Raymond 'Red' Reddington.
Yes, it's a double bluff.
I've been fan-girling on James Spader for many years now, but by far my favourite character of his is Raymond Reddington from The Blacklist.
For those who don't watch the show (you're missing out, by the way from a writer's perspective), the premise of the show is that of a notorious criminal who has been on the run for nearly three decades, turns himself in to the FBI and offers his services to track down some of the most desirable criminal fugitives on the planet - but only if he gets to work with the newly minted FBI agent Elizabeth Keen. The Blacklist is a list of criminals not only important to the FBI, but to Reddington as well for a yet undisclosed reason. He manages to kill most of the criminals before they are captured - except those few who are useful to him, usually in capturing other criminal he wants dead.
The overarching question of the series is 'Who is Reddington?' Who is he to Elisabeth, that he only wants to work with her?
Is he her father? Elizabeth was raised in a foster home, so is open to finding her biological father.
Some think he's her mother - a double agent for the KGB and the Cabal - after a sex change operation.
Is he her mother's childhood friend, Ilya Koslov, who had a facelift to look like the real Raymond Reddington - a naval officer her mother had been tasked with turning against his country.
All sorts of twisting and turning story lines have taken us through six seasons, so far.
With the seventh season coming out next Friday (in the US, who knows how long they'll make us wait in Australia), I took it upon myself to watch the entire series again to refresh my memory.
By the end of the sixth season we've learned that Reddington was Elizabeth's father as the result of her spy mother, Katarina, having an extra marital affair with Reddington. Boy, was her stepdad pissed about that one. We then find out that the Reddington we know is not, in fact, the Reddington Katarina had the affair with. Then Elizabeth is told by her maternal grandfather, Dom, that the imposter pretending to be Reddington is Katarina's childhood friend Ilya, who had his face changed to look like Reddington so he could access Reddington's bank accounts to fund Katarina going on the run from the KGB and the Cabal.
Are you still with me? Congratulations.
So, all sorts of theories abound.
Several people around the man we know as Reddington know who he really is, and all have encouraged him to tell Elizabeth because she 'deserves the truth'. Many of those people have been killed by Reddington to preserve his secret.
The closing scene of the sixth season shows Reddington finally locating Katarina - after not having seen her for an undisclosed length of time, we're led to believe nearly thirty years.
On meeting they kiss, rather passionately, before she injects him with some sort of paralysing agent - never trust an ex, they're an ex for a reason!
I think that crosses out the theory that Reddington is Katarina after a sex change operation (I didn't believe that, myself). I think the kiss is too passionate for it to be Ilya because we've seen evidence that Ilya's depth of love for Katarina is unrequited.
So, this is what I think - given Reddington's obvious and overwhelming protective love for Elizabeth - Reddington is in fact the real Reddington. I believe that he survived the fire he was supposed to have died in and that knowing he couldn't trust Katarina, who had conspired to frame him to look like a traitor to his country, he fled into hiding.
He was also motivated by wanting to keep his daughter - Elizabeth - safe.
I believe he caught up with Ilya and killed him, so the real Reddington - the one who gave himself up - could slip back into his own life and become a criminal as he was believed to be anyway. Doing that allowed him to build a crime syndicate, and create a nest egg for Elizabeth. He surrendered himself when he realised Elizabeth was in ever increasing danger for being the daughter of a double agent and a criminal mastermind (they do tend to attract enemies - who knew).
Tonight I watched a 'behind the scenes' show on YouTube where executive producer, Lukas Reiter, - referring to the identity of the Reddington we know - posed the question; Who would care this much about Elizabeth Keen and keeping her safe?
Parents are the most invested in their children. None cares about a person more than their parents (in an ideal world).
We know Elizabeth's mother is alive, we know her mother's husband is definitely not her father. We know Ilya is not her father, and of course her foster father Sam has died - was killed by the shows Reddington.
Who does that leave but Reddington?
He has burn scars on his back. Ilya definitely wasn't suffering extensive burns after the fire, and had no reason to have them surgically replicated as the pre-fire Reddington had no burns either.
Although, there was a suitcase of bones in play which matched blood stained clothing in police storage, there is nothing to say those bones didn't belong to Ilya after Reddington caught up with him or that the blood stained clothing wasn't Ilya's. *I need to add here that after writing this post I remembered The Alchemist (S.1, E.12). The Alchemist is said to be able to change DNA. Taking that into account the best way to discover synthesised DNA - according to the shows logic - is to do a spinal cord biopsy. Therefore, the DNA taken from the skeleton, - no spinal cord available - the DNA result from the bones attributed to the real Raymond Reddington, could have been mis-diagnosed if the Alchemist changed the DNA. The bones could be Ilya's.
Reddington did have cosmetic surgery, but that would have been to repair burns and minimise scaring from the fire.
Each criminal on the Blacklist is numbered, and we have yet to find out who the no.1 Blacklister is. My bet is Katarina. Reddington had her, but expecting he would sooner or later she was ready for him.
Here is why she would make the top of the list - Reddington once explained the code he lives by to Elizabeth;
Red: I live and work by a very strict code built on loyalty, justice, trust. I survive because I eliminate those who betray it.
Katarina is a pretty good candidate for lister no.1 because Reddington loved her so deeply and she betrayed him so greatly.
There you have it. Our Raymond 'Red' Reddington is, in fact, himself!