s exactly what has happened to Liz Keen, much like the Game of Thrones writers tossing eight years of Jaime Lannister’s character development out the window.
Predictions for Season 7
So that’s it for my breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly of The Blacklist season 6. The hiatus begins and we’ll have to wait for the resolution of that big cliffhanger when Katarina finally made her appearance and then drugged and kidnapped Red. We’ll also have to wait and see if we really were told the truth about Red’s identity. I know they made it look like he was Ilya, but now the finale, in true Blacklist style, made me doubt everything they told us. The truth is never really the truth on this show, even when you really want it to be, or even when it really needs to be.
My prediction for season 7 is that they’re going to pull the rug out from under as AGAIN and reveal that the truth Liz found out isn’t really the truth. Red of course was angry about her betrayal, but his reaction after the fact never made it seem like he was too worried about what she had found out. This is probably because it was just another in the multitude of stories covering up his real identity that he doesn’t want anyone to know. Personally I was hoping this whole Red identity crisis was over and done with, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be that lucky. With Red’s kidnapping it’s also one of the only times we’ve ever seen him in real trouble, so it’ll be fun to see the roles reversed as the Task Force is going to have to come to his rescue instead of the other way around. I also hope that season 7 will continue to give more screen time to characters like Ressler, Aram, and Cooper rather than just Liz and Red.
Although the distribution was better this season, Ressler really didn’t get a story of his own. In previous seasons we’ve seen him dealing with blackmail or pain pill addiction and it’s made for some great episodes and character development. I would love to see Ressler get another of his own storylines in season 7 along with Aram, who is now a very different person without Samar. When Samar was on the show the focus was almost always on them as a couple. In season 7, I want to see what Aram is like all on his own and maybe get a story focusing on his background or family. We really don’t know anything about him at all.
One thing is for certain, I will never tire of watching James Spader play Raymond Reddington, and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves before the show comes to an end.
The Blacklist has been renewed for season 7.