Tom Keen Wasn't Supposed To Last Nearly As Long As He Did In The Blacklist

The 10th season premiere of NBC's beloved espionage drama "The Blacklist" is officially right around the corner. And it's safe to say that ahead of the February 23, 2023 debut, fans still aren't entirely sure what's ahead for Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) and his various factions of do-gooders and not-so-do-gooders. That has, of course, been the case for the show throughout its primetime run as "The Blacklist" creative team has excelled as much as any in TV land at keeping viewers on their toes.

One thing that is for sure about Season 10 is that it will unfold without several of the series' key original cast members as "The Blacklist" creatives have often reveled in taking major players off of Red's proverbial chess board. That includes the unexpected departure of bad boy super spy Tom Keen, portrayed by Ryan Eggold, over the first five seasons of "The Blacklist."

Though the duplicitous Keen's series exit always seemed inevitable, it still shocked many fans of "The Blacklist" when he met his tragic, bloody end during Season 5's mid-season finale. Fans had, after all, grown to care as much about Keen over his tenure as any character in the series' landscape. However, according to the minds behind "The Blacklist," Tom Keen was supposed to be off Red's playing board long before his Season 5 downfall.

Tom's end was tragic, but a long time in the making according to The Blacklist bosses

That surprising bit of news came from the mouth of "The Blacklist" executive producer John Eisendrath, who confirmed it during a 2017 interview with Variety. "Yes, he was supposed to die in the pilot," Eisendrath said before adding that, in hindsight of Tom surviving the pilot, the series creative team felt they'd given Tom every narrative opportunity they could conjure before taking him out. More importantly, Eisendrath noted Tom's exit was always meant to play a significant part in the narrative of the show's central player, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). 

Per Eisendrath, "His passing is going to change the dynamic of who Liz is, how she behaves, and what her relationship is with Red in ways that are a huge new engine for her going forward in the show." That sentiment was echoed by "The Blacklist" creator Jon Bokenkamp, who said, "It does sort of change the show in a way. Not only because Tom is gone, but because of what it might do to Liz." As fans of "The Blacklist" know, Elizabeth Keen met her own violent end during the show's Season 8 finale. But one could easily argue the three-and-a-half seasons Liz endured after Tom's demise were her most compelling and consistently rewarding.

As it was, both Eisendrath's and Bokenkamp's reads on Tom's exit changing the narrative landscape of "The Blacklist" proved pretty spot on, if only because it allowed them to spend more time with Elizabeth's story. Either way, that almost certainly would not have been the case had they offed him in the pilot as initially intended.