The Blacklist has been circling one story for a long time: Red’s sickness, and it's hard not to wonder if fans have watched the preamble to the unthinkable of Red being killed off. Filming has been underway for a while now, and Amir Arison has teased some “major stuff” on the horizon. Could Red’s already shaky health enter a terrible downward spiral? Let's review why it's possible.
The Blacklist has been teasing a storyline around Red’s health for quite a while now, and it is all leading to something. For now, the possibilities are wide open as Season 8 beckons with the hope that an uplifting resolution is on its way. Red has goals next season, and one of them should be avoiding death. It is time to dig into if he can.
This all started two seasons ago on The Blacklist back in Season 6. Early into the season in Episode 3, it was made clear that the hour’s Blacklister, The Pharmacist, was someone that Red needed. Dembe followed up with The Pharmacist to confirm he was still working on a project that Red had him on.
It would later be revealed that The Pharmacist was working on a cure for Red for a neurological illness that is life-threatening. Red told Ressler he was dying last season, and The Blacklist saw its animated finale deal another bad blow to Red. He collapsed before being revived.
Red Has Been Sick For A While
As I mentioned, The Blacklist had been toying with Red’s illness well before he faced that near-death experience via the death penalty in Season 6. Why tease a storyline so long if the show was not planning on having it leave some sort of indelible mark on the series?
Season 8 will be the third season that Red’s mystery illness has been teased or included in the show. That is an awfully long time to draw out a storyline for any show, let alone The Blacklist. It is one thing to tease Red’s true identity never being revealed until the series finale. To tease Red’s potential death for three seasons is another.
Red Might Be Running Out Of Lives
What makes me fear that The Blacklist could be considering killing off Red in Season 8 is that it would otherwise be the second time he cheated death in a short amount of time. The cult-favorite crime drama went to extraordinary lengths to convince viewers that Red’s luck had run out when he was sentenced to death.
In a last-minute plot development, Red was rescued. It was not too long after that Red’s health crisis began to get more severe. Why develop a plot that literally leads nowhere for so long? My guess is there is a purpose to it, and while I would easily sacrifice Katarina to save Red, I am not sure The Blacklist has plans for that.
The End Of The Show Could Be Near
There are two ways this could all happen. Imagining that James Spader wants to move on after eight seasons (think Jim Parsons and The Big Bang Theory), I could see The Blacklist either ending altogether or continuing with a new Red-ish lead. On that note, Katarina has been emphasized more than expected, and that makes me nervous. Is she being primed to replace Red?
If so, I believe that is a mistake. There is only one Red, and The Blacklist’s short-lived spinoff is an indication of how special and important James Spader’s character is to anchor the series. If The Blacklist is ending with Season 8 as some fans fear, the series could be readying to end with Red’s death.
The Blacklist Creator’s Teases
The Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp said that Red’s ailment would not be “going away” in Season 8. Bokenkamp instead indicated that the show would lean more heavily into Red’s dire set of circumstances. Red told Ressler he is dying, and he had Liz picked out to take over his crime empire before her betrayal.
The fact that The Blacklist’s creator did not hint that there would be a resolution to Red’s misery is not entirely unexpected. It is better to tease that most dramatic lead-up, so fans do not feel any relief and will tune in to see if Red will survive despite the current odds.
Why Red Could Survive
Speaking of Red surviving, it is important to note why he probably will. The Blacklist killing off Red is unthinkable unless an overwhelmed James Spader wants to move on with his career. Otherwise, why get rid of an incredibly popular character that fans tune in to see?
Red’s greatest hope is that there is some sort of cure discovered by another Blacklister or by Katarina Rostova herself. Viewers have yet to even ascertain what it is he is sick with and whether it is genetic or not. With The Blacklist losing so many important stars before Season 8 began filming, I would hate to see it lose James Spader’s Red too.
The Blacklist’s executive producer has teased that Katarina has some revelations about Red ready for Season 8. Hopefully, one of them includes that she has discovered a cure for whatever ails him. The Blacklist is getting on in the years, and now is not the time to lose one of its most enduring aspects: Raymond Reddington. Yes, even if he is not really Raymond Reddington and a yet-to-be-revealed imposter.
It is worth noting that Season 8 will include the story that last season did not get a chance to tell. If there is a cure for Red nestled in there, it could happen early into the season. I do not know how much longer I can take worrying about Red’s health. Find out if he survives the upcoming season when The Blacklist returns later this month.