The Blacklist premiere recap: Raymond Reddington’s still got it

Keeping up with the mythology of The Blacklist has always been a big task—we’ve been doing it together right here on EW for the last five years. I’ll allow you some time to un-bug your eyes at that fact…

Right, so the story of how and when and why Raymond Reddington met Elizabeth Keen has always been a difficult puzzle to piece together. There are loose ends, and questions answered with more questions, and things that seem all-important during a season could become completely obsolete with the transition from spring finale to winter premiere. Remember the Fulcrum? Remember the Warrior Gene? Remember Lizzie and Red’s road trip while she was briefly a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted List? Remember when Lizzie was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List because she, ahem, murdered the Attorney General of the United States? Remember the Cabal??? Remember SPY BABY AGNES?!

All those rabbits chased were of huge importance at one point or another, and then they kind of disappeared into the ether to make room for other, more urgent storylines. But it was important that we paid attention to all of it because eventually, some of it might be relevant again, no matter how deeply in our memories it was buried. And now it’s time to pay the piper.

Where previous seasons may have asked us to bring something back from the long and winding serialization of Red-and-Lizzie, say, every couple of episodes, the premiere of season 6—the season that officially makes The Blacklist “long-running,” I’d say—is working on more of a minute-by-minute recall time. We’re talking burned bunnies pulled out of storage boxes; memories that have been blocked by Red, and then unblocked by Lizzie coming out to play again; random hotel stays revisited. Everything from the past is back on the table because with the knowledge that the man she’s known for the last five years is not actually the Real Raymond Reddington (henceforth to be known as RRR), Lizzie is having to rewrite a history that’s already been rewritten for her several times.

But even if Liz Keen is dealing with Revisionist History Raymond Reddington (henceforth known as RHRR, just kidding, we won’t need that one again), the Raymond Reddington we’ve been hanging out with for a half-decade? Oh, he is as steady as a fedora-wearing freight train, as evidenced by the premiere’s rollicking cold open featuring Fraymond Freddington (henceforth known as just regular Raymond Reddington) somehow pulling a bank heist on an in-progress bank heist.

Reader, I grinned throughout the entire thing. I’m still not sure what to expect from season 6, a.k.a., Lizzie vs. Red Remix Part Deux: The Sequel, Too Father Too Furious…but, this was certainly a fun way to start.

The episode opens on masked gunmen swarming a bank, only to find one of their should-be hostages refusing to get on the ground. One of them recognizes the man: “Raymond Reddington?” Indeed! It seems Red and Dembe were at this very bank on their “sixth and final scout to rob the place this Tuesday,” but these dummies decided to cut in line. And Red is not at all impressed with their gun-jumping, which includes terrifying a little girl. He asks the bank manager to retrieve safe deposit box 604 post-haste, then he tells the other bank robbers why they’re going to let him do it: “If I were you, I’d forget about the box and worry about the bank’s new metal detection system, because it was specifically designed to detect the larger kind of weaponry that marauders such as yourself tend to be enamored with.”

As a result, Red tells them, they have much less time than they planned on before the police arrive, but he can help them get out undetected…for 50 percent of the cash they’ve already collected. In the time they take to register the police sirens outside, it goes up to 55 percent.

With that deal made, they head through a tunnel in the wall, through a pub, and into a waiting garbage truck. The safe deposit box goes up front with Red and Dembe, and the cash goes in back with the bank robbers. And when a bump releases the back hatch, dumping cash into the wind, Red goes ahead and hits a lever to dump the robbers out, as well. No one has ever called Raymond Reddington a team player…

And yet, somehow, he’s still a class act. The next thing we know, he’s back in the bank, returning box 604 to a very nervous bank manager, still holding the twice-stolen—well, now thrice-stolen—and once-returned Poppy Flowers by Vincent van Gogh. Red tells the manager it’s time the painting be returned to the museum from which it was stolen, and when the manager asks him why on earth he’d rob the bank just to return what he stole, Raymond Reddington proves himself to be precisely the only Raymond Reddington we’ve ever known: “That was sort of a gift to myself. I’m turning 60 this year, and I wanted to see if I’ve still got it. Turns out—I do!”


We find Liz and her newly embraced half-sister, Jennifer, pacing around Liz’s apartment, exposition-spewing everything they’ve figured out since we left them: Raymond Reddington as they know him is an imposter who took their father’s place over 30 years ago. RRR cheated on Jennifer’s mother with Liz’s mother, Katarina Rostova. RRR stole Liz from Russia, and when Katarina found him in the States, they got into a fight, and a fire broke out. Liz got out; her father didn’t. And the only person who knew RRR died “was either there that night, or got the idea to take his place from someone who did.”

That’s when Liz shows Jennifer everything she’s collected over five years that’s connected to the fire that killed anywhere from one-to-three of her known parents. But before they can dig in, Liz’s phone rings: she has a new assignment from Reddington. When Jennifer asks how she can go on pretending, she responds, “I’ve spent the last five years learning to act at the feet of a master—it’s my turn to outperform him.” And it seems dramatic one-liners come down through the paternal line because Jennifer adds that payback is bitch… “especially when there’s two of them.”

(Recap continued on next page…)

James Spader returns as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.

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