How ‘The Blacklist’ Moved On After Megan Boone’s Exit

THE BLACKLIST -- 	"The Skinner (#164)" Episode 901 -- Pictured: James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington -- (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)
Will Hart/NBC

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “The Skinner,” the Season 9 premiere of “The Blacklist.”

“The Blacklist” has officially moved on from Liz Keen’s death.

The NBC drama returned for its ninth season on Oct. 21 with the first episode since the exit of Megan Boone, who starred as the former FBI profiler since the pilot. While Boone left to work on other projects, Liz was shot and killed just as she was about to kill the terminally ill Raymond Reddington (James Spader) in order to take over his criminal empire and valuable blacklist. Of course, that happened just before Liz could learn Red’s real identity once and for all, but the show gave viewers enough information to guess that Red might actually be the adopted identity of Liz’s mother, Katarina.

The premiere picked up two years after Liz’s death, with Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq), now an undercover FBI agent, getting badly injured in an explosion and ending up in the hospital while his partner was killed. His assailants, who were trying to steal important microchips, were sporting mysterious tattoos, which led a retired Cooper (Harry Lennix) to get his team back together to figure out which dangerous person or organization was responsible. He pulled Aram (Amir Arison) out of an investor meeting for his new cyber security business and took Alina (Laura Sohn) away from a class she was teaching, but a bearded Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) wasn’t interested in abandoning the car he was working on to get back in on the action, especially if Red was involved. Ressler still blamed Red for Liz’s death, and he wasn’t the only one.

Red, of course, was the only person who could help identify this villainous tattoo, so Cooper had to track the man down in Havana. That meant Cooper had to be drugged in a bar, then taken to some strange place where Red was being guarded and cared for by a shaman.

Once Cooper was suitably rubbed down with an egg (don’t ask), he got to have a chat with his old friend and learned quite a bit about a man known as the Skinner, who might be a 700 year-old pirate but is also the leader of a group of criminals who burn people alive, and his identity changes over time in a line of succession. He’s “more myth than man,” Red said, but they had to find the man who personifies the myth.

While Red wasn’t exactly interested in joining Cooper’s little meetings with his recreated team, he was interested in the fact that Cooper is taking care of Liz’s daughter, Agnes, though Cooper didn’t think it was the best idea for Red to see her. Red eventually agreed to help the team by tracking down the Skinner’s predecessor, Vincent, who Red kidnapped with some acting work from Cooper, Aram and Alina.

Red convinced Vincent that it was in both of their best interests for him to reveal the Skinner’s current identity, and got the name of a guy who just checked into a hotel in New York. Cooper and Alina got on a plane, joined by a surprise Ressler while Aram chased down his investor. Things went badly for Aram when he had to use the investor’s computer to hack into a database to identify a man being tracked by the Skinner, but he was able to find out that the Skinner was after the chief tech officer for the only company that makes the world’s most advanced microchips.

Red then took off, taking all his resources with him, after Cooper still refused to let him back into Agnes’ life. The rest of the team, armed with only a unicorn printer courtesy of Agnes, visited Dembe to brief him on the somewhat dire situation. They got the name of the man who was kidnapped, but they didn’t have a whole lot more than that.

Ressler then went after Red to tell him that he still had to care about the blacklist in honor of Liz, and the next name on the list is a former Skinner. Looks like Red and Ressler are going to be working together, and a new era for “The Blacklist” has begun, even if we still have no official confirmation on the identity of Raymond Reddington.

“The Blacklist” airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC.