Cape May is at the ends of the earth, at least within the world of The Blacklist and for one Raymond Reddington. It’s a story of a specter, a memory of what was and what could be. It’s a story of Reddington at the lowest point in the series, one where he is forced to grapple with a perceived death while also struggling to understand a possible one.
Within the context of Friday night’s new episode “Rassvet,” arguably one of the most important Katarina Rostova mythology episodes ever, this felt like the best possible time to revisit this resort town in southern New Jersey. While there, we could unlock and sift through the ghost stories in hopes of trying to better understand their meaning … if there are any ghosts within this world at all.
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The foundation point – Raymond Reddington first takes his cab down to Cape May after seemingly losing Elizabeth Keen. The one person he was sworn to protect is now gone, and it conjures up painful memories of when he lost someone else dear to him: Katarina Rostova. The woman who loses herself within the waters of Cape May, or at least so it seems. Reddington goes there to have a tangible connection to one of the few things within his life he cannot hide.
Who is Katarina to him? – This is one of the episode’s great questions. Back when “Cape May” first aired, the easy way to answer this was to say that she was a lost lover from the past, someone who he cherished and someone who lost her life there. He wanted to go back there in order to live out a different fantasy, one where if he couldn’t save Liz, he could at least save her — or at least preserve a memory of her where she didn’t die. This was, of course, back when Reddington could have been Liz Keen’s father.
Now that we know that this man is an imposter, all of this becomes cloudier than the Cape May sky on a stormy day. If Reddington is not Liz’s father, the evidence within this episode still points to him envisioning himself in some sort of intimate relationship with her. There is the scene of the two snuggling together at night, and then also the scene where she places his hand upon his face near the episode’s end. Reddington does not discuss his great loves all too often on The Blacklist; this is one of the few opportunities in which he does.
Why does he need to save her? – This is something that was not even altogether clear at the time in which this episode aired, but during “Mr. Kaplan: Conclusion,” a conversation between Reddington and Dembe reveals that there is something more to Katarina’s fate, at least in terms of his involvement in whatever happens to her. This is a signal that Reddington feels an added sort of guilt even beyond the “choice” that he feels within this episode. This is why he probably puts himself through this fantasy, this process of trying to find a way in which to rewrite time and uncover something that was never quite there before.
Did Reddington try to take his own life? – It’s one of the more haunting questions within this episode, but if he is trying to retrace Katarina’s footsteps — or if you subscribe to the theory that Reddington is Katarina — then you can make an argument within this episode that he does contemplate ending his life here in the way in which hers did. Without Liz and a sense of higher purpose, there is nothing more to live for … until he finds the necklace.
This discovery, at the end of the episode, seems to be the biggest reason to think that Reddington wasn’t there and had no direct knowledge of what happened at Cape May. In seeing that, he recognizes that the legends are true and he opts to find a greater way forward. That’s when he leaves New Jersey and moves on to his next goal. Another read, if he was at Cape May and remembers her death there, is that the necklace is a tangible reminder and it’s something he never quite had before.
Are there other clues present here? Perhaps the most notable one is when he comments to Katarina that the last time he was in Cape May, he was a completely different person. That was a reference to the Imposter theory long before the imposter theory really even came to be a thing. The question here then becomes if Reddington was at Cape May before, why … and when?
The conclusion … for now
There’s still so much to learn about Katarina, including the mystery of what really happened in Cape May so many years ago. Yet, through this re-watch, one thing does remain very clear — Raymond Reddington was trying to save something there, whether it be his soul or his memories of her. He wanted something to cling to from one of the most important moments within his life. This is an episode worth re-watching again and again down the road, and rest assured, we have every intention of doing so.
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Has your opinion of “Cape May” changed, knowing some of the information that we know now? Be sure to share right now in the comments. (Photo: NBC.)
This article was written by Jessica Carter. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.