Why The Blacklist Season Premiere Ended On That Bloody Cliffhanger, According To The Creator

tom holding liz in the blacklist season 5 premiere

Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the Season 5 premiere of The Blacklist.

The Blacklist has done a pretty great job of reinventing itself from season to season, and Season 5 aims to be a tad more lighthearted, thanks to a free-spirited Red Reddington having fun while rebuilding his empire. But the season premiere took a severely dark turn in its final minutes, when Tom Keen's big return from spinoff-land was thrown into disarray thanks to a bloody flash-forward that may or may not have shown Red shooting and killing Tom. Here's what Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp had to say about why that cliffhanger happened.

It was partly to give contrast to the lightness and the fun that Reddington's having in rebuilding his empire. The show, I hope, is more fun this year. Reddington is really having a blast. But I didn't want people to confuse that with the notion that we might somehow become a different show because we're on at a different time period. We thought, 'Why not give a taste of something that's going to come?' People can see that it's still a very strange and dark and dangerous and, at times, bloody show. We felt like that was a nice little tease of something big to come. We wanted to acknowledge to the audience that the journey Tom is starting on really puts him on a collision course with trouble.

Jon Bokenkamp has a point there. The Season 5 premiere, titled "Smokey Putnam," was a tad more romp-ish than some viewers were possibly expecting, given the super-serious way everything wrapped up at the end of Season 4. Not so light that it would have gotten accused of turning into a sitcom or anything, but still. And even though Tom's big reunion with Liz seemed like it should have been a happy experience, that's where things got darker.

For one, it quickly set things back on course for the uneasy relationship triangle between Liz, Tom and Red. Tom was just about to tell Liz about the bones in the briefcase -- a local band name if I've ever heard one -- but he stopped once he was told that Red is indeed Liz's biological father. So now we're apparently going to keep wondering about when he'll get that news out in the open. Assuming he even gets to, of course, since the episode ended with a worse-for-anyone's-wear Tom laying on his apartment floor and staring waxily at the ceiling after Red and Dembe came in and saw him, with Red shooting twice in his direction. So we don't even know if he dies, really, but it certainly looked that way.

For his interview with TVLine, Jon Bokenkamp confirmed that Tom will definitely be an important factor in this season, as his new journey will take him to some troublesome places, so we shouldn't expect him to go through that bloody ordeal too quickly. But until it happens, we're going to be wondering about the details behind his messy fate. The episode seemed to tease that Liz may be responsible for what Red and Dembe walked in on, having her playfully threaten to kill him if he ever left again. That was a little too on the nose to go unrealized, right?

We probably won't get any clear answers about that cliffhanger for a while, but hopefully they'll keep dropping clues in the weeks to come, as The Blacklist airs Wednesday nights on NBC at 8:00 p.m. ET. To see what other shows will deliver bloody messes to audiences in the near future, head to our fall TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.