The Blacklist series finale recap: What happens to Red?


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Aug 22, 2023

The Blacklist series finale recap: What happens to Red?

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the series finale of The Blacklist. Ten years ago, a dapper criminal mastermind nicknamed "The Concierge of Crime" strolled into FBI headquarters, asked for

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the series finale of The Blacklist.

Ten years ago, a dapper criminal mastermind nicknamed "The Concierge of Crime" strolled into FBI headquarters, asked for Assistant Director Harold Cooper, insulted Donald Ressler, and offered up a Blacklister on a platter.

And so it would be for 218 episodes.

There were murders and secret babies and betrayals and elaborate heists and more Russian spies than Foggy Bottom in the 1970s. There were tragic deaths — not only Elizabeth Keen but Mrs. Kaplan and Meera Malik and Alan Fitch and Christopher Hargrave (better known as Tom Keen), plus many others. Most tragically, fan-favorite character Glen Carter and the wonderful actor who played him, Clark Middleton, who was so well honored in the season 8 episode The Wellstone Agency.

Twist after twisty twist — that's what The Blacklist delivered every week along with James Spader's charm, wit, and haberdashery. So, one last time, let's recap the two-hour series finale and enjoy the ride.

Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) is in a mosque when a man walks up and hands him a cell phone. It's Red (Spader), of course, chastising him for calling with the warning the day before. "Don't throw away your future on my account," he insists.

Awww Count: 1

Dembe then gives him another warning: he's going to be the agent that brings him in. That ends the conversation, understandably. Red calls Chuck (Jonathan Holtzman) and asks him to get in contact with someone named Bertha.

Back at TFHQ, Congressman Arthur Hudson (Toby Leonard Moore) and Jordan Nixon (Derrick Williams) are running the investigation to find Red. They have Red's plate number from him visiting Cooper (Harry Lennix) the night before, but Dembe warns Nixon that they need to throw out the playbook. It's not just his billions or his networks, it's his ability to outthink and outmaneuver.

We see some of that as Red is paying a dozen or so decoys to drive around in the exact type of car Nixon thinks is the key to capturing the fugitive. This pays off immediately, with multiple Red sightings coming into the Task Force. Nixon has checkpoints set up to contain Red's ability to get out of the area.

Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) steps away to make a call, but Hudson follows him to offer his condolences for Jonathan Pritchard's (Mackenzie Astin) death. I'm stunned at the hubris, considering that Hudson pushed that poor man back into his addiction, but Ressler has an even better reaction: He punches the congressman in the face!

It took a decade, but I am finally and firmly on Team Ressler. A Blacklist miracle! I'll be cheering on Chuck next! (I will not.)

So where is Red hiding from the FBI? Happily at Paula Carter's table, reading about himself in the newspaper. He's visiting Glen's mom to speak to her about creating a legacy gift in Glen's honor.

Awww Count: 2

In Cooper's office, the team gathers to make sure Ressler is okay. He's great as far as I'm concerned, but Cooper does remind him he can't just punch congressmen in the face. Herbie (Alex Brightman) is more concerned about Hudson and Nixon in general, as he "can't with them."

Everyone agrees that despite their affection, they need to capture Red. Especially since they believe he'll be getting through the checkpoints and out of D.C. as soon as possible.

It doesn't look like he's on his way quite yet, though, because Red is eating Scotcheroos and calling real estate agent Andrea (Krista Braun) to buy a vacant fixer-upper. He also touches base with Chuck, who tells him their firetruck Bertha (ha!) is ready to go.

Unfortunately, Dembe knows how much Red loves a Scotcheroo. While Nixon is having agents check dozens of potential hideouts, Malik (Anya Banerjee) and Dembe head directly to Paula's. But by the time they arrive, Red has already said an adorable goodbye to Paula and is back on the run.

Paula does tell them about the phone call to Andrea, though, so they set off to her last location. Andrea is at the house Red is nabbing, shutting down a rival real estate agent and taking a large gas canister into the property.

Malik and Dembe pull up to the house only to find it literally on fire. Andrea really is a full-service real estate agent!

The purpose of the fire truck is getting clearer. Chuck drives it through a checkpoint easily as if they're headed to the fire, letting Red escape Nixon's net. Red changes out of his fireman's uniform and jumps in a waiting car.

Nine hours later, the team is exhausted and out of leads. Malik wants a shower, but Herbie wants to give Red his props, noting "That stunt with the firetruck? That was pretty metal."

Ressler is in a philosophical mood, noting that even if they could find Red, Hudson isn't going to just let them keep their careers after all this. The rest of the team has no response.

Lending credence to that theory, Hudson is frustrated and tells Nixon that he suspects the Task Force is helping Red. Nixon looks into the phone records from the day Red escaped and finds out that someone made a 10-second call.

Ironically, the team is actually making inroads into figuring out where Red is. Dembe, remembering a time when he and Red had to make a quick exit from Varadero because of an ill-advised liaison, recalls Red's advice that "in times of trouble you either go up in the sky or out to the sea."

Using that information, Dembe recognizes Tillman's Wharf from past dealings and knows it's a likely place for Red to escape by boat. But before they can head off, Nixon and Hudson come to arrest… Agent Ishwood (Jake Silbermann), the unlucky agent whose phone Dembe stole to warn Red.

Hudson and Cooper take Ishwood, while Nixon and the rest of the team head to the wharf.

In interrogation, Hudson immediately leaps to treason because that's his favorite accusation. Ishwood, of course, denies calling Red, and Cooper insists that they pull security footage.

At the wharf, Dembe hands the harbor master a list of five ships he knows Red owns. She is delightfully nonchalant but looks them up slowly. Three are at sea and one is in dry dock, but the commercial fishing boat The Great Shirley was resupplied and headed out the night before. Dembe is certain that's where Red is.

Luckily Dembe got that information to the team just in time… to be arrested by Nixon for tipping off Red. The security footage that Cooper insisted on viewing saved Ishwood but damned his own agent. Whoops!

Hudson tells the team they won't be following The Great Shirley because now he believes any information from Dembe is compromised. Their best lead is gone.

This may be for the best because we cut back to Red pulling up to a beach in a small motorboat, having sunk The Great Shirley so he could go back to land and meet a waiting Weecha (Diany Rodriguez). "You smell like fish," she complains but kisses him anyway.

Awww count: 3

Herbie reviews the video of Dembe stealing the phone over and over again, trying to find a way that he's innocent of the charges. Malik thinks they shouldn't be surprised Dembe was loyal to Red, but Ressler thinks Dembe was honest in his pursuit of the fugitive.

Most adorably, Herbie admits he would have happily helped Red if he could because he owes him. He doesn't even mind how much Red loves his wife.

Awww count: 4

In the escape car, Weecha gets a call from the wharf, and Red finds out that Dembe has been arrested. He's understandably upset, even though Weecha insists it wasn't his fault that Dembe helped him. We all know there's no way Red is going to let Dembe take the fall.

Which is exactly what Dembe is trying to do. When Cooper forces his way into interrogation, the agent comes clean immediately. He did tell Red the FBI was coming, as much to prevent bloodshed as to help his friend. He's willing to take the hit for the entire team.

Hudson and Nixon interrupt to take Dembe back to FBI headquarters. Ressler insists on going with them to make sure one of the team is there for the questioning. Two SUVs head out, with Hudson, Nixon, and Dembe in one car and Ressler with Ishwood in the other.

Almost immediately, they both get ambushed into a massive crash.

A van pulls up and Red drags Dembe from the wreck while Chuck and his men provide cover. Dembe tries to tell Red that he's going to stay to face the music, but Hudson has woken up and taken Nixon's gun off the still unconscious agent.

He points it at Red, Chuck points a much larger gun at Hudson, and Ressler climbs out of his car to point a gun at Chuck.

Dembe tries to calm everyone down. He begs Hudson to lower his weapon, saying he's not leaving with Red, but Hudson hears a sound from behind and panics. He shoots Dembe in the neck.


Red doesn't hesitate. Pulling out his own gun, he kills Hudson with one shot through the forehead and then fires three at Ressler's bulletproof vest. He and his men grab a barely alive Dembe and take off.

Did I mention that Dembe was SHOT IN THE NECK?!

Awww count: -49! Dembe was shot in the neck!

We begin the second part of this finale almost immediately, with Red and Chuck carrying Dembe into the first facility they find. Unfortunately, it's not a hospital or one of Red's mobile hospital units... it's a nursing home.

Red insists the nurse on duty treat Dembe immediately. The nurse is understandably reluctant, especially since Dembe clearly needs a blood transfusion. Red volunteers his own compatible supply. "Hook us up," he insists.

Cooper has joined Ressler back at the scene of the shocking bloodbath, which is good because Nixon is now accusing Ressler of letting them get ambushed by Red.

Before it can get completely out of hand, Ishwood steps in to tell Nixon that he saw everything. Dembe was unarmed, trying to diffuse the situation with no intent of leaving with Red, and it was Hudson who turned violent first.

Back at TFHQ, Herbie and Malik have found out that a doctor from a nearby hospital was sent to treat a gunshot wound at a nursing home less than five miles from the crash site. Cooper and Ressler start to head there, but Nixon insists that they could be luring them away from Reddington. "Does that mean you're not coming?" Cooper asks acidly. No such luck.

At the nursing home, local police are already at the scene. Cooper, Ressler, Ishwood, and Nixon follow the trail of blood into a room where Dembe is undergoing surgery. The nurse shoos them out firmly, and hilariously, they immediately go.

After the surgery, Dembe is somehow alive but critical. The doctor says that Red left almost immediately after his direct blood transfusion for Dembe, but he was definitely weakened by the procedure.

Now that Hudson is dead, we need another villain pronto, and Nixon is rising to the occasion. Within earshot of Herbie and Malik, Nixon tells Ishwood that when he finds Red he will not be needing handcuffs because he "will put the man down."

That was an FBI agent making a death threat! Out loud!

Herbie agrees with me, telling Malik he's not going to stick around to watch Nixon murder Red. "I love Reddington. And Holly and Sue adore him. If I help the FBI capture Raymond, they would never forgive me. I would never forgive me."

In one last parting shot, as he exits TFHQ, he asks Malik, "Are you sure you're on the right side?"

I've never loved Herbie more, not even when he was making sandwich platters for the team, which is now down to three.

Malik rats out Nixon, and Cooper immediately goes to confront the murderous agent. It goes bad quickly; Cooper accuses Nixon of "running his mouth" and Nixon tells Cooper "your time is up, old man." Once the shoving begins, Ressler steps in.

I'm a bit disappointed, especially when Nixon walks away saying "Nice talk, Grandpa." Instead of running back to hit him, Cooper gets in the elevator so he and Malik can check out Red's bathhouse for clues. Politically wise, yes, but still a bummer.

But there is good news! Dembe is awake!

Cooper and Malik can't even enjoy that for a full 30 seconds, though, because Nixon and his agents raid the bathhouse and accuse them of working with Red. Again. Our pair practically roll their eyes as they walk away.

Red is also awake but still weak from donating all that blood. He's gotten out of the U.S. and is in a Spanish-speaking country at the home of a woman named Angela. It's a relief to see he's far away from the FBI net, but we're only halfway through the episode so I'm also very suspicious.

Suspicions confirmed! Going over the lack of clues at the bathhouse, Malik realizes it's not important that nothing was there because what was important is what was missing: The horns of Islero, the bull that killed the famous matador Manolete.

The day that Malik was assigned to be with Red, he told her the epic story and said the skull belonged back where it came from: Andalusia, Spain, where the bull was raised. Dembe knows about a villa Red prefers that is near that location, and Cooper agrees this all sounds very much like something Red would do.

Ressler heads off to Spain. In jeans, though, so that's fun for him!

Back in Spain, Red is checking in with his favorite person. Agnes (Sami Bray) is delighted to hear from her Pinky, getting advice about a boy who likes her. He settles in bed for a long chat, and it's very sweet.

Awww count: 5

Cooper is with Dembe when he gets a call. It's Red, of course, wanting to check on his friend's recovery. Dembe laughs because how can you not?

He says he knows Red saved his life, but Red shrugs it off. "It's the chick and the egg situation, really. Who saves whom and then gets saved themselves. It's been so many times over, so many years I can't keep track."

That's their friendship in a nutshell.

Awww count: 6

Ressler gets to the ranch, and Angela lets him in so he can take a look around, but he doesn't find anything. He leaves and calls Cooper and Dembe, who suggest he check with the local street vendors that Red likes.

Back at the ranch, Angela is letting Red know that "an American policeman" showed up, and Red clocks that it was Ressler immediately. "A humorless fellow with handsome hair?" Ha!

Later that night, Cooper is back in Dembe's nursing home giving him a classic good news/bad news situation: No criminal charges for warning Red, but he's been kicked out of the FBI. Dembe takes the news well, telling Cooper it's time he looks for a life involving fewer guns.

I agree!

Back in Spain, Red wakes up and sets out to walk in the Spanish countryside. "Men will be coming. They always come," he tells Angela. "And before they come, I always go."

We watch him walk as Dembe tells Cooper how much he admires Red, especially his will to live despite the constant threat of death in his life. "He chooses to rage. To rage against the dying of the light. Rage against the bad guys that would do us all harm. Rage to protect those people he loves. To find moments of peace and joy… and fun. Even though he knows the light is still dying. To live a most passionate life. It is the lesson at the very core of my time with him."

He cries as he's saying all of this, and his love for Red is so palpable it makes my heart hurt. Dembe and Red have always been the best love story of this show, and I'm so glad they chose to highlight that.

Ressler is in the market, showing a picture of Red. He finds a vendor who recognizes him and knows his location because they delivered to him. He's at the villa, but not the main house — the smaller side house.

Of course, by the time he gets there, Red is already gone. But he does find the skull, Red's clothes, and his gun. He takes off to search.

So if Red isn't going to put the skull back at the ranch, what is he doing? A bull appears, seemingly out of nowhere. Red stares at it, not scared so much as he is curious. Like so many deaths before, Red faces it head-on and calmly. The bull takes a few steps closer, but Red doesn't move. And then the bull charges.

In a helicopter provided by the local police, Ressler is scouring the countryside when he sees his target. Touching down, he runs across the field and stares.

Red's body is lying in the field, bloody and bent and broken.

The concierge of crime, the most wanted, the killer, the pseudo-father, the mentor, the friend, Pinky, the generous boss, the dangerous enemy, the N-13 agent, the lover of art and cookies, the storyteller, the FBI informant, the mastermind, Blacklister #00, Raymond Reddington. They are all dead.

"I got him," Ressler can finally call Cooper to say, but he's not anywhere close to as satisfied as he once thought he would feel at that moment. Which is maybe why he finds the crumpled hat just a few feet away, dusts it off as best he can, and places it back on Red's head.

It's a final note of respect. An appropriate way to say goodbye.

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