Ivan and Red and Liz
I think at least once every episode of The Blacklist I have thought, "That couldn't have been a more perfect scene." But in "Ivan" I got the one moment that I was absolutely sure, even with all the unpredictability this mystery provides, was inevitable from Red and Liz's first meeting. And it couldn't have happened any sooner or any better. It reinforced Red's love for Liz and showed a significant step forward in trust. That's all I wanted, because they are important to each other...and we still don't know why! Which I am so happy with. I love all the teases and everything that can be interpreted a number of ways. It's a joy to think of all the possibilities.
Subjective evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, some of which I agree with when looking at it from a certain perspetive, to me this moment felt father-daughter, even if he's not, which is just as likely as anything else: the way he held her, kissed her, and rested his head against hers, an expression of contentment on Red's face, Liz closing her eyes and letting herself be embraced, where before she often tried keeping a distance and took every opportunity to remind Red what she thought of him. The theory that they're related in some way hasn't been unequivocally disproven, and only concrete answers will convince me of what their relationship really is. Until then I am open to and ready for anything.
I noticed that Liz recalling that her father would lie in bed with her and hum that song the music box was playing, the box Red spent the whole case building, showed only that he has more intimate knowledge of her than she ever knew. Red barely said a word and acknowledged nothing, as is his way, always either dancing around issues with an amusing change of subject or stiff and tight-lipped, seeming to want to say something but unable to allow himself; he just listened to her and held her. That scene can also play as a shipper's dream or, more simply, a friend comforting a friend. I'm still entertaining all of the other ideas I have had since the beginning - uncle, godfather, family friend, guardian angel, and even the dreaded pawn in a dangerous game theory. I have always been drawn to the idea that Red is Liz's father, but I didn't make it up because of any desire for that to be the case. It was the feeling I got from how much he longed to be with her even before she knew him. He has a strong bond to her that has been hurting him by keeping it secret. If it turns out not to be, then I will celebrate the shippers, because I'm all about the story. It's not mine to tell, only to enjoy. From what I know already about where the series has been and how much it has given, there is no way it can disappoint.
The more mysteries they sprinkle in this show, the more my mind spins off in different directions. I adore the speculation. Speaking of which, boy, has the timeline thrown me for a loop. I have always wondered if there was more than one child that Red lost. From the beginning I thought maybe it was Liz, since they were strongly hinting towards that, but also that it wouldn't be so straightforward, and soon after came the girl in the photo. She was likely dead since she was a cleaner's trophy, so they had to be different people. Maybe neither is Red's daughter, but that photo was the first hint that he was really profoundly broken.
Then there was the daughter at the end of "Frederick Barnes," who would have been young enough to forget her father if she was alive today. (All Red said in "Madeline Pratt" was that "all there was was blood," but he didn't mention bodies.) I previously thought that the memory of her was a time close to the tragedy, the last good memory he was clinging to of his happy little girl playing and laughing in the yard. I didn't think she could be the same girl as the one in the photo until they introduced the ballerina, who struck me as looking similar. So they could just be using two girls to represent Red's memories of his daughter at different ages. The ballerina was maybe eight years old, the Swan Lake performance took place three years before the night that changed his life, and the girl in the photo didn't look much older. So I came back around to thinking maybe his daughter (or one of his daughters) really did end up in Stanley Cornish's tub. I sincerely hope not, because...just wow. It would explain his barely contained rage while telling the story of the farmer in that intensely mesmerizing scene from "The Stewmaker." What he did to Stanley would be completely justified from his point of view.
And to complicate things more, there was also Jolene/Lucy. I went way out there and thought maybe a kidnapped daughter, because Red recognized her in ViCAP. Since she was then later introduced in "The Alchemist," an episode about criminals stealing the lives and taking over the identities of the innocent, as someone who was supposedly dead, I thought maybe she was impersonating a loved one of Red's. When he had no emotion over her death at the hands of Tom, any thoughts that she was family disappeared. But did he know her? Did she turn on him? So many questions, my head might explode.
Even without yet revealing the whole truth, The Blacklist has consistently been one of the most emotionally devastating and fulfilling shows in my life. I don't often connect this strongly with a story or character. It has been a nice slow burn, the bits and pieces revealing themselves only when it's time, making it far more emotional than if it had been given up quickly, which would have created a terrible feeling that all of it was unearned and, therefore, shallow and pointless. The brilliance of The Blacklist is in every drop of heartache that spills from James Spader.
On a sidenote, after I wrote this I realized I was probably going to regret it, still not picking a side, restating the possibilities I love most. I was busy writing and GIFing, but I took a timeout to check a few Blacklist posts and discovered that there are still people putting others down for their opinion. I didn't read further, because I didn't want to be angered and waste my time. Some people need to realize that while they can share their theories and the "evidence" to support it, they have no right to deride others' equally valid theories. As of "Ivan" there is still only speculation, what we project from our own experiences, imaginations, and desires onto the story. Until we are given concrete answers, there is no right or wrong. Ships, please keep sailing. Those who never boarded, keep hoping they're related. And those still stuck in the harbor, I know how you feel. ;)