RED STILL SHADED IN GREY
And so the power play tug-o’-war between the ingenious criminal puppeteer and his rebellious pawn ensues in the sequel to The Blacklist.
Debashine Thangevelo looks at where things stand with Raymond “Red” Reddington and FBI Special Agent Elizabeth “Liz” Keen and whether the secret that has drawn him to her will be revealed...
THE QUESTIONwhy the FBI’s most wanted man – Raymond “Red” Reddington – would walk right into HQ and hand himself in hasn’t quite been answered.
Instead, his agenda has been shrouded in a Freemason-esque secrecy – especially where Elizabeth “Liz” Keen is concerned.
While all the red herrings to date hint at him being Liz’s biological father, the issue has not progressed much beyond that.
On whether that major conundrum will be resolved this season, Spader reveals: “No, you won’t find out about that. I think what you will find is you’re going to get closer. If it’s done the way we intend, once we reach the inevitable end of the series, you’ll look back and realise that there were things you found out along the way that you weren’t sure how to process and all of a sudden those things will connect. And that’s the fun of it; it’s almost like a puzzle. But unlike a puzzle where you empty the box and all of the pieces are laying in front of you, this is a puzzle where we’re giving you pieces as we go along, and eventually you can put them together and they fit. But I think that the show has to grow into that issue.
“I think it will be interesting if we can sustain curiosity about the very first question from the very first episode – what is the relation between the two? It’s such a simple question, yet it’s not at all.”
Last season ended with a big question mark hanging over Red’s link to Berlin.
And the second instalment unravels some interesting facts.
Having mastered the art of not giving away too much during his impressive acting exploits, Spader hints: “Berlin is definitely intertwined in the greater story, the greater mythology of the show, not in its entirety, but he becomes even more intertwined in season two.
“There’s an interesting thing, which is the connection between not only relations between the principals on the show and people who are being introduced as we go along, but also the weekly procedural aspect of the show, The Blacklisters. The intent is that there’s always a reason to be, it’s not arbitrary.
“Sometimes the reason for a Blacklist case is something more farreaching, part of the bigger story, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s something that’s spontaneous that has come up. I think the second episode, Wu-Jing, there was a piece of paper with a series of numbers on it, a code, which connected to the next thing. Sometimes it’s that, and sometimes it’s just something that Red feels must be addressed immediately for varied reasons.”
This season, Red continues to walk that double-edged sword when he grapples with how much information he should dispense.
Spader notes: “It’s a very delicate balance when you have a character who’s very enigmatic and that’s part of the compulsion of that character; it’s part of what makes them compelling and part of what makes you curious and not only piques your curiosity but also holds your interest. Over the course of a TV series, or any long-form storytelling, you must reveal things, there’s going to be a certain amount of familiarity and that enigmatic quality is going to be dissipated or diminished, even in small ways. The balance is to still hold onto it, so that even if you’re revealing something and the audience is starting to become familiar and even in some sense comfortable with him, to pull that out from under them, to take that away again, and we’re always trying to do that, so even if you feel like ‘Oh, I know him’, you don’t.”
With his name propelling the publicity around this show, he notes: “It is a Herculean feat to market anything – a film, a television show – just because there’s so much competition. Therefore, whatever advantages they have in terms of marketing, they are going to take advantage of that. I have a name and face that’s recognisable and the history and reputation that goes with that. Ultimately, the show is marketed on Reddington.”
On why this series sparked his curiosity, he reveals: “I was looking for a series that was dichotomous in its tone – that was, at times, funny and, other times, not at all, and that the character could carry that. That the character was serious and yet very irreverent, so that there would be a lot to play. Because you have to sustain it, it has to hold your interest and curiosity for a long period of time. So I was looking for something where there was a real complexity in terms of playing that character. But also, I was really drawn to the fact that I knew nothing about what direction it could go in and what direction this character might go.
“I knew less after I finished reading the pilot than I did at the beginning of it…”
And it is this inscrutable nuance that continues to leave fans hypnotised.
FBI SPECIAL AGENT ELIZABETH “LIZ” KEEN – MEGAN BOONE
WHAT started out as a fresh start for Elizabeth “Liz” Keen has snowballed into a double life, where secrets, danger and lies have become part of her daily routine.
Where do things stand with Liz this season?
Boone shares: “She is so interesting to me this season because, in the first season, she was purposefully ambiguous with her reaction. Now she’s starting to form into a clearer, more outlined human being. It’s not something that you get to know instantly as you enter season two. True to any well-written female character, you have to peel the layers of the onion and towards mid-season, you start to understand what’s really at the root of her behaviour and her actions.”
While her on-screen relationship with Spader is laden with tension, their off-screen connection couldn’t be more removed.
She laughs: “We make each other laugh, give each other levity within the context of a workplace that’s about making a very dark show. There’s a fun, playful energy between us when we do our scenes and that’s how more of our relationship has developed as we continue to make the show together.”
Shedding light on another female actress stepping in to fill the void of Parminder Nagra (CIA field agent Meera Malik), she offers: “We had Parminder last year and she was wonderful. We have Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò), a Mossad agent working with the FBI’s task force. She just adds even more dimension to the story…”
On the incomplete chapter that is her former husband Tom, she notes: “Everything about Tom is a mystery.”
And so the thrills continue to spiral with Red and Liz holding centre stage while the writers conceive the most brilliant lines, scenarios, mind games, immeasurable suspense and provocation for another cuttingedge season.
● The Blacklist 2, M-Net (DStv 101), Wednesdays, 8.30pm.
LET THE MANHUNT BEGIN: James Spader and Megan Boone are back as criminal mastermind Raymond “Red”
Reddington and FBI Special Agent Elizabeth “Liz” Keen, respectively, in the second season of the mind-blowing action
thriller, The Blacklist.