About once a season, The Blacklist gives us a ‘mythology’ episode. This weeks fare, “Rassvet”, finally told the story of how our Red (James Spader) actually became Red. Rassvet means ‘dawn’ in Russian, which was very apt. If you have not seen the episode, beware of big spoilers below!
At the end of the previous episode, Liz visited Dom Wilkinson (Brian Dennehy), now aware he was her grandfather. They sat down to talk, Dom obviously relieved that this truth was out there. But Liz wanted to know about Katarina and Reddington. What happened in the six months between Katarina’s fake death, and the day Reddington came back from the dead? As far as the world knew, Katarina Rostova committed suicide in the ocean at Cape May in 1991. But Dom told a different story. Of how Katarina came out of the ocean, and sought refuge in a women’s shelter. Anton Velov (Stass Klassen) was hunting Katarina, and no fake suicide would stop him.
Katarina had a life hidden from Dom. He was her KGB handler, and she his protege. Despite that, he was not aware of her involvement in a Cabal conspiring against Russia. Dom gave Katarina the assignment to turn the American, Raymond Reddington. What he didn’t tell her to do was have an affair with the man, and father her child, Masha Rostova (Lily Lewinter). He said that Katarina and Reddington may or may not have loved each other, but they did both love Masha. They argued over Liz, and during one of those arguments on the night of the fire, Masha/Liz shot Reddington.
Dom invited Liz to take a little drive with him (in the car he and Red had just repaired together). He wanted to show her something, and during the drive, he continued his tale. At the shelter, Katarina bided her time, laying low. But her helping another Russian woman at the shelter alerted Velov to her whereabouts. She ran from the shelter, knowing Velov would kill her. Via a message hidden in a crossword puzzle, Katarina got word to her friend and confidant, Ilya Koslov (Gabriel Mann), a Russian Embassy worker. He agreed to help her keep Katarina Rostova dead.
Ilya helped Katarina, and her new identity was born. Anna Croft, complete with a fake passport with photos taken by Ilya. As she became Anna Croft, they discussed the fire. Masha shot Reddington that night, and though Katarina and Ilya had pulled him from the fire, Reddington still died from his injuries. Ilya cleared out his own bank accounts, and with this cash, Katarina visited her mother Lena Volkova (Andrea Sooch) at a ferry depot. With Katarina a known traitor, Lena was in danger. Katarina tearfully gave her mother the cash and a new identity, and said farewell.
When Ilya and Katarina returned to their motel, Velov and his men were there. Once more they ran, this time to Moscow to see Dom. And there, Katarina did the same for him. Despite him being furious at her for being a traitor, she told him to run. To get away to America. Velov would assume Dom was also a traitor, since he was her father and handler. Dom, convinced he was doing the right thing, reported Katarina’s whereabouts to Velov, and his henchman soon arrived. But he had a change of heart, reporting that she had called him from an airport and he could take them to her. They didn’t believe him and stormed his apartment,
With Dom at gunpoint, Katarina gave herself up. And things weren’t looking too good, until Ilya showed up and shot Velov’s men. Leaving Dom to dispose of the bodies, they arranged to meet later. Katarina and Ilya met Dom at a lake side, where he had new identities for both of them. They would be Americans, while Dom had his own contingency plan in place. A new name, new country, new life – his home in upstate New York. Katarina quickly called Sam Milhoan (William Sadler), and briefly spoke to Masha, and told her goodbye. Her parting words to Sam were ‘take care of my girl, Sam.’
Ilya and Katarina turned their attention to the problem of the now dead Raymond Reddington. The cabal would discredit Reddington and paint him as a traitor to discredit his proof of their existence. Katarina had siphoned off secrets from Red for years without his knowledge. But she also had her own plan to discredit Reddington if he should ever realize he was sleeping with the enemy. She had placed money in secret accounts. Fake paper trails of payoffs. Passports in safety-deposit boxes – evidence that Katarina didn’t steal his secrets, but that Reddington had willingly sold them to her.
Ilya read a newspaper report that Reddington was missing, and the first inkling of a plan formed. When he visited Katarina to talk to her, he found her about to jump off her balcony to her death. He talked her down, and told her he had a plan. A way for them to both get their lives back and escape the KGB, Cabal and the Americans. No one knew Reddington was dead, or what happened to him. So they would give the answer. Everyone would assume Reddington was on the run after being branded a traitor. And he’d take the money from the accounts that were in his name. The accounts Katarina had created held $40 million. The problem was that while it was easy to have deposited the funds, Reddington would need to show up in person to empty the accounts.
And the bold plan was put into place. Over the course of a year, Ilya would undergo multiple surgeries to become Raymond Reddington. In that year, Katarina would give him every detail of Reddington’s life. She had been the man’s lover for years. She knew the real Reddington. His family life, work life, history and habits. And that information was passed on to Ilya, to give him what he needed to step into a dead man’s shoes and keep Reddington alive. And despite knowing how much Ilya was willing to do for her, she asked him why. Why would he chose to do this? Because he’d be hunted. He’d never stop running from the Cabal. His answer was simple. To protect her.
Knowing Ilya was willing to do that for her, Katarina relented. She then asked him the most important question of all. If Velov found her, and if they took her, would Ilya take care of Masha? And Ilya promised her he would – ‘like she was my own.’ And so, after a year of surgeries, Ilya was reborn as Reddington. He visited four banks, in Russia, Germany, Sweden and France, clearing out each account. His Reddington was flawless. He had become a dead man. He took the entire $40 million dollars Katarina had placed in the accounts, then called her. It had worked.
His story told, Dom parked the car outside the Post Office Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) had seen him at. He held a key in his hand to Box 642. Katarina had given him the key 28 years ago, promising him that when she resurfaced, she would send him word. In 28 years, he had never heard from her, but still he waited and checked the box weekly. Lena had written the letter to Katarina, hoping to hear from her before she died. That was the letter Ressler knew about. But the letter never reached Katarina. Dom took it, knowing Katarina would not retrieve it.
Armed with this knowledge, Liz traveled to Hong Kong, half way round the world to talk to Red. He had avoided her phone calls since she’d confessed. She told him that she knew his identity. That he used to be Ilya, and that he had become Reddington to protect her and her mother. What she didn’t understand though, was that once they had the $40 million, why did he remain Reddington? He could have become anyone. Red was furious. Not that yelling, angry kind. That Reddington simmer. The just below the boil anger that burned in his eyes. Liz’s betrayal and accessing this knowledge had cost him Dembe.
Furious, Red visited Dom, which I’m sure Dom was expecting. Red needed to know exactly what Dom had told Liz. Because no matter Dom’s intentions in giving Liz the truth, Red feared Dom had just made everything worse.
Wow. There was SO much information to process in this episode. It will require a couple of watches to get it all. We got a chunk of the story, but certainly not the complete story.
There are things that don’t add up. Like, where did the scars on our Red’s back come from? It seemed pretty clear that Ilya was not burned in the fire, since it had only just happened. Was part of his reconstruction surgery to become Reddington, burning his back to create those scars? Perhaps. It’s the only thing that would make sense. In order to become Reddington, he needed everything to match physically. The Cabal needed to believe Raymond Reddington had survived a fire and was still alive.
So while I think Dom told the truth, he certainly didn’t tell the entire story. What happened after Katarina and Ilya/Red got the $40 million? Liz was quite right. Why would he need to remain Reddington at that point? With $40 million they could go anywhere and be safe, and Katarina obviously did. She has remained hidden for 28 years now.
While Jon Bokenkamp always said that when Red’s story was told it was the end of the show, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is far more to the story, and that’s why Red needed to know exactly what parts Dom had spilled. He’s doing damage control now. Red made a promise to Katarina to protect Liz as if she were his own. He is still doing that, therefore the danger that existed 28 years ago is still there. So that story still remains to be told – why is he still Raymond Reddington?
The Blacklist airs at 9/8c on Fridays on NBC. It will move to a new time of 8/7c from May 3rd.
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