Raymond Reddington/Ilya Koslov
Portrayed by James Spader
Raymond “Red” Reddington is a former government agent, presumed to be a member of the United States Navy, and number 4 on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. A U.S. Naval Academygraduate, he once worked in US counterintelligence and was being groomed for Admiral when something happened on his way home for the Christmas holidays. It is later revealed that Reddington was accused of committing treason by leaking information to the Soviet Union which led to the death of several American naval officers. Nicknamed “the concierge of crime”, Reddington is known for brokering deals between criminals. He willingly surrenders to the FBI and provides information on a roster of criminals that he refers to as The Blacklist: dangerous criminals who are so careful to avoid leaving any traces behind that the FBI has not even detected their existence. His ethics are somewhat murky, and he espouses the use of some crimes (such as extortion, counterfeiting, torture, and murder) in the service of “the greater good”. He uses his arrangement with the FBI to pursue his own secret agenda; it was revealed that he needed their help to find Berlin, a mysterious nemesis who had been attacking his organization.
He has an unexplained interest in Elizabeth Keen and knows personal secrets about her that she has never made public. He will stop at nothing to protect her and even went as far as to block her memories of the fire she was trapped in. But she finally regains them and learns that when her father attacked her mother, she killed him while still a child. Red explains that he never wanted Liz to end up like him and was trying to prevent that. He had a romantic affair with Liz’s mother, Katarina Rostova, and it is implied several times that he may be Liz’s biological father. No proof of this is ever shown, and Red himself initially denies it when directly confronted by Liz, although he does claim that he knew her father well. Red is confirmed as Liz’s father in “Dr. Adrian Shaw: Conclusion”, and in “Mr. Kaplan: Conclusion”, he finally acknowledges this to Liz after she presents him with a DNA test confirming his paternity. In “Monarch Douglas Bank”, it was revealed that Red used to be married to Naomi Hyland and has a daughter named Jennifer. In “Dr. Linus Creel”, when he confronted Naomi about her, he discovers that Jennifer left her after her marriage to Frank and hasn’t tried to make contact since then.
After the death of Alan Fitch, Reddington comes into conflict with the Director, the new head of the Cabal. The Director did not believe that Reddington had the Fulcrum, a blackmail file which Reddington had used as leverage to force a stalemate with the Cabal, and wanted to end the détente and kill Reddington. In response, Reddington urgently began seeking the Fulcrum, and managed to collect various items needed to decrypt it. Finally, after he confessed to Liz that he had initially hired Tom Keen to enter her life and watch over her, she gave him the Fulcrum, after which he was shot by the Director’s agents. However, he survived. He continued to throw obstacles into Liz’s path as she sought to find out more about her mother. When Liz was framed by the Cabal for the assassination of Senator Hawkins, Reddington countered by gathering 11 of the world’s top investigative journalists and giving them the information contained in the Fulcrum. He later helped Liz go on the run after she assassinated Attorney GeneralTom Connolly, a member of the Cabal.
Accompanied by Liz, Reddington goes on the run to gather various resources needed for his plan to bring down the Director and exonerate Liz. He eventually succeeds in forcing the Cabal to abandon the Director, and then kills him. However, Red is unable to clear Liz completely of the killing of Tom Connolly and she only returns to the taskforce as an asset like Red himself. He meets with Laurel Hitchin, who suggests he weakened the Cabal so that they would invite him to join it.
After watching Liz die in his arms Dembe convinces Red to leave the van containing her body and Ressler places his FBI windbreaker around Red’s shoulders and leads him over to the car with Dembe. As Ressler lets go of Red’s arm and Red goes to get into the car he collapses and Dembe catches him saying: “I got you.” And preceding to help Red into the car. After being told to stay away from Agnes by Tom in “Cape May”, Red goes on a self-imposed exile to get away from everything and find better means to cope with Liz’s death. He rescues a woman who attempted suicide one time and takes her back to the abandoned hotel. Only when a man talks to Red at the beach, that he realized the woman he rescued was a ghost and it was she who tells him that he did save her, through channeling his grief in losing Liz. In “The Artax Network”, Red finally visits Dom, the father of Katarina, and while he still blames him for what he done, Dom reluctantly allows Red to stay. When Aram tracks him down to try and convince Red to help them again, he refuses to leave and sends Aram on his way. Dom later convinces Red to leave and honor his word to the FBI, saying that Red’s got good people who count on him. As a token of gratitude, Red fixes a C♯ key on Dom’s piano and leaves. Red later visits Aram and tells him they have work to do.
In “Dr. Adrian Shaw: Conclusion”, while Red is being held captive and threatened by Alexander Kirk, Red admits that he is in fact Elizabeth Keen’s father. As Kirk goes to kill him, Red whispers something to Kirk that changes his mind and the two men disappear by the time the FBI arrive. Red later tells Liz that Kirk is “gone” but doesn’t elaborate further and doesn’t tell her that he’s her father.
In “Lipet’s Seafood Company” Red is berated by Cooper for letting Alexander Kirk go, but Red tells him that Kirk is gone and won’t be coming back and moves on. Red works to meet with the President-Elect to whose campaign he contributed in exchange for his help with the Alexander Kirk situation and is eventually able to secure a Presidential pardon for Liz killing Tom Connolly. As a result, Liz is able to be reinstated as an FBI agent.
In “The Apothecary”, Red is poisoned and needs the FBI to find Asa Hightower, the man who poisoned him. When confronting Marvin Gerard for not being at the dinner, he learns that Dembe has left him.
In “Dembe Zuma” Red finds out that Dembe left his side in order to find the traitor in his syndicate. Aram helps him out by procuring one name, Kathryn Nemec, whom Red recognizes as Mr. Kaplan. When confronting the man who housed her and shot Dembe, Red and Baz discovered he wired a bomb and escaped as he died in his house.
In “Requiem”, Kaplan calls Red and he confronts her for hiding Liz from him. She tells him she needed to do what she should’ve done years ago in keeping Liz away from him and mentions that she has just begun her revenge. When Red tries to claim that she helped build his syndicate tight, Kaplan reminds him that she is the one who knows where the bodies of the people he had killed are buried and that she hid them from the FBI over the years, including that of Diane Fowler. This makes Red worried when Kaplan reveals that they can be used to not only attack his syndicate, but also destroy him from within.
In “Mr. Kaplan”, many of Red’s associates have broken rank and joined Kaplan in her plans for revenge. He also learns that Julian Gale, a rogue FBI agent, is working with her in order to procure the immunity deal between Red and the FBI. Red tries to appeal to Kaplan to end the war, but she refused, telling him that Liz needs to know the truth.
In “Mr. Kaplan, Conclusion”, Red takes Ressler to Hitchin’s cleaner, Henry Prescott, to help him find a barrel marked back two years ago. When they open it, Red tells Ressler that he had just found Reven Wright. With the evidence, he and Ressler appeal to Hitchin for help. When she tried to refuse, Red tells her that unless she wants to be held accountable for both the Task Force’s downfall and the murder of Wright, she better uphold her end of the bargain and end the indictment on the Task Force. Red tries to appeal to Kaplan again at the bridge, promising he won’t shoot her. He is shocked when she decided to jump to her own death. Later on, Red is confronted by Liz who tells him that she now knows he’s her father. At Tansi Farms, Red and Dembe discover the suitcase buried there is gone and that they must get it back before Liz discovers the truth about how her mother, Katarina Rostova, died.
In “Ian Garvey: Conclusion”, despite taking Garvey hostage and en route to collecting the skeletal remains of Katarina, Ian rams his sedan into another car, leaving Red and Dembe there as he escapes. Red later confronts Garvey after learning that the latter now knows that Liz is his daughter. Only then, Jennifer confronts Red for what he’s done and the fact that Ian saved her and Naomi’s life from their disappointment when they learned of his criminal career. Red then recognizes her from all the years. Despite Garvey shooting first, Red fires back and shoots him.