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WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the fall finale of The Blacklist. Feel free to stop reading if you haven't watched yet!
Well, never one to disappoint, The Blacklist ended its fall run tonight with two major shocks: not only has Tom Keen finally left the deceptive, espionage-filled building, but when the show picks back up in January, time will have jumped ahead by 10 months. And, while Tom's Season 5 death, at least, was teased in the season opener, now we know why it had to happen now, as well as why those behind the show felt the need to jump ahead by almost a year. Here's what executive producers John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp had to say about why Tom's death needed to happen tonight:
Eisendrath: There's not any one particular answer. Yes, he was supposed to die in the pilot. We feel like we had given the character of Tom just so many different avenues to pursue: opportunities with Liz to love, to hate, to fight, to get divorced, to annul their marriage, to get remarried. Ultimately in the end the short answer is that, when the series ends, whenever it ends, it's ultimately a parent-child story and Tom was the most important person in Liz, 'the child's' life. His passing is going to change the dynamic of who Liz is, how she behaves, and what her relationship is with Red in ways that are a huge new engine for her going forward in the show.
Bokenkamp: The "why now" is almost why you need to come back in the winter to see where the show goes. How she deals with this, how she can overcome it, how Liz tries to resist any of the dark impulses that might be within her are all important things to look at as we move ahead. It's going to be really seismic for her to grapple with. It does sort of change the show in a way. Not only because Tom is gone, but because of what it might do to Liz.
So, according to what Eisendrath and Bokenkamp told Variety, it sounds a lot like they felt they had exhausted the avenues they could take Tom, especially with respect to his relationship with Liz. Seeing as how he originally got involved with Liz simply because he was keeping an eye on her for Red, it's kind of amazing that the show was able to redeem the character and bring him around to a place where Liz and Red (basically) were able to trust him again. Now, it would seem that the most important part of his death is going to be how it changes Liz going forward.
That, of course, brings us to the even more shocking time jump that was revealed in the final moments of the episode. So, why not pick up a few days or even weeks after Tom's death? It looks like it's mostly about getting to the heart of the changed Liz we'll see when the show picks up again:
Eisendrath: We wanted to skip some of what we would have been obliged to play if we just had Liz wake up the next day in that raw state of frozen depression. What we want to play is her active, avenging desire mixed in obviously with the pain and the agony of losing the person she loves the most. We wanted to get to a place where she is moving forward and active in her search, in her hunt and in her healing.
Bokenkamp: The time jump also raises a lot of questions. What is Liz going to do, what has happened to the task force, where is Reddington? It shapes the dynamic in a really interesting way that helps us tell compelling stories.
It makes a lot of sense that when Liz wakes up from her coma and hears that Tom has been dead for 10 months, she'll jump into high gear to get revenge as soon as possible, and that will drive the rest of the season, and, possibly, seasons to come.
We can all see how Liz responds to Tom's death when The Blacklist returns to NBC on January 3. To see when all your favorites will return from hiatus and when new mid-season shows will start, be sure to check out our mid-season premiere schedule.