Red and Madeline Pratt
Please visit Reinbeast Expanded to view the rest of the gifs I made from this fantastic scene.
Wow. Can I take a moment? I've had many since Monday night, but I need one more... Alright, I'm good for a few minutes...maybe. We'll see how it goes. That was another perfect, Emmy-worthy scene from James Spader. I feel I was ill prepared for this. I thought I was put through an emotional wringer before, with everything that happened in prior episodes, but, again, wow. If you want to be depressed, just watch Spader at his best.
I haven't had a chance to read what people are saying since "Madeline Pratt" aired. I've only seen a few great gifs - the scene where Red tells Liz he's going with her, and the one where he hilariously distracts and then disarms a man guarding Liz. But I have one family member who was confused by whether Red's confession to Madeline was real and another who doesn't believe it. I can overlook that, because they haven't rewatched episodes and are not glued to Tumblr in their spare time. Though, it makes me wonder whether anyone else thinks the same way. I happened to believe it. Red can be sly and and ruthless to get what he wants, but he also was a loving father and family man whose life was disrupted in the most awful way, so I believe he used that to his advantage.
In the pilot, (which I really wish was called "Ranko Zamani," since all others are named after the Blacklister of the week) Red was said to have abandoned his family on Christmas Eve in 1990. His car was found by the side of the road, so that part about running out of gas is likely true. He had a young daughter, and whatever happened to her fuels his rage to this day. The emotion tied to her is real. We know that because we saw it in his memory at the end of "Frederick Barnes," a scene where he had no one to lie to. He bought and destroyed his old house because what happened there still haunts him. As we learned from Red's scene with Diane in "The Cyprus Agency," he doesn't know what happened to his family. And when a case involves children, he has clear hatred for the perpetrator or an understanding of the person desperately trying to save them.
James Spader is exceptional. As he often gets to show on The Blacklist, his emotions are spot-on. No one could be that good and not have it come from a real place; not necessarily an actual experience but a deep understanding of human connection. If the part was played by a lesser actor, the performance would feel false no matter how it was written. Spader played it as real. Even though he was manipulating Madeline to get what he wanted, he shared his tragedy to make that connection with her and also explain why he left her without a word. It wasn't a performance by Red but a part of his history he can't let go. Maybe it's not the whole truth, but taking everything I know about Red's character and background, I believed the shattered heart that permeated that scene and, therefore, the story he told.