Back when Red was a teenager, he and Katarina and Ilya were all under training with Katarina’s dad, Dom. They were all KGB trainees.
Red (we don’t know his Russian name, so I’m just going to call him Red - as in under the bed), was a great student, probably Dom’s most promising. This is why Dom sent him to enter the US naval academy, and why Dom is so disappointed in him now.
As a KGB agent, Red’s mission was to infiltrate the US military and rise through the ranks to gain access to top secret information.
All was going well, Red graduated, got himself a nice all-American girl and had himself a nice all American daughter. At some point, and very possibly because of his daughter Jennifer, Red became a double agent against the USSR.
He was sent to Russia at one point - leaving Karla Reddington (later Naomi Hyland) and Jennifer in the US. While in Russia he reconnected withKatarina and they started an affair - or so he thought.
On finding out that Red had shifted allegiance to the US, Dom sent Katarina to turn him back to the KGB. Dom sent Katarina because he knew Red would trust Katarina - and probably already carried a flame for her.
Then, by mistake, Katarina becomes pregnant and has Masha (later Elizabeth).
Red finds out that Katarina working with the Cabal - so, also being a double agent. Katarina, meanwhile has gathered information about the Cabal as security in case something goes wrong - the fulcrum - which she has hidden in Masha’s bunny rabbit toy.
Red becomes afraid for Masha’s safety and takes off with her to the US. Masha takes her favourite soft toy, of course, which unbeknownst to Red contains the fulcrum.
Katarina follows Red to get her daughter and her insurance policy against the Cabal back. Dom has also sent Ilya and other agents after Katarina and Red - possibly also to get the fulcrum, or possibly just to protect his grand daughter, or possibly for some other reason which will become clear as the show continues.
There is a fight, from the argument we hear when Lizzie’s memory is searched in the second episode about Luther Braxton, Red needs the fulcrum or he’s dead - he doesnt know he has it.
Somehow a fire starts. Red pulls Lizzie from the fire, but is burned himself. Katarina and Ilya try to save their old friend and/or lover, but have to flee when the polices etc. arrive. They believe Red is dead.
Katarina takes Lizzie back to the motel where Mr Kaplan is, and then flees to Cape May. The KGB follow her to Cape May, so she fakes her own death. Later she contacts Ilya, who believes she is also dead, like Red is. They travel to Russia to warn Dom that the KGB will track him down because he will be labelled a traitor like Katarina.
Ilya, Dom and Katarina fight off the KGB when they turn up at Dom’s.
After, in the hotel, Ilya and Katarina formulate a plan for Ilya to become Red. Katarina sends her parents off to the US where they separate and Katarina’s mother remarried, but her father retreats to the forest.
Katarina takes Ilya to Dr Kohl, who says he can’t help them because he is already giving someone else Red’s identity (that someone being Red of course, who is having cosmetic surgery for expensive burns).
Katarina visits her parents one last time to tell them about the post office box, and then disappears.
Dom and Ilya track Katarina down to Belgrade, and make an attempt on her life to protect Lizzie. The attempt fails. Dom wants Ilya to contact Red at that point and tell him, but Ilya wants nothing to do with Red - probably because he believes Red is an imposter.
Later Red contacts him and explains that he is the real Red who survived his burns. He gets Ilya to try and track down Katarina because he believes she has the fulcrum, though she has told him Lizzie knows where it is. Katarina has also had Lizzie’s memory of the night of the fire wiped.
And so, Red end up going to Sam to connect with Mr Kaplan, who he trusts to help him keep an eye on Lizzie. And later, to get closer to Lizzie for several reasons, including the fulcrum and his ailing health...
And that where the series picks up the thread.
Okay, but now, here are some things I’m having trouble with...
Why does Lizzie have dirty blonde curly hair in her retrieved memory of the night of the fire in ‘Luther Braxton conclusion’?
Why does the Lizzie at motel room in ‘Requiem’ and in Lizzie’s flashback when shooting the Attorney General in ‘Tom Connelly’ have a straight dark brown bob just when she shoots her father but light brown curly hair when she runs off down the hall?
Why does Mr Kaplan pull Lizzie up from lying on the motel floor by her wrists when the scar on her wrist as an adult suggests the burn is quite serious?
Does the continuity person need a slap up the back of the head? Or are the writers playing with our heads? Or is it just lazy filming - they made the effort to film Lizzie looking at the gun in her hands as a (rather older looking four year old), but then couldn’t be bother to film the girl with the dark brown hair running down the hall?
Could it be that the shooter was actually Jennifer, and that both Jennifer (aged 6-7 and Lizzie aged 4) were in the closet hiding from the fighting adults - wearing matching nighties? Maybe Jennifer was on a sleepover visitation with her dad? Keep in mind the house that burned down was not the house Red lived in with Karla and Jennifer - it was the house the Reddingtons stayed at during summer holidays.
The conversation between Katarina and Fitch, if Reddington revealed the existence of the Cabal, then they would frame him - that was December 7, he supposedly disappeared December 24. In between Red fled Russia and went to the US. So, when was the fire and where did Red keep Lizzie in the meantime. Did he take her home to Karla and Jennifer? Was Jennifer’s memory also messed with? Was she led to believe he left later than he did? Was she at the holiday house with her dad and her new half sister, and then taken home by rescue services, traumatised, after the fire and given completely different memories about the circumstances of her father’s disappearance?
Whatever the story, it isn’t likely Lizzie’s hair has chameleon-like super powers.