Goodbye to The Blacklist: An Insulting Farewell to Raymond Reddington

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Iain McParland
| February 13, 2024
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Ok, so I know I’m not Mr. On-the-Ball with this one, but, quite honestly, I’ve been hurting. Ever since The Blacklist finale, I’ve been overcome with a sense of injustice and frustration. 

Ten seasons (and one failed spin-off series), that’s 218 episodes, came to an end back in July, bringing a conclusion to the Raymond Reddington story arc. Ten years of my life, I had been following the twists, turns, subterfuges and betrayals of the Reddington Task Force and its associates. And now it’s over.

But it didn’t go out with a bang, far from it. It took the most special character and flushed him down the crapper. He deserved SO. MUCH. BETTER. 


The Blacklist

He surrendered willingly, you nitwit!

The Blacklist centers around Raymond Reddington (James Spader): number one on the FBI’s most-wanted list. At the beginning of Season 1, he surrenders himself to the Bureau, offering his services as an informant. You see, he may be a bad person (a thief and a murderer), but there are worse out there. He can help catch criminals the FBI don’t even know about. They can get ruffians without a sense of decorum off the streets and into jail. 

Every episode revolves around a criminal on Red’s Blacklist, harkening back to a bygone era of “villain of the week”. It was an easy watch and, with a season consisting typically of 20+ episodes, it lasted half of the year.  

But it wasn’t just a procedural cop show. There was also a mystery at the heart of it. Who was Raymond Reddington? Why did he suddenly turn himself in? And what was his relationship with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), the FBI Agent he requested as his handler? 

Ten freaking years and these questions, the very premise of the show, had not all been answered satisfactorily. Bits and bobs had been revealed each season, just enough to string you along and keep you engaged, but even now, I’m not 100% clear. I LOVE IT!

Or, at least, I did. 

Raymond Reddington as a Protagonist / Antagonist

Oh no! He’s sat down! That’s when he’s most dangerous!

Let me talk to you about our main character, international criminal mastermind Raymond Reddington. Red for short. He is undeniably one of the best-written television characters from the last decade. He’s a classic villain. He’s a thief. He has violent tendencies. He runs an international criminal empire, the full extent of which we may never know. He manipulates every situation to his own advantage, sometimes actively working against the FBI team he informs for. 

However, he’s a gentleman thief, preferring to talk through issues and only resorting to death-dealing when truly necessary. His long, drawn-out speeches conveying morals to his adversaries, teaching them the error of their ways, are iconic. Screw action sequences; when Red is sitting in a chair with a glass of scotch, that’s when you’ve got to be careful. 

He’s loyal to his friends, especially members of the Task Force like Elizabeth Keen, Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) and Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), and his friend and confidante, Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq). He’d do anything to protect them from harm, and when a team member dies, he’s distraught. These are protagonist traits, an unlikely protagonist, but a protagonist nonetheless. 

All the while, he keeps his secrets, maintaining his mystery throughout. 

Raymond Reddington is a f*cking all-timer. That’s what makes the ending so much worse.

F%?@ That Ending – SPOILERS

Why don’t we just sit awhile?

In general, the quality of the last two seasons dropped. Megan Boone exited the show, and with that, Red lost his surrogate daughter and the heir to the empire. The ninth season was dedicated to determining the cause of Elizabeth Keen’s death and taking down the culprit. Fine. We had a legitimate reason for the guy in the hat to return.

In the tenth season, Red began to dismantle his own criminal empire, taking steps towards retirement. He didn’t want to leave his foolproof infrastructure in evil hands. Good on him. In doing so, he inadvertently alerts an ambitious US Senator to the covert Task Force, and long story short, Red ultimately kills him to save Dembe. 

So it ends where it started: Raymond Reddington is number one on the FBI’s most wanted list, and he’s on the run. Except this time, his criminal enterprise is in tatters (which is his own doing), and the Task Force, now hunting him, is closing in. A set up to a barn-storming finale!

Then, he walks through a field and is trampled to death by a bull. A BULL! BULL-F*CKING-SH*T! After all we’ve been through. After all we’ve seen Red survive, finagle, manipulate and dodge, he’s done in by something so stupid as a bull. It’s disrespectful. It’s derisory. It’s a joke. He didn’t deserve to go out like that!

Now where’s that bull? I want to walk towards it so it can kill me

I can see what they were going for, drawing comparisons to a story from earlier in the season about Manolete, a Spanish bullfighter who found it easier to risk his life than live his life without risk. Hit me over the head with it whydoncha? “Red died on his own terms.” Give me a break! He didn’t plan to get mauled by a bull in a random field, so he didn’t die on his own terms. You can’t say someone died on their own terms if an airplane toilet falls out of the sky and smacks you on the noggin’ (shoutout Dead Like Me). Same principle. 

Going out on his own terms would have been a standoff with the Task Force or taking down one last worst-of-the-worst criminal. Hell, going out on his own terms would have been taking a leaf from Hans Gruber’s book, sitting on a beach earning 20%. Something where he was in control. Just like he’d been in control for ten years

The writers did him dirty. 

Raymond Reddington is an all-time great character that I’m going to sorely miss. What a terrible ending to a beloved character.

Did you watch The Blacklist? What did you think of the ending? Am I overreacting, and if so, by how much? Tell me in the comments below.

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Kevin Clawson
Kevin Clawson
3 months ago

I fell off a few years ago, but Raymond Reddington is like a Gregory House. This guy that you don’t always want to root for but, because of absolutely perfect casting, you do. Funny enough, his ending sounds almost as lame as the ending for House. There are a million ways Red could have gone out, but that should not have been one of them…

3 months ago

I believe he did die in his own terms… It wasn’t a random encounter with the bull. He had asked the Spanish woman how to reach the Miura establishment. He told her there was something that was missing there. I thought he was talking about the bull’s head, but he was talking about himself. That’s why he never took it to the Miura ranch. He knew Ressler was coming for him (he told that to the woman), and he wasn’t planning to come back. He leaves the half full bottle of water at the stone wall, he’s not going to need it anymore. The scene when he stops in the middle of the street looking at the penny while the truck is coming towards him was just a preview. He talked all season about things ending, saying goodbyes. Going in that gory way might have been some kind of penance for his sins – the killing of the obnoxious congressman was a reminder that he was indeed a criminal (though I cheered when he blew his head, of course!). But, anyway, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think his empire was completely destroyed. Wheels within wheels – he burned something visible while keeping something, even bigger, hidden. Ressler of something mentioned he was worth billions; he himself said the task force didn’t know a tenth, not ever a hundredth, of his organization. I wanted him to “die” just to resurface somewhere else, perhaps take the team to work with him..
It felt as if, at the end, someone, some suit, said: He is a criminal and a traitor, we cannot let him get away with it. That’s not American.

Betty Andrews
Betty Andrews
2 months ago

I kind of agree with Jorge, just not sure Red knew the bull was going to be there but I think once he saw the bull ,think he knew this was it,plus I believe Red was dying or very sick,you don’t cough up blood for no reason. I just finished watching the 10th season, waited for it to be on Netflix so i could watch it without interruption,,definitely one of my favourite shows,still never actually felt I never knew the whole story of Reddington and Elizabeth’s relationship though,
one part that bugged me was the congressman was never held accountable for the death of Dresslers addict friend, he was the root cause of his overdose,So him being shot in the head worked for me
would I have liked a better ending? ,yes,but I’m not sure what that ending would look like,the show had to end so other than Dembe and Red riding off into the sunset I probably wouldn’t like any ending
great show,going to miss Red and the Task Force

Drew Lewis
2 months ago
Reply to  Betty Andrews

Such an iconic character. I think if the show ended in it’s 7th or 8th season when it had more viewers it would’ve had more cultural impact. I feel the show ended with little fanfare from the press and fans. A shame it overstayled it’s welcome.

Alejandro Torres
Alejandro Torres
1 month ago

I wholeheartedly agree with this. There’s a gaping hole. This character will be sorely missed and the ending was ridiculous. It was tongue in cheek, bullshit ending. I will miss the twists and turns and mystery of it all. What could replace something woven like this show. I’m not sure I see anything with so much promise. The spinoff was not it.

Lindsay Prowse
Lindsay Prowse
1 month ago

Kindly, I do think you’re overreacting lol. Would you have been happy with any ending of his life? Of course not, because we love him. But he had to die sometime, we all do. His entire purpose in life was survival and to protect Liz. She was killed. Sure, now he could switch his focus to Agnes, but she was already in the best hands possible with Harold. The way I see it, there wasn’t much left for him to do, and I imagine he was just flat out tired! We also can’t forget he may have been dying soon anyways, so I think he very much went out on his own terms. How else can you explain why he was so hell bent on taking the horns back to where they came from? I’m not 100% sure he orchestrated all of that purposely, but he absolutely had to have known it was a possibility. And even if it was a complete surprise to him, I still can’t think of a better way for him to go out. No man had ever been able to take him down, not by killing him or imprisoning him. We see throughout the entire series that Red is an animal lover, so it makes sense to me that an animal was the only thing capable of bringing him down. He had so many resources to deal with whatever life threw at him. I’m currently rewatching it and am up to Season 8. I can’t remember if it was made evident to us whether he was unarmed on his walk, so correct me if I’m wrong here: how many times have we seen him without a gun? Not many at all, so why didn’t he just shoot the bull? While I definitely wasn’t prepared for the very abrupt ending which showed us exactly what happened (for once), I think it was quite fitting for him. It adds perfectly to the list of unique, wild experiences of Raymond Reddington’s life. I think he would be proud.☺️

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