Spoilers below for the latest episodes of The Blacklist, so be sure to catch up before reading on!
For five seasons, The Blacklist had viewers operating under the assertion that the man known as Red was Raymond Reddington. That all changed when the Season 5 finale revealed he was an imposter. Ever since learning that explosive truth, Liz has been on a hunt for answers. As of the latest episode, she seemed to find them.
Liz’s grandfather, Dom, revealed that her mother’s long-time friend, Ilya Koslov, assumed Raymond Reddington’s identity. In a flashback sequence, The Blacklist showed Ilya formulating the plan and then proposing it Katarina. Ilya felt it was the only way to keep her safe and out of the hands of her enemies.
Following The Blacklist’s reveal, it only seems right to examine the clues that support the contention. This is why I can believe that Ilya is Red.
What We Know
Ilya Koslov and Katarina Rostova pledged their lives to each other…when they were six. Hence, Ilya knew her for a long time. It is not entirely clear, but he apparently grew up in the United States. Red’s stories have hinted that he did as well.
After faking her death, Katarina reached out to Ilya to help her and her parents get new identities. He came to her aid and proceeded to do so. He even liquidated his assets to give Katarina’s mom hard cash to make her escape. That is Red-level devotion.
Ilya traveled with Katarina to Moscow where she went to help her dad, Dom, escape the country. While at her father’s home, her enemies found her and her father.
From the shadows, Ilya emerged, saving Katarina and her father from certain death by shooting their would-be executioners. Ilya shared some words with Dom, which indicated they went way back. From there, Ilya and Katarina parted ways with her father and stayed in a hotel room.
It was in that hotel, the plan to assume Raymond Reddington’s identity was born. Ilya pitched it to Katarina, who agreed it would work. From there, they shared a kiss while lying down on a bed together (on top of the covers).
The next bit was a montage that showed what carefully scrutinized footage indicates is Gabriel Mann’s Ilya on the operating table. From there, Mann’s Ilya (now Red) also traverses to various banks. Before it is all over, he can be heard speaking with Red’s voice.
Clue #1: Red told Liz he was not her father
While I always wanted to believe he was, Red had told Liz he was not her dad when asked point-blank eons ago. If Red is Ilya that holds true. Katarina did make Ilya promise something significant when they were laying together. She told him to take care of Masha (Liz) as if she was his own. Without hesitation, Ilya agreed.
Based on the way Red has treated Liz this all fits. It also flows with what viewers saw in the episode before Red’s identity got revealed. Red was struggling with whether to punish Liz or not, which is something her father would not have a second thought about.
Of course, there was an intriguing symmetry to Dom and Red’s predicament in the second episode. In the first half, Dom reminded him that Liz is different from other traitors, and it was clear Red could never go through with it. She is his beloved Katarina’s daughter, after all.
Clue #2: Ilya was at the fire
One of the first big clues about Red and his connection to Liz came many seasons ago. It was revealed that Red had burn scars on his back. That put Red in the house during the fire that erupted when Masha/Liz shot and killed Raymond Reddington when she was a child.
At one point in the latest Blacklist episode, Katarina and Ilya discussed pulling Raymond from the fire to try to save his life. They revealed that their efforts failed, and Katarina questioned whether the firefighters would have had better luck. The point is, that it puts Ilya at the scene of the fire. As well as saving Raymond Reddington from the burning house.
It stands to reason that Ilya sustained the scars later seen on Red’s back while doing that, even though Ilya did not say anything to hint that he suffered any burns. It is not as if Red has brought his up either. Based on the evidence, Ilya would probably have burn scars and thus, Red’s also exist. This backs up them being one and the same.
Clue #3: Red’s confrontation with Dom
At the end of the episode, Red went off to talk with Dom. He asked Dom what he was thinking, to which Liz’s grandfather replied that Red was the “architect of this charade.” Dom went on to blame Red for costing him Katarina and Liz. All of which fits with Red being Ilya.
He eventually told Red that Liz was going to “find out sooner or later.” That is when it happened. Red responded “I know the broad strokes. I know who I am.” Did he confirm that he is Ilya? It sure seems like it. Did he mean that he already knew the “broad strokes” about being Ilya?
Red followed up that he needed to know the specifics of what Dom had “thrown out there into the ether.” Dom told Red that he deserved words of thanks for putting “all of this behind” Red, indicating the end of Red having to pretend he is not Ilya.
Red said that he believes Dom made things worse. These highlights from their exchange are essential in building the case for Red actually being Ilya. Red is not denying he is Ilya and he almost seems to confirm it.
It seems like Ilya was entirely motivated to shield Katarina. Hence, Red’s comment, which indicates that Liz’s activities could have potentially put her mother at risk of being discovered. Also, worth noting is the name “Ilya” does not get said by either of them. That makes sense if Ilya is in the room.
Ilya has the motive and the ability to follow through. He would want to protect Katarina, and given how much loyalty means to Red, it makes sense that he devised this plan. That’s not all.
When Katarina and her father were facing death, a gunshot rang out. It was Ilya shooting from the shadows. At one point, one of the gunmen begged for Ilya to wait. He did not. Sound familiar? Total Red move.
In fact, there were more moves than you have noticed at first glance. Red’s romantic wistfulness for Katarina also fits with him being Ilya, who was shown to have feelings for her.
At one point, Ilya goes in for a kiss only to have Katarina walk away. Red has always acted like there was some sort of gap between him and Katarina. Unrequited would fit the bill.
It also appears that Red may be wearing Ilya’s watch. Note the red arrow above it. It looks mighty similar and Red is never without it. On a performance level, Gabriel Mann incorporated some of James Spader’s mannerisms into his portrayal of Ilya that accented the comparisons.
Red has hinted at a U.S. upbringing as well as demonstrating tremendous knowledge of Russia. Ilya is clearly no stranger to Russia, and there is a hint he grew up in the United States. Did he grow up as part of a KGB cell like on The Americans? That is possible.
Red being Ilya answers a lot of questions and begs a lot more. As it stands, there are still quite a few scattered pieces that need explanation. The Blacklist opened a whole new mystery and it did so for a purpose. Who is/was Ilya Koslov?
The Blacklist’s creator has hinted that all of the answers regarding Red will not be known until the show is over. Red is someone that viewers know little to nothing about, and that extends that mystery. If the suggestion of Ilya as Red is legitimate, revealing this info opens the door to a story that should last for a long time to come.
Stay tuned to find out if viewers get more clues about Ilya being Red. The Blacklist continues Season 6 with new episodes airing Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.