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.


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.

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