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The Blacklist - Answers: Red Is Not Lizzy's Father...Yet
Comment threads and online discussion groups are filled with strong opinions about the back stories of the characters of TV's The Blacklist.They are fun to read, but incense some posters to madness. I see a lot of jumping to conclusions, a snapshot of the need for more logical skills among us - like following a sequence, ordering events chronologically when out of order, cause and effect - and using intuition and logic together, often illustrated by Patrick Jane and Sherlock Holmes (all the several current Sherlocks).
The Blacklist, NBC captivating crime drama is a police procedural with a soap opera backstory sure to be copied by the daytime soaps in the future.
The draw of the story is that viewers attempt to connect the dots of the parallel lives of Red Reddington (James Spader) and Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). The writers leave out some facts and change the nature of the Red-Lizzy relationship occasionally so that the dots cannot be connected.
Huge crevasses open up between dots and we need either a tight rope or mountain climbing equipment in order to continue deciphering the relationship between these co-stars of The Blacklist.
Fans of this crime drama are called CRACKLISTERS from their obsession with the show. Watch for increasing numbers of them to gather at Comic Cons and Sci-Fi conventions in 2014 & 2015.
My Critic's Rating for The Blacklist
The "Hook" - Reinforcement Schedules
In order to "hook" a person with some activity, psychologists can set up a reinforcement pattern called variable-interval intermittent reinforcement.
This name means that the subject never confidently knows when the next reinforcement (in this case, presentation of a sure fact) will happen.
Considering that we are talking about am interesting TV show among nights of drivel, I see no harm in it. However, we do have a skeleton of information on which to build a case.
Discovering Information Can Be Dangerous
James Spader admits (see first link at bottom of this page) to having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or at least to believing that he has it. One might think of his Reddington character as a a dark and dangerous Adrian Monk.
Strong Characters and Reinforcement
Because I have enjoyed James Spader's acting in Sex, Lies, and Video Tape, The Practice, and especially in Boston Legal, I was eager to see his work as the Concierge of Crime, Raymond "Red" Reddington. I have not been disappointed.
In this Blacklist role as Red, Spader is a criminal success, a monster, a grieving father and husband, but also quite funny. Red's devotion to protecting Lizzy Keen is palpable. His determination to extract answers is superhuman and the questioned usually have only one chance. This is a character that will keep me watching the show, even though many viewers are more interested in the real nature of the relationship between Red and Lizzy - clues to which are spotty and placed at odd intervals.
Whereas soap operas often string out events without a story climax at the end of a broadcasting week to ensure that viewers return on Monday, shows like The Blacklist (whether producers know it or not) use reinforcements that "hook" the viewer into weekly attendance. And many of us want to be hooked. A modern reference or this tactic is found in
- Miltenberger, R. (2008). Behaviour Modification. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing.
A quote from this work follows:
The schedule of reinforcement for a particular behaviour specifies whether every response is followed by reinforcement or whether only some responses are followed by reinforcement.
Fans of this crime drama are called CRACKLISTERS, indicating their obsession with the show.
Trailer for the Pilot Episode
The Blacklist Panel at Comic-Con 2013
Sources of Information
Solving the puzzle of Red-Lizzy is muddied by media rumors and inaccurate or partial and non-contextual information slipped into interviews. None of this red-herring strewing is canon, but it makes for fun, watching people arguing over it.
The sources of accurate information (canon) in this TV series are the actual episodes to date and a Blacklist Wiki website called Raymond Reddington. Accurate, that s, until the writers change their minds, but that keeps the excitement going.
So far, we have this evidence:
- Elizabeth Keen's first and last original names are as yet unknown - Sam, her adoptive father, renamed her, husband Tom Keen was not Tom Keen and now both men are dead (no more answers from them). She was born in 1983 and is 30-year-old graduate of the FBI Academy on the USMC base at Quantico VA in 2013. Megan Boone's digital birth date is used as Lizzy's ID number and seen in several places, so 1) it is the birth date of Lizzy or 2) we are meant to believe that it is. The writers have not yet decided which of #1 or #2 it will be (see Exec. Producer John Eisendrath's interview concerning writers changing things at http://collider.com/the-blacklist-john-eisendrath-interview/ What fun!
- Red's wife's and daughter's names are as yet unknown, but his daughter was born in either 1980 or 1979, dying in an assassination with her mother at home during December 1990. She lived to be only 9 or 10. How do we know this? --
- In Episode 16, we see that every year on the anniversary date of one of his daughter's ballet performances, Red hires adult ballerinas, renting an entire theater to watch them, particularly a solo that his daughter danced in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in 1987. He carries the folded paper program from that date, clearly printed in 1987 and shown in a close-up. A flashback of the girl dancing on stage shows her physical development to be that of a 7- or 8-year-old. In 1987, Liz was only 4.
- The year 1987 is also important for Liz as the her home caught fire and a man rescued her, taking her to her new adoptive dad, Sam. Because Red reveals burn scars across his back in the 2014 finale, we have a clue that he is the man that rescued Lizzy. This might change as the TV series writers develop the ongoing story. Occasionally, Lizzy experiences flashbacks of the fire and a man carrying her out of it, but she cannot remember all of the details. She keeps the partially charred soft bunny rabbit toy she held that night.
- The Raymond Reddington site tells us that Red completed the Naval Academy curriculum and was in process of grooming for an Admiralty. He returned home at Christmastime, 1990, to find a blood filled house. He stated that blood was everywhere, but his wife and daughter were missing. He told Diane Fowler (Jane Alexander), Head of the Criminal Division of DOJ, who declares she knows what happened, that he would give anything to know the details. Even so, he murders her for attempting to have him killed - after stating that if she knows, then others know as well.
- In 1990, Reddington disappeared to enter the underworld of global crime, gaining control of high level criminals until 2013, when he began leading the FBI to the worst criminals in the world. From 1990 to 2013 means 23 years of criminal history. In 2013, Red repurchased the house he owned in 1990 and demolished it with a bomb.
In 2014, Red plans to keep making money from criminals, while he turns them in to the FBI. His other goal is to protect Liz Keen.
The top ranking criminals apparently want Liz dead more than they want Reddington dead. He says in the Episode 22 finale that if she knew her father's identity, she would be in too great a danger. In addition, Liz can help Red learn what happened to his own family and who tried to destroy his own leverage in the world of crime. Further, Red is becoming emotionally attached to Liz, always unhappy during the times she refused to interact with him.
Episode 22 ended with the criminal Berlin looking at a locket picture of his daughter, with Red in another place, looking at a copy of the same photo. Speculation is filling the Internet about this coincidence and we may find out more about it in Season Two - after the writers decide what it means.
Conclusions, unless additional information negates them.
- Overall tentative conclusions, barring any opposing facts from the show's writers in the future:
- In 2013, Elizabeth Keen was 30 years old.
- In 2013, Red's daughter would be 33-34 years old, but she died in 1990, unless she turns up living (body was never found). This may be a regular show theme, because "Tom Keen's" body has disappeared twice.
- Red's house did not burn, his family died in 1990, and he demolished that house in 2013.
- Lizzy's house burned in 1987; Sam adopted her that night, except for the paperwork, at Red's request.
- Lizzy can help Red find out what happened to his family, but he also has an emotional tie to her.
Who is Red to Lizzy?
- Red could still be Liz's father, because the writers might adjust and connect up all the facts to prove it. As the evidence stands today, he is not.
- Berlin could be Liz's father -- Berlin and Red seem to have a long history.
- Red might have known Liz's father; a criminal had the father's house set afire, Red was there, and he saved Liz. Other possibilities: The father might have been a young criminal (young Berlin), a politician (Red works with/against politicians and officials like Diane Fowler and Alan Fitch [Alan Alda]), a brother or other relative to Red, or someone else.
Additional Information and Speculation
- James Spader: The Strangest Man on TV
For anyone hoping that James Spader, in real life, may share any traits with any of the endearing but oddball James Spader characters that James Spade
- The Blacklist Effect: Broadcast's Search For The Next Ratings Monster - Forbes
As upfront week comes to a close and we look back at the final slate of series ordered for next season, one thing’s clear: Red Reddington and his gang of F.B.I. agents have laid waste to the competition and forced every major broadcaster to rethink..