‘The Blacklist’ is in uncharted territory in season 8. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with the EPs about Liz embracing the dark side, Red’s illness, and how Liz’s alliance with Katarina changes everything for her and Red.
The last season of The Blacklist featured a determined Liz Keen on a path to get answers about Red, which meant that she chose to side with her mother, Katarina Rostova. Liz is done playing nice and will be showing a new side of herself while on this pursuit. Liz and Red ultimately being on opposing sides will cause immense tension and could end up being dangerous for everyone around them.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath about Liz’s “tipping point” and what it means for her future. They noted that she’s “incredibly dangerous” after having learned so much from Red over the years. The EPs revealed that answers will be revealed about what Red is suffering from and that the feelings between Ressler and Liz may “bubble” to the surface in season 8. Get some spoilers about the upcoming season below.
As we go into this new season, are we finally going to find out what’s wrong with Red? Are we going to get more answers about this illness or whatever it is?
Eisendrath: I think that, yes, we have every intention of being clear with the audience here about what it is that he has been suffering from. I think what he has been suffering from has impacted some decisions he’s made that we’ve already seen in previous episodes, and I think the same will be true going forward.
The final moments of the finale featured a very different Liz. She was very open about saying she’s embracing darkness. How dangerous is Liz in season 8 and how is this new Liz going to impact everyone around her?
Bokenkamp: I think that she’s reached a tipping point. I think she has heard half-truths for long enough, and she wants real answers and is willing to align with her mother, who does have answers, who sort of stepped away and went on her own quest to find out who Reddington was and why he had entered their lives. I think Liz is at a point where it’s time for her to pick a side, and she is siding with a woman who has a very similar conflict with Reddington. He’s come into both of their lives and upended their lives in dramatic ways, and I think they share that. And for that reason, and reasons that we’ll see in the coming episodes more so that dramatize specifically what it is that Katarina has learned and how she can assist. But I do think, when you ask how dangerous she is, I think she’s incredibly dangerous. She has had 8 years learning from the master himself about the ways of the dark side, and I think that’s a dangerous place for her to be.
A lot of times in film and literature and television, we see that when you embrace that darkness you can be consumed by it. Is that something that could be a possible threat for Liz going forward?
Bokenkamp: I think it’s not only a threat, it’s a question of: is it part of her DNA? Because it’s not just that she’s seen these things and how they’ve changed her. It’s more so if there’s something that’s been lurking inside, was it always going to come out? How has her time with Reddington and all that she’s seen, all the sort of dark stories that she’s encountered in the people that she’s met along the way, how she’s seen Reddington handle these situations in his life, what does that say about her? What does it say about how she can navigate what is thought to be the gravest period of her life at this moment? What does it look like when and if she comes out on the other side? I think that’s a big question this season. In terms of aligning with her mother and sort of choosing sides, that puts her not only potentially on the other end of things with Reddington but also with the task force and the people that she’s worked with for so long and who know her so well. I think it puts them all in a really different space.
With Liz choosing her mother over Red, what does that mean for Liz and Red’s relationship?
Eisendrath: I think that it definitely puts her more at odds with Red more formally than I think we’ve seen in the past. She’s made a level of commitment to seeing this through. While in the past Red could sort of walk her off the ledge, I think that’s not possible now. As a result, I think she and Red are destined to have more conflict than they have ever had in the past.
Bokenkamp: This is definitely new territory for all the characters. We’re definitely entering a new phase of the show and sort of uncharted waters in really everywhere.
Red has always had a knack for being in control and being the ultimate puppet master. How is he perceiving this shift in Liz?
Eisendrath: I think that she is something of his Achilles heel. He can vanquish some incredibly powerful people and has demonstrated a fearlessness that I think is very winning and powerful, but Liz has always been someone that he can’t live without and someone he cares about more than anything else or anyone else. She has an incredible hold over him in a way that no one else does. So his ability to fight against her is definitely more limited to him. He’s willing to fight against anyone else. He’s going into battle against her with one big emotional arm tied behind his back.
Do you think Liz and Red could eventually reconcile and trust each other again someday?
Bokenkamp: I think the level of trust is something that’s in question all season. I think where does this all land is a big question. Not only for Reddington but for the entire task force. When you talk about Cooper and his perspective on it, he has a similar but different perspective on Liz and where she’s going than Red does. If one’s the devil on her shoulder and the other’s the angel, they both care about her for different reasons, and yet they have different agendas that they’re pushing in terms of the outcome. That’s just two characters. Throw into the mix Aram and how he feels and Ressler and the long-standing relationship that he’s had with her since the pilot. Park is a newcomer to the task force but also has very specific points of view. I think everyone has something to say about where Liz is going, but ultimately, she is the one who is driving this and we’ll see how she navigates things.
When it comes to Liz and Katarina, can they both truly trust one another?
Eisendrath: I think that in her quest to find the truth she’s looking for, it’s both a necessary evil that she aligns herself with someone like Katarina Rostova, who has a very checkered past. It is also a positive desire to try and get close to and ultimately understand someone who’s so central to her life. I think that what’s great about it is it’s a very familiar, universal story that one can relate to of an adult child trying to navigate a relationship with a parent. I think it’s filled with all sorts of both positive and sort of ambivalent feelings on Liz’s behalf about what she wants and what she needs. I think it’s all mixed together for her.
Aside from the Red, Liz, and Katarina situation, what’s ahead for the rest of the task force this season?
Eisendrath: You can look at it on that same axis of Liz’s journey is going to deeply affect everyone on the task force when it comes to their relationship with her. There is Ressler’s relationship with her and whatever deep-seated feelings that they may have for each other that have been unspoken to date. Given where she’s going and what she’s doing, some of those feelings might bubble to the surface. I think that Cooper, who looks at Liz in some ways as a surrogate daughter, is going to have some intense feelings about how he can navigate both the task force of law enforcement officers and as people who love and want the best for Liz. I think they’re going to be caught in the middle between Red and Liz. That’s a great dramatic place to find them.
At the end of last season, Dom was recovering. Unfortunately, Brian Dennehy sadly passed away in April. What are your plans for that character moving forward?
Bokenkamp: Brian was fantastic in the role and really was part of the DNA of the show. When you look at the characters and the people who are in the show that have deep-rooted answers and know parts of the history of the mythology, that character was obviously one of those. We didn’t feel like we could really write the character out, so Ron Raines came in to take over that role. I think he’s done a fantastic job. It’s obviously a little bit different, but I think it was the right choice to do because I think where things go with the character of Dom are pivotal to the core of the show, and we’re going to see that unfold very quickly.