Just when we thought the male anti-hero had run its course, Raymond Reddington came along. James Spader’s awesome portrayal of someone equal parts charismatic and cunning kept the show alive as other characters found their way. Reddington is a flamboyant version of the international criminal mastermind, and you could feel how much fun Spader had bringing him to life.
Then season four happened. Red made the out-of-character decision to shoot his fixer, Mr. Kaplan, in the head and leave her (not a typo) in the woods to die. It was an overreaction to her perceived betrayal in season three, so much so that it was transparently forced into the show as a way to open up a new storyline. A metal plate no one knew was in her head saved Mr. Kaplan. Obviously pissed off, she used her complete knowledge of Raymond’s criminal organization to dismantle it from afar.
Losing his contacts, his connections and his money put Raymond Reddington on the defensive. Without his confidence he had no cockiness. Without either he was left being the one scrambling instead of the one stirring the drink. It made him uninteresting. Other storylines helped push the season along, but they weren’t strong enough to overcome the lack of fun Reddington.
The season five premiere brought back the fun.
The Blacklist has always been great with music, this year being no exception. The episode started with Reddington conning his way through a valet stand and into a classic sports car, which he promptly outran the police with – all set to “Back In A New York Groove.” He zipped his way to his new home: A motel where he holds court by the pool, giving the show a chance to let Spader’s charm explode onto every scene.
This is the new Raymond. He’s got no network and no money. Immaculate suits are out. He’s gotta hustle for his rent. So naturally he comes to the aid of a bail bondsman who’s about to lose $80,000 if a fugitive doesn’t make his court date. Perfect work for a former criminal entrepreneur.
All of this let’s the show give us the old Red back. The fun Red.
Here’s what season five shapes up to cover, based on the premiere…
Red rebuilds his empire
Season one began with Reddington already on top of the criminal world. Now that Kaplan knocked him off, season five should be heavy on him putting the pieces in place to start over. The premiere had him scheme to bring in a money launderer and a logistics man. He’ll need more, including a new fixer. And speaking of fixers…
Ressler’s in trouble
The Ressler character has been pretty stiff for most of this series. His only purpose seems to be rushing to crime scenes and reminding us of the ethical problems the FBI faces working with Reddington. Nevertheless, I like him. But now he’s got problems. Stupid ones.
At the end of season four, Agent Ressler accidentally killed the National Security Advisor. I mean, oops. Then, in a moment of extreme idiocy, he called the fixer who just betrayed said advisor and asked him to take care of it. Well guess what. The fixer is now gonna blackmail the shit out of him. It’ll cause problems for Ressler, big ones. I can’t stand inevitable storylines and this one is going to drive me nuts.
Elizabeth’s mom’s bones
Like every good fixer (see above), Mr. Kaplan kept an insurance policy against her employer. Hers? The decayed bones of Elizabeth’s mom. Big. She left them for Tom (“Hey, Tom. I got your dead mother-in-law’s bones here.”) who now has them in a brown suitcase that he keeps in the family living room.
Raymond doesn’t know all of this. He knows Kaplan left the bones for someone, but not who. He’s got Dembe on the job, so it’ll get done. It won’t be easy, but we know how it ends because…
That flash forward
At first I thought this was Tom having a flashback, then I realized this isn’t something we’ve seen. To lay the marker for how serious Reddington takes these bones, the premiere ended with a flash forward to Red and Dembe bursting into the Keane’s apartment guns out and, possibly, shooting Tom in the process. That part wasn’t clear. But it wouldn’t be surprising. Tom and Raymond have been at odds for most of the series.
How we get to that scene will be the biggest story for season five to unravel.