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‘The Blacklist’ checks off its final name with an overdue series finale

<i>Will Hart/NBC</i><br/>James Spader and Jonathan Holtzman in
Will Hart/NBC
James Spader and Jonathan Holtzman in "The Blacklist's" two-part finale.

By Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) — Like a lot of things in Hollywood, “The Blacklist” didn’t know when to quit, hanging on for two listless seasons beyond the exit of Megan Boone as Liz Keen in 2021. Yet the show at least knew to provide viewers with a pretty definitive ending, as it did with the two-part series finale that officially bid farewell to James Spader’s oily master criminal Raymond “Red” Reddington.

After yet another lengthy game of cat and mouse with Reddington, this time involving the FBI task force to which he had fed names for all those years, the finish saw him kill that annoying congressman (Toby Leonard Moore) who was determined to capture him, and basically throw away his chance to escape in order to save the life of his longtime friend and associate, Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq).

Dembe provided what amounted to the coda when he discussed how Reddington was “at peace with death,” as a version of the Bob Dylan song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – from the 1973 movie “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” about the death of a legendary outlaw – played in the background.

That was enough foreshadowing for Reddington’s serene if slightly undignified demise at the horns of a bull in Spain, accepting his fate just as his longtime FBI contact Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) was bearing down on him.

For good measure, the producers threw in a Spanish-language version of “My Way,” reinforcing the sense that Reddington had gone out the way he lived – namely, on his terms, down to his bizarre choice of executioner.

All things considered, it was reasonably worthy exit for a show that had long since become a pale remnant of its heyday, when its almost immediate success on NBC prompted a string of “Blacklist” imitators, few of which enjoyed even a portion of its longevity.

Much of that appeal had to do with Spader, who in the early seasons infused the show with mystery regarding the reasons behind his interest in Agent Keen, and the dark world of espionage in which he ruthlessly operated.

While the precise fate of the task force remained somewhat murky, that seemed like a bit of an afterthought. With Reddington gone, “The Blacklist” had checked off the one name that really mattered, in a show that, other than its usefulness to NBC, should have left Reddington to rest in peace years ago.

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