The Blacklist
Season 1 Knife Design


This has to be both the shortest and longest it's ever taken me to design a knife. One morning I woke up very early because of a particularly freaky dream and couldn't fall back asleep. I was about to start actually counting sheep (a sign that I'm desperate) when The Blacklist popped into my head. It was Halloween and I'd been watching this favorite new show for less than two weeks, after having put it off, and thinking about James Spader's incredibly powerful performance non-stop. Suddenly, in those dark hours of the morning I started wondering what a knife representing the show would look like.

I haven't done a lot of TV series knives (only Fringe, Almost Human, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) because it takes quite a while to come up with something. I need to know more about them, and I have to get the details right. But with The Blacklist, something so new I shouldn't have had any ideas, I immediately thought of one with a split blade and tentatively named it "Duality" for Reddington's duplicitous nature of playing all sides and for his life before and after, the father and the criminal, the gentle and vulnerable alongside the cold and calculating. Maybe I really woke up so that I could create this.

I designed the shape of the knife after watching just six episodes, but I needed more than that. With the seventh, "Frederick Barnes," a man that Red could identify with because he was prepared to "burn the world down" to save someone he loved, I was able to add the quote I had been waiting for: "Every cause has more than one effect." That is Red in the simplest of terms. Something terrible was done to him and he will stop at nothing to remedy that. Those little conversations with Elizabeth reveal so much about the core of his character in sympathizing with those driven to extremes. This wisdom of experience permeates the most rewarding moments.

A few minutes later in this episode, the remnants of Red's past haunted an empty home. That gave me the height chart and took my breath away in one of the most subtly devastating scenes in any series. It was a privilege to watch Spader work, dropping the wall he'd put around this character. Previously, Red's loss had been hinted at with things like his abhorence of those who would hurt children, a picture stolen from a madman's album, and a parable of a man who lost everything and went out of his mind told with barely restrained animal rage. This episode gave us a better, bitter view into this tortured soul.

Then "General Ludd" gave me the ViCAP number, which was a piece of the puzzle Red received in "Wujing" and the last piece I needed for the knife. I knew the number was going to be important, because the writers know where this story is going. But I never imagined it was the kind of important that would take Red by surprise, a look of recognition coming across his face.

It took me quite a while longer to figure out what should be on the handle. The name changed to "Red" since it was all about the main character. The quotes followed suit: words that he didn't say replaced with those that he did. Still, I toyed with renaming it to "Smooth Criminal" for a little while. Red is certainly smooth, but rather than emphasize the criminal part of him, a necessity borne of his devastation it seems, I wanted to try depicting that devastation that made him. It's more about the man and his pain than what he became. Therefore, the name "Red" remains.

My original idea was for a pattern of bubbles, because Red's daughter was playing with them. It wouldn't have worked at all. Too colorful, too cheerful. That can work for the impact of contrast, as in the scene the idea came from, Red smiling at the memory of his daughter and then being shaken by it, the experience of loss written across his face. It wouldn't have the same kind of impact here, so I went with something simpler. The color red is, of course, both for Reddington's nickname and the wreckage he's left in his wake, especially recently in "The Good Samaritan." And the black "smoke" is for the mystery that surrounds him.

The three "accents" (don't know what else to call them) between the spine and the blade were the original idea I had to represent the last age seen on Red's daughter's height chart, but I thought that was too abstract, so I decided on using the actual chart. I think age 2 had a star by it, but now I'm not sure anymore. I saw it the first time on a big TV. Now I'm always looking at it on my iPad. I can never get the exact moment or get it clear enough. I'll remove that if I find out otherwise. Please excuse the wobbliness of the quote spiral. Unfortunately, my drawing apps have basic geometric forms only, no spirals. Ooh, I would LOVE a little Spirograph function. Rewatching "The Good Samaritan" right now while finishing up, trying to get the spiral right enough without messing up the words. This is the episode with Red's killing spree, scored by "The Man Comes Around." Fantastic moments.

Alrighty, if you got through all that, congratulations! No, you didn't win a prize. I don't have anything to give. But you do have my thanks. And just in case you were wondering, I don't make real weapons. The only time I ever shaped a piece of metal was in 8th grade woodshop as part of a pencil/pad holder to hang by the phone, which I still have, by the way. My goal in life is to make my own knives, though, even if it's just to decorate my room.

If you'd like to see the original drawing or any others I've done, please visit ShinyDangerousThings.


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