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Series / The Blacklist

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"I'm talking about the criminals who matter. The ones you can't even find because you don't know they exist. Let's call it the blacklist; that sounds exciting."
Raymond Reddington

The Blacklist is a television crime drama that premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013, starring James Spader and Megan Boone.

Raymond Reddington, ex-U.S. Navy officer and wanted fugitive, calmly strolls into FBI headquarters and turns himself in. While in custody, he claims to have a list that they would be very interested in, containing the names of criminals so cunning and careful in their plans that law enforcement doesn't even know they exist.

Reddington is all too happy to help catch them, but he has some conditions. First and foremost, he'll only speak to one person: Elizabeth Keen, a rookie profiler. She's never met him before, but he knows a startling amount of information about her, and he's reluctant to reveal why.

Spin-Off Media includes

  • The Blacklist (2016-17): A tie-in comic series published by Titan Comics.
  • The Blacklist: Redemption (2016-17): A TV series about former Blacklisters acting as mercenaries to atone for their past crimes.
  • The Blacklist: Conspiracy (2016): A mobile game developed by Gameloft.
  • A series of tie in novels from Titan Books:
    • The Blacklist - The Beekeeper No. 159 (2016)
    • The Blacklist - The Dead Ring No. 166 (2017)

The show has aired nine seasons, with a tenth that has been confirmed to be the final season having begun airing as of February 26, 2023.

The Blacklist contains examples of:

  • 555:
    • In the episode "Luther Braxton", Reddington is "captured" by the military. He tells them to call a 555 number with a 202 area code, presumably the director of the CIA.
    • In season 3, Tom's phone number is 555-0123, possibly the most fake phone number in television history.
  • Action Girl: After one episode as a psychological profiler (see The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything), Liz took this role. Although clearly a rookie at the start, she leveled up rapidly, achieving badass status by the episode "Anslo Garrick". Season 1's Agent Malik is justifiably shades of this, as a trained CIA Agent. Malik's successor in Season 2 onwards, Samar Navabi, is a trained Mossad agent.
  • Acting Unnatural: Once Lizzie learns that Tom is indeed planted to spy on her, she completely and utterly fails to hide the fact that she knows despite knowing full well it was in her best interests to keep him from knowing. These failures range from thinly veiled comments on his double life, to inviting his friends and family over on no notice to ask them for information.
    • Season 5 had a scene where Cooper and Samar discuss how 'unsteady' Ressler has been recently, as he spent several episodes rushing off and disappearing in the middle of missions. After Henry Prescott is arrested, Cooper is revealed to have suspected what was truly happening.
    • Season 5 also had Elizabeth refusing to deal with her grief, and she chooses not to return to the FBI. It's partially so she could threaten, beat, and even (unintentionally) kill the people she is investigating.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Advertising Campaigns: This show virtually took over a number of stations on the New York City Subway.
  • Affably Evil: Reddington comes off as this whenever he speaks to someone he's on good terms with. It gets to the point that one seems to forget he is a bad guy. Get on his bad side though, and it quickly goes away.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Almost everyone in the show calls Ressler by his last name, Special Agent Julian Gale is introduced calling him “Donnie”.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Invoked in "Luther Braxton", where "The Factory" — a secret American interrogation facility in the Bering Sea — is captured by a Blacklister. Though the inmates are heavily implied to deserve the treatment they receive there, it becomes a form of Black Comedy when the villains subject the heroes to some of it — three of the series regulars spend the episode suspended from chain nooses, attempting to keep some of the weight off their necks by standing on tiptoe on tiled blocks slick with the blood of executed inmates.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In "Anslo Garrick", the titular character storms the FBI site in order to kidnap Reddington.
    • In Season 6, Anna McMahon storms the FBI site with Secret Service agents and place nearly everyone under arrest.
  • Amazon Brigade: The all-female heist team Elizabeth infiltrates.
  • Anachronistic Clue: Tom invokes this as part of a Kansas City Shuffle. He pretends to be a wealthy gambler who likes to tell the story of how back in college he went on summer vacation with a friend and ended up finding a watch worth thousands of dollars. However, his story contains small anachronisms like buying a type of muffin that was not sold in the area at the time. The mark spent a lot of time in the area during the time period of Tom's supposed vacation and picks up on those clues. He quickly figures out that Tom is a conman who is using the story and the watch as a distraction while he cheats at craps. Of course that was Tom's plan all along and he tailored the anachronisms so only the mark would pick up on them.
  • Anyone Can Die: Liz, the main character, dies in season 8 following her actress Megan Boone's departure from the show. Previously, Liz potentially dying had been a case of Like You Would Really Do It; after she faked her death once already, many fans weren't expecting the writers to actually go through with killing her off for real. Similarly, Tom dies in season 5, despite having been a major character for the show's entire runtime.
  • Arc Welding: "Berlin, Part 1" confirms what was implied throughout the series, that the Blacklist is just a cover for a bigger plan on Reddington's part. While some appear to have truly just been chosen randomly, most were either targeted as a means to help Red find information on Berlin, or were actively Berlin's agents.
    • "The Director, Conclusion" puts together all the hints and pieces of Red's plan throughout the first half of Season 3 to undermine the Cabal enough to exonerate Liz and take down the Director.
    • "Mr. Gregory Devry" reveals the existence of Shell Island Retreat, a gathering and alliance of the leaders of the world's most powerful criminal organizations. Not only is Reddington a member, but it's revealed that several past Blacklisters were as well.
    • The Season 6 episode "Bastien Moreau" and its conclusion show that a lot of Red's actions and Blacklisters from previous episodes were (unknowingly) connected to Moreau's assassinations. Red's trip to the asylum was done to find one of Moreau's associates, which led to Shiro, who was hired to create the bioweapon to kill one of the targets. A search in his apartment in London then led to a transaction of $5,000,000 laundered by the Cryptobanker so that Moreau could receive the credentials necessary to reach his target's hotel room and poison her.
      • "Rassvet" suggest that after the death of the actual Reddington, ex-Russian Embassy employee Ilya Koslov became Red.
  • Artistic License – Geography: One episode shows Liz and Malik chasing a Blacklister through what is supposed to be Alexandria, Virginia. Except "Alexandria" looks like a small rural town and not the much larger metropolitan suburb it is in Real Life.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In "The Front", characters call the medieval strain of pneumatic plague a virus, when the real-world plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which actually causes all three of pneumatic plague, bubonic plague, and septicemic plague; the type depends on where the infection takes hold. Oddly, Cooper nonetheless suggests the use of antibiotic protocols in place to deal with plague and is shot down not because antibiotics won't work on a viral infection, but because antibiotics wouldn't work on a medieval version. Because somehow, bacteria that haven't had a chance to develop antibacterial resistance are harder to deal with than bacteria that have. They try to work around some of this by suggesting that the villain of the week did some genetic engineering, though where he learned to do that and when they had the time is not really clear.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: When Tom gets his makeover to pose as a German neo-Nazi, he gets a bunch of appropriate tattoos, including a pretty famous slogan that would best be translated as "Germany to/for the Germans"... except that it was translated quite literally to "Deutschland für Die (sic) Deutschen". Which - apart from the grammar mistake - would look pretty suspicious since the actual slogan is "Deutschland den Deutschen" (dative case plural).
  • Artistic License – Military: Reddington's ex-wife refers to him as Colonel Reddington. However, it is made clear throughout the show that he's an ex-Navy officer. If he'd actually held the Navy rank equivalent to an Army/Air Force/Marine Corps Colonel, he would have been Captain Reddington.
  • Artistic License – Politics:
    • The Season 6 finale "Robert Diaz" shows a presidential debate happening in 2019. Presidential debates would not be occurring that early in the election cycle, only presidential primaries with multiple candidates. A presidential debate would realistically occur later in 2020, closer to Election Day once party candidates have been finalized.
    • The existence of a ruling Montenegrin Royal Family. Montenegro is a democratic republic, and has only been a kingdom for 8 measly years in its entire history (before, it has been a prince-bishopric first and then, from 1858 to 1910, a principality).
  • As Himself: John Waters in "Sutton Ross (No. 17)"
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Every single one of the victims of the Good Samaritan. He only targets abusers, giving them the same injuries they inflicted on their victims.
    • Milton Bobbit's final victims are personal hits on the people responsible for testing a flawed drug.
    • The Judge pronounces judgement on the people responsible for miscarriages of justice, which is why Cooper is targeted, for beating a confession out of a terrorist.
    • The Deer Hunter, or at least the second one, finds their victims via a women's domestic abuse legal center, and targets their clients' abusers. Comparisons with the aforementioned Good Samaritan are made in the show itself.
    • Vanessa Cruz's victims, who had framed her innocent husband after he tried to do the right thing, leading to his suicide. Granted, she was using a woman in order to eventually murder her as part of a frame-up, but said woman gets away unscathed.
    • The Attorney General in the season two finale. He was working with the Cabal and was planning to imprison and execute Keen and the entire Reddington task force on false charges.
    • Anna-Gracia Duerte kills the husbands of girls forced into child marriages.
    • A relatively minor one, but the wealthy couple in the beginning of "Smokey Putnam" were obnoxious and rude to the valet (or, at least, the person they thought was the valet), making it hard to sympathize with them when Red steals their expensive sports car.
    • Ian Garvey in Season 5. He kills Tom, steals the duffel bag that both Red and Liz have been hunting all season, and is a general prick to basically everybody. The only reason Liz wants him alive is so she can find the truth about the duffel bag.
  • A Storm Is Coming: At the end of "The Judge", Reddington tells Cooper that "there's a war coming" that he'll need the FBI's help in fighting.
  • A-Team Firing: In "General Ludd", Liz and Ressler engage in an extended shootout from their SUV to a bank truck which the episode's Big Bad is standing behind. Despite the range of less than 30 feet, the large number of shots fired, and all participants making poor use of cover, neither the agents nor the criminal are hit (of course, killing the antagonist in a gunfight would have deprived Reddington of the opportunity to out-villain him at the end of the show). Although to be a bit fair, the pistol-armed Ludd militant was using the bulletproof door as cover. More than a bit of Truth in Television here: a surprising number of real life police shootouts play out like this, with large numbers of rounds being expended at short range without effect.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Reddington explaining the people on the blacklist:
      Reddington: He's just a small fish...and I'm Ahab.
    • And again in the second episode: "The FBI works for me now."
    • Reddington gets another one when telling Fitch that he and his colleagues in the Alliance will regret not helping him in his war with Berlin:
      "I'm going to win this war. This enemy of mine will lose, even with you and your shortsighted brethren watching safely from a distant hill. Why? Because as bad as you think I am, as far as you think I'm willing to go to protect that which I hold most dear — you can't fathom how deep that well of mine truly goes."
    • When Hitchin tells the Director to kill Keen, he responds:
      "Three hours to make one woman go away. We've collapsed entire governments in less time."
  • Bad Boss: So many examples, Garrick is one of the main ones as he didn’t seem to care about the deaths of his men. Ian Garvey has no trouble murdering Norman Singleton after the latter realizes he’s crooked. Henry Prescott in Season Five, at one point he actually hits Ressler because he didn’t obey an order. Anna Mcmahon in Season Six, she became head of Main Justice mainly so she could shut down Cooper’s team.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: It’s the FBI suit or a wealthy criminal, most characters here dress well.
  • Badass Israeli: Samar is ex-Mossad, and portrayed to be calmer and more experienced than Liz. Mossad agents are hinted to have even more military equipment than the FBI, as Ressler learns when Levi Shur admitted to possessing a military-grade breach grenade.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Quite too often, Reddington will be the one getting rid of the Blacklister - just as often for his own benefit as he does because of his dislike of the Blacklister - sometimes both.
  • Bald of Evil: Ian Garvey
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Seemingly every episode Reddington pulls this off with his Blacklist, as every case he sends the FBI always benefits him in some way.
    • Anslo Garrick leaks intel that someone wants Reddington, forcing the FBI to bring him back to the base and put it in lockdown, which makes it easy for Garrick and his men to storm in and capture Red.
  • Battle Butler: Glen says Dembe actually plays this role for Reddington a little too well.
  • Berserk Button: Do not threaten Elizabeth in front of Reddington, ever.
    • After we learn about Tommy Markin, accusing Ressler of being a dirty cop triggers this reaction.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Reddington rarely raises his voice, but is probably the deadliest character in the series.
  • Big Bad: While Reddington, as the Villain Protagonist, could count as this, there's always a greater threat out there.
    • For the first season and a half, the main antagonist was Berlin, with the Cabal as a shadowy Greater-Scope Villain, represented but not led by Fitch.
    • After Fitch and Berlin's deaths midway through season 2, the Cabal took center stage, with the Director as the main member shown.
    • Season 3 continues with the Director as the main antagonist. That is, until he gets killed halfway through the season and the Cabal is essentially decimated, with Liz being cleared of all charges (except for the murder she actually committed of Tom Connolly). The events of the season 2 finale eventually draws the attention of the main antagonist for the second half of the season and first part of season 4, Alexander Kirk.
    • After "Dr. Adrian Shaw: Conclusion," the main antagonist for the rest of the season turns out to be none other than Mr. Kaplan herself.
    • Ian Garvey is shaping up to be this for season 5.
    • The second half of Season 6 has the President himself, who is attempting to cover up incriminating evidence against him and is set to go against Red in the process.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In "The Major," the music used to set the theme in the gritty neo-Nazi biker bar is a parody song about farming and milking cows in rural south-western Germany.
    • Also, when Tom prepares for the job at the end of the previous episode, the music playing is the 1982 German hit "Major Tom".
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Floriana Campo, the leader of a human trafficking ring, who posed as a activist trying to rescue girls from the industry.
    • Jolene Parker, just a wee bit.
    • In Season 3, Elizabeth becomes a fugitive and many characters view her as this. Even after she is cleared of all charges, Julian Gale still thinks this in Season 4.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Reddington was able to force Hitchin to free Liz from all the charges planted by the Cabal, the charge of involuntary manslaughter was not allowed to be taken off by the Acting Attorney General, which meant that Liz can't be employed in a law enforcement capacity ever again.
    • "The Corsican" has a terror attack on the UN averted, but Reddington's arrest by NYPD officers puts trouble into the FBI Task Force working on his blacklist and the prosecutor involved refuses to let him walk away covertly.
  • Bluff the Imposter: Averted in one episode has Elizabeth going undercover at a criminal auction as a dealer who attended Harvard. Suspicious, one of the leaders the auction asks her about the "Duckie." Elizabeth buys time with a sneeze but luckily Red is nearby and covers for her by sardonically talking about "the Duckie" being the train used by drunken co-eds of the college.
  • Bomb Disposal: Inverted in "The Decembrist", although Fitch takes a sort of Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Bombproof Appliance: Inverted in "The Decembrist", when they need a safe place to contain a bomb, they use Reddington's metal cage from the pilot. It works quite well.
  • Breakout Character: Plenty to choose from. Tom, Dembe, and Aram all wound up having bigger roles on the show than initially planned.
  • Broken Pedestal: Floriana Campo for Liz. Julian Gale also suffers elements of this when he realizes his former partner, Ressler, and the FBI are now working with Reddington.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • A lot of the people working for or associated with Reddington.
      • His expert drug guy is a teenager,
      • His expert counterfeiter, Mary, is a suburban mother,
      • His expert interrogator, Teddy Brimley, is an old man who requires a oxygen tank,
      • His expert tracker, Glen Carter, is a midget who works at the Department of Motor Vehicles. How much Red values his work can be seen by him tolerating the fact that Glen isn't at his beck and call 24/7 and that Glen is constantly trolling him; and how he of all people usually takes on the role of the petitioner in his dealings with him.
    • Reddington himself, since despite all the criminal and murderous crap he continues to do, he is just too valuable for the FBI to cut loose (and take down).
      • Lampshaded in "The Major" by the judge's questioning.
  • Buried Alive: The owner of a gun manufacturer in "The Invisible Hand."
  • Butt-Monkey: Ressler and the FBI as a whole basically exist to be incompetent, giving Reddington someone to be super-competent in contrast with. Reddington never tires of pointing this out.
  • The Cameo: Saturday Night Live writer/cast member Leslie Jones appears in "Lady Ambrosia". She sits next to Reddington in the DMV's waiting area, and claims to recognize him as the "kooky white man" singing "Hot Stuff" during spin class.
  • Camp Gay: During "Madeline Pratt", Reddington plays this to get the drop on the man standing guard over a captive Liz, thus getting close enough to punch him out and rescue her.
  • Cardboard Prison:
    • Played straight in "Luthor Braxton", so much so that the people who designed the prison must have been firmly holding onto the idiot ball. There would not have been an electric light in Braxton's cell, so he would not have had access to wiring and an electric current. Toilet paper in prisons does not come wrapped around a cardboard tube, precisely because that cardboard tube can be put to a lot of other uses by a canny inmate. The guard would not have opened the door to give Braxton his food tray, there's a slot in the door where the food tray is passed to the inmate. Wrapping a wet sheet around your face will not protect you from tear gas. The guards would not have blindly charged into Braxton's cell so that he could beat them up and take their weapons, they would have stood in the door and blasted him with a high-pressure fire hose until he was half-drowned.
      • Well... some degree of Truth in Television. Depending on the security level of the facility, the lighting in the cell (and cells certainly have lighting) might be controlled from a switch inside or outside the cell itself. Most prisons don't take the trouble to remove the core from a roll of TP. Individuals have various reactions to CS tear gas, some people have so little reaction that a wet sheet might be protection enough. As for the "fire hose" suggestion... that would be against any correctional policy except those you might see in fiction. However, a cell rush team would have shields and helmets and would be highly organized, and might use a CS pepper-ball launcher to knock an inmate down before entering the cell at all. (And the food slot would be in any high security prison cell.)
    • Reddington moves into one of these as of episode 2. He is nominally still being tracked by the FBI, but his bodyguard and friends live with him, he apparently changes residences and travels the country at will; he even has his own plane, as seen in "General Ludd". Even when he's actively involved on a Blacklist case, Reddington walks out of the FBI's custody with ridiculous ease whenever he wants to.
  • Cassandra Truth: Ressler have actually admitted to some crazy facts. He tells Elizabeth he was dumping a body in his new car, and tells Gale that he was brainwashed into shooting a secret agent. Both times he gets laughed off.
  • Cast Calculus
    • The Hero: Liz, the heroine of the story around whom everything in the international criminal underworld apparently revolves.
    • The Lancer: Red, the second most developed character, who has extremely loose morals, and generally steals the show.
    • The Smart Guy: Navabi fills this role using spy/intelligence skills rather than quantifiable knowledge.
    • The Big Guy: Ressler consistently obeys the law, follows procedure, and has habits so steadfast that Red builds schemes upon them.
    • The Heart: Aram may be the IT guy, but he wears his emotions on his shirt, loves hugs, and always tries to make everyone feel better.
    • Sixth Ranger: Tom, by the beginning of the third season. Everyone has to work with him, but no one trusts him.
    • The Mentor: Cooper, the senior FBI agent actually in charge of the Task Force, for whom mentoring seems to be a second
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In an early scene, Liz's husband shows her two brochures for possible school trip destinations. This ends up being crucial later on when Liz realizes that the symbol on Zamani's hand matches a logo on one of the brochures. The logo represents the National Zoo which is the target of Zamani's attack.
    • The burn scar on Liz's hand is initially presented as just the result of a childhood accident. However, by the end of the pilot it is clear that it is a important part of the Myth Arc.
    • One episode has Reddington argue with a client about shipment, after his payment was diverted from the port of Houston without his approval. That's because there was a plan to attack that port with a dirty bomb, and attack planners instructed all illegal players to divert cargo to New Orleans.
    • The elaborate Glassy Prison cell the FBI initially holds Reddington in proves to be unneeded once he makes his deal. However, a few episodes later, in "Anslo Garrick", we discover that the cell can also function as a very secure safe room during a All Your Base Are Belong to Us situation. It later returns in Season 2 to contain Alan Fitch when he is found with a bomb around his neck. In Season 6, Cooper’s team is placed inside so they survive the explosions Elizabeth and Reddington set off.
    • The Uncle Flippo toy that Liz gives Tom in "Ivan": at the end of the episode, she finds it among the evidence from his and Jolene's observation base, thus finally proving to her that Tom is a spy.
    • All eighty-six bodies Mr. Kaplan helped Reddington dispose of show up in an ice rink, and law enforcement starts a new investigation into Reddington.
  • The Chessmaster: Reddington himself, as well as many of the Blacklisters.
  • Child Soldiers: In "Lord Baltimore", Reddington gets kidnapped by three Cameroonian child soldiers. Turns out that it was part of Reddington's idea in order to talk to one of the warlords there.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good:
    • Invoked in Episode 2, with FBI agent Donald Ressler and CIA agent Meera Malik, who sweetly informs the Freelancer that she's CIA, so she can do things the FBI can't do openly. Such as torture him by poking around his broken leg.
    • When Cooper’s team is forced to work with the CIA, Ressler doesn’t want to let Peter Kotsiopulos interrogate Solomon because he suspects the two of working together. He’s correct, but he underestimated how seriously Kotsiopulos takes his CIA cover when he starts torturing Solomon. This upsets their superiors enough for Kotsiopulos to be removed from the task force.
    • While hunting Ilyas Surkov, the task force runs into a CIA team doing the same thing. The CIA team seem ready to use any method to get a suspect to talk, but Liz puts a stop to that.
  • Cleanup Crew: Mr. Kaplan, later Reddington replaces her with a sibling team who actually have a day job cleaning up police crime scenes.
  • Clear Their Name: Most of Season 3 had Elizabeth on the run from the FBI after she is framed for a bombing. In Season 6, she along with Ressler and Aram are framed as terrorists.
  • Cold Ham: Fits Spader's portrayal of Reddington, who is equally capable of being affable one minute and deadly the next without losing his calm demeanor.
  • Cold Sniper: Reddington employs one, Ezra, to protect Elizabeth. Later he narrowly escapes one, when Julian Gale turns out to be another.
  • Compromising Call: Elizabeth made a few of those while on the run. Ressler received a few whenever Prescott wants something done.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Reddington sets himself up as this. He wants the FBI to consult with him, but on his terms. And he eventually gets his way. The FBI accepts he's a lot more valuable if this clients and contacts don't know he's working with them, and that means allowing him to go about his illegal business.
  • Content Warnings: Both parts of "Anslo Garrick" aired with warnings about the violent content.
  • Continuity Nod: When 86 bodies are discovered in an ice rink, Julian Gale name-drops several cases that the Task Force has worked on.
  • Cop Killer: The FBI gets into this part when they face off against heavily armed criminals and terrorists, resulting in their deaths.
    • Ian Garvey becomes one after Singleton is killed for knowing too much.
    • In "Miles McGrath", an assassin shoots a couple of detectives from New Scotland Yard conducting surveillance on him.
    • Cooper views the Osterman Umbrella Company as this, although they kill agents not cops.
  • Corporate Warfare: A Central Theme; the Cabal is comprised of billionaires from around the globe, and the politicians work for them.
    Raymond 'Red' Reddington: You've obviously heard of corporate espionage - companies trying to beat other companies to be the first hand on the dollar. But what if it were taken... a few steps further? In 1982, seven people in Chicago were killed by an over-the-counter drug laced with potassium cyanide. The company's market share went from 35 to 8. It was never determined how the drug was poisoned, but I will tell you someone was hired to do that. Remember those tire recalls? Chernobyl? Deliberate and malevolent actions taken by corporations to protect their vital interests. Nothing happens by chance.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Thanks to Red's influence, Elizabeth (and to a certain extent the rest of the team) seems to be becoming significantly more morally grey. She goes well and truly Anti-Hero when she kills Tom Connolly, though to be fair, she did it to prevent him from killing her and her friends, making it a case of Pay Evil unto Evil.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The building hosting the task force is an old post office.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Reddington can usually acquire the information, equipment, and/or personnel he needs on very short notice, ranging from a mobile medical team up to protocols in the event of his death. Mostly that comes with running a very large global criminal enterprise, but sometimes....
    Samar: You keep a storage locker in West Virginia?
    Reddington: I keep a storage locker filled with useful items in most states. Two or three in the red states.
    [Details and discursion]
    Reddington: ... Go figure. Why don’t you grab some kilos [of cocaine] off the top and let’s go stage a crime scene?
  • Creator Provincialism: Despite the task force being set up to catch the most dangerous criminals in the world, nearly all of the action takes place in the United States, and while many Blacklisters are non-American, Americans are disproportionately represented on the list (to date, at least). There are allusions to Blacklisters operating all over the world, and the task force is willing to operate abroad to pursue either criminals or its investigations, but the bulk of any episode will take place in America. Sometimes this is Justified as some Blacklisters are based out of America, and occasionally it will turn out that Red actually helped lure them to America to make the apprehension easier, but in most cases it's just a Contrived Coincidence that a Blacklister happens to be doing a job in America which therefore gives the task force an excuse and opportunity to go after them. (Though given the large number of Blacklisters, it's also quite possible that Red goes after some of them when he does purely because of the convenience of their being in the country at the time). Also justified in that the FBI isn't the world police; if a criminal isn't in, or operating in, the United States, there's not much they could do beyond notifying the relevant national authorities.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In "Anslo Garrick", the titular villain's mercenaries curbstomp the FBI SWAT Team guarding the Post Office blacksite and the FBI agents inside. Later, Reddington's mercenaries easily destroy the surveillance outpost, and the FBI reinforcements overwhelm Garrick's mercenaries by surprise.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Reddington, to the point that he buys back the house he raised his family in, simply to blow it up.
    • Liz herself, who we learn in the Season 2 finale killed her own father at the age of 4. She’s also the daughter of Katerina Rostova, a Russian spy who supposedly drowned herself at Cape May.
    • Dembe. “The Mombasa Cartel” reveals that his family was murdered completely out of nowhere, and his life was spared only so that the cartel could kidnap him and sell him into human trafficking. He then spent eight years as a child soldier and/or sex slave before Red found him chained up in the basement of a brothel. Dark and troubled, indeed, although the fact that Red rescued him and enabled him to get an education and a family does soften the blow somewhat.
    • Samar. At nine years old, she stumbled upon the corpses of her recently-murdered parents, who had been killed by terrorists moments prior. She and her brother moved in with her uncle afterwards and she befriended her older cousin, but the cousin was sold off as a child bride soon afterwards, and they never saw one another again. Then her brother supposedly died in another terrorist attack orchestrated by the same group of people who murdered their parents. Then her Mossad partner was killed by those same terrorists, and Samar herself almost died, too. Then, throughout the course of the show, she learns that her brother didn’t die in the terrorist attack—he was the terrorist.
    • Ressler’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty, and he never got any form of justice because the other police were corrupt and didn’t want a trial. It’s implied that this is why he’s such a By-the-Book Cop in the show.
    • Mr. Kaplan gets a whole episode dedicated to her tragic backstory in “Requiem.” She got her nickname when her girlfriend Annie Kaplan was murdered and the killer sarcastically called her “Mr. Kaplan.”
  • Darkest Hour: At the end of Karakurt, the Alliance framed Liz for assassinating a prominent Senator. She is forced to go hide from them.
    • Julian Gale, with Mr. Kaplan’s help, gets a grand jury to indict the whole Reddington Task Force.
  • Dead Guy on Display: While being pursued through the woods in a Hunting the Most Dangerous Game situation, Ressler comes across the losers of previous hunts, stuffed, dressed as hunters, and posed around a campfire. It's somewhat unsettling.
  • Deadly Bath:
    • In "The Caretaker", Tom ambushes Gina in her apartment just as she's stepping out of the shower in a Modesty Towel. Held at gunpoint she plays it coy and drops the towel while asking him if she can at least get dressed, obviously trying to distract him. He allows it, and she ends up attacking him when he lets his guard down.
    • In "Dembe Zuma", Janet surprises Aram by joining in the shower with romantic intentions but he gets startled out how she got there, and she says his door was open. Even more startled, as he's sure he locked it, he leaves to check the apartment and ends up being attacked by Dembe Zuma, who kidnaps Aram and leaves Janet Bound and Gagged in a closet.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Reddington is a traitor, Consummate Liar, and is clearly using the FBI to further his own unknown agenda, but the information and assistance he's providing is so valuable that the FBI and the Justice Department have no choice but to work with him for the foreseeable future.
      Liz: [hears her phone ring] Speak of the devil, it's the devil.
    • Reddington sees this with Cooper to Tom when the latter helped him overcome his terminal condition. But on the unwritten condition that he "assists" with the Alliance.
    • Matias Solomon is seen as this when the task force has to work with him, after Solomon has attempted to kill them all at least once.
  • Death of a Child:
    • At least two children have been killed in separate terror attacks, and it's discussed that a young boy will probably die of his rare disease before the FDA approves a new treatment.
    • It is likely that dozens, if not hundreds, of children died in The Freelancer's attacks, although it's not discussed in the episode.
    • The premiere of Season 3 had Solomon poisoning Dembe's granddaughter, but after Dembe surrenders himself, Solomon has no problem providing the antidote.
  • Decapitation Presentation: With Mako Tanida, via Finger in the Mail, but subverted as it is done as "head on a platter" rather than "this is what happens."
  • Desk Jockey: Aram starts off as one, although this is still mostly his role he proves quite capable when Garrick invaded the building. Later, after being in the field and seeing Samar in danger, Aram will ask Cooper for field agent training.
  • Destination Defenestration: A few of those occur on the show, Henry Prescott is even introduced doing this in the finale of Season 4. His first client also commits suicide by doing this.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: "Anslo Garrick" has the titular villain invading the FBI's black ops compound. As an extra Shout-Out, Liz loses her shoes early on and runs around barefoot for about half the first episode, just like John McClane.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • One of Ressler's ex-FBI partners became Tensei, covertly taking over Tanida's drug and gun running operations.
    • Cooper was one as well, admitting to Liz that, following orders, he once beat a confession out of a terrorism suspect.
    • "Ms. Rebecca Thrall" has her working with police officers who became rogue to take out criminals.
    • Ressler briefly becomes one after killing Laurel Hitchin.
    • At the end of "The Invisible Hand" we see that Ian Garvey is a U.S. Marshal, and the detective investigating Tom's death is on his payroll.
    • Norman Singleton is eventually revealed to be an inversion, he is revealed to be working with the Big Bad, only for it to be revealed later he didn’t know.
  • Disney Villain Death: Lady Ambrosia meets her end by being tossed down a well.
    • Kotsiopulos is thrown off Reddington’s plane.
    • In the Season 4 finale, Kaplan throws herself off a bridge to initiate a contingency plan, which involves giving a suitcase of bones to Tom.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: After being framed as a Russian sleeper agent, Elizabeth escapes an FBI arrest by seeking sanctuary at the Russian embassy.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Samar's involvement in the assassination of an Iranian scientist in Dubai does strike similarities with the Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh's death in 2012.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of Season 4, Reddington has lost his criminal empire and is essentially penniless. Ressler accidentally killed someone, and instead of turning himself in he calls the infamous fixer Henry Prescott.
  • Doomsday Device: The Courier qualifies as this.
    • The Corsican attempts to use a suitcase bomb to destroy the UN building, which would kill countless diplomats and ambassadors. He comes incredibly close to it.
  • Do with Him as You Will: In "The Scimitar", Reddington hands the eponymous villain over to Agent Navabi, whose brother the villain murdered and walks off, telling her not to do anything he wouldn't do.
    • After the Cabal decides the Director has become too much of a liability, they tell Reddington this, with the strong implication they know Reddington wanted him dead and they approve.
  • Driving Question: What exactly is the connection between Liz and Reddington? And why did he give himself up?
    • Cooper in "Mr. Kaplan" suggests that Reddington did it since he was made by a Russian agent named Seaduke prior to his disappearance in the 1990s.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Reddington's photo that is used for his mug shot hardly looks anything like him. Justified as the Reddington that turns himself in to the FBI is not the real Raymond Reddington.
  • Emergency Stash: Liz finds one hidden under the floor that appears to be Tom's. It is.
    • The Director also had one, Reddington empties it before it could be used.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: When Julian Gale first started suspecting Reddington as having a mole in the FBI, he’s bouncing his theories off Ressler, probably the most experienced field agent currently working with Reddington.
  • Reddington is shown to be genuinely friendly with Sam, Liz's adoptive father, and he's visibly upset at having to Mercy Kill him (both to spare him from suffering from cancer and to prevent him from revealing secrets to Liz).
  • In "Anslo Garrick", Reddington refuses to open the box and allow Garrick to capture him, but immediately changes his tune when Garrick threatens Luli and Dembe, begging Cooper to open it. He's visibly distraught when Luli is executed.
  • He even goes out of his way to try to save Ressler. At this point, it's easy to forget he is a bad guy.
  • Berlin, who's been attacking Reddington for years, had a daughter he loved dearly.
  • Berlin goes after Reddington through his ex-wife, Naomi Highland.
  • Fitch's safe password is his wife's birthday.
  • Kotsiopulos drops all his plans when he receives a phone call telling him his wife is having a panic attack.
  • Prescott’s true identity is revealed to be good with kids and other parents.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Reddington despises Floriana Campo, because she runs the Everhart Cartel sex trafficking ring, but keeps a cover as a passionate activist working towards ending human trafficking. She gets praise and charity donations for saving the girls she imprisons and abuses in the first place.
    • Tyler King thinks the Russian roulette idea used by the King family is nonsense, but has no problems with it when he's not involved if just to get rid of one less competition from the family.
    • The whole premise of Reddington's arrangement with the FBI is based on this, most of the time. Many of the Blacklisters are Bigger Bads that Reddington himself often find despicable and horrible, even if sometimes getting rid of them would also be good for his business.
    • Reddington has no problem shooting a couple of auction participants because they have no qualms about the proceeds of the auction supporting ISIS.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: In Season 9, it's shown that Reddington's retirement and the dissolution of the taskforce during the two year Time Skip has caused all the Blacklist-level crimes to grow out of control, as there's now no one on top of the hierarchy to keep them in check.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Reddington, world class criminal, versus every other world class criminal on his list.
    • Matias Solomon versus Peter Kotsiopulos. Both have connections to the CIA and both work for the Cabal.
    • There are certainly elements of this when Elizabeth starts investigating Tom's killers, without a badge she is allowed to use some rather coercive methods on a gang that has been enjoying police protection.
  • Expy:
    • General Ludd acts similar to Anonymous, except for their willingness to use terror attacks. The ersatz Guy Fawkes masks would seem to imply that General Ludd has been hiding among Anonymous and using their identity.
    • The Alliance/Cabal can be seen as one for the Patriots in the Metal Gear series. Both are secret organizations that control various world affairs. They also intervene in them when it favors their agenda.
    • Reddington himself is in many ways a Lighter and Softer version of Hannibal Lecter, and Liz is comparable to Clarice Starling.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When it looks like Anslo Garrick is about to kill him, Dembe merely tells Reddington that It Has Been an Honor, calls him "brother", promises to see him again in the next life, and then they pray together. He doesn't die, but it still counts.
    • After Alan Fitch is killed, Red and Berlin share a bottle of vodka together and reminisce about the Cold War era. As soon as the bottle is empty, Berlin just gives Red a silent and accepting stare as he realises that he isn't leaving alive.
    • When Matias Solomon is about to be executed by men working for the Cabal, he calmly accepts his fate. He doesn’t flinch even when rescued.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Reddington and Garrick keep up a stream of friendly-seeming banter while Garrick is trying to break into Reddington's Glassy Prison so he can capture and torture him to death. Even while Reddington is hanging in chains, they still reminisce with one another.
  • Faux Death: In order to disappear from Reddington's watch, Liz has her ex-boyfriend, who is a doctor, use a certain drug to slow down her heart rate during the events of Mr. Solomon: Conclusion. The drug gave a very convincing illusion that Liz was dead after giving birth to her daughter. This overlaps with Put on a Bus and Real Life Writes the Plot because Liz's actress Megan Boone was in her final stages of her real life pregnancy.
  • Fictional Counterpart: In "Tom Connolly", the NBC logo is shown, but not the official abbreviations.
  • Finger in the Mail: Berlin sends Red one of his ex-wife's at the end of the season 2 premiere.
  • First-Episode Twist:
    • Reddington, for unknown reasons, wants to help the FBI catch criminals on a regular basis.
    • There's something up with Tom, Liz's husband. Under the floorboards she finds dozens of fake passports with his picture, a loaded gun, and thousands in cash.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In season 2, Dr. Linus Creel's MO is finding people with the warrior gene, a genetic proclivity to violence, and tear their lives apart until they go on murderous rampages. His final words to Liz ("I saw your test results. You know what they said?") strongly imply that Liz has it as well. 18 episodes later, after the Cabal has taken Liz's life apart, she shoots Tom Connolly in front of several witnesses.
      • By Season 5, while investigating Tom's killers, she is willing to threaten and beat several gang members while working against the local detectives, although to be fair, she suspected a dirty cop was involved.
    • In a Season 4 episode, a man whom Red is manipulating into betraying his boss asks Dembe if he would ever do the same. Dembe says that he doesn't know. After he realizes that everything was done to replace Mr. Kaplan, who had betrayed him earlier, he goes to Liz and informs her that Red killed Mr. Kaplan for helping her fake her death, something that Red clearly didn't want her to know.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: "Cape May" has Red dealing with Liz's death, traveling to Cape May to find answers. With the exception of Red, the rest of the main cast is absent. Likewise, "Ruin" has Elizabeth dealing with Tom's death, living off-the-grid in remote Alaska, also with the rest of the main cast absent. "Requiem" is a similar episode, focusing on Mr. Kaplan's tragic backstory.
  • Gambit Roulette: Reddington's scheme in the pilot relied on all parties falling for his Batman Gambits and Liz not getting killed in the cross fire. For starters, he paid off a Serbian mercenary to help Liz survive a smoke grenade attack by handing her a gas mask, which was given to General Ryker's daughter. He also got an underground Russian-speaking explosive expert to disarm Zamani's chemical bomb.
  • Gambit Pileup: The FBI has, since the beginning, not only been caught in between both Reddington's plans and those of the various Blacklisters, but on a larger scale, also Reddington's conflicts with the Alliance and Berlin.
  • Gilligan Cut: In season 9, Red's old mentor, Vesco, reveals he's taken control of a cult of religious fanatics, making them believe they're robbing items to destroy when Vesco really sells them on the black market. He assures Red he's got them handled and under strict orders not to kill anyone. Cut to the cult discussing the plans to blow up a church in the name of their "cause."
  • Glassy Prison: Reddington is incarcerated in one in the pilot, but eventually moves out. See Cardboard Prison above. He ends up using it as a refuge in "Anslo Garrick."
  • Gone Horribly Right: In the early 1990s, Fitch fabricated reasons for various parties to go after Reddington, since their relationship was more antagonistic then. He faked the death of Berlin's daughter and framed Reddington, which sent Berlin after Reddington, setting into motion a chain of events that ends with Fitch's death.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Aram says this in "Berlin, Part 1" about Vogel's blackmailed agents, codenamed the "Five Horsemen".
  • Gratuitous German: When Tom is undercover in Dresden to infiltrate a German neo-Nazi group, both he and the neo-Nazis speak very pitiable German. Also, while the tattoo he gets for the job is grammatically correct (Deutschland für die Deutschen - Germany for the Germans), the use of Dative would be much more common among German neo-Nazis (Deutschland den Deutschen).
  • Gun Stripping: Reddington uses this to time Aram; he advises that stripping, cleaning and assembly will take 2 minutes, at which point Aram had better have successfully stolen 5 million dollars and transferred it to an offshore account without it being traceable.
  • Hallucinations: Reddington seems to undergo these after Liz' apparent death, seemingly hallucinating visions of Liz' mother, who may or may not be dead herself. He does not even realise he's hallucinating until the end of the episode, which is also hidden from the audience.
  • Heroic Seductress: Liz effectively plays this role in "Kings of the Highway", picking up an accomplice of the titular gang in a bar in order to get the drop on him.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • Discussed in "The Stewmaker."
    • Very nearly happens to Ressler in "Mako Tanida" but he ultimately doesn't cross the line. In Season 4, Gale identifies the corpse and theorizes it did happen.
    • Might have been what started Solomon on his path, he was a CIA asset in the Ethiopian War and later placed in charge of Operation Backslide in Somalia.
  • Hired Guns:
    • Anslo Garrick's crack team of mercenaries, revealed to have been hired by the Alliance/Cabal to spring Reddington from FBI custody.
    • Also, Mr. Kaplan has a team of contractors with her, who prove to be the equal of Garrick's mercs.
    • The Pavlovich brothers make a living out of this, and they're quite good at it.
  • His Name Is...:
    • In "The Cyprus Agency," when Keen and Ressler corner the lawyer, he play in traffic, and is about to spill dirt on the Agency, when he gets bussed.
    The truth is... The Cyprus Agency is—
    • In "The Decembrist", when Fitch is telling Reddington the location of his very important safe.
    It's in St. Petersburg. On the second floor. In apartment—
  • Hollywood Tactics: Shockingly displayed in "Anslo Garrick". The supposedly experienced men guarding the facility do not react at all the way such men would in real life. Any deviation from the norm (such as a truck suddenly backing up to a loading dock without stopping for the driver to be identified) is treated as something where you just yell at the driver to stop, whereas in reality the guards would have known to immediately regard it as an attack and responded accordingly. After it's clear they are under attack, you see the guards walking around alone, not providing each other with covering fire, walking blindly into a room or around corners without clearing the area first, each of them has communications gear but none of them are ever seen using it to coordinate their moves, etc. Cringeworthy among audience members who have military or law enforcement experience.
  • Hope Spot: Julian Gale feels like this every time he thinks he has a lead on Reddington, too bad his partner and friend Ressler is actively working to stop him.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "The Mombasa Cartel" episode includes a group who operate a game preserve featuring human prey. Ressler gets caught up as one of the hunted when he investigates.
  • Hunting the Rogue:
    • Liz's mother, Katerina Restova, was once a double agent for the KGB and the Cabal, both of whom are still hunting her to this day.
    • Mossad ordered Samar's death when she suffered brain damage which they believed would make her incapable of keeping classified information secret.
    • The Osterman Umbrella Company was created specifically for this purpose. When an agency has to hunt down a rogue member, they hire the Osterman Umbrella Company as an independent contractor to avoid conflicting loyalties. They were hired in both of the above cases.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: With only a few exceptions, all episodes are named after the "Blacklister" of the week, and the Episode Title Card flashes up their name and number on the list for the viewer's convenience.
  • Idiot Ball: Seriously, the number of people that engage in stupid behavior is somewhat disheartening.
    • All of the agents get tossed the idiot ball on occasion when they’re out in the field. They always wind up splitting up at inopportune moments, arriving seconds too late to stop something horrible from happening because they wasted time or communicated badly, shooting when they shouldn’t, not shooting when they should, et cetera.
    • Matthias Solomon when trying to kidnap Liz. He was instructed to deliver her alive and unharmed, so you’d think he’d wait to grab her at a safe and opportune time… but instead, he tries to kidnap her while she’s at her own wedding, surrounded by her FBI agent colleagues, and very pregnant with her first child. The stress of the ensuing chase causes her to go into premature labor, her baby is born early, and she’s seemingly killed (she actually faked her own death, but Solomon had no way of knowing that.)
    • Aram regarding his love life in season 5. He takes some truly terrible romantic advice from Ressler and Liz, and internalizes it to the point where he starts assuming Samar doesn’t love him because she didn’t say yes to his non-proposal (he gave her a ring as a birthday gift and never actually popped the question; she didn’t say yes to the proposal because the proposal never happened.) This is despite knowing that Ressler and Samar hooked up in the past and things didn’t end well, and Liz’s love life has been rife with turmoil since season 1, so they are the worst possible people to go to for relationship advice. When Samar finds out that Aram is stressing about nonexistent relationship problems because of what Ressler and Liz told him, she’s mad at everyone—Ressler and Liz for giving out bad advice, and Aram for being dumb enough to take it.
    • In "Ivan", Abby Fisher, in the middle of a city-wide blackout, decides to leave home without telling anyone, on the word of who she believes is her best friend, who suddenly begins to demonstrate heretofore-unknown-to-her hacking abilities by lighting a set of specific streetlights without a problem. Of course, it turns out to be someone who is an actual hacker.
  • I Gave My Word: It’s not just the FBI agents who honour their promises, plenty of criminals do as well.
    • How Solomon gets Dembe as his hostage in Season Three, a mixture of this and blackmail.
    • While on the run with Liz, Reddington phones Ressler.
      Reddington: All I want is your word, as a man of honour.
      Ressler: My word?
      Reddington: You know Elizabeth, you know she is not a Russian spy or a traitor or a terrorist, you know that's not who she is.
      Ressler: It doesn't matter what I know.
      Reddington: If you catch her it will, it will matter a great deal. What you know about her, what you feel about her could make all the difference. So, my offer: One Blacklister in exchange for your word that you will give her the benefit of every doubt. Can you do that, Donald? Can you give me your word?
      Ressler: Yes.
    • In Season Four, Lauren Hitchin is being blackmailed by Reddington and Ressler. She specifically demands Ressler give his word that he will let the leverage go.
  • Important Haircut: After getting an annulment from Tom, Liz cuts her long hair shorter. In reality, this allowed Megan Boone to ditch a much-mocked wig as her own short hair had grown out to an acceptable level.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Reddington offers a vile alcoholic concoction of unknown origin to Liz and she quickly declines. Later in the episode, she's only too happy to take a swig after discovering that she's married to a murderer.
    • By-the-Book Cop Ressler takes a swing after they just manage to defuse a bomb in the U.N building.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Alexander Kirk's Dragon blames Elizabeth for Kirk's empire's destruction because Kirk became obsessed with her after she appeared on the news, nevermind that Elizabeth didn't even know he existed at all.
  • Internal Affairs: There are plenty of other law enforcement officers who suspect what Cooper’s team is doing.
    • In Season Five, a car crash victim related to the current case is revealed to be an Internal Affairs officer. Her superior, upon seeing the FBI getting involved, says it’s about time.
  • Internal Reveal: Elizabeth realizes Tom is less trustful than she believed when she sees a figure she had given him earlier in the wastebasket of a place she had gone to because it was related to someone who was spying on her.
  • Interrogation Montage: Shown as how Elizabeth has been treating an imprisoned Tom in Season 2.
  • Ironic Echo: A very fast one in "Berlin, Part 1". Just after Vogel sums up how he's been coercing his agents with the statement "That's how blackmail works, sweetheart", Liz reveals that she's infected him with his own virus in order to force his cooperation, and throws the line back at him.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Dembe says something akin to this to Reddington when it looks like Anslo Garrick is about to kill him. At a time in the series when little about Dembe was known, the two of them simultaneously reciting an African prayer in what seemed like Dembe's last moments spoke volumes about the depth of their relationship.
  • It Has Only Just Begun: When Reddington reveals his list.
    Reddington: Well, this was fun! Let's do it again. Understand that Zamani was only the first.
    Cooper: The first what?
    Reddington: Name! On my list.
    • It looked like this was what Hitchin was planning to do to Ressler, but after she dies, Prescott takes the role of blackmailing Ressler.
  • Just a Flesh Wound:
    • The Courier whenever he's injured. Justified, since he was born with a condition that stops him from feeling physical pain. Emotional pain, on the other hand...
    • Averted when Ressler is shot in the leg. The only reason he is still alive is because the shot only partially severed an artery so it will take him a few more minutes to bleed out to death instead. However, Reddington is fairly proficient in emergency field medicine and is able to stop the bleeding but it is clear that if Ressler does not get to a hospital fast he is a dead man.
    • Red mentions this trope by name in "The Good Samaritan Killer" after Janice Krueger calls him a monster for shooting her husband, Henry.
  • Karmic Death: Reddington kicks the Stewmaker into his own acid bath, while he's still alive.
  • Last-Name Basis: Zigzagged like crazy, at least in the early seasons. The task force generally plays it straight, though Agent Keen is still called by her first name fairly often (as is Malik in season 1). Aram, though, is never called by his surname until Red addresses him as "Special Agent Mojtabai" in one season 2 episode (Aram himself, while looking flattered, remarks that nobody ever calls him that). This while Red always called Cooper and Ressler by their first names. From that point in the series on, Aram's last name gets used more often.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: "Verdiant Industries" for Monsanto in "Eli Matchett", seizing independent farms by contaminating them with their GMO seeds. In-universe, they're also laundering money for the Cabal, and nearly sucker Matchett into killing off most of the world's crops so they can profit from the resulting famine.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: In "The Major", Liz gets called before a transparency-advocate judge in chambers to explain what the hell the task force does that requires so much secrecy - especially as it got a harbormaster killed. This trope should have been expected.
    Judge Denner: Tell me about this "task force" - how it works.
    Agent Keen: I told you, he has a list.
    Denner: Of criminals you don't know exist. That sounds like an empty promise.
    Keen: You'd be surprised.
    Denner: Humor me.
    Keen: There was a man named Milton Bobbit, who devised an ingenious way to turn terminally ill patients into assassins, all while working as an unassuming insurance adjuster. The Courier moves high-value commodities under his skin. The Alchemist makes people disappear by changing their DNA.
    Denner: None of this is possible.
    Keen: That's what we thought!
    Denner: ...How many of these cases has Reddington given to you?
    Keen: (Beat)
    (Smash Cut to a montage of cases set to X Ambassadors' "The Heist")
    Keen: ...He keeps us busy.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The ending theme for "The Artax Network".
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Inverted, maybe.
    • In Season 1, after Reddington kills his kidnapper (Anslo Garrick) and escapes while he doesn't have a tracker device embedded inside him, he phones Liz, telling her if she needs help he will be there for her. Liz who has come to the realization that her father wasn't her real father, asks Reddington point blank if he is her father. He says "no," but if we remember an earlier episode, when Liz asked Reddington why she should trust him, he points out that she shouldn't, he's a criminal. So he might be telling the truth. Or he might be lying. However, in a later episode, Reddington claims to Liz that he has never lied to her. It also doesn't help that the commercials for Season 2 flat out ask if Red is Liz's father.
    • Before the mercy killing, Reddington tells Liz's adoptive father that he will always be her dad. If Raymond Reddington sired Elizabeth Keen, he would not consider himself her father since having to give her up. Liz asked him straight up, "Are you my father?" His, "No." may well have left unsaid, "...not anymore."
      • It is revealed in "Tom Connolly" that Liz shot her father when he was beating up her mother.
    • Alexander Kirk is spelled out verbatim in the very last scene of the third season: "Masha, I am your father". DNA tests later reveal that Kirk is not her father and a second DNA test during the Season 4 finale reveals that Red is indeed Liz's father.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: The FBI would prefer to keep Reddington in a spartan maximum-security cell. However, when they need his help, they have to transfer him to more luxurious accommodations. After the second episode, the FBI has given up on keeping Reddington locked up, because of his successful argument that in order to use his contacts and information, he would have to continue his business as usual. Reddington himself is seen in all sorts of environments, from hotels to simple houses.
  • MacGyvering:
    • Liz improvises a bullet trap using a bucket of water and several thick phone books in Episode 3.
    • She uses a water bottle as a silencer in "Anslo Garrick."
    • Reddington does a fair bit of improvised medical treatment to Ressler in "Anslo Garrick", what with improvising a tourniquet with an emptied pistol magazine and necktie, live blood transfusion, and cauterising a wound by pouring in gunpowder and lighting it with a match.
  • Made of Iron:
    • The Courier. Justified, in that he has a disorder that prevents him from feeling pain.
    • Ressler's not quite as tough as the Courier, but he's still pretty tough.
    • In "Lord Baltimore", Liz resists a 50,000-volt Tasering long enough to shoot her assailant.
    • Matthias Solomon, shot and beaten for multiple episodes, is one of the few Blacklisters who ends their episode without getting killed or arrested.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • The Freelancer is an assassin who specializes in making it look like his victims died as a result of a major accident like a plane crash or building collapse, taking the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the process.
    • Grey pleads with Reddington for his execution to be this, for his wife's sake, since she's unaware of his real work.
    • Infamous fixer Henry Prescott sets this up twice, once for an unnamed couple, then he does this to Hitchin.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: In many episodes, often two or a handful of members of the Task Force will be sent in to investigate or capture the latest Blacklister, and they are responsible for everything from combing through hundreds of files to actively trying to arrest perpetrators. Compared to Real Life, they are doing the job of dozens if not hundreds of officers, investigators, and agents - especially considering that they are after some of the most dangerous criminals on the planet. In some cases, the Task Force actually cross states to arrest someone rather than getting the local law enforcement to take care of that themselves even if the perp is in the middle of committing a crime. Very often, this kind of Plot Induced Stupidity gives the target ample time and opportunity to escape. It is also random - sometimes, entire SWAT teams are assembled to deal with the threat; in other cases, only one or two characters have to deal with the problem.
  • The Man Behind the Man: As sinister as Anslo Garrick is, he turns out to be operating on orders from Fitch.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Ian Garvey" concludes with Tom being rushed to the hospital and dying on the operating table. "Ian Garvey: Conclusion" concludes with Ian Garvey dying in the same way.
  • Meaningful Name: As the series goes on, Donald Ressler has been increasingly "wrestling" with personal issues including a painkiller addiction severe enough that he breaks his own thumb to get a new prescription, not to mention his stint as a dirty cop after Prescott starts blackmailing him.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Invoked in "Wujing." The titular villain accuses one of his mooks of being a traitor, then proceeds to give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Reddington then shoots the mook and claims that he did it to spare him from more suffering, since Wujing was just going to beat him some more before killing him. In actuality, the mook discovered the device that Reddington and Liz used to set him up, and was going to expose them to Wujing. Reddington killed him before he could say anything.
    • In "General Ludd", Reddington smothers Liz's adoptive father, so he won't have to suffer a painful death from cancer—or expose a secret about Liz's adoption.
    • The titular "Lady Ambrosia" believes she's doing this to the children she kills.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: The titular Villain of the Week in "The Judge" hates these, and targets corrupt cops and prosecutors who have wrongly convicted innocent people.
  • Mole in Charge:
    • Diane Fowler, who had oversight authority over the unit dealing with Reddington, was the mole who provided the means for his capture.
    • Floriana Campo, who runs the group dedicated to stopping the Everheart Cartel, is its leader.
    • Fitch, the apparent Big Bad, is in charge of the national security committee that Cooper's superiors report to.
    • Tom Connolly, the Attorney General no less, is a member of The Cabal.
    • Peter Kotsiopulos, director of the NCS, is also a member of the Cabal.
    • As is National Security Advisor Laurel Hitchin.
  • Morton's Fork: Near the end of "Tom Connolly", Liz is forced to either choose to surrender and fight the false charges (and be detained and locked up forever by Alliance/Cabal assassins) or go on the run and be branded a traitor by the public and by her fellow FBI agents. She chooses the latter - after murdering Tom Connolly and making one of the charges correct
    • Considering the show's story-line, whenever someone is forced to choose between surrender or an even worse fate. This is happens both to criminals and protagonists alike, such as when Ressler has seemingly cornered the fugitive Liz:
      Ressler: There's two ways this ends - You come up, hands raised, or we come down, guns raised.
    • How Prescott got to Ressler, either Ressler obeys him or proof of Ressler's involvement in Hitchin's death gets released.
  • Multitasked Conversation: While Liz is setting up in Wujing's base, she communicates to Reddington via text on her computer screen. He, meanwhile, has a natural-sounding conversation with the workers while asking questions to Liz indirectly.
  • Multinational Team: The Alliance/Cabal as a whole.
  • Myth Arc: Reddington's conflicts with the Alliance and Berlin, and how Keen's backstory is tied into it.
    • Some of the recent ones include finding clues to Liz's real father and the suitcase Mr. Kaplan has.
    • Katarina's appearance mention that she's after the Townsend Organization, which played a role in framing her as a hostile KGB agent.
    • The actual relationship between Reddington, Katarina, and Liz in later seasons after Katarina shows up in Liz's life. She was also told in "Nachalo" that Liz is the daughter of Katarina and the actual Raymond Reddington.
    • The show was meant to build up on Liz eventually succeeding Reddington in handling the Blacklist. Never turned out well since she's assassinated in "Konets".
    • Season 9 is a long time for everyone on the task force, especially with how Dembe decided to leave Reddington and join the FBI.
  • Necessary Evil: This is what Cooper considers Reddington as in the season 9 premiere; Red's presence keeps the Blacklisters in check.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • This is what The Stewmaker specializes in: killing people and pretty much removing them from the face of the earth. Reddington returns the favor to him, by kicking him into his own acid bath.
    • In the Season 1 finale, Liz shoots Tom, apparently fatally wounding him, but when the FBI later raid the location, Tom's body is gone.
    • In Season 5, Liz ends up killing Navarro, and looks up the Stewmaker's recipe to dissolve the body. When Reddington asks her where it was, she tells him she had it taken care of.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Inverted. The Blacklist is one of few shows where the trailers, even when it makes grandiose claims, actually underpromotes the show. The Blacklist is consistently better than what the trailers shown.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In the pilot, Liz stabs a pen into Reddington's neck when she's sick of his talking. This gets him sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment. He then escapes from there and goes to meet with Zamani. She was warned that her action is giving her trouble since the FBI placed her under review for her stabbing attempt.
    • In "Wujing", Liz improvises a replacement for ballistic gel and has the FBI lab run a 9mm bullet and shell casing from the gun she test-fired. Not only does it confirm Cooper's suspicion that she's hiding something, but the gun, which was in Tom's cache, is connected to a homicide that's classified up to the level of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
    • In "The Decembrist", Berlin locks a bomb around Fitch's neck. Because it's activated by a remote detonator, the task force secures Fitch in the same box Reddington occasionally occupied in Season 1... except that once the bomb was cut off from outside signals, it switched to a secondary timer.
    • Prescott could have moved on from "Frank Sturgeon", but when Ressler was questioning the lack of work done on Hitchin's body, he reveals too much information about the police investigation. This makes Prescott curious enough to run Sturgeon's prints, and he discovers "Frank Sturgeon" is actually Special Agent Donald Ressler of the FBI.
  • No Honor Among Thieves:
    • Lampshaded by Reddington in "The Courier." The high-level criminals and government agents that deal with Reddington cannot really trust each other. Thus, the Courier is hired to keep the people involved from double-crossing each other. If the deal is betrayed, he kills everyone on both sides of the deal, no exceptions.
    • The very premise of the show is Reddington selling out his fellow criminals to the FBI; in some cases, he is implied to actually be friends with them. In several cases, Blacklisters and other bad guys are shown to be equally as untrustworthy, betraying or even murdering each other to cover their tracks or save their own asses.
  • Noodle Implements: Pretty much everything Brimley uses to get people to talk
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Whatever happened between Reddington and Madeline Pratt in Florence.
    • Every other line from Reddington refers to a Noodle Incident, as an indication of how eventful a life he has led. He once killed a Somali with a wire coat hanger. How or why we are not informed, but another professional killer was impressed.
    • Apparently the last time Reddington saw Julian Gale, he was "aboard a catfish trawler on the Saigon River".
  • Non-Indicative Name: It's not clear exactly how Reddington ordered his list other than "Rule of Drama"; capability times (dis)respect for life. Madeline Pratt, for instance, is a non-violent Con Artist and thief, and Red even lets her go at the end of her episode, yet she is listed higher than many mass murderers, assassins, and terrorists. Red even includes people he isn't sure even exist, yet ranks them higher than some he knows personally. The highest ranked in Season 1, Berlin, is essentially a Light Yagami-level Chessmaster who kills pretty much everyone he encounters and is Unfettered enough to cut off his own hand to slip a pair of handcuffs. And Red considers seven people to be even worse than him. One of those(#7) is Jacob Phelps, a deep-cover mole who was posing as Elizabeth Keen's husband Tom.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: As valuable as Reddington is, there is only one tracer implanted in him. Which can be cut out, quickly. And it is done by his kidnappers in "Anslo Garrick" so the FBI can't find him. You would think they'd put a half dozen tracers in Reddington so you couldn't remove all of them before the cavalry showed up.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When the Russian transport plane bringing "Berlin" crashes into New York City territory after being shot down by a US Navy F-14 in "Berlin".
    • Cooper has this when he is compelled to have Keen before a court to determine if she'll be charged for events leading to the murder of a harbormaster in "The Major".
    • After Tom Connolly realizes that Liz had the guts to shoot him in "Tom Connolly".
    • When Dembe and Reddington first realized that Kaplan is alive, and intent on destroying Reddington's criminal empire.
    • Elizabeth tries to say "This is fine" when she realizes she killed Navarro. Then the police knocks on the door...
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Alliance (or the Cabal, the international group of apparent Corrupt Politicians, secret agents, businessmen, and influential persons that Fitch represents.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • The end of "Anslo Garrick" sees Reddington wearing a hoodie and getting on a bus. Considering he spent the entire season in expensive tailored suits and traveling by private plane, this tells the viewer that he really doesn't want to be found.
    • Also, on the rare occasions that Reddington loses his cool, things never end well for anyone.
    • After Liz's death, Reddington acts like a completely different person, for entirely understandable reasons. It really underscores what a brilliant actor James Spader is.
    • Everyone knows how much Elizabeth enjoys being an agent, when she decides not to return in Season 5, everyone is naturally worried. They're right, as Elizabeth uses this time to become a Dark Action Girl in her illegal investigation.
  • Parental Abandonment: Liz's parents, officially at least. Reddington also abandoned his wife and child on Christmas Eve before beginning his stint as master criminal.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Some of the criminals on the blacklist are there because Reddington finds their crimes or methods to be particularly heinous. For example, the Freelancer specializes in assassinations that look like major accidents, thus not only does he kill the target but he kills dozens of innocent people as well. It's also when he has to deal with other criminals (generally worse than he is) that Reddington is at his cruelest, not being above subjecting them to Karmic Death if he's especially pissed off.
    • The Good Samaritan is doing this as well. Every single one of his victims was an abuser and he inflicts the same injuries on them that they inflicted on their victims.
    • In "Berlin", Liz does this to Vogel, who had been infecting his victims with a disease for which only he had the cure in order to blackmail them into performing his bidding. Liz turns this tactic back around on him.
    • Liz's shooting of Tom Connolly in the season 2 finale is to prevent him from putting Liz and several of her friends through a Kangaroo Court that would likely result in their deaths, which he explicitly threatened to do before she shot him. This is not the first time she has done something like this; immediately afterward, she remembers killing her father to stop his abuse of her mother.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Liz nicks Reddington's carotid artery with a pen in order to get information about Zamani.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Other than in the pilot episode, Liz's profiling skills have not been used, even though this is what the FBI pays her to do. By the end of the first season she is a full-fledged Action Girl.
  • Playing Both Sides: Appears to be a running theme in all the episodes, at least on the surface.
    • In the pilot, Reddington is playing the FBI and Zamani against each other and Liz is caught in the middle.
    • Reddington plays the FBI against the Freelancer in order to get to his real target: the head of the Everheart Cartel.
    • While the FBI agents discuss giving a false translation of the coded message, Reddington points out that "either it's real, or we don't do it at all."
    • Reddington delivers up General Ludd to the FBI, but steals the printing plates for the US $100 dollar bill.
    • Without a badge and outside of a sanctioned FBI op, Liz breaks into a police evidence room to help Reddington, but she's actually there to get rid of evidence of her own crime. Reddington even realizes at the end of the episode that all his troubles in that case was because Elizabeth purposely tipped someone off.
  • Police Are Useless: Aside from Liz (who still makes her fair share of mistakes), the FBI as a whole is painted as bumbling idiots who are always two steps behind and can easily be played like fiddles. This is most apparent in the first part of "Anslo Garrick", when the FBI didn't realize the intelligence they were fed was a Batman Gambit which would bring Reddington into a situation where Garrick can easily find him. Reddington never tires of pointing this out to them, culminating in him chewing them out at the beginning of "Anslo Garrick". This ultimately results in him possibly giving up on trusting the FBI's protection at the end of "Anslo Garrick Part II" by going off the grid.
    • YMMV however when you remember the basic premise of the show is that the criminals the Task Force are going after are expert criminals operating for years without the authorities even knowing of their existence. Reddington's use of connections aside, the FBI do most of the legwork and are even more competent when dealing with criminals such as The Good Samaritan.
    • Reddington lampshades this as good police officers being forced to work in a system, it's usually right before he introduces some other criminal who could help their case. He does this right before informing the team of infamous fixer Henry Prescott.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Japanese government is too embarrassed to admit that a major criminal escaped from their inescapable prison so they do not make the information public. The escapee is out for revenge on the FBI agents who captured him and his targets receive no warning about him being on the loose. If the Japanese had instead promptly notified the FBI of the escape, the criminal would have probably been recognized and stopped as he tried to enter the U.S.
  • Precision F-Strike: "We gotta find that goddamn suitcase."
  • Psycho for Hire:
    • The Freelancer is a freelance assassin who likes to causes major accidents to disguise his murders. Reddington estimates that over 3000 innocent people died as a result of the Freelancer's actions.
    • Reddington is concerned that Frederick Barnes has become this, but it turns out he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist with Moral Myopia who believes that A Million is a Statistic.
    • Matthias Solomon was originally a CIA asset. He is eventually hired by the Cabal, and when they turn against him, he accepts a job from Hargrave.
  • Put on a Bus:
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: After Mozhan Marnó left, Samar had to be written out, so she was given a degenerative brain disease caused by her near-drowning at the end of season 5. After half a season of increasingly severe memory issues and aphasia, Mossad takes out a hit on her because they believe her condition has made her a liability, forcing her to go on the run and leave the rest of the task force behind —including Aram, whom she’d planned on marrying. This was considered a pretty depressing end for such a well-liked character, and may have contributed to the unpopularity of her replacement, Agent Alina Park.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Frederick Barnes grabs a security guard's gun and holds him hostage, and pulls this on Liz, who complies momentarily, then grabs her gun back, but he's lost in the meantime. Cooper chews her out for not following FBI regulations and keeping her gun with her, and warns her there'll be an official review.
    • Ressler makes the same mistakes after Matias warns him that he'll shoot Tom. Tom asks him if he went through academy training.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Many viewers criticized the show for the RCMP portrayal when they worked with the FBI in Montreal due to Quebec's "status" within Canada. However, many Canadian viewers (and viewers familiar with Canadian law enforcement) have pointed out that the former operates as a local, provincial, and federal police force throughout Canada and that they are the FBI's Canadian equivalent. Due to this, criticism has largely died down.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Leading actress Megan Boone got pregnant during the course of filming the third season, so her character Liz also was pregnant. To accommodate for Boone's maternity leave, the character was given a Faking the Dead exit via Faux Death until the season finale.
  • Recap Episode/Clip Show: "The Major," justified in that Keen is being thoroughly interrogated about the Task Force by a judge.
  • Red Baron: Many of the Blacklisters are known only by their nicknames and self-appointed titles — the Stewmaker, the Courier, the Judge, etc.
  • Retcon: In the flashbacks of "Ruin," Scottie Hargrave shows up out of nowhere to take care of Agnes. Her presence is hand-waved with a story about Tom "testifying against my husband." Which doesn't make any sense, since Scottie was the one who was arrested at the end of The Blacklist: Redemption, not Howard. When exactly Tom did this is completely unknown.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Used by Ressler repeatedly when he's coerced into doing favors for the fixer who helped hide his involvement in Laurel Hitchin's death.
  • Reverse Whodunit: Tends to be how the majority of episodes work (the only major exceptions are when the titular Blacklister is someone we already know or who is otherwise an ally of Reddington or other main characters). Typically, an episode will open with the Blacklister committing one of their dastardly deeds, with the bulk of the episode being a "howcatchem."
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "The Skinner" is one for concerns about spyware being used on phones and the supply of microchips for the manufacturing industry worldwide due to shortages.
    • "Benjamin T. Okara" concerns the use of the Havana Syndrome.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Reddington goes through one in "The Good Samaritan Killer", hunting down the people involved in "Anslo Garrick."
    • Mako Tanida goes on one against the FBI agents who incarcerated him and killed his brother, which in turn causes Ressler to go on one in turn when Tanida kills his fiancée.
    • It turns out that Berlin's attacks on Reddington are this: Berlin had a daughter who was killed and mailed to him piece by piece, and blames Reddington.
    • Mr. Kaplan's current rampage against Reddington over several episodes near the end of season 4.
  • Sadistic Choice: Mako Tanida gives his victims a choice between performing seppuku (disemboweling themselves) or he'll kill them and their families.
  • Samus Is a Girl:
    • Reddington tells Liz to contact a Mr. Kaplan at the Emissary Hotel in Chicago for help. Turns out it's actually a Ms. Kaplan.
    • "The Judge" turns out to be a woman, a fact lampshaded by Red.
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: Aram has an inkling about Kate.
    Aram [to Samar]: No, uh… [chuckles] She’s beautiful and smart. She’s an 11. I mean, I’m a 6, 4 on most days. Don’t get me wrong. I am going to enjoy it, but… something is up. Maybe I’m her rebound guy, or she’s got three months to live or…
  • Secretly Dying: The Courier. After a whole episode shrugging off dangerous wounds with nary a worry or care, he's shot again. He'll just keep walking like a badass, right? Nope. His wounds finally catch up to him and he dies.
  • Sexiness Score: In "The Thrushes", Aram confesses to Samar that he feels something is wrong in his relationship with Elise because "She's an 11. I'm a 6, a 4 on most days". He turns out to be Properly Paranoid as she's actually a Femme Fatale Spy named Janet who wroks for The Thrushes and is coming on to him in order to keep tabs on the Task Force.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Most notably in "General Ludd", where we see Liz joining Tom in the shower as the camera pans tastefully away; followed by a big dose of squick as we cut to the sinister surveillance team's location and see that the couple are being video-monitored even in the bathroom.
  • Sexy Silhouette: In "The Front", Liz hires a body double to trick the sniper across her apartment that is keeping tabs on her, so she can sneak away for a while every day. On scene even has her doing a striptease in front of the widow to distract him although the audience can only see her nude silhouette.
    • In "The Caretaker", we see Gina's naked silhouette behind a shower door just as she wraps herself in a Modesty Towel and walks out.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Raymond Reddington seems to be a fan of this trope, as he is most often seen with a shotgun whenever he's not using a handgun.
  • Shower of Love:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The episode "Mako Tanida" correctly shows the existence of Abashiri Prison in Abashiri, Hokkaido. It's still in use as an active prison sitenote . At the same time, it also depicts the correct way of showing a Japanese address in English. Also, the abbreviation NPA, which stands for the National Police Agency in English.
    • Cooper correctly mentions the existence of Mkultra, which was a CIA-backed program to conduct research on mind control.
    • In "Quon Zhang", Aram correctly explains the many aspects of Chinese (and to an extent East Asian) culture to the task force, such as the significance of the number four and why family members need to burn paper replicas of things after a loved one dies.
    • In "Marvin Gerard", Liz does an impressive job of pronouncing the Russian name of the FSB. note 
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • In the pilot episode, Liz jams a pen into Reddington's neck because she's sick of his talking. This actually may have been a part of Reddington's plan.
    • At the end of "The Cyprus Agency", Reddington confronts Diane Fowler on setting up Anslo Garrick's attack on the black site. As Fowler is going on about how Fitch won't let him get away with threatening her, Red responds by shooting her in the stomach.
      Reddington: You talk too much.
  • The Siege: In "Anne", Neville Townsend personally leads his men to lay siege to the Cottonwood Falls Police Station after Reddington tries to seek refuge. It doesn't work since Townsend was willing to kill the officers inside. Plus, there's not a lot of them inside.
  • Sin Eater: In Season 2, Red tells Elizabeth that he is a sin-eater; he absorbs the misdeeds of others, darkening his soul to keep theirs pure. Elizabeth challenges him to tell her what she's done in life that requires him to act like he's absorbing sins from her. He refuses to answer the question at the time, but she does find out later on.
  • Slave Brand: Reddington goes after a human trafficking ring that brands its slaves. At the end of episode Reddington's male body guard is changing in the locker room and you see the same scar on his shoulder.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Raymond Reddington detests human traffickers and takes great pleasure in helping the FBI take down a major slaving organization and personally kills the organization's leader. Reddington's strong feelings on the matter came about because Dembe, his right-hand man and Best Friend, was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child. When it comes out that Reddington once ran a human smuggling operation, he is adamant that he merely smuggled refugees over the border and afterwards they were free to go. When he finds out that a group of criminals now use his old smuggling network to enslave people, he promptly destroys the group.
  • Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains: Red is Type III, as he knows no bounds to achieve his goals, but his goals are noble. It's lampshaded by Cooper at the end of "The Cyprus Agency", who remarks about how vile and amoral Red is - but without Red's help, the FBI wouldn't have saved all the women and children the Cyprus Agency was taking advantage of.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly placed on the Cynical end of the scale; the lead character is a master criminal who has committed more than one on-screen murder (including one Mercy Kill, which was slightly excusable in that it spared an old friend a more painful death, but which also served to protect Reddington's own secrets). Also see Crapsack World.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Subtle; in "The Major," the seemingly-suitable Rammstein-esque rock song in the neo-Nazi bar is a parody song about farming (see Bilingual Bonus above).
  • Spare a Messenger:
    • "Lord Baltimore": Berlin takes Naomi and massacres all of Baltimore's men but leaves one barely alive so he could give Reddington an address.
    • In "Mr. Gregory Devry", an assassin hired by Marcus kills Mr. Kaplan's cleaners with the exception of the boss in order to tell Reddington that his employer knows about his informant status with the FBI.
  • Status Quo Is God: Out the window by Season 3.
  • SWAT Team: FBI SWAT officers appear, but are usually given the Worf Effect; the SWAT team escorting Liz, Ressler, and the General's daughter in the pilot is slaughtered, and Garrick's mercenaries easily kill the SWAT officers by surprise guarding the black site. In recent episodes their performance has improved, to the point they have actually won some firefights.
  • Suicide by Cop: Zamani makes it look like he is holding a remote bomb detonator so Ressler will shoot him dead. Henry Prescott also tries to goad Ressler into helping him with this.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Wilcox, a cop who ends up on Liz's trail due to her connection to the death of a harbormaster Tom killed when the man found out Liz was keeping Tom prisoner in one of the boats. The guy is honest, competent, and was seen giving a homeless man money and directions to a good place to take shelter for the night. It's just the rather Black-and-Grey Morality of the series that puts him at odds with the protagonists.
    • In Season 4, Special Agent Julian Gale acts as this. He recognizes several bodies of Reddington's victims, and apologizes for being unable to protect them. He works tirelessly trying to identify all of them, but unfortunately discusses his findings with Ressler, whom Cooper placed in the investigation so the task force could stay ahead.
    • Norman Singleton in Season 5, the detective who gets Tom’s case. He realizes Liz is employing not-so-legal methods in her personal investigation, and realizes the former FBI agent is more than she seems.
  • Stupid Crooks: The bank robbers during the opening of 'Dr. Hans Koehlor' get hit by this trope squarely in the face. First, they end up tripping the new metal detection systems put in place, giving them no time to escape before the police surround the bank. When Red offers to get them out by hiding them in the back of a truck, which goes wrong when they start shooting at the police. Red's response to this stupidity is to tip them out all over the road for the police.
  • Take a Third Option: With Liz in turmoil over her Sadistic Choice, Reddington suggests a third option: hiding Tom's emergency cache in a different place in the house.
  • Terminally Ill Criminal: Milton Bobbit, aka "The Undertaker", uses his insurance job to find people with terminal illnesses, and uses them as assassins who then kill themselves in order to let the trail go cold. In exchange, their families are given full benefits.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Daniel Hutton, an old war buddy of Cooper's, became a terrorist known as the "Simoon" aka Poison Wind after their superior set him up to be killed by insurgents for threatening to expose an illegal mission in Kuwait supplying armed rebels. He felt (correctly) that his government and country betrayed him, so he decided to betray his country in return.
    Daniel Hutton: You were a traitor treated like a patriot, and I was a patriot treated like a traitor, so that's what I became.
    Cooper: It's you? You're the Simoon?
    Daniel: It's a pleasure to meet you.
  • Techno Wizard: High school student Harrison Lee, a teenaged hacker who framed Russian cybercriminal Ivan by using his alias.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cooper lays one into Reddington in "The Architect," and doesn't let up when Red tries to butter him up. It's so dead-on that Reddington is uncharacteristically speechless and walks out without a word.
    • Peter Kotsiopulos, as the Big Bad of Season 3, gives and receives plenty of these.
    • Julian Gale gives one to Liz when he shows her the ice rink bodies, and also to Ressler once he finds out Ressler has been protecting Reddington.
    • Reddington himself, being the master of monologuing that he is, has delivered a number of these to various Blacklisters before executing them or otherwise ruining their day.
  • Threatening Mediator: The Courier facilitates negotiations between parties with a very simple rule: if either party in a negotiation tries to screw the other one over, he kills both of them.
    • Solomon when he tells Kotsiopulos that the Cabal isn’t too happy with his recent behavior, asking what the Director is planning to do. Solomon is clearly not just a mere messenger, he is quite capable of being a threat.
  • Time Skip:
    • A 10-month one occurs at the end of "Ian Garvey" as this is how long Liz has been in a coma.
    • Season 9 starts two years after the events of Season 8.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In "Cape May", Red has been hallucinating the woman (Liz's mother) for the entire episode.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Janet MacNamara in "Mr. Gregory Devry (No. 95)". Ressler and Navabi act on a warning that Janet will be kidnapped. They find her at her son's piano practice and take down the men who enter the building to abduct her. She takes her son and runs away from where the FBI agents protecting them are. The kidnappers grab her at the door.
    • The security guard in the cold open of "Miles McGrath (No. 65)", on hearing a report from one of his fellow guards cut short (because the man was shot in the head), tries to raise another guard, who doesn't respond. He doesn't call the police or show any sign of being alarmed, instead casually strolling out of the guard post to look around, where one of the intruders is waiting to kill him.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Liz starts the pilot episode as a rookie psychological profiler, not a field agent. After only a few episodes, she's routinely engaging in car chases, foot pursuits and shootouts, and piling up the body count without batting an eyelash, which are not typical activities for FBI profilers in real life. She notably takes several levels in the episode "Anslo Garrick".
    • Agent Ressler, who started out as the more experienced agent, was also a regular victim of The Worf Effect; recent episodes have seen him steadily improving, actually winning fistfights, and generally performing as one would expect from a top FBI agent on an elite task force.
    • Liz again, in the second half of Season 5, starting with "Ruin", in which she takes out four mob enforcers single-handedly while staked out in a cabin in Alaska.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • Due to the trailers, most viewers went in knowing Reddington assisting the FBI in capturing criminals wasn't going to be a one-time deal, despite the fact he doesn't reveal his list until the last ten minutes of the pilot.
    • The promo for "Berlin, Part 1" spoils that "Berlin" isn't a place, but the name of Reddington's mystery adversary.
  • True Companions: The FBI agents at the Post Office rapidly become this.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X: Inverted.
    Lizzie: I'm supposed to believe you?
    Red: Of course not! I'm a criminal.
  • Typhoid Mary: Natalie Luca.
  • Unexpected Positive: Ressler has to take a drug test when he returns to the Bureau, but he knows he can't pass since he's been coping with Liz's death with controlled substances. He uses Agent Park's urine instead. The urine comes back negative for drugs, but positive for cancer. After being hospitalized during her next case, Park brings up the cancer. Her doctor tells her she was actually pregnant and lost the baby due to the attack that hospitalized her.
  • The Voiceless: Dembe, in his introductory episode. He gets one line of dialogue in the next episode. Although averted in the other episodes.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Reddington kills Elizabeth's father this way.
  • Water Torture: Luthor Braxton has Agent Keen waterboarded in order to get the location of The Fulcrum from her. He continues even after discovering she does not remember anything. It's an especially painful scene to watch as you can hear her drowning in the background.
  • Western Terrorists: For starters, Zamani and the Serbian mercenaries recruited to ambush the FBI convoy. They are revealed to be the "Pavlovich Brothers". So far this variety has been the rule, rather than the exception, in the series. Including the American Taliban fighter who showed up in "The Judge".
  • Wham Episode:
    • NBC's official tumblr for the show promised that "Anslo Garrick" would be this. They weren't lying. After the two-parter finished, "everything has changed". Reddington is in the wind, he's explicitly denied being Liz's father, his people don't know where he is, and the Blacklist task force's only motivation is hunting him down. Also, Liz learned about the guys who were spying on her, and there are hints that Reddington is involved in some sort of high-level government conspiracy. Oh, and there's a mole on the team.
    • "The Judge" plays out like a standard episode, with the FBI chasing the Blacklister of the week while Reddington pursues his own agenda in the background. Then the last scene finally clarifies the mystery surrounding Tom — he actually is the spy/killer Red accused him of being, with his marriage to Liz being a sham he undertook on orders from his mystery superiors.
    • "Lord Baltimore" introduces Reddington's ex-wife, who is kidnapped by the titular villain and delivered to Berlin. At the end of the episode, he mails Red a finger that is supposedly hers.
    • "The Scimitar" has Reddington getting to know a woman who was heavily implied in previous episodes to be his daughter. She even says she "hasn't seen her father in a long, long time" and she hated him for "doing unforgivable things". Then Reddington gets a lead on Berlin's (the Big Bad) location, and tries to make peace with him. Berlin spits said peace offer back in his face, saying that he will kill Reddington's daughter like he killed his daughter. Reddington then brings out the woman, introducing her with a "This woman is not my daughter... she's yours." Cue massive look of shock on Berlin's face (as well as the audience's in general).
    • "Tom Connolly" reveals Liz's blocked childhood memory, which had been a running plot point in the second season: she killed her own father during a fight between him and her mother, and Reddington blocked that memory not to protect himself, but to protect her. To cap it all, the memory is unblocked when she kills Tom Connolly, an action that leads to her joining Red on the Ten Most Wanted List.
    • "Mr Solomon: Conclusion": Liz dies after giving birth to her baby.
    • "Alexander Kirk: Conclusion": Liz faked her death with the assistance of Mr. Kaplan. She is kidnapped by the titular character, who claims to be her father, also previously thought dead.
    • "Miles McGrath": The stolen virus sample was cultures from the Ribowski virus, which he needs to make sure he can survive for a few years due to anemia.
    • The two-part "Adrian Shaw': It starts with Kirk collapsing while in custody and quickly spirals as a DNA test reveals that Kirk isn't Liz's (biological) father... and Red confesses that he is.
    • "The Apothecary": It is revealed that Dembe may be the traitor within Red's Ranks.
    • "Mr. Kaplan": Tom is her contact to retrieve the suitcase she buried in case she dies.
    • "Ian Garvey": Tom dies and Liz is in a coma for 10 months.
    • "Zarak Mosadek": Liz meets Reddington's daughter, who has been in WITSEC and whom Ian Garvey has been taking care of.
    • "Sutton Ross": Raymond Reddington is revealed to be an impostor, as the real Raymond Reddington has been dead for 30 years.
    • "The Osterman Umbrella Company": Mossad puts out a hit on Samar and Samar is forced to go into hiding.
    • "Katarina Rostova": Red shoots Katarina at close ranger twice.
    • "Godwin Page": Red confirms that he's known as N-13 and he did save Liz from a fire when she was young. In addition, the Blacklist was a secret facility in Riga, Latvia. However, the DOJ has decided to have Liz taken out 'cause she's a liability.
    • "Nachalo": The information compiled by Katarina and the actual Raymond Reddington when the former spied in the US, in Moscow, and in other places against various VIPs was the full intelligence package in the Cold War known as "The Fulcrum". The Blacklist was used to ensure the safety of Liz. Also, the woman shot by Red who was said to be Katarina was a woman named Tatiana Petrova, whose cover was established by the actual Katarina and Ilya.
    • "Konets": Vandyke, one of Townsend's surviving men, shoots Liz in the back.
    • "Caelum Bank": Marvin is one of the conspirators responsible for killing Liz.
    • "Marvin Gerard: Marvin is released under some immunity conditions. Wujing's released and is suppose to be extracted by a MSS mole in the US Marshals, but Wujing says that he's recruited others willing to help him fight Reddington after he was told by Marvin that Red was responsible for ensuring his arrest by the FBI.
  • Wham Line:
    • Liz: "I know you're Ilya."
  • Wham Shot: Several of them in this show.
    • The season-one finale has Red telling Liz a story that Sam Scott, her adoptive father, apparently told him about the night someone brought Liz to him, telling him, Sam, that there was a fire at her house, her parents were dead, and that he was to take Liz in as his own. The final shot of the episode shows Red, taking his shirt off to bandage a wound he received earlier, showing burn scars all over his torso.

  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Sutton Ross does a poor job of hiding his British accent when posing as an FBI agent arresting the CEO of a robotics company.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Inverted big time when it comes to Red. Whenever his enemies have him at their mercy, they simply cannot just shoot him and get out of there. They have to gloat, rub his nose in it, order a pizza and invite all their friends over to witness it, etc. Red is snarking right back at them like he's daring them to do it the whole time. Hell, you get the impression some of them would sell the event on pay-per-view in order to get the most satisfaction out of it. They have to bask in the glow of outsmarting the great Reddington, despite knowing that he always has a back-up plan when things go south. Red always manages to turn the tables or find an opening. Shit, you'd think he'd spent his entire criminal career pissing off his enemies as much as he possibly could just so this trope would be in play.
  • Wicked Cultured: Reddington's a very classy criminal, so are many of his colleagues.
  • Woman Scorned: Madeline Pratt plays Reddington as part of her heist of the effigy mostly as payback for standing her up in Florence.
  • The Worf Effect: Reddington goes a good amount describing the badass Evil Army that Garrick has who completely take over the FBI Blacksite in minutes. Only for Reddington's team to easily wipe them out later.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: The protagonists have to stop terrorists from committing mass murder and wreaking havoc on a regular basis.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Zamani lost his family when the U.S.-led NATO bombing of a chemical weapons plant poisoned his village in Bosnia during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, and he wants to get revenge before he dies by killing a lot of American children. Therefore, he kidnaps the young daughter of the General who led the attack, then returns her at the National Zoo with a bomb strapped to her back.
    • "The Freelancer" commits mass murders to cover up his assassinations, making no exception for children who would almost inevitably be among the victims.
    • The Everheart Cartel specializes in trafficking in child slaves.
    • In "Wujing", the titular villain's mooks are willing to threaten their target's young son in order to draw him out.
    • The titular villain of "Frederick Barnes" had no problem with releasing a deadly disease that killed a child. Ironically, he did so as part of a plan to save his own son.
    • "General Ludd" has an accidental example. The debris from a cargo plane the terrorists blew up kills a father and son who picked the wrong place to play football.
    • Matthias Solomon is actually introduced as threatening and poisoning an infant. He does this gently, playfully cradling the baby, and viewers are only informed of the poisoning after an antidote was mentioned. Later, he accidentally shoots a child at the bank robbery he was staging. He's fine with this, Tom is definitely not.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit
    • Reddington uses one to kill Anslo Garrick.
    • In a more unusual manner, Mr Kaplan pulls one to get a (female) cop off her back by pretending to be the disfigured victim of an abusive partner.
  • Written-In Absence: Liz is absent for a few episodes in Season 8; this is justified, as she's fled the country temporarily.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The titular villain in "Anslo Garrick" engages in an extended game of this against Reddington. By the end of the episode, it's far from clear who's going to win.
  • You Have Failed Me: Aram assumed this is what Reddington would do to him if he was unable to accomplish a task for him.
    • After Kotsiopulos gets himself abducted, the Cabal regards him with this.
    • And again in Season 4 with Dembe. Dembe's Heroic BSoD averting the trope surprises Aram so much he thinks of another solution.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III invokes this trope when he's finished creating alibis for his clients.
  • You Monster!:
    • Liz says this to Reddington after he dumps the Stewmaker in his own acid bath.
      Liz: You're a monster.
      Reddington: Yes.
    • Invoked by Reddington in Part Two of "Berlin"; a man hears a disturbance in his home and finds Reddington sitting at his kitchen table, eating peaches, and holding his dog. The man asks what Reddington will do to the dog if he doesn't get what he wants.
      Reddington: I'm not going to hurt a dog. I'm not a monster. [Throws knife into the man's leg.] You, on the other hand...
  • Your Days Are Numbered:
    • Zamani is Secretly Dying, which is the impetus behind his plot to get revenge for the death of his family.
    • The Undertaker's MO - he finds people with a terminal diagnosis and convinces them to carry out a murder suicide, in exchange for taking care of their families financially.
  • Zany Scheme: Berlin's entire plan for sneaking into the U.S. involves getting arrested, extradited, causing a major plane crash, hoping the guard is killed in it, swapping clothes, and cutting off his own hand. And surviving. It works.


Video Example(s):


Motorbike drive by

An assassin in a motorbike shoots up a crooked lawyer and a rogue PI after leaving the Post Office.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / GanglandDriveBy

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