Tommy Schrider

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Photo Courtesy NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT:

How does a series barely get renewed for a sixth campaign, not only find its footing and turn around a lackluster season, but seemingly recapture its mojo? The answer for the veteran NBC series “The Blacklist,” which just a few weeks ago seemed to be limping through its final season, decided to return to its roots. The choice to replace the long defunct “Cabal,” with an insidious force that’s plotting against America, serves two purposes.

First and foremost it gives the Task Force, a new and exciting mission, opening up a myriad of story lines, that could extend the show even past it’s recently announced seventh season. Secondly it distracts the fans from the 400-pound gorilla in the room, that apparently the show-runners have no desire to reveal yet, the true identity of the man we know as Raymond Reddington.

Instead of having a shadow government that orchestrated events around the globe behind closed doors, the POTUS in the “Blacklist,” universe is a key player in a plot against the nation he governs. Assisting President Diaz in his plot, is Anna McMahon, a Justice department official, possessing an acidic tongue and a heart made of granite. The kind of woman that makes Laurel Hitchin look like a contender for Miss Congeniality. Along for the ride is a thuggish Presidential aide identified as Mr. Sandquist, a character this viewer’s dubbed Mr. Eyebrows.

I think that most longtime viewers will agree that the show was at its best during the first three seasons, when the Task-Force had a clearly defined opponent. Although “The Cabal” wasn’t mentioned in every episode, there was always an undercurrent throughout the proceedings. The writers were wise enough to give the audience a slow reveal of the organization and its inner-workings. We came to realize that “The Cabal” not only threatened “Our Raymond,” but the entire Task-Force, as well as the fate of the planet.

The combination of releasing “The Fulcrum,” to investigative journalists around the globe, plus the unceremonious dumping of Peter Kotsiopoulos into a European family’s living room at 20,000 feet, effectively ended “The Cabal’s” reign of power. The last member of the organization still ensconced in the government that we are aware of, was Laurel Hitchin, who died accidentally in a tussle with Donald Ressler.

Since the demise of their main opponent, the series veered towards the melodramatic. The unexpected pregnancy of series co-star Megan Boone, was a curveball that the writers hadn’t planned for, and seemed to throw them off their game for quite a while. To cover Boone’s maternity leave, the writers concocted a story-arc faking Elizabeth Keen’s death, which most fans realized was just a plot device. That feeling was reinforced when Boone’s name still appeared in the opening credits.

For the next two seasons, the writers decided to turn the Task-Force against each other, starting with the characters of Reddington and Keen. Season four threw in a new element with the introduction of Alexander Kirk, the man who raised young Masha Rostova as his own. The writers also made what I consider an ill-conceived move, when they had Raymond attempt to kill Kate Kaplan. That story consumed the latter half of the season, and in the process turned a well loved character into a monster.

Because NBC failed to renew the show’s spinoff series “Blacklist: Redemption,” the writers found themselves with a character, Tom Keen, that they didn’t know what to do with. So in another terrible decision they decided to kill him off, and turn Elizabeth Keen, into “DIRTY LIZZIE: VIGILANTE.”

Elizabeth Scott was never an angel, raised by a grifter and getting into petty larceny in her teens. However whether it was due to the head trauma she received, or the sheer pain and anger she felt about Tom’s murder, Keen threw away her moral compass in season five, utilizing the “Stewmaker’s” methods to dispose of Bobby Navarro’s body. She also allowed police psychiatrist Sharon Fulton, to not only walk away without getting charged, but for her to continue her murderous spree. Keen rationalizes this behavior by stating she is her father’s daughter.

After wringing dust from the sponge of the story-arc concerning the identity of the bones buried at Tansi Farms, viewers are informed what many had figured out a year earlier. The remains belonged to the real Raymond Reddington, and “Our Raymond,” is indeed an imposter that assumed his identity. The season ends with Keen explaining all of it to Tom’s ghost, and an unlikely alliance with Lillian Roth/Jennifer Reddington.

Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, we haven’t published a recap since The Pawnbrokers aired. With that in mind, we’re going to eschew our regular format, and talk about season six as a whole. The two-part story-arc revolving around Bastien Moreau, tied up lots of loose ends, as well as giving viewers a brief glimpse into the past of “Our Raymond.” (We’ll get back to that later.)

Show-runner Jon Bokenkamp, did have a method to his madness after all throughout this convoluted season, as Raymond revealed in the show’s latest outing. There was a direct line starting with The Corsican, General Shiro, The Crypto-Banker, and The Man from Greece. When the pieces came together in his head and why he attempted his botched escape, realizing he’d be sacrificing his immunity agreement, has yet to be explained.

Despite reenergizing, reinvigorating, and repurposing, the series with the latest story-arc, season six has hit more than it’s share of potholes along the journey. Let’s spend the next few minutes exploring some of the off-key notes, hanging chads, and directions this series could take over the remaining episodes of this season, and setting the table for a seventh campaign, that many thought would never exist.

Good Riddance Lillian Roth/Jennifer Reddington

Perhaps the most annoying addition to an existing series, since “LOST,” fans had to suffer through Nikki and Paulo, and “Star Wars,” fans nearly revolted at the sight of Jar-Jar Binks. This viewer’s still not quite sure what to make of the character. If she’s indeed Jennifer Reddington, why did she have such zeal to find out the identity of a man who has nothing to do with her life? She found out that four-year-old Masha Rostova killed their father in the season six premiere. By all rights they should have bid adieu to the character right there.

Instead she goes behind Keen’s back and pays a homeless woman to call the police and put the dime on “Our Raymond.” Rather than feeling betrayed by the woman professing to be her half-sister, she takes responsibility for turning Reddington in. Why was Elizabeth so concerned if Raymond heard the voice on the tape?

She lost her backbone in a heartbeat, when she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. After being so excited about being a “Junior G-Man,” and complaining she didn’t want to go back to a minimum wage gig, she sure changed her mind quickly. Leaving Keen and Raymond with the ramifications of her actions, while she hightailed it to Long Island. Let’s hope that’s the last appearance of this character. By the way, I still don’t believe Naomi’s dead.

Can We Finally Put An End To The REDARINA Theory?

We engage in conjecture constantly on these pages. Some times the theories presented here turn out to be correct, other times the theories have been way off base. (Raymond will never shoot Kate, now that he’s had a chance to cool down.) The theories and conjecture presented on these pages, is no more or less valid, than any other opinions about this series.

So why is this viewer so certain that “Our Raymond’s,” not Katarina Rostova after having undergone a sex-change conversion? TWO WORDS: Nik Korpal. I don’t care how skilled a plastic surgeon could possibly be, a skilled surgeon removing bullets from Reddington’s body and saving his life, would have known he was dealing with a transgender patient.

Even if we are willing to buy into the conceit that Korpal hid the information from Lizzie (which I find incredibly tough to believe,) there’s no way he would have kept it from Tom when they attempted to identify the bones. I rest my case.

Did Raymond Reveal The Truth In His Final Meal?

Regular readers of these pages are well aware that this viewer believes “Our Raymond’s,” the son of Dominic “Oleander” Wilkinson, and the brother of Katarina Rostova. We first published that theory on December 27, 2017, and I believe that Raymond’s conversation during his last meal confirms those suspicions.

From the moment we meet Dom in the show’s third season, the dynamic between the two characters has been at odds with their supposed relationship. Why would a man even bother to talk with a guy that impregnated his daughter, destroying her marriage, and possibly leading to her death, never mind letting him temporarily live in his house? Why would Raymond Reddington, a man who sneers at world leaders, obey an old man who forbade him to spit out a mouthful of buttermilk. “My father fancied himself a disciplinarian.”

Ponder this, Raymond’s last meal consisted of herring and cabbage soup, a meal his mother made for him as a boy. That’s the food of Eastern Europeans, Russians, Romanians, and Polish natives. He related a story of a father who never understood him for being different and excommunicated him from their family. (Dominic in their first meeting, “You destroyed my family.”)

What if Oleander and his wife had two children, a daughter who willingly followed her father’s instructions, and a son who felt he wasn’t suited to become a KGB agent? So the son goes off on his own way, lives the life of an American, gets a normal job, marries and raises a family. Including a blonde-haired daughter, who loved blowing bubbles, and was an aspiring ballerina?

Meanwhile his sister Katarina’s assigned to seduce an American Naval officer named Raymond Reddington. Reddington’s a huge thorn in the Soviet Union’s side, and they task her with seducing him and milking him for American military secrets. Unfortunately there’s a fly in the Vaseline, Rostova falls for the dashing American, and in fact bears his child, a daughter named Masha.

Unhappy with the developments, one of three possible organizations (CIA, KGB, The Cabal,) decide to send Katarina a message of their disapproval, and put a hit on her most vulnerable relative. Her brother arrives home on Christmas Eve 1987, after walking miles in the snow, to find the slaughtered bodies of his family. (This would be the house he purchased and subsequently blew up in season one.)

Some time during this period Rostova becomes an agent of “The Cabal,” as we found out when we heard that chilling conversation between Katarina and Alan Fitch. Although Fitch favors killing the Naval Officer immediately, Rostova says that Red knows about “The Cabal,” and they must discredit his name with the American public before killing him.

Apparently she had yet to accomplish that when Masha shot and killed her father. Desperate to see the plan through, she turned to her devoted brother, who had nothing left in the world to lose. He took on the face and identity of Raymond Reddington, and then used that notoriety to become the “Concierge Of Crime.” However even the act of saving the life of his granddaughter, wasn’t enough to win Dominic’s approval. They did make a pact to leave Masha with Sam and for them both to stay out of the child’s life.

“Our Raymond,” F-RED, or Doppel-Raymond, became a member of “The Cabal,” and by all accounts had a mutually beneficial relationship with the organization, until September, 2013. He had tried monitoring Elizabeth through a paid mercenary, but that kind of fell apart when the mercenary married her. So he broke his commitment to the pact and reinserted himself back into her life.

It was loyalty to his sister and fear of “The Cabal,” that brought Reddington back into Elizabeth’s life. He likely originally planned that after recovering “The Fulcrum,” and exposing “The Cabal,” for he and Dembe to fade back into the shadows. However he hadn’t counted on the paternal love that he’d develop for his niece, and thus stuck around.

Samar And Aram

You don’t have to be a “shipper,” to root for this couple. The show’s resident nerd Aram Mojtabai, falls hard for the beautiful former Mossad agent, who joins the team in the second season. After appearing to be oblivious to his feelings for what seemed like forever, she realized she was in love with Aram, when a former flame reentered her life. Unfortunately Mojtabai had gotten involved with a woman who wasn’t as wonderful as she first seemed.

Just when it looked like the couple would have their happy ending, Samar realizes she’s suffering from Aphasia, as a result of being deprived of oxygen for six minutes. She gives Harold Cooper her resignation in the closing moments of the episode, although we all know she’ll play a critical part before this season concludes.

Anna McMahon And Katarina Rostova

Much has been made about the resemblance between Jennifer Ferrin, who portrays Anna McMahon, and Lotte Verbeek, who has played Katarina Rostova. There’s been lots of fan speculation on Social Media that McMahon’s actually Rostova. Acknowledging that this is the world of television, no woman in her late fifties/early sixties, could look like Anna McMahon, no matter how skilled the surgeon. However there still might be a connection.

What if Rostova never dove into the Atlantic at Cape May, taking her own life? Working for “The Cabal,” she certainly could have gotten protection from the KGB, and the CIA, and gone onto a new life with a new identity. Rostova would have certainly be young and attractive enough to get re-married and have a new family a few years later. Could Anna McMahon, be Liz Keen’s half-sister?

We don’t know whom at this point is posing the threat against the United States described in the dossier. Could some members of “The Cabal’s” board, have survived the fallout from the release of “The Fulcrum,” and are now rising from the ashes? Could the person leading this new threat be indeed Katarina Rostova?

Donald Ressler

Just because Keen’s okay with “Our Raymond’s” identity remaining unknown, it doesn’t mean that Donald Ressler is. The look in Ressler’s eyes when Lizzie said she hoped he was okay with her decision spoke volumes. Let’s remember that “The Boy-Scout,” came close to capturing Raymond several times before he turned himself to become Lizzie’s “Guardian Angel.” If Raymond nor Dom, divulge his true identity first, look for Ressler to come up with the answer.

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