The Blacklist boss on Katarina's next move and why she became the spy next door squib

Team Red to the rescue!

While Reddington (James Spader) was rescued by the end of the second episode of The Blacklist season 7, it’s clear that his kidnapper, Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins), is just getting started. After Reddington escaped, she descended on Dom’s (Brian Dennehy) secluded cabin with her men ready to kill in order to figure out a “big secret” Reddington is keeping. Red won the day after Liz (Megan Boone) and the task force came to his rescue, but Dom ended up in bad shape in the hospital and Katarina vanished. She did turn up in the episode’s final moments… across the hall from Liz and Agnes, posing as their new neighbor.

We spoke to executive producer Jon Bokenkamp about Katarina’s motivations, how Cooper will deal with learning the truth about Reddington, and what’s in store for The Blacklist’s endgame.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tells us about the Townsend Directive?
JON BOKENKAMP:
The Townsend Directive, which we did hear about last season and is very present in the line of questions that Katarina is asking Red, is basically a bounty on Katarina Rostova’s head. If you can imagine a group of enemies who have bound together and pooled their resources and put their money in the kitty. And so the Townsend Directive is sort of this standing order in the criminal community to bring her in, and she knows that she can hopefully unravel or defeat or defuse this directive with information that only Reddington has. And as we saw in the opening two episodes, he is not eager or interested in helping her in any way, despite their history.

Red won’t help Katarina, but he lies to Liz about her being back, and that puts everyone in more danger. What’s behind that choice, and how is that going impact things moving forward?
Well, it obviously gives us a big secret with the task force. The audience and Red are one step ahead of Liz and the task force. Does it put them in danger? Probably, but as Red told Liz at the end of episode 2, this is because she and Ressler started overturning rocks and looking into Katarina last season. Just the very whisper of her name brings danger, and I think that the way Reddington would justify it is the less people know, the better. I don’t think he thinks he’s lying to Liz, he’s simply perhaps withholding important information. He would probably see it as protecting both Liz and the task force. It may not work out that way, but I think that’s how he would he would justify it.

Liz may have gotten over this revelation about Reddington’s true identity, but it doesn’t seem like the same can be said for Cooper. How will this discovery, Liz sharing the truth about Red’s identity with the task force, shape Cooper’s story line this season and impact his dealings with Reddington?
It’s going to impact the show in a meaningful way, and quite soon. We have a great Cooper story that we’re telling this season. Even all the way back to the first season, we talked about Red and Cooper having a little secret about Kuwait. We’re going to revisit Kuwait very soon, and the nefarious things that happened between Reddington and Cooper back in Kuwait are going to bubble back up and influence how Cooper is feeling about Red not being Red and the task force moving forward with this stranger, this Russsian operative. Cooper is the guy who does the right thing. He’s a moral figure, and he is going to be saddled quite soon with making a decision about what to do with the task force. Cooper and his past are going to get dragged into that decision-making process in a really emotional and personal way.

Katarina’s return also brings Don back into the action. What can you tease about what happens to him? Will he have a larger presence this season?
Dom is still alive, barely. And we love Brian Dennehy, so any chance we get to get him onto the show is a blessing. But Don is clinging to life, and with him lives a secret, lives the truth. Yes, we will likely see more of Dom. His story line is not finished. In fact, I would even suggest if Katarina could find him, that would probably not bode well for Red. Don is sort of a loose thread that is dangling out there, posing both a threat to Red in terms of answers that he has and also this big emotional hole for Liz and Agnes, because this is her grandfather.

How does Agnes being back with Liz figure into this season’s story?
The table is set for a very strange and unusual familial dynamic. You know Katarina is living across the hall. Daughter is reunited with mom, and Reddington isn’t aware of this. I think we’re we are certainly aware of the fact that Agnes is home and it’s a new dynamic for Liz. She’s a working mom who is juggling all the all the jobs that a working mother does, and yet her super-spy mother is living across the hall looking for answers. Well, that could go in any number of strange and unexpected directions. So, yes, I don’t want to say Agnes is in jeopardy, but I think her story line in coming home presents the show with some really unique opportunities.

The episode ends with the reveal that Katarina is posing as Liz’s neighbor. What does she want specifically from Liz? And what can you tease about what she’ll do next?
It’s a little tricky because the search that she’s on, the questions that she’s asking are somewhat enigmatic. It’s not super-clear what it is that she’s asking Reddington for other than this deep-buried truth, and it is something that really only Reddington can tell her. There are other people in his world with the answers, but Reddington is playing this very close. What Katarina is after, the core answers she is searching for, if she were to find them, it would pull at a thread in the fabric of Red’s mythology and unravel things in really the most important way possible. It could unravel everything he’s been doing for the past six and now seven years.

Liz is her access point to Red’s orbit. Katarina living next to Liz and the promise of her inserting herself into Liz’s life is less about Liz becoming a target, although that very well may happen. It’s more about using Liz to try to get information and trying to get answers about Reddington. So Liz, and therefore Agnes, are sort of in the crosshairs. They’re not necessarily her target, but I think we’ve done a nice job of demonstrating just how diabolical this woman is. And on top of that, I think it gives us a lot of really interesting familial territory to cover, and it gives the show a unique way to explore those relationships without being overt about it.

We’re now seven seasons in and Katarina is here, so are you working toward a specific endgame? Do you have a sense of when and how you’d like to end the series?
We’ve been concerned about where this series ends from day one. We’ve always been working toward a sort of singular answer to the riddle of why did Raymond Reddington surrendered himself to Elizabeth Keen all these years ago. And it’s something that we talk about almost daily. I feel like with our show specifically, I think it would be impossible to tell the sort of stories that are deeply intertwined, and hopefully still adding up in terms of answers, if we didn’t know where we were going. So we feel that in the room, we sometimes move things along, we sometimes slow things up, but we’re definitely working toward a resolution to this giant enigmatic question that I think is going to be incredibly satisfying and surprising.

The Blacklist airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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