SERIES RETURN

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

This will now be my tenth attempt at writing this column, which has changed in tone and format throughout this past week. This writer became hooked on the NBC veteran series “The Blacklist,” the moment James Spader, doffed his fedora and dropped to his knees in the Hoover Building in September, 2013. Beginning in September, 2014, we have faithfully recapped the last four seasons of the series.

Returning readers to these pages are well aware that we are not afraid to share both bold opinion, as well as speculation. There have been times when these pages expressed disagreement with series creator Jon Bokenkamp, and his staff of writers. Despite those disagreements, this viewer kept faith that the writing staff knew exactly where they wanted to take this epic tale. After watching the two-hour-premiere of Season Six, this viewer now doubts that premise.

It’s been almost nineteen-months, since Tom Keen picked up a battered old suitcase containing a skeleton, per the last request of Kate Kaplan. The contents of that valise would lead to the demise of two beloved characters, and stood the show on its ear in the process. The man who said “criminals are notorious liars,” shortly after meeting FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen, turned out to be living an existence built upon a foundation of falsehoods. Although the man we know as Raymond Reddington IS the “Concierge Of Crime,” he’s not the former United States Naval Officer, who decades before had a torrid affair with Katarina Rostova.

After surviving a near-apocalyptic battle against his former “better-half,” in the series fourth season, season five started out on a lighter note. Nearly penniless, Raymond was reduced to living in the seedy Terra Vista Motor Lodge, wearing borrowed clothes. Rather than being crushed by the loss of his empire and many long time associates, the situation seemed to energize Reddington. He knew that it was just a matter of time before he’d be back amongst the criminal elite, as they had left him with his greatest asset. He still possessed the mind of a chess player, who had deduced the next ten moves he’d make on the board.

Despite the lighter tone throughout the first episode of season five, our evening concluded with what proved to be a flash-forward, giving us a brief glimpse of a horrific event that took place later in the season. After a surprisingly brief period, Raymond’s financial coffers filled quickly and the comedic tone of the first few episodes receded into the background.

When the series went into it’s Fall hiatus, the show-runners’ ended the romance of the star-crossed-lovers Tom and Elizabeth Keen, killing off Tom, for getting too close to the truth. We also met the “BIG BAD” of the season, Ian Garvey, a corrupt Federal Marshall who had personal reasons for going after Reddington. Garvey took possession of the bones, after he and his goons invaded the Keen’s home, and then beat up the couple so severely that Tom died and Lizzie lapsed into an eight-month coma.

We fast forward to May, 2018. We’re introduced to a woman claiming to be Jennifer Reddington, Red’s long lost daughter, living under an assumed name thanks to the witness protection program, and the aid of Garvey. A showdown takes place in a Baltimore bar, concluding with Garvey shooting Reddington, and Keen killing Garvey. However the location of the knapsack containing the bones remained a mystery.

Season five concluded with Raymond and Elizabeth receiving what they wanted. Reddington reclaimed possession of the skeleton, and then burned the remains with Dembe, and Dom, by his side. However Elizabeth attained the knowledge she’d been seeking for months, the secret that Red refused to share with her. The man that Garvey sent the bones to Sutton Ross, revealed to Keen, and her half-sister Jennifer, that the bones were the last remains of their biological father, the actual Raymond Reddington. Sutton would not live long enough to share that information with the authorities, as Reddington snuffed out his life, while Sutton was being arrested.

Renewing “The Blacklist,” became an eleventh-hour decision for NBC, and it came with a caveat. Although season six would run a complete 22-episode schedule, the network wouldn’t air the episodes until January, 2019. So began the interminable wait, replete with rabid fan speculation, including a faction that refused to believe that James Spader’s character wasn’t a man who had taken on a new identity decades earlier.

Reading that the series would kick-off the season with a two-hour premiere, I hoped that the fan’s patience would be rewarded by transporting us back to the 20th Century, revealing the true story. Although we’ve seen that era through the perspective of four-year-old Masha Rostova, as well as Kathryn Nemec, that gave us only glimpses colored by perception. The origin story of the man we’ve come to know as Raymond Reddington, would have made for a powerful premiere, and set the tone for the season.

Instead of providing answers Bokenkamp and company, decided to venture down a new path. In the midst of a rather convoluted mish-mash, that had it’s share of highlights, every thing suddenly ground to a halt. While stopping to pick up three pretzels from a street vendor, a uniformed officer walks over to Reddington and asks for identification, and notices Raymond’s packing. The cop’s soon informed by some other uniforms, that he’s captured the man atop the FBI’S Most Wanted List. Welcome to our new adventure “Raymond Reddington Goes To Prison.”

In a nod to our current political atmosphere, Harold Cooper’s informed in no uncertain terms by Cynthia Pannabaker, that the Justice Department will deny any agreement the Task-Force has with Reddington. Cooper arranges a meeting with the prosecutor from the Southern District of New York, hoping to persuade her to kick Reddington loose. The woman who has political ambitions and her eyes on the Governor’s mansion, scoffs at the suggestion. Upon returning to New York City, she holds a press conference announcing to the planet that she’s got Raymond Reddington in custody, and intends to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

While Keen and Donald Ressler attempt to track down the Blacklist member of the week, The Corsican, they receive a call from Aram Mojtabai, informing them of Reddington’s arrest. Keen’s overcome by emotion and rushes to the holding cell Raymond’s in. He tells her not to worry about his imprisonment, however he wants her to find out who tipped off the cops. He tells her he believes that it’s somebody close. She asks if he wants the person’s identity in order to kill them, and he responds, that depends.

Keen returns to her apartment, where Jennifer informs her that she’s the one that tipped off the police. After an earlier conversation, when Keen expressed second thoughts about going after Raymond, Jennifer decided to take matters into her own hands making certain Liz couldn’t back out. Despite the betrayal by her half-sister, Keen takes responsibility for Reddington’s arrest, and fears the results of Raymond finding out she’s to blame.

Although the premise of Raymond, running a maximum security prison’s somewhat intriguing, if they introduced this story-arc during the series’ fourth season, I’d likely be far more receptive to it. If the speculation’s correct that this could be the final season for this show I’m so emotionally invested in, I don’t want episodes wasted going down this rabbit hole.

Once again James Spader proved that despite the lack of recognition, he’s turned Raymond Reddington into one of the medium’s most iconic characters. The “cold-open” for Dr. Hans Koehler, may have been the best the show’s ever produced. While Reddington and Dembe case a bank they plan to rob the following week, a masked gang break into the facility carrying heavy artillery. Raymond then precedes to dress down the would-be robbers, and offers to help them escape for the lion’s share of their take. The group escape in a dump truck Reddington’s arranged for, and when the police start pursuing the vehicle, Raymond dumps the crooks, their weapons, and their money onto the street and into the officer’s arms.

Spader used his added girth to his advantage in these two episodes. The weight that he’s gained the series’ run, makes him look far older than the svelte man we were introduced to in 2013. The image accompanying this piece, evoked the aging Don Corleone, brilliantly portrayed by Marlon Brando, in my mind.

His journey to the maximum security prison was wordless, but there was no need for dialogue, as Spader’s face told us exactly what he was feeling. Despite his bravado, a primal fear gripped him, a fear that he’ll keep to himself in order to survive this ordeal. It’s just a matter of time before all the gangs within the facility, start reporting to him on a daily basis.

This won’t be Raymond’s last stand, switching from the chess analogy to poker, Reddington’s got at least two or three Aces hidden up his sleeve. It would not surprise me in the least if the POTUS from the Blacklist Universe, Robert Diaz, who of course has a history with Reddington, enters the mix. Let’s keep in mind that it’s sometime in October, 2019, in Raymond’s world, making it that much closer to Diaz entering a reelection campaign.

Raymond’s address to the empty chamber of the General Assembly at the United Nations, ranks with some of the best soliloquies Raymond’s ever performed. A long and rambling speech starting off with depreciating remarks, including tales of Cary Grant and LSD, making it sound that “Our Raymond’s” found solace through use of the chemical. We know of his taste for opium, it’s not that far a leap to surmise that Raymond’s had his share of acid-trips.

That scene lead to Elizabeth’s revelation about the man we know as Raymond Reddington. Yes, the man who assumed the identity of her biological father 30-years-earlier; is a cold-blooded killer, capable of committing heinous, unspeakable, inexcusable, acts.

However, he’s not soulless, and is indeed just as capable of showing kindness. Whether that be to a young boy born with birth-defects he buys three ice-cream sundaes for, or saving the lives of those in the United Nations Building. Reddington got nothing in return by getting Max to disarm the bomb, nor will he ever receive credit for it.

There was another nice exchange between longtime partners Keen, and Ressler, as Donald told Lizzie that she wasn’t fooling him that she was “fine” still working with Reddington, after Raymond killed Sutton Ross, and walked away with the skeleton. He told her he was willing to accept her explanation, but he wasn’t buying it. She thanked him for backing off.

There’s no doubt in this viewer’s mind that Raymond realizes Keen knows the truth. The fact that she’s yet to question him about his actions, wouldn’t get by a grade-schooler. That knowledge lead to a script hammering the viewers over the head with puns. There were variations throughout the two-hours, on I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours. The episodes also contained several versions of Raymond stating that he felt like a different person.

I’d also venture a guess that we shall soon encounter Bastien Moreau, and the shadowy organization that hired him to plant the bomb inside the United Nations building. The series has utilized the art of stunt-casting, quite successfully since the first season. Christopher Lambert, whom this writer hasn’t seen since Highlander, portrayed the assassin with a nationalist agenda. What purpose did the organization have for the man known as the Corsican to plant the explosive device inside the UN?


The Blacklist,” has bounced back before from less than stellar episodes, and story-arcs. I’m willing to give Bokenkamp and company time to improve from a rather disappointing sixth season premiere.

The Story Continues Friday Night, at 9:00 pm, on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

This was not Cape May, and it’s quite probable that we shall never see an episode of that caliber again, from the NBC series “The Blacklist.” That statement’s not meant to demean the series, creators or writing staff, but there’s a reason why the nineteenth episode from season three, became a touchstone for the show’s longtime fans. That episode featured a searing performance by James Spader, as Raymond Reddington interacting with spirits from an opium dream. The viewer slowly realizes that the entire time he’s inside the home by the sea, he’s actually by himself, reacting to the memory of a woman that he hasn’t seen in three decades.

Surfing the internet over the past couple of weeks, one could easily find websites comparing the winter return of the long running series with that much beloved episode. Sorry to say that the analogy doesn’t fit; the only real similarity between the two episodes, shows Elizabeth Keen going off to heal on her own. While this episode had merit on its own, attempting to put it on the same lofty plateau with the earlier episode’s rather ludicrous, and demeaning to the original.

Music didn’t play as prominent a role in the first installment coming off the Autumn hiatus, however the hour started and ended with powerful selections. We open the evening taking in some majestic mountains, and then we find ourselves in the forest, watching Lizzie doing wind sprints. We then hear the acoustic guitar of Leonard Cohen, playing one of his prettiest songs, Famous Blue Raincoat.

Lizzie’s pretty handy with an axe, as she chops firewood. A twinge from her shoulder flashes her back to her first days in rehab, and we see Elizabeth’s confined to a wheelchair, and struggling doing reps with three-pound barbells. Her physician tells her that pain’s good, as it tells the body it’s alive. Keen says she just wants to get out of the wheelchair and the doctor responds she’ll get there.

Liz’s living way off the grid, in a cabin in the woods with her German shepherd Kate, miles from the nearest town. The cabin’s powered by a cantankerous kerosene generator, which needs a new plug. She heads to the local hardware store, and during a conversation with the store owner, we learn that she’s using the name Grace.

A while after the power’s restored, Grace gets a visit from the local Ranger, Colin, who arrives with a package that she’s yet to pick up from the post office. There’s an early winter storm about to hit the area, and the temperature’s dropped radically in the last few hours. We can tell he’s got a crush on her, and while Keen has no desire for any romantic entanglements, she’s very nice to him. Grace sends Colin off with a fresh thermos of hot coffee.

We flash back to the DC area, as Elizabeth pays a visit to Tom’s grave, and she’s walking with the use of a cane. She falls apart when she reaches the gravestone, telling Tom she’s not doing well, then chastising herself for telling him that. She also tells him that she’s thinking of going away.

She’s jolted back to the present by Kate’s incessant barking at the window. Grace and the dog head outdoors and she sees an unconscious lying on the ground just yards from her doorstep. She touches him to see if he’s alive and the man opens his eyes and grabs her hand, in a plea for help.

With the aid of a toboggan, she drags the injured man to her cabin. Once she gets him inside, she opens his coat and sees a deep gash in his abdomen. She sterilized her hands and the wound with a bottle of whiskey, then sewed up the gash. She then heads to the barn and tries broadcasting out a plea for help on her weather radio, but nobody responds to her call. She’s put the wounded man in her bed while she watches over him in a chair by his side.

Realizing the man’s condition’s rapidly deteriorating, she tries starting her vehicle, however the battery’s drained by the cold and the engine fails to turn over. Frustrated she starts banging on the steering wheel. which causes her to recall another memory before she chose her new nomadic life. Her apartment’s filled with the other members of the Task-Force, and Harold and Donald start reminiscing about their tracking down Karakurt in season three. Harold recalls Tom pulling up to his home with Karakurt imprisoned in the trunk of his car. He says that although he was upset with the surprise, Tom’s charm convinced him to help bring Karakurt to justice. The Task-Force then toasts Tom’s memory.

With the prospect of the stranger dying in her bed a realistic possibility, Grace heads into town and goes into the Ranger’s office. Seeing the office vacant, she calls for Colin, but he’s not on the premises. Her patience exhausted, she leaves a note for the Rangers, stating that she’s in an emergency situation and for them to head to her cabin as soon as possible.

We once again go back in time as Lizzie’s packing up her belongings into boxes which Dembe starts carrying them out to her car. She attempts to explain her rationale to Raymond on why she must leave the DC area, Raymond counters that she’s only running away from her problems, and she’ll never find peace until she comes to grips with her emotions. Raymond fears Elizabeth’s heading to a very dark place, and Keen reinforces those fears, by telling him the only motivation she’s got to jump out of bed each morning, is to avenge Tom’s death.

She then asks Raymond to grant her two promises. The first being that Red continues supplying names on the Blacklist to the remaining members of the Task-Force. Reddington responds that the dynamic doesn’t work without her being a part of it, and she begs him to promise to keep the important work going. Reddington spits out a promise that he’ll honor her wishes.

She then asks for one more promise and tells Raymond this will be a difficult one for him to keep. She asks for Reddington to vow that he’ll let her go off on her own, that she’s got to be on her own to work through her grief and find herself again. Raymond asks what about Agnes?

Grace and Kate head back to the cabin, and finds four strange men waiting for her. She quickly brandishes her pistol, but the spokesman for the foursome tells her to take it easy. He then introduces himself as Billy and introduces Grace to the other three men.

Billy tells her that the four of them plus the man in her bed, survived a charter plane crash that killed the pilot. He then says the man in her bed’s named Mike, and though he got badly wounded, he disregarded the advice of the others and took off on his own seeking help. Billy says that their plane crashed about ten miles away, and they were fortunate to come across her cabin. We can see by the look on Grace’s face that she’s at best skeptical about their story.

One of the series strong points has always been the casting of guest stars, and this episode followed in kind. The actor portraying Billy’s William Mapother, who played one of the creepiest characters on the ABC network’s classic series Lost. Mapother’s character Ethan Rom, masqueraded as one of the plane crash survivors, but was in reality a member of the “Others.” The “Others” were indigenous to the island the plane crashed on, a secret society, that either converted the survivors of the plane crash to their mindset, or killed them. Just the sight of his face, made this viewer realize that the foursome were up to no good.

We encounter another flashback, but this one takes place in New York City, as Famke Jensen reprises her role as Scottie Hargrave. When it was first reported that Jensen would appear on this episode, my initial instinct was that Lizzie would leave Agnes in Tom’s mother’s care. That was indeed the case, and we join Liz, Scottie, and young Agnes in Scottie’s apartment, as the two women sit on the couch while Agnes furiously scribbles on a pad of paper while sitting on the floor. We never see the little girl’s face, whether this was done purposely, or was just the best footage of the girl playing Liz’s daughter remains to be seen in future episodes.

Fans of the ill-fated spinoff, “The Blacklist: Redemption,” received some closure in this exchange. Turns out that Tom testified against his father Howard, and was a strong advocate for Scottie, putting all right in the Hargrave’s. Keen says she can’t hide her anger and pain from Agnes, and it’s having a detrimental effect on her daughter. She asks Scottie if she can mask the pain and anger, that she’s feeling after the loss of her son?

Hargrave responds that she went through the emotional rollercoaster Lizzie’s currently riding 30-years before, when her three-year old son got taken from her life. She considers the time she got to spend with Tom over the past couple of years a bonus. She promises her daughter-in-law, that Agnes will remain healthy and happy, until the day comes when Liz can take her daughter back.

Grace leaves the cabin once again, and when she returns she’s greeted by the smiling face of Ranger Colin, who asks if everything’s okay. Grace states the obvious, that she’s far from okay with a complete stranger near death in her bed. Colin says that the roads are impassable, Liz then asks Billy about the radio in the charter craft, and he responds that it’s not functioning. Liz then says that they could access the plane’s black-box, sending out a signal that would send authorities to the area.

Colin and one of the foursome go out to try to find the plane, Grace wants to join them but Billy says they need her to take care of their friend. He begs her to stay so that he doesn’t have to inform Mike’s wife that he died on his watch. Grace pulls Colin aside, and tells the Ranger that she feels hinky about the men’s story, and she finds it hard to believe that there could have been a plane crash without her hearing it. Colin laughs and says she’s just paranoid and that he and the other guy will return shortly.

Grace heads into her bedroom to check the patient’s condition, this time he’s conscious and can speak. She informs him that his friends are also in the cabin, and the victim croaks out that they’re not his friends, but instead hitmen from a prominent crime family. The victim testified against the family and the government put him in the witness location system, and relocated him to her community with a new identity. However the hitmen tracked him down nd they’re going to kill him, and he says they’ll kill Grace as well. She gives him her pistol, and he hides it under his blanket.

Returning to the kitchen, Grace starts cleaning up the area around the sink, when Bill says he never expected their hunting trip to turn out to be so treacherous. Grace says that Billy had told her they were on a fishing trip, he tries to cover his mistake by saying the other four guys were going fishing, while his goal was killing a bear. Grace responds that it’s a crime to go bear-hunting, and Billy smirks and asks her if she’s ever broken any rules?

Grace drops a glass that shatters on the floor, Billy offers to help clean up the mess, but Grace tells him to stay put. She then realizes that her dog Kate’s been missing for a while and she starts to call for her. Just then the guy that went out with Colin returns saying they had no luck finding the plane. Grace asks where’s Colin, and the guy replies that another Ranger showed up on a three-wheeler, and took Colin back to town, and help should be on its way.

Grace decides the time’s right for her to begin her attack. She puts on the garbage disposal which she realizes will cause her generator to stop running. She says she’ll brave the weather and go out and repair it, Billy offers to help her, but she responds the one thing she’s learned in the mountains is men only get in the way.

She heads immediately to her weather radio, only to find they’ve cut the microphone line. She then reaches for her pistol, which she had retrieved from the injured man, but somehow they got to the pistol and emptied out the magazine. She starts hearing a beeping sound inside the barn and follows it, she discovers that the man who went with Colin killed Kate and Colin and left both their bodies in the barn.

The foursome arrived with walkie-talkies and had given Grace one to communicate with them. She turns on her unit and calls for Billy, he asks why the power hasn’t returned. She replies because they killed her dog and the Ranger, and she’s aware that the injured man’s their victim not their friend. Billy starts gloating and says the only reason the man and her are alive, is Billy’s boss wants to question the man before they kill him. They kept her alive to tend to his injuries, but now that the pretense’s over, they’re coming after her. He then starts coughing.

She asks him if he’s okay, and then she giggles and said of course he’s not. She then reveals her name’s not Grace, it’s Elizabeth and she’s an FBI Profiler, and sized them up the moment she saw them. Billy’s coughing due to the shards of broken glass she put into his glass of ice, that he incessantly chews. She tells him now every time he breathes he’s sending tiny pieces of glass into his lungs. She then says that if the four of them want a battle they best bring it, because if they come out there, she’s just going to look at them as practice.

What follows is a rampage worthy of Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, or Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series. Long time viewers saw a glimpse of Elizabeth’s dark-side in season three when she nearly killed a fellow patron in a diner, when she and Raymond were on the lam. You may recall that the incident terrified Lizzie, realizing what her fury and anger could override her humanity. There were no misgivings this time around, as Keen waged a campaign that Rambo would have admired.

Seconds after disconnecting, one of the men fall to the floor foaming at the mouth. Lizzie poisoned him with spiked peanut-butter, that he’d been spooning out of the jar. The other two men get nervous, but Billy reminds them that she’s outnumbered three-to-one. All they have to do is encircle her and keep shrinking the circle until they capture her.

The trio head out to the barn but find it’s abandoned, the guy that killed Kate and Colin notices a cellar door’s open and goes down the steps to investigate. Of course it’s a trap, and Lizzie latches the cellar door shut, then lights a match, igniting the kerosene in the cellar and roasts the man to death.

Their advantage down to just two-to-one, they go to the bedroom and realize their victim’s gone, and we see Lizzie dragging him to town on the toboggan. The second man overtakes Keen and a scuffle ensues, promptly ended when she sticks the axe into his chest.

Liz and the victim reach the Ranger’s office, and she assures her companion that she’ll get him to a hospital soon. She flashes back once more to DC, and the conclusion of her conversation with Raymond. He’s flabbergasted that she’s leaving Agnes in Scottie’s care, after she order a hit job on her wedding day. She counters that Scottie didn’t know who they were, and she’s a good woman and will take good care of her daughter. Raymond asks her to make a promise to him, that she always look for the light.

Back in the present, she scours the facility looking for anything she can use for a weapon if Billy decides to follow them. She finds among other things a flare gun and a box of flares, none too soon, it turns out as Billy bursts into the office. He pays her a compliment, saying from one professional to another you’re very good, but the game ends now. Keen then douses Billy with some liquid that burns his eyes and allows her to leave the facility.

She doesn’t get far, before he catches up to her. He pulls out his pistol and she brandishes the flare gun, and shoots a flare the hitman. The liquid she doused him in was highly flammable, and fried him extra crispy style. Her enemies vanquished, Keen could now concentrate on getting the victim medical attention.

The next day law-enforcement officials descend on the town, incredulous with what they discover. Four well-known felons dead, two burned to death by a lone mysterious woman. Grace Talbot’s left town, without a trace, not even a piece of tissue or any of her hair in the drains. The woman obviously received help from a professional, covering her tracks.

Officers interrogate the few townspeople who knew her, including the owner of the hardware store. The description’s consistent from all interviewed, a very pleasant young woman who kept to herself, and always paid cash. We find out that the victim’s resting comfortably in an area medical facility, after some personnel found him on the facility’s doorstep like a Christmas present.

As to who was that un-masked woman, the hardware store owner theorizes that she’s a ghost, one of many that we encounter in life. We see Lizzie standing on the side of the road with her thumb out looking to hitch a ride to her next destination.

Turns out that destination was Raymond’s place, Dembe answers the door with a big smile visibly pleased to see her. Raymond tells her she looks stronger and she replies that she’s healed. She thanks him for keeping his promise, but admits she failed to keep hers. She tells she killed some men, not because they deserved it, which they did, but because of the pleasure she received. She says she hasn’t lost a wink of sleep over it, he replies that she will.

Elizabeth asks Raymond if he can forgive her? After a momentary pause he says he can, but the more prescient question’s whether she can forgive herself?

The Story Continues Next Wednesday Night, at 8:00 pm, on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AND RAMPANT SPECULATION

With the return of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” almost upon us a myriad of questions, both long and short-term, have fans of the show buzzing with anticipation. The immediate concern for many long-time viewers, centers on the health and well-being of FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen.  We last saw her emerging from an eight month coma, after a beating that took the life of her husband Tom. Published reports inform us that we’ll rejoin the characters, months after we left them in the Winter Finale.

The Lizzie that we’ll encounter on January 3, is a broken woman, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Suddenly her life got put into a blender, then spit her out, and when she came to she found herself in a new life that didn’t make sense. The love of her life taken from her, a daughter that blossomed from a baby into a young girl, that she doesn’t know. Her body and mind atrophied from her injuries and the coma.

Keen’s focused on just one thing, seeking vengeance on the men that took her husband. She says it’s her only motivation for getting out of bed each morning. According to an article published last week, that story-arc will dominate the return episode, described as a “free-standing Cape May, type story.”

We’re going to concentrate on the show’s big question of this season in this article, the same question that’s had fans speculating since last May. Whose bones are in the valise that Mr. Kaplan, wanted Tom to deliver to Elizabeth, and why are they so important to the man we know as Raymond Reddington? That question produced a new query in the last couple of episodes of the Fall campaign, the identity of Ian Garvey, and what he intends to do with the information he possesses?

The following is pure speculation, however I can give you what I consider a logical explanation for my theories. As with any theory, there are flaws and I try to address each one to my satisfaction. We shall see if they meet yours,  or if you find holes in this theory that I’ve yet to discover. As always your thoughts, comments, and other theories are always welcome. So, with that let’s delve down the rabbit hole!

DNA TESTS DON’T LIE.

Raymond Reddington IS the biological father of Masha Rostova.

Harold Cooper, obtained the DNA sample came from the clothes of Naval Intelligence Officer Raymond Reddington, from an evidence locker where the clothe got deposited 30-years before. All that proves is the man that Katarina had the affair with and fathered Masha, was indeed the REAL Raymond Reddington.

However, it’s yet to be revealed whether the man we know as Raymond matches that DNA sample. Also let’s remember in the finale of season four, when our Raymond tells Dembe what Lizzie believes, the first thing he asks is “And You Didn’t Deny It??” Lizzie KNEW that Kaplan’s final mission was to reveal some truth to Keen. When Harold told her about the DNA results, she automatically jumped to the conclusion that our Raymond is her BIO-Dad, Which our Raymond welcomes, because it’s kept Lizzie from seeking out Kate’s real secret, whose in the suitcase from Tansi Farms?

SO WHO IS IN THE SUITCASE?

Many fans theorize that Katarina Rostova’s last remains are in the suitcase now held by Ian Garvey. I’ve never subscribed to that theory, mainly because Kate apologized to Katarina before she retrieved the valise from Tansi Farms. She wouldn’t apologize to Rostova for informing Lizzie that the valise contained her mother’s bones.

There’s another contingent of fans that believe the bones belong to either Masha, or Raymond’s daughter Jennifer. Some believe that the real Masha died the night of the fire, and Raymond’s behind Jennifer believing that she’s Elizabeth Keen. Others believe the bones belong to Jennifer, that Raymond was simply too grief-stricken to bury his daughter, after the events that he described to Madeline Pratt. However once again Mr. Kaplan doesn’t figure into the latter scenario.

Now that we’ve eliminated some names off our list, it’s time to reveal whom I believe occupies the purloined knapsack The REAL Raymond Reddington. Think back to “Requiem,” the flashback story from season four that told us the history of the affair between a KGB Agent and a U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer, through the eyes of Kathryn Nemec. The only time we saw Raymond Reddington, before Katarina disappeared,  was through the back window of a car, as he was passionately kissing Rostova.  The view obscured,  and we only really saw the back and the side of his head.

The man that we know as Raymond Reddington’s not introduced until after Lizzie’s lived with Sam Milhoan for a while. Kate’s working for Little Nikos as a bail bondsman, after she recovered from the shot to the head in the attack that killed her partner Annie. He entices Mr. Kaplan to come work for his criminal empire that he stresses exists primarily to keep Elizabeth safe. If Kaplan’s aware that the man she’s meeting’s a faux Raymond Reddington, we’re given no indication, but remember we’re watching this scenario play out from her point of view.

Alexander Kirk/Constantin Rostov, said to the man that we know as Raymond Reddington, that there was nothing Reddington could say, that would keep Kirk from killing him. Yet after Raymond whispered something in his ear, Red walked away without a scratch. Why did Constantin not follow through on his vow?

After the conversation between Dembe and Raymond in last season’s finale, I believed that the suitcase contained the final remains of Raymond Reddington. My suspicions solidified after seeing Tom Keen’s face after reading the DNA results as he sat in Penn Station, during the episode “Ian Garvey.” Tom opens up the large yellow envelope, looks at the name, and immediately does a double-take. This can’t be right. Then he looks at it again, and it starts to dawn on him, this is real. Then anger sets in as he realizes why the man we know as Raymond, keeps that information from Lizzie. When Raymond has him paged at Penn Station, he tells Red that he know everything, and we watch Reddington’s complexion turn slate gray.

There’s only one name that could cause Tom to have that reaction and subsequent reaction, and cause Ian Garvey to go on a murderous rampage to exploit that information. The REAL Raymond Reddington. Which brings us to our ultimate question: who IS the man that we know as Raymond Reddington?

Dom Is The Wild Card.

There are just three people out there that know the true story of the man we know as Raymond Reddington. Raymond, Dembe, and Dom, Katarina’s father and Lizzie’s grandfather. There’s an incredibly strong bond that we’ve seen play out between Dom and Raymond, far more of a bond that one would expect from a man that impregnated a married woman and her father.

Why would Dom welcome into his home, the disgraced American Naval Officer, who helped lead to his daughter’s apparent demise? What could have compelled him to enter an agreement with that man, thirty years earlier to safeguard his granddaughter?

Why would that American Naval Officer, have taken the time to rebuild and replace a new piano key, for a man whose only connection’s Elizabeth? Why would that same man care that he didn’t turn out the way that Dom expected, that he didn’t measure up?

Truly doesn’t make sense that bond existed between Dom and Raymond Reddington, however it would be perfectly logical, if the man we know as Raymond’s actually Dom’s son and Katarina’s brother. He’s masqueraded as Reddington, since Masha shot her father to death the night of the fire. Why would he takeover Reddington’s identity? Likely for the safety of Katarina and Masha. Reddington’s name trashed in Intelligence circles and likely wanted for treason, gave this man the perfect gateway into the criminal world.

We learned in season one that Raymond had utilized the services of renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Abraham Maltz, whose claim to fame’s his ability to give underworld figures new identities. This young man likely had plenty of audio and videotape recordings of Reddington’s voice and he studied it until he mastered it. When the question of the veracity of his identity surfaced during Mr. Gregory Devry, Ressler informed Cooper that they lacked a DNA sample to compare our Raymond’s DNA to.

Keeping a thirty year distance between himself and Cooper, likely hid any tells that our Raymond might display. We know that Fitch and Peter Kotsiopoulos, knew the younger Reddington, however they might have been on the whole thing due to their connection through the Cabal.

This would explain the bond between the man we know as Raymond Reddington and Lizzie, as well as his fears for her finding out the truth. Dembe’s asked him to be forthright with Elizabeth since the early episodes of the series. If this man had only been upfront about his identity from the onset, at the very least Tom would still be alive.

When Raymond last spoke to Dom, he told him to seek Elizabeth out if Reddington hadn’t contacted him. I’m willing to make an educated guess that call never got made and Dom will seek Elizabeth out. I believe that’s when everything will finally get revealed, as Dom explains the true story of her parents and their fates. Will Elizabeth still perceive Raymond as her Sin-Eater, and continue to work with him and accept him as an uncle and surrogate father? Guess that will determine how long the series airs.

Bring Us The Head Of Ian Garvey!

The Blacklist has given us an array of sick, twisted, depraved, sinister, villains, over the years, from zealots to career criminals. Criminals involved in every facet of the underworld, some operating deeply underground, while others did their dirty work, in full view of the whole planet. However their may be one breed of “BIG BAD,” that stands out from the rest, they’re colder, and seemingly without a soul. People like Peter Kotsiopoulos, and Laurel Hitchin, Government.

I believe Garvey is either a former agent from the Agency or the Bureau, which is why he was able to access CODIS. Ideally, I would love for him to be the new FBI Director, but that’s likely asking for too much. Plus he dresses like an out of work bureaucrat, sporting a tie so wide that it could double as a table-cloth. I had some of the same back in the mid-seventies and they’re likely still sitting in some compost heap.

Garvey looks like a retired or possibly disgraced “Spook,” (old-term parlance for a CIA Agent,) and realizes that if the information that our Raymond’s a fake emerged, Reddington’s reputation would be in tatters and his life would be endangered. So the former government employee’s going to try to put the squeeze on Red, and demanding a percentage of the profits. Personally, I don’t like Garvey’s odds.

I always believe if you’re going to make a prediction, swing for the fences! We shall see what develops starting January 3.

The Story Continues Wednesday Night January 3, at 8:00 pm on NBC.