The Blacklist fans were introduced to a new version of the show in Wednesday's Season 5 premiere. Red (James Spader) is starting his criminal empire over (and living in a motor lodge?), Liz (Megan Boone) knows Red is her dad, Aram (Amir Arison) and Samar (Mozhan Marno) went public and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) is, as we say in the business, in deep doo-doo.
But the biggest moment happened — of course — in the final minutes, when Liz was reunited with Tom (Ryan Eggold)! He had the mysterious suitcase filled with who-knows-whose bones inside, a delivery from the dearly departed Mr. Kaplan, and was all set to hand it over to Liz when Liz filled Tom in on the identity of her dad. Tom then scooted the suitcase under a table, but why? To get that answer and more, we asked The Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp our burning questions from the premiere and what we can expect from this upside-down season.
Obviously you can't answer this but I have to ask anyway. Whose bones are those in the suitcase!?!?!?!? They belong to Liz's mom, right?
Jon Bokenkamp: Great question. Liz's mom is one theory — good guess. All I can really say is that those bones, that skeleton laying in that suitcase, really becomes a character of its own in the show this season.
Why does Tom opt to not show Liz the suitcase after Liz catches him up on the big secret?
Bokenkamp: I think Tom decides not to tell Liz about the bones because she has information that even Mr. Kaplan wasn't aware that Liz would get. Mr. Kaplan had no idea that it would be revealed to Liz that Reddington is her father, and that changes everything. It brings Liz and Reddington closer together than ever and I think Tom is suspect of Reddington. Reddington is constantly weaving stories and misrepresenting the truth and isn't to be trusted, at least in Tom's mind. He feels like if he tells Liz about these bones, Reddington will probably have some way to slither out of this — a way to manipulate the situation, a way to twist it so that the truth remains hidden. And so Tom feels, as an operative, it's probably a better choice to get to the bottom of this, find out what or who the bones represent, and then go to Liz with the truth. I think the thing that's most important is that Tom is acting out of love for Liz. He believes that what he's doing is the right thing, and that he can ultimately help her.
Does Tom show Liz the suitcase this season?
Bokenkamp: I think you're going to have to tune in. Stay tuned to see the answer to that.
I couldn't help but notice that Liz seems proud of her dad, especially when he reveals part of his plan to get his empire back up and running. What changes about their working relationship because of the news that he's her dad?
Bokenkamp: I don't know that Liz is excited about rebuilding Reddington's criminal empire, rather she realizes that she has to do that in order to enable him and help him enable the Task Force to take down criminals. She sees enabling Reddington as a greater good. She knows that the work he does ultimately has a positive side to it and that he needs to be propped up and rebuilt and she's willing to do that because she knows that at the end of the day, in doing so, they will be able to capture blacklisters. I think at the same time, she is concerned that this man is her father and that she is essentially committing crimes with him to rebuild his empire and that there is a very fine line that she wants to be careful not to cross. In the first episode she plants her flag very firmly saying that she is an FBI agent and that she is not going to fall away from that moral compass, and that I think is going to be a struggle for her. She's so close to the flame with Reddington that it's very difficult to maintain that moral direction and, in fact, we've seen that in all the characters. The entire Task Force is darkened a little bit because of their involvement with Reddington — the lines they've crossed, the choices they've made, and I think that is something that does concern Liz in terms of this new working relationship with Reddington.
Was there any particular scene in the premiere the exemplifies the struggles Liz will have this season now that she knows she's working with her dad?
Bokenkamp: I think the final scenes of our premiere episode are a great example to dramatize what Liz is facing. In some ways, not much has changed — she went after a blacklister and in catching him she thought Reddington was simply after bounty. In fact what he was doing is starting to lay the very first stones in rebuilding his empire. He misrepresented the truth about his intention and what continues to be clear is that Reddington is never telling the FBI everything and that is something incredibly frustrating to Liz and incredibly frustrating to Harold Cooper and the rest of the Task Force trying to wrangle this man in and get him to cooperate. And yet they can never really know what his intentions are, they can never really know what his endgame is and so that is a good example of the sort of thing that she's dealing with. Also Reddington hanging out in the pool when she needs a case is a good example of the kind of bon vivant attitude that he has in which he's really more interested in hanging out, meeting people and smelling the roses than going out committing crimes. That is something that's probably a little frustrating too.
Ressler looks dead in the water. He's now being blackmailed, and I'm not convinced that Cooper is satisfied with this whole "it was an accident" conclusion. What does his life look like going forward?
Bokenkamp: Well, yeah. Things do not look good for Ressler. Ressler has found himself in a an incredibly uncomfortable position, a place that he probably never thought that he would end up in. Our Boy Scout of the show has now contracted a blacklister to clean up and cover up a death and that cannot end well. It's a story that's going to be really fun to unravel, it's something that's going to take a bit of time — over the first half of the season at least — and it is going to be a real potboiler for Ressler as he gets embroiled with this blacklister who he has turned to in a very desperate time. It is going to be a great story moving forward.
I loved the way Samar and Aram's secret workplace relationship was resolved with Cooper. Is that it? Will it be a complication-free romance?
Bokenkamp: Will their relationship be complication free? I can't tell. On one hand it's so overdue. There's been this of undertone to every scene they've been playing, he's been pining for her for so many years now and couldn't be happier to be together. At the moment it's good and I think that's all that matters because it's The Blacklist and things can get incredibly uncomfortable and screwy. But at the moment their relationship status is a thumbs up.
What questions should viewers be asking as we move through Season 5?
Bokenkamp: I think in looking ahead at Season 5, the biggest questions viewers should be asking themselves are firstly, what is Reddington after? We still don't know why he came into Elizabeth Keen's life. Yes he is her father, but there's clearly something else going on here. There's clearly a larger mystery that has yet to be unraveled and that is something to pay attention to and to slowly watch unravel. The other thing to look out for is Reddington's empire building. His empire has been decimated, the people closest to him in his criminal life have abandoned him and he now finds himself in a place where he needs to rebuild. I think that rebuilding over this season is a massive undertaking, and we love surrounding Reddington with strange and complicated characters and feel like we have a real opportunity to let him go out and find people like Smokey Putnam or Heddie Hawkins or others yet to come, who are strange, fun criminals that can really help him fill out and reimagine this empire as he starts from scratch and rises from the ashes.
The Blacklist airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.