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How The Blacklist Finally Filled In Some Emotional Blanks About Liz Keen's Death

the blacklist season 8 megan boone liz keen
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the midseason premiere of The Blacklist Season 9, called “Between Sleep and Awake.”

The Blacklist returned in 2022 with an episode that didn’t actually involve the task force going after another blacklister, but instead focused on telling Ressler’s story as it unfolded over the time jump. It was clear in the premiere that he hadn’t coped well with Liz’s death, considering that he’d left pretty much everything behind to become a mechanic, and “Between Sleep and Awake” filled in some blanks about what happened immediately after the credits rolled on Liz’s death back in 2021. 

The midseason premiere featured a flashback that picked up right where the Season 8 finale left off: with Dembe hustling Red away from Liz’s body and Ressler arriving on the scene, already distraught at finding the woman he loved dead. Now, The Blacklist revealed that Ressler didn’t just stay with Liz’s body after finding her, but took off running after Red, even commandeering a civilian’s car to continue the chase. Very unfortunately, he was under the influence at the time and caused a car crash that seriously injured both himself and another woman, with Dembe and Red getting cleanly away. 

Ressler’s car crash showed how it was a new set of injuries that knocked him off the wagon, and he wasn’t struggling with his drug addiction again from the emotional pain alone. He also left his life behind rather than face a disciplinary hearing from the FBI and took off on a journey that involved drug-seeking behavior, falling into a small town life when strapped for cash, and ultimately saving a woman and her son from her abusive husband. 

That journey ended, as fans saw with the first episode of Season 9, with him as a bearded mechanic who needed to be talked into returning and rejoining the task force. The episode finally caught up with the present with a clean-shaven Ressler talking to Liz at her gravesite, with Diego Klattenhoff turning in a masterful performance with his emotional monologue, which helpfully summarized everything that happened since Liz’s death, saying:

And Dembe’s an agent. Aram walked away from a tech fortune. Reddington shaved his head, and his new lover’s a shaman. Park had a cancer scare because I borrowed her urine for a drug test and it came back with elevated hormone levels. But I passed and got reinstated even though my old issue with the pain meds is back for an encore performance after I punctured this and broke that in a car crash while I was trying to chase down and kill Reddington right after you died. So I’m working with him again. We all are. Because we think it’s what you’d want. FYI, he’s just as insufferable as ever, so if it’s not what you want, please, you feel free to tell me, and I’ll happily go back to being a mechanic.

It’s probably safe to say that Ressler won’t be going back to his life as a mechanic any time soon, although I’m ready for him to catch a break after he tearfully told Liz that he's happy she’s with Tom, even though he hated Tom, because he wouldn’t want her to be alone. He did seem to get some degree of catharsis, if not closure just yet, so hopefully things will start looking a little brighter for him moving forward. 

Season 9 has had to roll with a lot of changes, both in front of the camera with Megan Boone’s absence and behind-the-scenes after the departure of show creator Jon Bokenkamp. It hasn’t thrived in the ratings in its Thursday night time slot, but will move back to Fridays in February. For now, you can find new episodes of The Blacklist on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET, ahead of Law & Order: SVU at 9 p.m. ET and Law & Order: Organized Crime at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.