The Season 3 finale of The Blacklist gave us one big answer that, in turn, opened up a Pandora's box of countless other questions. The double-whammy bombshell in the season ender informed us that, not only is Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) alive, she's the daughter of Alexander Kirk, a.k.a. former KGB agent Constantin Rostov (Ulrich Thomsen), who has a lengthy personal history with Red Reddington (James Spader).
When The Blacklist returns for Season 4, the show will be tasked with not only tidying up the fallout from the revelations in the Season 3 finale, but also setting up the spin-off The Blacklist: Redemption, which is scheduled to premiere midseason and will focus on Elizabeth's husband-slash-baby daddy Tom (Ryan Eggold).
TVGuide.com turned to Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp to answer our burning questions about what lies ahead. Here's what he had to say:
TVGuide.com: Where/when do we pick up in Season 4?
Bokenkamp: There's really not much of a time jump. We felt like there was too much good conflict to skip over and jump ahead. And so, we pick up literally right in the moment where Season 3 left off. All of these characters are dispersed into strange and desperate situations, and we dive right back into it headfirst.
How does the knowledge about Kirk being her father change Liz this season?
Bokenkamp: I think her first reaction is, 'Where is my kid? What have you done with my child? Where is the man I was going to marry?' I think she is incredibly suspicious. This guy has abducted her, taken her away from a life that she was trying to reboot. And he hasn't entered her orbit in the most graceful of ways. So, I think she's incredibly suspicious.
And yet, Kirk promises to offer and will offer some incredibly compelling truths that are hard to refute, and truths that I think Raymond Reddington is not happy to have exposed. This is somebody who has knowledge of Red's past, and his connection to Liz in a way that nobody in the series has ever really had before. He's going to open Liz's eyes to her past in a way that we have yet to do on the series, and I think it's going to be really compelling.
Does Liz have a right to be suspicious? The identity of her father has been a mystery for so long. Should she — and the audience — accept that Kirk is her father as a definitive truth?
Bokenkamp: I think you should take it as seriously as Liz and everyone in the task force. In the [writers] room, we take it incredibly seriously. Look, we love turns and twists and that's the nature of the show. But the fact is, in our mythology in the past three years of the show, we have worked in the writers room incredibly hard to keep the stories clean, the mythology clean. Everything that's come to bear has been a clean path. It's not a cheap trick. I can tell you that. Kirk believes it. He has proof that he is Liz's father. And in time, he will share that with her. I think the audience should take it incredibly seriously.
What is Liz and Red's relationship this season?
Bokenkamp: I think it's a real yin and yang, their relationship. Liz has faked her death to get away from Reddington, and to start her family and to try to have a fresh life, this idyllic life that she's been grasping for since we met her in the pilot of this series. So, by virtue of the fact that she fakes her death to get away from him, you can rest assured that there will be conflict between the two of them in how they move forward, how Red accepts this or doesn't accept it, and what it means for the two of him. But I think it's safe to say that they in some way are going to have to find a way to push forward and continue to go out and solve those cases, and work together.
Will Liz be able to regain the trust of her FBI colleagues?
Bokenkamp: The entire team, in different ways, all feel betrayed. And they're all going to articulate that or react in very specific and hopefully unexpected ways. Elizabeth Keene and Tom walked away not only from Raymond Reddington, but Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) and Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marno) and the entire team. And so, inasmuch that it's a family drama, the entire family is sort of fractured at the moment.
Will any of the team members react in surprising ways?
Bokenkamp: I think their responses across the board are going to be surprising. The very people that you would think would be suspicious of this and think it would be a terrible idea may step forward and support Liz. And the people who you think might be the most caring and supportive may feel the deepest betrayed. So we have some really good stories.
Talk about Red's mindset when we return. Obviously he must feel deeply betrayed by Liz as well.
Bokenkamp: It's an incredible act of betrayal. Reddington is devastated by this. He is somebody who, for whatever reason, is able to put emotion aside when it can potentially cloud his judgment, and focus on the task at hand. Immediately, the only thing that is going to matter to him is, 1) finding Elizabeth Keen and 2) finding her child. And, any reveals or news or information that Kirk has, it might be new to the audience but it's going to be almost irrelevant to Reddington until he knows that Elizabeth Keen and her child are safe. That is at the forefront. It's one of the things we love about the character, is that, even though he's been so brutally betrayed, his love for her is so deep that he's able to set all of that aside and go do what's right by her and her child, and set this right. When we meet him at the top of Season 4, he will be on fire. I can assure you that.
How does he deal with Mr. Kaplan's (Susan Blommaert) betrayal?
Bokenkamp: He is going to be confronted with what to do with Mr. Kaplan and how to move forward within the first two episodes. We'll have a clearer idea of what Red has in mind by the end of Episode 2. ... We've seen how Reddington deals with betrayal in the past, whether it was Newton Phillips in Season 1, who he suffocated with the plastic liner of an urn, or the Paul Rubens character who betrayed him and who ended up dead on an airport hangar floor. He's not one to suffer fools or to stand down to people who betray him. As the character says, value loyalty above all else. And that loyalty has certainly been breached with Kaplan.
Mr. Kaplan believes that she has done this for the right reasons. She has done what she told Raymond she would always do, which is protect Liz and keep her safe. And in her heart and mind, what she has done is right. You're gonna see her stand up to him, and stand beside the choice that she made. She's confident in that. But that choice, the decision she's made, will have significant consequences. It is something [Red] will struggle with tremendously, and it is a story that we're going to confront right away when we come back. But it will have a big ripple effect. ... I wouldn't want to be Mr. Kaplan at the moment. But again, she's one of his oldest and closest confidantes and is somebody he loves dearly. ... This is one of those stories where he's going to have to do some real soul-searching about what to do.
Can we expect any more back story for some of the smaller characters?
Bokenkamp: As the show has grown, I think one of the things that we've become better at is telling the stories of the other people that populate the show. ... We're going to continue to do that as we push forward, and we've got some really great stories, some that come out of Liz faking her death and the news that Alexander Kirk has arrived, and other stories that are completely independent. ... There's potentially some back stories coming up [but] not immediately. Not at least in the first few episodes.
Will we get to see more of Scottie (Famke Janssen) and Tom's relationship this season, ahead of the spin-off?
Bokenkamp: Potentially. That is, quite honestly, something we're still figuring out. We are open to it and would love to ... see her, and potentially even other members of the Halcyon Task Force that we met in Episode 322 last season. So, yes, there's a possibility that we may see her. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out. She's not in any of the immediate episodes when we launch back, but that is definitely a possibility.
How will the show move towards Redemption in the first half of the season?
Bokenkamp: We're fortunate in that the spin-off doesn't happen until midseason. We do have this big story we're saddled with at the moment that we're telling that clearly involves Tom, and that he's going to be an important part of. ... We're going to find Tom, within moments, in the trunk of a car going nowhere good. So, he's got a whole basket full of problems before his character can even consider going to a spin-off. And we're going to embrace that wholeheartedly.
When we do land there, in probably February, I think it's going to be a great, super rich emotional decision that he's confronted with as well, that's going to take him off and send him into that other world. ... In terms of how and when he leaves, those episodes have yet to be written, but we are sort of zeroing in on that, and it's approaching quickly. I think the fans and audience is going to see a really unique and realistic transition for him.
Will we still see him on The Blacklist?
Bokenkamp: We're talking about it. It's clearly possible to see him on The Blacklist, and vice-versa. There's a potential that any of these characters could sort of drift into the spinoff to the extent that it feels organic. The spin-off, in terms of the world and what the show is, really is an extension of the Blacklist universe. It has the same DNA, and so it would make sense if there was ... a crossover episode between those shows or some of those characters. We might do that. I think you'll see that more specifically in the transition of how Tom leaves The Blacklist and moves into that new series.
Anything else you can add about Season 4?
Bokenkamp: I think Season 3, we had a lot of fun with and had some big turns. I think Season 4 is going to match if not hopefully exceed that. we've got a real rollercoaster coming, and it's gonna be a blast.
The Blacklist returns for Season 4 Thursday at 10/9c on NBC.