Is Something Odd Going On With ‘The Blacklist’? . . . . Beyond, You Know. . . .
Warning: Contains serious spoilers for season 8 finale of The Blacklist.
Interesting as the TV series The Blacklist has remained for eight seasons, you have to wonder after the somber and unsettling Season 8 finale if there may be a second fascinating drama in play behind the scenes.
Okay, we’re talking conspiracy theory here, since the premise of most conspiracy theories is that some shadowy they is not telling us what’s really happening.
Most conspiracy theories are a boring waste of time. In this case, it might be worth mild curiosity.
First the show’s costar Megan Boone, who plays FBI agent Elizabeth Keen, announces she’s leaving after Season 8, despite the fact NBC network has already ordered Season 9, which most viewers expect will be the show’s last.
The Season 8 finale then doubled down on Boone’s announcement by having a bad guy fire a bullet into Liz’s back and through her heart.
When Megan Boone leaves a show, she leaves a show.
Meanwhile, hours before the finale airs, Blacklist creator and co-showrunner Jon Bokenkamp announces he too is leaving.
Happily enough, he doesn’t get shot. But a lot of Blacklist fans feel losing both Liz and Bokenkamp is like having two legs kicked out from under your chair.
Costar James Spader, who plays Raymond Reddington, seems to be sticking around. So is Bokenkamp’s co-showrunner, John Eisendrath, and the show definitely has enough continuing characters, unanswered questions and ongoing drama to power another season.
Still, something feels off.
Bokenkamp leaving the show, in particular, feels like a pitcher who has thrown eight strong innings walks off the mound with the game still in progress and says he’s not interested in pitching the ninth.
It’s the kind of thing you say if you feel like the game in fact is finished. Since the central drama of The Blacklist has been the relationship between Liz and Red and that relationship is now kind of over, does Bokenkamp feel that Liz’s death really does wrap up the story, making Season 9 an afterthought?
Bokenkamp’s departure tweet said he wants to pursue other projects, which is right up there with “wants to spend more time with his family” as a generic puff of smoke people send up when they want to cloud a real reason.
Bokenkamp has said for years that he knew where he wanted the story to end, though he also indicated the ending may have shifted depending on where the story took everyone. In any case, his comments never suggested he wouldn’t be sticking around for it. Here’s a show that’s got to be at the top of his resume and he’s lost interest?
Right now, this is the short version of where things stand in the show.
Reddington is a criminal who runs an international underworld operation. He cooperates with an FBI task force by providing the names of other criminals, thus taking bad guys and some of his competition off the street.
He has had an undefined but intense personal connection to Liz, who worked for the task force. Protecting her, he repeatedly said, was his life’s mission.
In the Season 8 finale, he was standing in front of her when she was shot. It’s an interesting miracle of physics that the bullet didn’t hit him as well. But the point is that while he’s been a fiendishly clever and wildly successful criminal, he has now failed at the single task he considered most important.
If Bokenkamp’s plan all along was that Red be served with the cosmic justice of losing the only person he felt really mattered, then it’s easy to see why Bokenkamp might feel the interesting part of the game is effectively over. .
He insists the show has plenty of creative life left, which is arguably true, though one also might wonder what else he’s going to say.
Purely as TV drama, The Blacklist has made a move that’s pretty bold in killing off the character that viewers most wanted to have a happy ending, or at least a fighting chance. Instead, she got a Wild Bill Hickock finale, absent only aces and eights.
Liz made some annoying moves and some bad decisions over the past season and a half. Still, she had a young daughter and she had just fallen in love and after years of a roller coaster relationship with Red, she was finally accepting that he really was trying to look out for her. They were pals again.
The Blacklist has made it clear Red is seriously ill and ticketed to die. He has several times expressed hope Liz would carry his legacy forward. So of all the many clever curveballs the show has thrown , none was bigger than whacking Liz while Red lives to fight another season.
Maybe that’s how it was planned all along. Maybe Boone knew Liz was checking out before the end. Maybe Bokenkamp had always figured that while Red’s death would be justice, Liz’s death would be tragedy and it was tragedy to which he aspired.
But leaving at this point still seems odd. Not necessarily ominous, nefarious or scandalous. Just odd.