How The Blacklist Will Explain The Rift Between Red And Dembe In Season 9

Red Reddington sitting at restaurant table in The Blacklist
(Image credit: NBC)

To the surprise of no one, probably, The Blacklist's first season without longtime star Megan Boone and without longtime showrunner Jon Bokenkamp has been one cloaked in mysterious circumstances. The time jump that kicked off Season 9 set up new situations, jobs and relationship statuses for Red and the surviving members of the disbanded task force. One of the biggest questions fans have had so far concerns Red and his formerly close companion Dembe, specifically what led to their split as the latter joined the FBI. And now we know how some of those answers will be revealed.

The Blacklist executive producer John Eisendrath has shed some light on how the NBC drama will connect the dots regarding Red and Dembe's rift in Season 9. Here's what he told TVLine

There will be an episode this season in which we look back on Dembe’s journey during the two years between the end of Season 8 and the beginning of Season 9. It will not only reveal what drove a wedge between Dembe and Red, but also tell the story of how Dembe became an FBI agent.

Aww yeahh. Even though John Eisendrath didn’t expressly say the flashback episode in question will be All Dembe, All The Time, Hisham Tawfiq’s character certainly deserves a full installment to dig into where his life went in the two years following Liz’s death. Clearly something caused him to part ways with James Spader’s Red Reddington, but what was it, and was it so serious that the pair will never partner up again?

I would have assumed that Dembe and Red’s dissolved relationship would have been super-directly tied to the former landing a new gig with the FBI. But the way the EP puts it, that professional advancement sounds mutually exclusive from the other point. Which is all the more intriguing, really.

Speaking of intriguing, take a look at one of the early images that NBC released for Episode 5, “Benjamin T. Okara,” which possibly hints at how The Blacklist will set up the Dembe-centric flashbacks. 

dembe looking at package on table in the blacklist

(Image credit: NBC)

While there could certainly be anything inside of that package that Dembe is looking at, it’s theoretically plausible that this is a callback to the package that Red gave him back in The Blacklist Season 4. At the time, Dembe was recovering from gunshot wounds when Red brought him a package with the express instructions not to open it until he decided to leave Red’s side, regardless of when it happened. Clearly, that happened at one time or another in the past two years of the narrative, so maybe the package’s return is proof that all ties have been completely severed. Unless he leaves it unopened, of course.

With Chicago Med vet Colby Lewis joining the fray as Alina’s husband, The Blacklist airs on NBC in its new-but-probably-not-permanent time slot on Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET. There are only two more episodes before the winter hiatus, but plenty of new and returning 2021 Fall TV shows will be returning soon to keep your eyeballs busy. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.