‘The Blacklist’: Producers Reveal Why One Character’s Death ‘Needed to Happen’ Despite Massive Fandom

While fans await the season 8 return of NBC’s The Blacklist, many past storylines return to the topic of debate. One of which revolves around a character who redeemed himself — just in time for writers to kill him off. Here’s why it was a necessary component to the show’s success, according to The Blacklist producers.

One character’s life and death became as much a part of ‘The Blacklist’ as Raymond Reddington

The Blacklist
Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen, Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen | Will Hart/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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When NBC aired The Blacklist for the first time, no one knew the level of success it would reach. The audience is loyal, clinging to the characters’ story arcs week after week.

The procedural crime drama stars James Spader and Megan Boone. The Blacklist gave Spader a new space to perfect his idiosyncrasies while highlighting New Amsterdam star, Ryan Eggold.

In The Blacklist, Eggold played Tom Keen — FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen’s (Megan Boone) husband-turned-traitor-turned-husband. Throughout his five years, Eggold’s portrayal left viewers just as conflicted over Tom Keen as FBI-Wanted criminal, “Red” Reddington (Spader).

By 2018, Eggold’s exit was set and Tom Keen would go out in a blaze of glory. The actor picked up New Amsterdam’s Dr. Max Goodwin shortly after and continues with the role to this day. Still, fans can’t help but wish Tom would reappear in season 8 of The Blacklist — if only to antagonize Red a little more.

Why Tom Keen was written out of ‘The Blacklist’

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With Tom’s newly-found redemption and his relationship with Elizabeth, writers decided to throw a wrench into the show. The 2017 fall finale picked up

“I loved how people felt about it. It was hard to do and for the show,” showrunner Jon Bokenkamp told Variety. “Ryan was with us from the pilot, is an incredibly intricate part of the recipe that has made the success of the show, and yet it felt inevitable that this needed to happen.”

He continued: “It felt like his character — I don’t want to say that we sacrificed him as some sort of story engine because that’s not the case, but it did fuel Liz in a way that we’ve really embraced and had a lot of fun with and has allowed for her to grow — for better or worse — in a new direction.”

Eggold said he learned of the decision at the start of the season. By then, he was ready to move on from the role — sort of.

“Yes in the sense that it was my family for a long time and it was a great character arc,” Eggold told Global News. “It was a lot of fun following the twists and turns of Tom, and the fans really responded to him. At the same time, you do get hungry after a couple of years for new roles and new stories.”

Was Eggold ready to leave the show?

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As for whether Eggold thinks his death was fitting, he does.

“I think it’s a good ending for the character primarily because he’s had this incredible journey of being somewhat sociopathic and a well-trained operative who can manipulate people but doesn’t really have an inner emotional life that is at all sincere,” Eggold said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“Then meets this woman, develops this relationship, has a child with her, and has a family now, and really learns to love someone, and to care about someone and to be loved.”

While Eggold noted that the death was “sad and tragic,” it’s also “an incredible catalyst for Liz with this enormous void that this creates.”

Eggold is onto other things

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During the show’s 100th-episode party, Bokenkamp and Eggold discussed Tom’s death and the lasting effect it would have (via TV Insider).

“Tom was one of the few things really grounding her; he provided an emotional anchor,” Eggold said. “Without that, with the volatility of her job and her relationship with Red, that hole will have to be filled in some way. And it might be filled with the wrong things.”

Bokenkamp explained that fan reaction to Tom’s death was largely due to his character arc, comparing him to Pinocchio.

“He’s like this broken sort of bad guy who’s done horrible things and he just wants to be normal. He wants to have a wife and a child and a house with a picket fence and that sort of idyllic life,” he said.

He continued: “He’s fighting desperately, trying to carve out some humanity in this crazy world. All the things he’s done in the past is a lot to overcome, and early on we’d hear from people that Tom treated Liz so badly, how can you let her take him back? But we’ve always felt that Tom and Liz’s love was real. Tom died trying to get to the truth and protect her. It’s ultimately a love story.”

Fans still mourn Tom Keen

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Clearly the loss struck a nerve, opening the social media portal for fans to commiserate.

“How I’m I supposed to enjoy The Blacklist without Tom Keen?” one fan tweeted.

The Blacklist was better when Tom Keen was around. #Blacklist #TomKeen #BringHimBack,” another said.

“Are you kidding me? They killed Tom on The Blacklist. How are we supposed to go on now without him? Therapy? #Blacklist #TomKeen” this fan added.

Eggold may be long gone from The Blacklist but his memory as Tom Keen lives on. Maybe someday, he’ll appear via flashbacks and all will be right in the world again.