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The Ending Of The Blacklist Season 8 Explained

Contains spoilers for "The Blacklist" Season 8, Episode 22 — "Konets"

When "The Blacklist" first premiered on September 23, 2013, it was impossible for anyone to know that the series would last as long as it has. From the pilot's outset, it was clear that the series had a very repeatable formula (always important for a police procedural), but also an incredibly dense mythology that could be explored by very small pieces at a time.

After eight full seasons of tracking down leads, initiating and-or responding to a litany of double crosses, and combing their way through a literal laundry list of criminals, drug lords and arms dealers, the cast of "The Blacklist" finds itself at a major crossroads in the Season 8 finale. With Townsend finally dead and the Townsend Directive essentially gone with him, Red (James Spader), Liz (Megan Boone), and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) flee the scene of Townsend's death. In an episode entitled "Konets," Russian for "end," the team sets out to greet the new world in front of them. 

Of course, Townsend's death doesn't solve all of their problems and, in actuality, makes a few new ones.

Red plans to have Liz kill him

As audience members have known for some time now, without continued treatment, Red is not long for this world. Red has been battling an unexplained neurological illness since Season 6. Though treatment has been previously shown to improve his health in the short term, Red decides in the Season 8 finale that he would rather die purposefully now, instead of prolonging the inevitable. Instead of letting his illness take him slowly, Red devises a plan for Liz to execute him in public, declaring herself the heir to his life's work. Liz is initially opposed to the plan, but later comes to agree to it after considering the direction her life has taken her. The plan is to have Liz wait for Red outside of Pascual's restaurant and shoot him dead once he exits. Red's goal is to make sure that every major newspaper in the world leads with the image of him dead at Liz's hand.

For Red, such a calculated plan shows not only how much he cares about Liz, but also how much effort he is willing to put into making sure she is safe, even after he is dead. Red has obviously always cared a great deal for Liz (that is a big part of the show's mystery, after all), but the relationship that the two have formed over the course of the last eight years has only served to deepen these bonds.

Red wants Liz to take over his empire

An important piece of the finale is the dangling question of who will take over Red's criminal empire after his demise. Liz's life has, of course, radically changed over the course of the previous eight years. Few could have predicted at the beginning of "The Blacklist" that Liz would ever become so close to Red. After leaving her job at the FBI and becoming an international fugitive, Liz has made nearly a complete 180 from the rookie FBI agent audiences met in the pilot episode.

To most viewers, these changes have appeared to occur as a direct result of Red's actions. However, Red offers a much darker theory about the trajectory of Liz's life. Red suggests, "Maybe you were born to this," while also ultimately coming to the conclusion that it doesn't matter. While Red admits that under different circumstances, he would never want her to inherit his criminal empire, he also appears to believe that she is the best possible successor. He adds that "whether it's chance or karma, DNA or fate, or just bad luck," Liz's current position is what matters at this point in time, and nothing can better protect her than the world seeing her kill him and take his spot.

Red refuses to reveal who he is to Liz until after he is dead

Since the first trailer for the pilot of "The Blacklist" was released in 2013, one central question has dogged fans of the long-running series: Who is Raymond Reddington to Elizabeth Keen? In the Season 8 finale, Red promises to have the answer to this question delivered to Liz upon his death, but no sooner. Red adds that the answer to the seemingly endlessly unanswered question is a story "full of ambition, hope, love, and loss." When asked why he can't just tell her before his death, Red responds that if Liz discovers who he is before she pulls the trigger, she will be unable to complete the task of killing him. When Liz questions if Red knew her mother, he responds, "better than anyone."

Numerous clues throughout the series have led fans to hypothesize that Red is her father. However, when Liz asks Red this question point blank, Red denies it. Many fans haven't always been convinced that Red was being truthful in that moment (Red lies often), but other fans have come to the conclusion that Red was being truthful and instead is Liz's mother. The so-called "Rederina" theory — which claims that Liz's mother, Katarina Rostova, became Red — has been percolating on fan forums and subreddits for years now, but was rarely taken seriously. However, the events of the finale have led many fans to conclude that the theory has actually been true all along.

Liz receives lots of advice

Liz starts the Season 8 finale in a great mood, telling Red that with Townsend dead, she feels like she could fly. However, the possibility of taking over Red's empire weighs heavily upon Liz, and she finds herself questioning the direction of her life. Was she destined to become a fugitive, even if Red had never entered her life? Is he really to blame for all of her choices? While Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Aram (Amir Arison) are heavily opposed to such an idea, Cooper (Harry Lennix) is more open to the possibility, concluding that it might be the best way to keep her and her daughter safe.

In addition to her closest friends and family, Liz receives support from a girl at an airport who only the most dedicated followers of "The Blacklist" will recognize. This girl is Beth Ryker (Delphina Belle), the same girl who is rigged with explosives in the very first episode of the series. In the conclusion of the pilot episode, Liz manages to save Beth and she hasn't been seen on the series since — until the Season 8 finale. 

Beth spots Liz at the airport and their conversation reminds Liz how good it felt to make a positive difference in the world. This chance encounter leads Liz to reconsider Red's offer and she agrees to kill him. In many ways, Beth, a completely innocent person, is also responsible for the life that Liz has chosen to live.

Liz dies

Killing off the deuteragonist of a police procedural in its eighth season is definitely a bold move, and not one that many writers are likely to try after such a long time on the air. However, this is exactly what "The Blacklist" does in the last few minutes of its Season 8 finale. Liz appears outside the restaurant to kill Red, just as he requested. 

However, after raising her weapon, she hesitates and tells him "I can't do it. I don't want to." Red responds "That's alright. I understand." Without directly saying it, both appear to share knowing glance. Perhaps Liz has finally put all the pieces together and knows Red's identity? However, before Liz can voice a question, she is gunned down from behind by Elias VanDyke (Lukas Hassel), no doubt in retaliation for the killing of his boss, Neville Townsend (Reg Rogers), in the prior episode. 

As Red holds Liz and she slowly dies of her wounds, a flashback of Liz's life plays on the screen. Among the flashbacks, there is a noteworthy interweaving of scenes portraying Liz with her mother as a little girl and scenes shared between Liz and Red in the prior eight years. In addition to serving as a hint about Red's origins, the flashbacks serve as a goodbye to actress Megan Boone, who chose to leave the series.

NBC began airing Season 9 of "The Blacklist" (without Megan Boone) on October 21 (via IMDb).