Did The Blacklist 2019 Finale Just Introduce The Real Ilya?

The Blacklist Raymond Red Reddington James Spader NBC
(Image credit: Craig Blankenhorn / NBC)

Spoilers for the Season 6 finale of The Blacklist are ahead.

The Blacklist’s Season 6 finale revealed a lot and hinted at even more. To locate Katarina, Red met with a mysterious unnamed stranger played by Brett Cullen. He and Red have known each other since childhood. There is even a childhood story to prove it. They also said they loved one another, so they are close.

Something else that came up between Red and “The Stranger” was the story Dom told Liz. The one that led Liz and viewers to believe that Red is Ilya Koslov. Flashbacks supposedly showed Ilya coming up with the imposter plan and volunteering to take Reddington’s place. Did the new bench scene confirm Ilya is not Red’s true identity? The Blacklist’s executive producer, John Eisendrath, told TVLine:

It is true in that scene that the stranger says, 'Why would Dom have chosen to tell that story?' That is an example of our signaling that there are people who wonder whether it was [a true story]. People can interpret it as either, 'Was it the right time to tell the true story?' or 'Was he choosing to tell a story that was, in fact, not true?' Your asking that question is very satisfying to me, because it makes me feel like the scene fulfilled its purpose, which was to do just that: to make people wonder whether he told the truth or whether, in fact, he did not.

In short, it is still very ambiguous. Katarina’s father seemed to believe it was the truth. He may not even know if it is or not, though. Dom could also be lying, which then opens up whether anything viewers have seen in flashbacks is legitimate. Following the introduction of Brett Cullen’s character, some Blacklist viewers think he is actually Ilya Koslov.

I have to admit that Ilya being The Stranger did not occur to me. It makes sense and it would explain why Red did not confirm he is Ilya. Remember, viewers do not know whether Ilya was the one who actually went through with the procedure. Along with those other missing pieces. There is another answer to who The Stranger may be.

Red’s conversation with The Stranger hinted they were childhood friends. What if they were more than that? What if Red is Ilya Koslov’s brother or vice versa? That would explain why they both knew Katarina. It could also clarify why The Blacklist’s creator, Jon Bokenkamp, said that Dom’s story got Liz “closer” to the truth.

What if Red is not Ilya Koslov and he is actually Ilya’s brother. Something is throwing me off from the notion Red is not Ilya. The Blacklist cast Gabriel Mann to play Ilya Koslov. Ever since seeing Mann in Legend of the Seeker, he has reminded me of James Spader.

Considering that, it makes sense for Ilya to be capable of looking like Raymond Reddington with a few plastic surgery tweaks. Could Ilya mature into Brett Cullen? It is not the biggest stretch.

That Red loves Brett Cullen’s character, and they grew up together could mean they are family. The truck story sounds a lot like one that would take place between siblings. Fans will have to see. There is something else that stood out in their scenes together.

When Red and The Stranger were talking with their backs to the camera, I could not recognize Red’s voice at first. To me, the tonality of his voice was entirely different than when he is speaking to Liz, Dembe, and others. Is his entire Raymond Reddington voice a put-on?

The flashbacks did show whoever turned into Raymond Reddington had vocal cord surgery. That could theoretically make him sound like Reddington. However, doing a good impersonation could work just as well. That Red felt comfortable enough to use his “real” voice (if that is what it was and not me mishearing) is telling. He really trusts this guy.

The Blacklist will return for Season 7, this fall on NBC. New episodes will air Fridays at 8 p.m. ET.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.