The Blacklist Theories and Tumblr Sniping

9/22/2014

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The Blacklist returns tonight! You may have seen me mention it if you read Part 1. I'm doing a happy dance, but tinged with a bit of sadness. I had great fun debating theories last year and spending so much time on Tumblr. People were so active and made such wonderful GIFs and I even started making my own. But then I started seeing comments that put others down. Some said there was no father-daughter relationship, though there was no proof. Another said that they would stop watching the show if Red snd Liz didn't get together or, worse, if they were related. They said that would turn it into a cliche. How is that? I thought it was nonsense. I have never seen the man lost his family to an unknown psychopath or sanctioned hit one Christmas Eve-saved his/a friend's/an enemy's daughter (edit, 10/1/15: or his daughter from an affair, as I'm now thinking a year later, the day of the season 3 premiere) from a burning house-gave her to his best friend to keep her safe-followed her from the shadows for years until she got into the FBI-turned himself in to work with her and get to the bottom of what happened to his family and exact revenge-won't tell her who he is for fear of hurting her or putting her in danger-being targeted by a madman who's thinks he killed the madman's daughter in the most horrible way story before.

If that's a cliche then how is changing the details to kidnapped her from her real father any better? It changes their relationship and possibly the reason he was targeted but not the depth of feeling of the series. It would diminish nothing in the storytelling. I have always found the father angle to be the most poignant one (not necessarily the right one), just ahead of atoning for his sins or being framed and targeted. What you want their relationship to be and what it turns out to be may not be exactly the same. That doesn't change what came before and how it made you feel at the time. It will only serve to shine a light on every action, every word from Red. And it may, no matter the outcome, increase the emotional resonance. Whatever is right for the story, whatever makes the most impact is how it should be.

I'm telling you with no uncertainty, your father is dead. He died in that fire.

What I took away from that moment is that he was talking about himself. I love the reveal at the end, that Red did brave that fire to save Liz. She was too young to remember anything other than that her father saved her. It's possible Liz assumed it was him or, just as easily, maybe she was so certain because of the way it felt to be in his arms and a reassuring voice. Red saving his daughter from the fire then blowing up his own house years later can make sense. The fire could have been confined to a bedroom or the second floor, the floor he looked up at when he entered and put his hand on the banister. The house could have been renovated. Yes, there are a lot of "could haves," but that's what this show is made of. I had a thought once that maybe Red had more than one daughter. That would explain the two different girls he remembered who brought tears to his eyes. That is, if they are supposed to be different people. They could have just wanted to show different moments in her life. It was a feeling more than anything in the way he recounted the night his world crashed down.

There were so many times Red's concern for Liz seemed parental. Even if they are not related, he may feel that way and he at least knew her as a child (but how well?), which ruled out the romantic angle for me. He had an attachment to her before she even met him. He has protected her without hesitation and has let her know he always would. He killed Sam to keep the truth from her, so lying when she asked if he was her father wouldn't be a stretch. In that scene, he took a few beats to think about how much he should say. He takes it hard when she is angry with him. He casually threw out a comment in "Berlin" about them not being on speaking terms as reminiscent of elementary school. And the biggest moment for me was that music box he knew would trigger a memory of her father humming its song to her when she couldn't sleep. It would seem only a relative or close friend would know something like that and he didn't just guess. He was so still and apprehensive, as Red always is in those moments - wanting to tell her everything but unable to.

 

Someone pointed out a long time ago, when I gave all my reasons for not seeing Red and Liz in a relationship, that a DNA test would have immediately ruled him out and that's why they could not be related. I admitted that it never crossed my mind. I had just assumed it had mentioned it before and I forgot or missed it since my family makes comments while watching TV. I realized on a rewatch that they were right. That seems more of an oversight on the writer's part or it got cut for time. Hopefully, they'll eventually say something either way. If it turns out he is related then I have to assume he would have had an ally get to the results before anyone saw them. Whatever the truth is, it always felt like Red at least thought of Liz as a daughter. Answers are few and far between and the emotional impact will be huge once the full picture is revealed. Taking so long to get there has been beautifully agonizing; all of those little Red and Liz moments allowing us to fall in love with them.

Sadly, the time it has taken to get this far also divided us. I was heavily into Tumblr for months. I still visit occasionally, because I miss the interaction and seeing how others interpret the same moments, but I've found it's much more pleasant to be alone with my thoughts or with other, less judgmental, more joyful fandoms, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nearing the end of season one, I felt more and more unwelcome with the people I followed and it was starting to affect my love for the show. I was frustrated with the incessant I'm right-you're wrong posts, all caps yelling and snide "Daddygater" remarks. I should have shrugged it off since I was open to any direction the show wanted to go in, but it became relentless. The fandom suddenly made me angry or brought me to the verge of tears nearly every day, though the vitriol was usually not directed at me personally, and I found myself wanting to write and write and write back against it all. But my opinions weren't valid even though no one had concrete answers, and I was tired of spending too much time writing about and GIFing The Blacklist (which takes so long) and then being completely ignored or told not too gently that I was wrong.

One day it became too much and I decided to stay out of it for a while. I thought we were all trying to have a good time, but fans had been pointlessly sniping at each other while I sat in the middle, leaning toward the father-daughter theory for good reason and just as easily leaning the other way when I heard an argument that held water. I understand that shippers got fed up with anti-shippers ranting at them, which I had been completely unaware of, but the behavior from both sides saying that others are ignoring facts to suit their whims or that they are only casual fans clinging to stupid theories because they haven't paid attention is just not acceptable. The problem stemmed from people interpreting interactions differently. We only had speculation about their relationship, but I was considered a fool that I saw it another way even after the finale, which seemed to say more than words. If the shippers turn out to be right, there will be no hard feelings from me, because they are actually good people and we're all only looking for the truth. For now I'll continue to keep my mouth relatively shut on the subject of The Blacklist over there, while still reblogging all the interesting, soul-shattering moments. But for conversation, I find far fewer people make me feel bad on Twitter.

Update: Spoilers for the first two episodes of season 2. I can now definitively say, even with many questions unanswered, that the father-daughter theory has been put to rest. Red's wife and daughter are alive, though the way he spoke about them in "Madeline Pratt" made it seem like there was more than one child. Anyway, that's okay with me, because trying to get to the bottom of Red and Liz's relationship is still intriguing. And I still don't see them as a couple. It always felt like either Liz was related or she was an emotional substitute for Red's daughter, not a potential girlfriend. Now maybe everyone has calmed down on Tumblr...or more likely there are a lot of I-told-you-so's going around.

Update 2 (10/1/15): Or is that theory revived? I now feel like Red could have had an affair. It's not far-fetched. He's spent a lot of time away from home, and maybe decades ago he was not being faithful to his wife while abroad. I'm not sure if this was a theory I thought of at the beginning of the series (I'd have to read back through), but I like it. Red didn't didn't raise her, so he doesn't feel he has any claim to being Liz's father, but it explains how he's got this parental longing towards her at times, that desire to tell her the truth and the desire to keep her safe from it. I felt that from the beginning and it only got stronger with every emotional beat. Of course, as I've said before, he could also just bear a responsibility for her and became obsessively attached to her after he lost his own little girl. Liz hardly notices his concern and pain because she's usually mad at him and he tries so hard to hide it, but we all see it.

Get The Blacklist on Blu-ray, DVD or Amazon Instant Video where the Pilot episode is currently free.

Image is copyright of NBC.

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