The Blacklist: 6 Clues We've Had About Red's True Identity

The Blacklist James Spader Raymond Red Reddington NBC
(Image credit: Patrick Ecclesine / NBC)

The Blacklist has provided viewers with more clues than they may realize about Red’s true identity, and it is time to get into many of them. First, a brief recap - SPOILERS ahead if you're not caught up on The Blacklist

Back in Season 5, The Blacklist dropped the father of all bombshells when it was revealed that Red is actually an imposter. In other words, he is not Raymond Reddington.

That is the identity that the entire world and most people (except for a select few) know him as. Liz thought she had found out who Red really is, back in Season 6. Not so fast. The Blacklist has been guarding the secret of Red’s true identity with tremendous diligence, and only a few clues have seeped out through the years.

Now it is time to take a trip back and assess the clues that The Blacklist has provided as fans anxiously await Season 8. There are probably more hints than you may think, including some things you might have forgotten. It has been a wild seven seasons (and counting). Time to dig into it!

The Blacklist Raymond Red Reddington James Spader NBC

(Image credit: Virginia Sherwood / NBC)

Red Is Probably Russian

Events spiraled greatly out of control when Red nearly got executed on The Blacklist in Season 6, Episode 11 (“Bastien Moreau”). Red’s sentence went so far as to reach the “last meal” portion. What Red ordered in his mother's specialty (cabbage soup and dressed herring) is a possible clue about his true identity. The Russian meal indicates that Red is of Russian-descent. Could Red have been born in Russia?

Red could have become a naturalized citizen before he took over Raymond Reddington’s identity. However, there are subtle clues that he did not. Red often refers to his citizenship in a non-possessive way that indicates he does not consider himself a U.S. citizen. Whether or not Red was born in Russia, he was raised in the United States. That being said, his being Russian would explain his connection to Katarina.

The Blacklist James Spader Raymond Red Reddington NBC

(Image credit: Virginia Sherwood / NBC)

Red Had A Caring Mother (and Father?)

Red has mused a lot about his parents. Or at least, it feels like he has. When it comes to his mother, he has had some positive things to say, while sharing fewer good things about his dad. The Blacklist sort of changed that in Season 7. Red shared a story in Season 7, Episode 12 (“Cornelius Ruck”) about his dad teaching him about insects.

It was a pretty sweet thing to hear, which indicates Red’s parents are a pretty significant clue to his true identity. After all, they are his parents. If they are alive, Red has resisted visiting them in their later years. If they are deceased, why has Red never visited their graves? Or revealed their names (to my knowledge)? Maybe, they are the same as Raymond Reddington’s. Either way, he was not an orphan. Red knew them.

The Blacklist James Spader Raymond Red Reddington NBC

(Image credit: Virginia Sherwood / NBC)

Red Grew Up In Michigan

As Red’s timeline reveals, he spent some of his youth in Michigan. Red has shared these stories with Liz. If he thought that would have thrown up a “red” flag regarding his true identity, I doubt he would have shared that earlier on The Blacklist. The real Raymond Reddington must have spent time in Michigan too. Otherwise, his cover would have gotten blown sooner.

Assuming the real Reddington did not visit Michigan and Red is from there, Liz should be able to cross-reference Michigan’s records to find him. Red mentioned installing carpets when he was 15 at Lake Charlevoix (Season 2, Episode 3 “Dr. James Covington”) and working the Emmet County fair (Season 5, Episode 1 “Smokey Putnum”). That should narrow Liz’s search quite a bit. That is if Red was telling the truth about those jobs.

The Blacklist Raymond Red Reddington James Spader

(Image credit: Will Hart / NBC)

Red Has A (Huge) Soft Spot For Liz

Red has cut Liz a lot of breaks. I mean a lot of them. She turned him in and almost got Red executed, and while he struggled to do it, he eventually forgave her (Season 6, Episode 20 “Guillermo Rizal”). The Blacklist has seen these two go to battle many times, and Red always maintains his soft spot for Liz. A trend that might change as Liz has chosen to side with her mother over Red in their war.

Whatever the case, Red revealed that he gave up a life with his possibly one true love to help Liz before The Blacklist began. In related news, Red does not care for Liz because she is the daughter of his best friend forever, Katarina. There is some other reason, and that could be the most massive clue in uncovering Red’s real identity.

The Blacklist James Spader Raymond Red Reddington Brett Cullen Ilya Koslov NBC

(Image credit: Will Hart / NBC)

Ilya Koslov Is Red’s Best Friend, Not Red

Red and Ilya Koslov go way back, but it is not because they once shared the same face. Yes, Red is not Ilya Koslov despite that incredible (faux) backstory that Dom provided to Liz. In Season 7, Episode 7 (“Hannah Hayes”) it was revealed that Ilya is not Red. Ilya is his best friend, though, and he was willing to endure a lot to protect Red at the hands of Katarina in Season 7, Episode 8 (“The Hawaladar”).

That Ilya knows who Red is and Katarina does not is another sizable clue when it comes to Red’s identity. Whoever he is, he trusted Ilya and not Katarina with the truth. That could mean that Red did not take over Reddington’s identity for Katarina, but Liz. Who would do that? Reddington’s twin brother? It would explain the Liz angle and how Katarina would be in the dark.

The Blacklist Katarina Rostova Laila Robins NBC

(Image credit: Will Hart / NBC)

Katarina Has No Idea Who He Is

In one of the more shocking reveals, Katarina indicated she had no idea who had assumed the identity of her former lover, Raymond Reddington, in Season 7, Episode 9 (“The Orion Relocation Services”). She set out to change that in a significant way during Season 7, kidnapping, torturing and threatening to kill people to get the answers.

Katarina being in the dark, means that whoever Red is, he did not trust her. He must have been pretty up-close-and-personal enough at one point to make that call. Does Red know that she is the real villain of The Blacklist, the way that I suspect that she is? Maybe. Either way, Red is not a part of Katarina’s life the way that viewers once thought, and that is a pretty telling clue.

The biggest clue for me regarding Red’s true identity is how much of a priority Liz is to him. It makes zero sense for the “Concierge of Crime” to put up with everything Liz has done and put him through on The Blacklist. For years, I thought it had to do with Red being Liz’s father.

Let's face it. Red possibly being related to her on some level is one of the few things that make sense. The potential of that puts Red within striking distance of Liz’s family tree, and if it is true, it would be a pretty seismic clue.

The Blacklist is coming back for its eighth season on NBC. It will be interesting to see if it manages to be one of this fall’s premieres. Until then, you can check out past seasons of the crime drama on Netflix, along with lots of 2020 arrivals.

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.