How The Blacklist Honored Megan Boone's Liz Keen In The Season 9 Premiere Reboot

james spader as red the blacklist season 9 premiere
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 9 premiere of The Blacklist on NBC, called “The Skinner.”

The Season 8 finale of The Blacklist was the end of an era, with the departure of not only leading lady Megan Boone when Liz Keen was killed off, but also creator Jon Bokenkamp. Now, the Season 9 premiere has revealed that The Blacklist is more or less rebooting itself for the new era, picking up after a two-year time jump that saw most of the characters moved on from where they were when Liz was killed. That said, “The Skinner” also found the time to honor Megan Boone’s Liz Keen, and this was still The Blacklist that fans knew despite all the changes. 

The Task Force disbanded following death of Liz Keen, with the members gone off in different directions. Some went further off than others, with Ressler growing a beard and apparently becoming a mechanic out of his grief. Cooper has custody of Agnes, which guarantees that he keeps going enough to take care of her, which has also involved keeping Red away from her. 

Aram was doing well for himself by launching a tech company with his professional partner, although it didn’t take long for Cooper to suck him back into an investigation despite Cooper departing the FBI. Alina has been training FBI agents for the field rather than going back into the field herself. Red’s illness didn’t kill him over the past two years. Oh, and Dembe has become an FBI agent! 

But despite their lives moving on, they haven’t forgotten Liz, and after they reassembled (mostly) as a group, Aram explained how the loss affected them and why they were able to forgive Red. When Cooper noted that Ressler was unwilling to start pitching in to the unofficial investigation involving Reddington because he still blames Red for Liz’s fate, Aram said:

We all do. Well, I guess the difference for me, and maybe for you guys as well, is that I believe Mr. Reddington blames himself. And I forgive him for it.

Nobody contradicted Aram, so it seems that the consensus with Cooper and Alina as well is that they’re able to forgive Red because Red blames himself. And even Ressler probably doesn’t believe that Red wanted Liz to die! Given that Diego Klattenhoff isn’t leaving the show, Ressler was going to have to be convinced to rejoin the group somehow, even if that group is something unofficial with no resources rather than an FBI Task Force. 

Following his decision to join the rest at the hospital where Dembe was recovering, he sat down for a conversation with Red to explain what changed his mind about working with him. Ressler said:

Liz – she knew all about being where she didn’t want to be, doing what she didn’t want to do. Like running your empire. And all she wanted was a life with Agnes. But the Blacklist changed her mind, knowing the world would be safer with it than without it. I mean, that’s why she agreed to be your successor, why she gave up everything, including her life. To protect it, keep it running. And then she died. We all just walked away and left the Blacklist to die with her.

Red interjected to say that Liz wanted a life with Ressler as well as she wanted a life with Agnes, and Ressler acknowledged that coming back would be painful for them both, but then made it clear that honoring her was the reason that they would have to do it. Ressler said: 

The Blacklist was her calling. And if we loved her, it has to be ours. That’s why I came back, because as much as I hate you, I loved her more.

The team unofficially coming back together to continue their investigations without the same kind of backing, access, and resources is more or less a reboot of what the show was prior to Liz’s death, but the Season 9 premiere did take the time to honor Liz. And at least give some sweet moments to Ressler to show that the love between him and Liz was true and lasting, even with her death. That’s something, right? 

The Blacklist may have mostly moved on from Liz after the Season 9 premiere, but only time and new episodes will tell. Find out what happens next with this new version of The Blacklist on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, right before the Law & Order block starts with Law & Order: SVU at 9 p.m. ET and Law & Order: Organized Crime at 10 p.m. ET. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).