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The Blacklist went through a lot in the lead-up to the unintended Season 7 finale, which cleverly used some striking animation to finish the year off. According to The Blacklist’s creator and showrunner Jon Bokenkamp, he didn't exactly nail it when he originally came up with his idea for how to conclude the seventh season after the industry-wide shutdown went into effect.
Thankfully for the NBC series, the cast and crew were halfway through filming Episode 19 before they had to stop. While that episode was never intended to end Season 7, which had three more to go, it necessarily had to be the one to send things off to Season 8. As The Blacklist’s showrunner explained it during the show's [email protected] panel, the idea to animate the remaining portions only came after he first came up with his self-described "bad idea."
My first bad idea was when we were talking about, how do we fill in the gaps? We were talking about the comic books...and I remember thinking, John [Eisendrath], I have comics in my office there. You're near Paramount. Maybe you could go in and pick up the comics and we could send him to somebody with a camera and they could point the camera at the comics. And when we hear Red talking, we would see Red's picture. When we hear Ressler talking, we'd see Ressler's picture, and we'd steal images from these. And we sat on that for a little bit and ultimately John was like, ‘Why don't we just animate what we don't have and finish it?’ which would also allow us to sort of rewrite the scenes, you know, that weren't shot yet. We had a little bit of liberty to make adjustments in the stuff that wasn't yet filmed.
It is wonderful for The Blacklist that the brainstorming process didn't end there for the Season 7 finale. Instead, Jon Bokenkamp and his fellow executive producer John Eisendrath found a cohesive way to bring full-on animation in with the live-action without fully relying on the comic book gimmick set to voiceover. To me, the solution that came up with was positively brilliant, while also allowing them to reshape the story to tie in with the changes.
The animation team at Proof, which worked on Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hunger Games, got on-board to pull off the extremely ambitious finale. At first, The Blacklist EP John Eisendrath got why the animation idea in general might not have been the best, at least until the finished product undoubtedly changed everyone's minds. On his skepticism over animating the finale, Eisendrath said:
And you know, to be fair, it is a terrible idea. To just take half of an episode and just animate it randomly with no narrative reason. At first blush, it looks good now looking backward, maybe, but it was not a great idea. But it was an idea, born out of desperation and maybe that's where some of the good ideas come from.
What is the adage? “Necessity is the mother of invention.” That has proven entirely true with The Blacklist as it approached it Season 7 finale. When you think of everything that the animation team went through to get the NBC series to its ender, it is pretty remarkable. As you can tell from the statements before and during the 2020 [email protected], it was quite an evolution.
The Blacklist managed to pull off a feat that gave it the season finale it would otherwise not have had. In doing so, it had to rev up Liz’s decision to side with Katarina over Red in the family battle that saw battle lines drawn. I'm sure no one could have envisioned that final moment playing out with Liz in animated form, but so be it.
To the animators and producers' massive credit, the change-up managed not to take away anything from the game-changing moment. It was a defining development for The Blacklist. So, if the animation had been anything less than as excellent as it was, it would have been tremendously distractive. Congrats to Proof for pulling it off!
The Blacklist is coming back for its eighth season on NBC, probably without animation, but who knows? Stay tuned to see if Season 8 manages to be one of this fall’s premieres. While you wait for Season 8 to arrive, you can check out past seasons of the crime drama on Netflix, along with lots of 2020 arrivals.