‘The Blacklist’ Recap: Season 8, Episode 21 — Who Is Red?


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As The Blacklist nears its Season 8 finale, the most pressing questions might be coming from behind the scenes, following the news that Megan Boone will exit the series after Season 8.

But there is an on-screen mystery that has needed solving since the NBC drama debuted in 2013: Who is Raymond Reddington, really? We know the real Red died 30 years ago at Liz’s own hand, and the story that KGB officer Ilya Koslov later assumed Red’s identity turned out to be just that — a story.

Wednesday’s episode, though, got tantalizingly close to revealing the actual, serious, no-really-guys-this-time-we-mean-it answer to the question of Red’s true persona, and unless the show is intentionally stretching out the misdirect of all misdirects, then the answer essentially was given to us without explicitly being said aloud: Red could very well be Katarina Rostova, Liz’s biological mother, who presumably went under the knife to transform into the man who’s been protecting and/or terrorizing Liz for the last eight years.

It sounds a bit ridiculous to say (or type) aloud, but this theory has prevailed among Blacklist fans since the show’s inception, and hints have been dropped in the past that suggest its accuracy. But the penultimate Season 8 episode teased more than ever that Red is really Katarina, even though those suspicions were never outright confirmed.

During the hour, Red brings Liz to a building in Latvia from which his widespread intelligence empire operates, buzzing with employees as they print, annotate, scan, shred and analyze piles and piles of documents. As Red explains to Liz, the building is a hub for intel that comes from 17 outposts around the world — information that gets boiled down and sent to Reddington, which he then uses to make all of his business decisions. (Liz will apparently inherit this operation, but she claims to have no interest.)

The Blacklist Season 8But just as Red begins to tell Liz some of the truths she’s been seeking, Liz starts to hear a second, female voice. All of the activity around her in the Latvian building seems to freeze. Red disappears. The picture fades to black and white. And Liz turns to see a younger version of her mother, Katarina (played once again by Lotte Verbeek), who embarks on a long story of her own career as a spy, the circumstances that led Katarina to leave Liz in Sam’s care, and the lengths she’s gone to in order to protect Liz for years.

Throughout the story, she’s joined by Liz’s visions of the real Raymond Reddington (meaning, Liz’s biological father), as well as the present-day versions of Katarina, Dom and Ilya, all of whom add more detail to Young Katarina’s tale and try to untangle some of the lies Liz has been told in recent years. Among the revelations and clues:

* On the night of the fire when Liz was a child, Liz ran back into the burning beach house to retrieve her stuffed bunny. Young Katarina shares that she followed Liz back into the house, “but we got turned around. The flames spread fast, the smoke,” she says, to which Liz replies, “You were burned.” “We both were,” Katarina says. (And, as we saw at the very end of Season 1, Red has burn scars across his back.)

* Katarina was the one to have Liz’s memory erased, seeing as the night of the fire was deeply traumatic for Liz on multiple levels.

* When Katarina mentions how she and Ilya concocted a plan to get their hands on Reddington’s $40 million, Liz says she’s heard this story before, from Dom. Ilya counters that Dom lied to Liz about who assumed Red’s identity, but he was truthful when he said that Ilya framed Red as a traitor to his country. But Ilya didn’t actually get surgery in order to pass as Reddington; he merely dressed as Red and impersonated him for a few days to fool the banks, which gave Katarina “enough time for me to realize how valuable a new Reddington could be.” Hmm…

The Blacklist Season 8* Present-day Katarina (the always-excellent Laila Robins) shows up to drop this bomb on Liz: She’s not Liz’s real mother! She was merely an operative named Tatiana Petrova, who was enlisted by Ilya to pose as Katarina Rostova in Belgrade all those years ago. If the real Katarina’s enemies, from both the KGB and the Cabal, witnessed the death of who they thought was Katarina (but was really Tatiana), then it stood to reason that the KGB and Cabal would finally stop hunting Katarina.

But Tatiana didn’t die in that Belgrade car explosion: Her husband did, and Tatiana was forced into her own life of hiding. She says she was grateful to (the fake) Reddington for financing her and protecting her all these years, but she hunted him down once she realized he was hiding the real Katarina. And when Dom eventually told Tatiana where the real Katarina was, she was going to share that intel with Townsend, but Red killed her before she could. (Whew. Still with me? I’m not sure I’m still with me, honestly.)

* Young Katarina says she’s…

Read More:‘The Blacklist’ Recap: Season 8, Episode 21 — Who Is Red?

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