For those of us watching The blacklist of our banks, it’s only been four months since Elizabeth Keen was shot in the street just as she was finally getting close to legit answers about Red’s identity.
But for the characters in the NBC crime drama, it’s been two whole year since Liz died, as revealed during the Season 9 premiere. The FBI task force is gone, and Red’s whereabouts are unknown…for a few minutes, at least. Read on for the details of The blacklist‘s reset — not just via a time jump, but now without lead actress Megan Boone and series creator Jon Bokenkamp.
* First a few quick updates on where everyone stands after two years. Dembe is a special agent with the FBI (?!), and he has been working undercover for the past six months to infiltrate a dangerous crime syndicate; For now, all we (and Dembe) know about the group is that they are looking for valuable microchips and that all the men have a distinctive ‘S’ tattoo on their hands.
Early in the premiere, Dembe and his FBI partner have a meeting with members of the syndicate that goes awry, resulting in the death of Dembe’s partner, the fiery explosion of a truck carrying the stolen microchips, and third-degree burns to Dembe’s body. He ends up in the hospital and he is not doing great.
Cooper is no longer with the FBI, but he is Agnes’ guardian. A bearded and longer-haired Ressler now spends his time refurbishing old cars. aram is also away from the agency and is co-founder of a cybersecurity start-up called Flagify, which is in dire need of an angel investor. And a newly married Alina is no longer doing field work for the FBI, but is training agents in front of the field. Reddington, meanwhile, is hiding in Havana – and despite his terminal mysterious illness, he somehow survived the past two years, thanks in large part to two female shamans who protect Red’s mind and body wherever he goes.
* After the attempted theft of microchips that burned Dembe – both literally and figuratively – Dembe suspects that Red might know something about the crime syndicate in question, but he hasn’t spoken to Red in 18 months and doesn’t know how to reach him. As caretaker of Agnes, Cooper can Reach Red, and it’s up to him to try and get the band back together to thwart the microchip-hungry criminals.
* The culprit turns out to be ordinary An criminal, really: his name is The Skinner, a nickname that has been passed down for centuries to criminals who fill this role. Red happens to know the previous Skinner, but he’s hesitant to help Cooper find the current one. In the past two years, Red says, he’s learned what to hold on to and what to let go; when he comes back to help Cooper, “I’m afraid all that work will be for nothing,” he notes. “It would get very dark along the line.”
red is doing briefly returning to the United States to assist, but only to identify The Skinner. When it’s time to track him down and arrest him, Red bends over and tells Cooper that he’s recently achieved inner harmony in a monastery, but that peace is as fragile as an origami swan; if he stays here, it will be crushed. Aram and Alina, meanwhile, are easily persuaded to help Cooper in his pursuit of The Skinner (much to the chagrin of Aram’s business partner and Alina’s husband), and Ressler is harder to convince, but his love for Liz eventually drives him to the rescue.
* When Red decides to pull out of The Skinner’s pursuit, Cooper wonders if he’s doing this for his own peace of mind, or because he’s hurt that Cooper won’t let him have contact with Agnes. Red pretends the boundaries between him and Agnes don’t upset him, but one of his shamans later tells Cooper, “Keeping the girl away from him is cruel. Is that what you want? be cruel?” (Cooper is seriously considering that question.)
But even after Red loses access to the investigative expertise and information when he decides to return to Cuba, the rest of the group — Cooper, Alina, Aram, Ressler, and even Dembe — are still interested in continuing the Skinner hunt. despite their considerable scarce resources. It’s a new version of the task force, a bare-bones one, but they all seem happy to be working together again… even if Aram’s new company and Alina’s marriage are sure to suffer.
At the end of the premiere, before Red’s plane leaves for Havana, Ressler pays him a visit. Which is quite a big deal! Ressler blames Red for Liz’s death, saying he would never want to be in a room with Red again. But Ressler strongly believes that Red should turn his attention back to The Blacklist, if only so that Liz didn’t die in vain. “The Blacklist was her calling. If we loved her, it must be ours,” Ressler told Red. “That’s why I came back. As much as I hate you, I loved her more.’
Ressler exits the plane, leaving Red with a file on the current Skinner, a man named Graham Anderson. One of the shamans tells Red, “I like him. He has a good soul.” Red replies, “I believe he does. I’m less sure about mine.”