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Following a shaky season 7 finale, fans of NBC’s The Blacklist are determined to discover Raymond “Red” Reddington’s (James Spader) true identity. With Red’s health on the decline, could The Blacklist survive without its main antagonist?

Season 8 of ‘The Blacklist’ will explore more of Red’s illness

The Blacklist
Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen, James Spader as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington | Will Hart/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

The Blacklist has teased signs of Red’s mysterious illness for some time now. Season 6 showed Red’s need for “The Pharmacist.” The episode gave subtle clues about a possible health crisis.

By season 7, it’s clear The Pharmacist couldn’t Red, leaving the conman to tie up loose ends — such as who would inherit his kingdom when he passes.

So far, writers haven’t succinctly explained what is killing Red or if there’s a cure somewhere. Some find it curious that the once-untouchable “concierge of crime” has suddenly fallen ill at the same time Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins) reappears.

During a 2020 Comic-Con panel, creator, Jon Bokenkamp and executive producer, John Eisendrath, said fans should expect to see a more “humanized” version of Red in season 8. However, they didn’t reveal whether that means his condition will worsen or if he’ll get better.

‘The Blacklist’ teased Red’ death once before

Episode 10 of season 6, “Bastien Moreau,” put Red’s fate against the clock. After Red received a guilty verdict for treason and sentenced to death, the task force team worked to obtain evidence to save him.

Much of the episode explained Katarina’s KGB ties, in which Red believed he was set-up. Fans may not have wanted to see Red behind bars (or facing a death penalty), producers went with an unexpected route.

“The easy answer was that he would just get out. We wanted to take the show into new territory with the stakes and odds that are stacked against him,” Bokenkamp told Variety.

“Red is always two or three steps ahead and he hasn’t been at all this season. He has at times, but in the moments that matter — whether it’s who turned him in, his identity, or some secrets that he has always held close to the vest that are now out there — he’s not. There are pieces of the story in motion that he is unaware of, which is new territory for us.”

He continued, explaining how Spader felt about the decision.

“James has always said that Red is completely comfortable with that,” Bokenkamp said.

“This is as close to the needle in the arm that we’ve ever seen and watching how he handles that, how at peace he is with it, are some of the finest moments of the series. What we are going to see is an incredibly powerful man and a revered criminal who is now in this incredibly horrible place, not only physically but emotionally.”

That said, Red’s pardon came at the last moment, giving him a new lease on life. However, with new symptoms developing through every episode, fans worry the end of Red is inevitable.

Do fans think ‘The Blacklist’ can survive without Red?


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With season 8 of The Blacklist on the way, fans are making their opinions known regarding Red’s declining health. In a Reddit thread asking, “would you watch The Blacklist if Red died,” a poll showed over 1,100 people voted that they would not.

“I only watch it for Red. James Spader is a national treasure,” one fan commented.

“Red makes the entire show; They could kill off Elizabeth and I wouldn’t even blink,” another added.

“The show’s premise requires Red. It would become a completely different show without him. Dembe could fill a big chunk of that void, but there’d still be a void without him,” another said.

Bokenkamp and Eisendrath are aware of how the dedicated Blacklist fans feel about Raymond Reddington. Still, if they want to kill him off, they will.

“We’ve never changed the story based on what people are guessing is the end game, the answers, the truth,” Eisendrath told Variety.

“The fun of the guessing game that the audience has is hopefully made more fun if we just tell the story the best possible way that we can. We don’t try to alter it and throw them off or to try and lead them on.”

That’s not exactly a reassuring answer. Bokenkamp and Eisendrath said they won’t reveal Red’s true identity until the end of the series. That means his death could come later. For now, Red is here to stay.