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The Blacklist got fans closer to the light at the end of the tunnel with the supposed reveal of Red’s identity. Liz seems to be buying it, and there are more than a few reasons to believe it. However, there are also a lot of missing pieces that make it feel a little too straightforward to be entirely convincing.
For years, viewers were led to believe that Red was Raymond Reddington, only to have it revealed that he was an imposter. Now, The Blacklist has seemingly laid out Red’s true identity. After making the assumption that Red was Raymond Reddington, and accordingly, Liz’s father, I do not want to make that mistake again.
Having poured my heart and emotional investment into believing Red was Liz's father, the imposter reveal was a real blow. However, careful mental maneuvering involving a twin theory kept it alive. That is until now. The imposter reveal has made me wary to completely believe this latest “reveal." Here are the missing pieces that viewers still need regarding Red's identity.
#1: Missing Footage
The Blacklist has a tendency to kind of let the audience make assumptions. The show is also one giant illusion, and throughout its six seasons, it has often carried itself as a beautiful magic trick. It keeps you looking one way when all of the real action is happening elsewhere.
This is accomplished through diversions. The Blacklist goes out of its way to introduce Ilya and show him pitching his imposter plan to Katarina. Then it goes out of its way to avoid showing us the big moments that make that plan come together. Ilya going under anesthesia and Katarina watching from behind the plastic partition were not shown on-screen. Those would be critical moments of definitive confirmation.
Instead, The Blacklist jumped forward in time and was careful not to show a forward-facing glance of a post-surgery Ilya. That does not mean it was not Ilya. Careful scrutiny indicates it is actor Gabriel Mann. However, why take viewers away from the stage? To avoid having to show what might have been a tricky special makeup effect? That could be the reason. Or something else.
#2: The Moment Of Truth
Liz’s excitement over sharing her revelation took her on a trip halfway around the world, as she tells Red towards the end of the latest episode. At first, met with the usual pleasantries, Red’s mood soon turns severe. Liz is so busy being exciting over her discovery that she does not seem to notice.
Red is not amused at all by what Liz tells him. Nor does he confirm it. More on that in a minute. Instead, he acts hurt that Liz will not let it go. After hearing Liz out, Red travels halfway back around the world to where Liz had come from. He wants answers from Dom.
Red’s anxiety over the reveal seems to indicate he has something to be anxious about. If Liz is onto another “Red” herring, why get so upset? Then again, if she has taken some micro step forward, she is closer to a truth he obviously wants to remain hidden.
On Dom’s end, he believes everything is out in the open, and he does not seem to know more than he told Liz. For Dom, this was the entire truth. That does not mean it necessarily has to be viewers' from here on out.
#3: Red Did Not Confirm It
This is the most curious part of everything. If Liz has Red’s number, why not admit it? Then again, he never really confirmed he is an imposter when Liz told him she knew that. The Blacklist has undoubtedly confirmed that much is true.
What you see and what you are told on The Blacklist are often not the same things. However, Red as an imposter is one fact you can count on. Red confirmed to Dembe that Liz knew the truth about his being an imposter earlier in the season. So, he is one.
Due to the breakdown in Dembe and Red’s relationship, The Blacklist has created an opening moving forward. Red does not have Dembe to talk to and accordingly share insight with the audience about his truths. He conveniently stepped around such a reveal with Dom. Whether Liz's grandfather knows everything is still open to debate.
Dembe absolutely does know everything, and he would be the one that Red would talk to about Liz’s Ilya reveal. Dembe’s newfound absence makes an on-screen confirmation unlikely. Is that why things are playing out this way between him and Red? Maybe.
#4: Ilya Came Out Of Nowhere
For viewers playing along, there was no real way for them to guess that Ilya Koslov was “Red.” There were clues as to his relationship with Katarina and how a guy such as him could exist. However, the name Ilya Koslov is foreign, at least to this fan.
Never heard of the man until last Friday’s episode! Of course, there was no real reason for his name to come up. Red/Ilya may have wiped every mention of him from existence after becoming Raymond Reddington. If there is a record of Ilya Koslov, there are parents for people to find and ask about.
Red should not want people digging around in Ilya’s past. As soon as they start doing that, they will start asking questions about where he is, when he disappeared, etc. Katarina going off the grid should have made curious minds investigate her friends in the United States. Hence, Ilya should have been their first stop for answers.
No Ilya, no ability to follow up on that lead. Is that why Ilya’s name never came up? Clearly, Ilya does matter. Red has been careful about discussing Katarina’s life. Him failing to mention Ilya after all of this time is telling. If he did not matter, there would be no reason to be so secretive.
#5: Liz Has A Lot Left To Confirm
Perhaps Liz thinks that Red already wiped Ilya from history. She did say she still has a lot of questions. If Ilya Koslov is still in the record books, there is a lot left for Liz to investigate. If she has paid close attention to Red’s stories about his childhood, there may be clues.
This is Liz we are talking about, and she is not going to leave it at Red being Ilya and go home. She will want to know how he met her mother, what he did for a living before becoming Raymond Reddington, if he ever visited his parents after disappearing into Reddington’s skin, etc. You get the idea.
Maybe Liz's persistence is why Red is so upset about what Liz has discovered so far. She is putting Katarina and his fellow Koslovs in jeopardy of being located.
Ilya seemed to be a caring man, devoid of the somewhat incredulous nature that Red sometimes expresses. That does not mean he has stopped caring about his family. The scenes leading up to his almost-execution proved that.
#6: Red’s Determination To Keep His Identity A Secret
Why did Red need to work so hard to keep his “true” identity as Ilya a secret from Liz? Was it to protect her from getting closer to finding her mother? Red once told Liz he would not lie to her and yet, he has lied by omission.
Her mother is not dead, and whether he is Ilya or not, he knows that. She did “die,” and Ilya believed that for a time. He ended up learning the truth though. Hence, his telling Liz that she was dead is a lie, as is his claim to be Raymond Reddington. In Red’s world, the truth seems to be slightly relative.
Why he has been so territorial about his true identity is the question. It is so bizarre that he has had to be so protective of this secret. Maybe it was to protect his family. Did Ilya have siblings? Do they have children? Perhaps he did it to protect them. Every piece of thread that Liz pulls out impacts more than just her.
Dembe did tell Red on multiple occasions to come clean with Liz. If Dembe thinks it is safe enough to reveal it to her, then it is. Red’s resistance to doing so is just odd.
#7: Why Ilya Remained Raymond Reddington
Liz wondered this aloud to Red. She could not figure it out. If you believe that Katarina is still alive then his motivation makes sense. As long as she is alive, there will always be people hunting her. Does that sound familiar? Samar dealt with the same thing this season and Red was not happy about what happened to her.
Ilya became Raymond Reddington to protect Katarina. Therefore, he will never be able to stop being him. That Ilya is still Red provides confirmation that she is alive. Why else remain Reddington? Ilya told Katarina he was doing it protect her.
He did stand to gain all of Raymond Reddington’s assets along with that benefit. Wanting to become the "Concierge of Crime" to maintain all of that was arguably not worth the cost. Ilya may not have fully realized what he was getting into, which would explain his present-day demeanor.
Ilya and Red’s personalities are different. Ilya did go from working in a cubicle to running a global crime empire. That is going to have some effects on the psyche. Earlier in the season, Red’s psychological examination did indicate he was a good person at heart. That fits with Ilya.
Will we learn the answer to all of these missing pieces by the end of Season 6? Hopefully. Confirming that Ilya is Red by resolving these missing puzzle pieces keeps a lot of the mystery alive. Closing the case on Red’s identity only opens the door to Ilya’s. Narratively speaking, there is nothing to lose in confirming it, if it is the truth.
Find out if these missing pieces come into place as Season 6 continues. New episodes of The Blacklist air Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.