The Blacklist Review: A Father Revealed

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The Blacklist took the prize for the most incredible episode opening of the season.

It went from a loving, peaceful scene of a father and son tossing a football to a smoking shoe, a scorched body buckled into a seat, and then pieces of a plane falling on them from the sky. The desperate look on the father's face as he carried his son and tried to outrun the crush of an airliner was heartbreaking to watch.

That was just the beginning of the deaths and destruction caused by the radical political group, General Ludd, in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 8.

There is no shortage of television shows about law enforcement investigating and tracking down criminals. For the most part The Blacklist has been able to differentiate itself from the others by approaching the criminal from a different angle or with a unique crime or motive.

Financial Ruin

The case of General Ludd felt fresh though grounded in political extremist beliefs that hold true in our society. Bradley Holland, a.k.a. Nathaniel Wolff, a.k.a. Arthur Denning, used death, terror, and theft not for the purpose of creating fear in the society, but to hurt corporations and ultimately cause financial ruin.

Justin Kirk was superb as the crazy radical. It was a pleasant surprise to see him in a role so opposite that of Andy Botwin from Weeds. Even when the hedge fund manager was poking at General Ludd and the principles that the group believed in, Holland kept his cool and carried out his destructive plan. The man would die in time.

The FBI wouldn't have been able to capture and stop General Ludd's activities nearly as fast without Red's help, though it came at a cost.

I love The Blacklist and it's definitely one of my favorite shows on television right now, but it does call for some suspension of disbelief while watching. Raymond "Red" Reddington has been an effective asset for the FBI. He's helped solved cases and saved lives, but it comes at a great cost.

Red has killed people under the FBI's purview and he continues his criminal activities without any oversight. The FBI allows him complete freedom of movement and crime, while helping them out as he wants. The FBI is not in control of the arrangement, Red is and that became a problem in this case.

Red wouldn't provide any information on the case unless he got something in return. And, what he wanted was access to a classified FBI database, ViCAP, Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. The FBI should be in control of their arrangement. If Red wants his freedom, he should comply with requests to help with cases. If he won't assist them as requested, they should lock him up.

Mini-rant over. Of course, if that was the set-up the show wouldn't be nearly as compelling. Though, I wish the control in the relationship between Red and the FBI wasn't nearly as lopsided. The FBI should maintain some sort of leverage over Red. And, perhaps, as Liz learns more about him, she will be able to start wielding some control of her own.

The General Ludd case was adequately interesting, but the real platinum of the episode came in the clues about the overarching mysteries regarding Red and Liz. Several previous clues were partially paid off and combined they are beginning to form a clearer picture.

What did we learn? Liz was adopted when she was four by a single man, Sam. He loved her dearly and raised her to be the strong woman that she's become. Sam and Red have known each other for years. Liz knows that she's adopted, but there's more to her past. and Sam wanted to reveal that "truth" to Liz. Red was adamant that she never know and ended Sam's life prematurely to protect the secret.

The connection between Sam and Red wasn't revealed, but they clearly cared about each other. When Red killed Sam, he showed a sadness that he hasn't previously demonstrated. If Sam wasn't already sick and hadn't commented how he wished he had only hours instead of weeks left to live, I'm not sure if Red could have killed his friend. Or, it wouldn't have been as easy a decision.

In The Blacklist season 1 episode 3, Red told Liz that he picked her "Because of your father." And, now that makes a bit more sense at least to viewers. Liz  remains completely in the dark that Red knew her father, visited or killed him. And, she will probably never find out. Or, at least not for a long time.

The trip to the hospital also revealed that Tom doesn't know Red. Or, at least, if we are supposed to take their meeting at face value they don't know each other. That's definitely questionable. Red's comments like, "He will always be there," were creepy. And, even more so if Red was a stranger to Tom. 

While finding out more about Liz's family history was informative, I was more intrigued by Red's search in ViCAP. There's been speculation by some that the girl in the picture he took from the Stewmaker and the vision of the girl in the yard could have been Liz. I don't see how that's possible though.

Since the picture was in the Stewmaker's book, that girl is most likely dead, unless she was rescued at the last moment. If she's alive, why would she be in his trophy book. But, the girl playing in the yard is someone dear to him. She could be the Stewmaker's victim. Or, she could be the girl he looked up in the system. Or, maybe that girl was Liz.

When Red helped the FBI bring down Wujing, Red received six digits as his payment, 042983. Those were the same digits that he entered to gain access to the girl's file. He was biding his time until the perfect moment to force the FBI to give him access to that system. It's just another move in his big plan.

Back in The Blacklist season 1 episode 5, Red said, "I'm betting on the long plan. The future." This was just another example of how much that is true. Does he care about Liz? I believe he does. Is he using her as a pawn in a grander plan? Absolutely. And, each week I'm riveted by the small little morsels that are doled out.

Is the 30-year old woman, 042983, Red's daughter? Is the truth behind Red and Liz's relationship that destructive that it should be kept a secret? And did Tom know who Red was when they chatted at the hospital?


Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (92 Votes)

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


The show is getting to violent and is beginning to lose
viewers. I know at least 8 people who loved the show
who are no longer going to watch it

@ Eileen Kennedy

Ridiculous comment. It's been violent & disturbing from the premiere episode! That's why it's a hit...because it's similar to the shows found on a cable or pay tv. I get that it isn't people's cup of tea. But, come on...equally disturbing situations are found all the time on LAW & ORDER: SVU, CRIMINAL MINDS, BONES or ELEMENTARY.


The FBI having influence over Red wouldn't make any sense. He represents more dangerous power than them, and the knowledge to save lives and stop disasters they have no means to stop. ... Although not quite so extreme, its like when the US interferes in other sovereign countries from outside of their laws. It doesn't matter that its not working within their laws because the power it represents is greater than the power that maintains those laws - and so the other system naturally folds. Law enforcement is just a system people have created - there are always people who have more power.


I believe that Red is Liz's father. I believe that prior to disappearing 20 years ago, when she was 4, he worked for the government as a spy or something and the government turned on him in that they had his wife killed (Stewmaker's photo of woman Red took). I think the wife is Liz's mother. I think the set of photo is not unlike how Liz looked in the chair as she was leaned over slightly and looking up. I think Red started selling out the government after the betrayal. Once he lost his wife, found good care for Liz, he disappeared. It was only when he found that Liz had gone into the FBI did he decide to turn up and help her, while helping himself. There is a definite reason Red is suspicious of Tom, but I don't understand what it is yet. A school teacher could be a very good cover for an agent of some kind.

@ Smags

That's a good theory, but in tonight's episode 11/25, we learn that Liz's mother probably died in a fire, which is not how the stew maker gets rid of his victims.

@ Smags

Couldn't agree more to what you wrote, for it would make perfect sense.


anyone notice the plot flip of oliver stones wall street (spader had a role).
airline ruined by corporate raider?


the girl in the ViCAP system and in the stewmakers book seems the same person. the girl would have been 7 when Reddington disappeared.
When he busted up the wall in that house. the age of his daughter was 3 when he last measured her and Lizzie's father disappaered when she was around that age then her mum died. The girl killed by the stewmaker is related to Liz

@ Qari

Lucy Brooks (ViCAP girl) and the girl in the stewmaker's book can't be the same, because the photo is a trophy of bodies he has disappeared. She also can't be Red's daughter because, as you noted she would have been seven when Red disappeared, and Red's daughter would have been between 3 and 4 years old.

@ Jane

Red had 3 daughters. He makes personal comments to Liz all the time. You think she would do her research into his family & make a few back so she could gain some control & leverage in this relationship. It's not rocket science. It's self-defense against a known criminal. I'd expect Jane Alexander to do it.


As @Nisan mentioned before that the fbi would know if Red was lizzy's father or not...i dont think so. Why would they request a dna? Red is a man who helps people disappear and find new identities, he knows about criminals and terrorist the FBI doesnt even know exist! So faking a few documents and covering his tracks in a few databases seem pretty simple to me...the FBI are really clueless sometimes.

@ pixiez

The FBI vets its employees EXTREMELY well. At least, the real FBI does because of the nature of their work. They would have done a DNA profile of Liz in her basic application to the Bureau. Being adopted would have made that issue more important to them since she would be unaware of her "real" origins. That would have flagged a match with her "father's" DNA if he had been in the military, which Red was; especially if he then became a criminal in the Most Wanted database. You're right that Red can make people disappear. But, if he can manipulate a criminal database so easily, why does he need to ask for access to it from the AD? Entertaining show. But, sometimes the easiest pieces don't add up.


As @Nisan mentioned before that the fbi would know if Red was lizzy's father or not...i dont think so. Why would they request a dna? Red is a man who helps people disappear and find new identities, he knows about criminals and terrorist the FBI doesnt even know exist! So faking a few documents and covering his tracks in a few databases seem pretty simple to me...the FBI are really clueless sometimes.


As @Nisan mentioned before that the fbi would know if Red was lizzy's father or not...i dont think so. Why would they request a dna? Red is a man who helps people disappear and find new identities, he knows about criminals and terrorist the FBI doesnt even know exist! So faking a few documents and covering his tracks in a few databases seem pretty simple to me...the FBI are really clueless sometimes.


042983 is actually Megan Boone's real birthday April, 29 1983.
The picture of the girl in 'The Stewmaker" was Reddington's wife (Lizzie's mom). (This according to the cataloged year of 1990 in the Stewmaker's book).
The picture in the VICAP file could be Lizzie's unknown older sister(?) who was born in 1983.
Just my observations.

@ Herk1

I think the number matching Megan's birthday is a joke by the writers about all the math fans are doing, trying to determine whether or not Liz could be Red's daughter. They girl in the photo looks too young to be anyone's wife, I'd guess between 10 and 14. She did die when Red disappeared, but she looks too old to be his daughter, who based on the wall markings would have been between 3 and 4 years old. My best guess is that she is Sam's biological daughter. I think Sam and Red's families were spending Christmas together and they were attacked by The Adversary.


Two things come to mind, though, after reading your thoughts: Red doesn't have power over the FBI, he has it over Harold Cooper--something happened in Kuwait that Red can threaten Harold with...Whatever it was made Harold allow Keen to work on a case even when her husband was under suspicion...and I believe that is, ultimately, why he allowed Red to use ViCAP. From The Watchers we learned that Tom didn't work for Reddington, and they didn't know who he DID work for...If he's JUST a school teacher then they would know...and Red has all along demonstrated that HE knows Tom--and probably what he's into...Maybe someone Tom's connected to OR TOM HIMSELF tried to use Red's services. Red has demonstrated that he does NOT engage in criminal activities with everyone. Some criminals are just TOO criminal for him (remember the Freelancer epi?). And here's another postulation: Red had three daughters (he raised his family in that house.) Whatever and WHOever caused Red to miss that Christmas in 1990 also did something to his family--one daughter was killed (a la stewmaker), one was kidnapped and finally started to identify with the kidnappers (molly, aka karen, aka other names) and one escaped and was hidden through adoption.

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The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 8 Quotes

Did you hear me? I said I need his new name. Give it to me or I'll have the Miami Field Office tear your practice apart faster than you can say tummy tuck.


Then you'll just have to find another criminal to talk to Elizabeth Keen and make fun of Ressler.