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How the Blacklist Finale Set Up a Stronger Season 7

In retrospect, Season 6 of The Blacklist was truly split in two. The first half of the season -- which ended with Episode 12 -- injected new energy into the show's formula. Its focus on Reddington's time in prison gave significant room for James Spader to chew up the scenery and compelling choices for both Liz (Megan Boone) and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq). Few stretches in the show's history can match those dozen episodes.

Though not a failure, the second half of the season has not been as major of a triumph. Red's freedom and the task force's return to normalcy have coincided with more cabal-related nonsense and explorations of Reddington's past. The latter thread has carried the back portion of the season, particularly the all-flashback episode unveiling how this man became Reddington. But the threads involving the cabal and the treacherous Anna McMahon (Jennifer Ferrin) and President Diaz (Benito Martinez) haven't delivered as much intrigue as the show might have hoped.

It's thus a minor but logical unfortunate circumstance that this season finale is really more of a finale to the back half of the season. "Robert Diaz" delivered major developments related to McMahon and the president's middling plan to "save America." Having been confronted with his past actions, Reddington made headway on finding Katarina, his love and Liz's mother. And finally ready to move past all the trauma in her personal and professional life, Liz reunited with her young daughter.

The Blacklist Bosses on the Shocking Reveals of the Season 6 Finale

There's no denying that those are major moments for some of the show's recent storylines. But some of the show's more frustrating tendencies managed to weigh down the moments' impact.

Ultimately, the McMahon/Diaz run didn't do much for the show. As noted in this space last week, neither character offered depth beyond what their respective (and very good) actors brought to the table. Just as prior episodes tried to establish McMahon's ruthlessness, this one demonstrated her supposed intelligence. Key members of the task force were placed into custody for their role in a conspiracy against the government -- of course the one that the team discovered McMahon was in fact planning.

Yet it didn't take time for Liz and company to outsmart McMahon to free her colleagues. Similarly, while McMahon and the evil Secret Service plotted to keep the task force away from the presidential debate wherein Diaz planned his big sacrifice, the team navigated the huge security detail with relative success, stopping what appeared to be the botched assassination. And then when they were temporarily arrested, Reddington quickly attacked an armored transport vehicle to save them. And then Dembe shot McMahon in the skull before she could explain much of anything. Season's big bad dispatched!

Villains exist on this show to get outsmarted by Red, there's no doubt about that. But for the show to dedicate so much time to McMahon and to never effectively make her or her plan against the country that interesting is a legitimate error in execution. The end result was likely always something like this; it could have been more of a worthwhile journey.

The Blacklist Bosses Preview 'Surprising and Satisfying' Season 6 Finale

With McMahon ousted, the task force turned to the evil, angry president, who was in fact not assassinated and instead watched the first lady take the bullet. The last 20 minutes of the episode tried to create a big mystery about why the Secret Service goon missed his chance to execute the president. The big reveal there? That before his first election win, Diaz drunkenly hit and killed someone with his car. The first lady had guilt about it and couldn't keep it secret anymore. She had to be eliminated for the good of the country!

As I've said before, there's never going to be a tremendous reveal involving the cabal. Cut off one tentacle and two yada yada. But for everything to lead to such a generic, small surprise was disappointing. Combined with the dispatching of McMahon, it was very disappointing.

The episode served the two lead characters better but to differing degrees. Liz's reunion with Agnes was legitimately moving and one of those things that the show could have treated even more seriously. It's a huge development in Liz's life and a capper to her arc in the second half of the season. She's wanted to move past all the trauma and try to be with her loved ones. That Red wouldn't stick around to share a moment with his faux granddaughter was low-key heartbreaking. It was a great moment that could have been given more time.

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Elsewhere, the episode ended with Red and Katarina. There's a lot to explore between those two, and between them and Liz. Clearly, that's where the show is headed in Season 7. Katarina kissing and then knocking out Reddington makes for a fun little shock to conclude a strong, if flawed season.

Despite some quibbles with the back half of the season or this episode, The Blacklist is primed for great material next go-around. The dysfunctional dynamics of this quasi-family should return the show to its strongest pocket. It also appears as if the cabal plotline will dovetail more directly with Katarina's reemergence, which could potentially avoid that material feeling tackled on so that the task force characters have something to do.

The Blacklist will return for Season 7 in the fall on NBC. It's available to stream on Netflix.

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The Blacklist Bosses Break Down the Shocking Reveals of the Season 6 Finale

Laila Robins and James Spader, The Blacklist | Photo Credits: NBC, Virginia Sherwood/NBC

The Blacklist ended Season 6 by wrapping up the presidential conspiracy (President Diaz [Benito Martinez] tried to have his wife assassinated to keep the fact that he'd killed people in a drunk driving accident a secret) while introducing another two-fold mystery: Raymond Reddington's (James Spader) old identity might not be a Russian childhood friend of Katarina Rustova after all, and not only is Rustova still alive and living in Paris (she's played in the present by Laila Robins), when Red found her, she kissed him, then stabbed him in the belly and had her goons scoop him up and put him in a van headed to parts unknown.

TV Guide caught up with executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath to break down the Season 6 finale, with the exception of what happened to Red, because you know Red's not dead and we need some surprises in Season 7!

So a White House conspiracy with payments from Russians, is this ripped from the headlines a little bit?
John Eisendrath: I would say no for one reason: We introduced the character who played President Diaz in Season 3, which was 2015, and he was Senator Diaz. And as Senator Diaz, in order to become president he took $30 million of Russian money long before anyone ever knew Donald Trump was going to be president, long before there was any discussion of Russian involvement in our election. So we feel somewhat prescient in our storytelling. We didn't really rip it from the headlines. In fact, we were a little nervous that it was too -- some of The Blacklist stories we tell are stories we get out of the headlines, but these bigger stories we don't like to overlap too closely. Obviously this does feel that way, but we were telling that story long before it became a real story in the world.

How the Blacklist Finale Set Up a Stronger Season 7

How about a crooked president getting brought down? Is that a little bit of a fantasy element?
Eisendrath: I would genuinely say that we really are not a political show. The idea that the president is part of a storyline involving the Blacklist, I would be reluctant to say we were trying to make a point about should or shouldn't go on in Washington... The times where we are making any sort of point or have a point of view about something that goes on in the real world is more true certain [Blacklist] cases that we dramatize. We had a case this year about the bug man, and that spoke to environmental destruction brought on by pesticides. We've had episodes like those that, I think, to be honest, are more reflective of statements, if there are any statements that we want to make, about things that are going on in the world then the outcome of President Diaz.

What can you say about Ilya Koslov's childhood friend? Will we be seeing more of him in Season 7?
Jon Bokenkamp: Yeah, the stranger (Brett Cullen) is somebody who I would suspect we may see again. It's somebody who certainly is important to Reddington, somebody who is in his inner circle, and I think Red has a very small trusted inner circle of people that are close to him, you know? Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) is one of them, Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert) was one of them and this character who is yet to be named is one of them, and they go back to a very young age. So yeah, I think it is probably safe to say that, that character may pop up again.

It seemed like there was maybe a little wrench thrown in, that Dom's story he told Liz about Red's history was not true. So more will be revealed about that?
Oftentimes, truths on our show can be looked at and interpreted in different ways, and I think it's one of the things that is most satisfying about writing it -- and I hope it's one of the things that is satisfying about watching it -- is that you get a truth, you take it for canon, maybe it seems like it's not true, maybe it's half of a truth. What Dom (Brian Dennehy) told Liz I think should stand as the truth until we hear otherwise, and we do hear otherwise. But, you're right that the way that they spoke about it on the waterfront there could probably be interpreted in different ways.

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I'm curious about your writing process. Do you know what kind of the big events in Season 7 will be already, or will you figure that out as you go? Like, do you know what the next thing that will happen with Katarina Rustova will be?
Each season we sort of have a good sense of where we're gonna end. When we walk into the room we know two or three probably big moves.

And again, part of the joy of it is getting lost and surprising ourselves and deviating from the plan a little bit. But, that's not only per season. At this point, now that we're six seasons in, going into seven, in a serialized story like this, we for a long time have been looking ahead at the story, the various signposts that we want to hit and trying to calibrate how quickly we get there, how slowly we get there. We don't want to stretch things out. But we do know, for example, [that at the] end of Season 5 we find the bones of Raymond Reddington. That's an example of a big story point that we knew we would land on. It moved around within the series a couple of times but that's an example of one of those turns.

Introducing Katarina in present day is another one of those turns and so yes, we have a good sense of those, but we would be lying if we said we had it all figured out before we walked into the room. There's still plenty to do.

So after six solid seasons, how do you feel about your chances of this show going on for as long as you want it to?
Here's what I'd say about the ultimate endgame. Just right now, standing at the cliff of Season 6 and looking into the abyss of 7, we have a lot of story to tell. So nobody's racing to the finish line. We have some big turns yet to make. I think we're kind of focused on those at the minute, and who knows what the future holds?

The Blacklist will return for Season 7 in the fall on NBC. It's available to stream on Netflix.

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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Canceled After 17 Years in Syndication

Regis Philbin, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire | Photo Credits: Maria Melin, ABC via Getty Images

Looks like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has finally run out of lifelines.

Variety reports that after 20 seasons and over 3,000 episodes, the iconic series has finally been canceled. "After a successful 17-year run, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire will not return in national syndication for the 2019-20 season," a show spokesperson told Variety.

This Regis Philbin-hosted question-and-answer show became a national hit, and eventually a cultural centerpiece for broadcast television, when it premiered in 1999. Meredith Vieira took over as host when it switched from primetime to syndication, and she was followed by other celebs like Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews, and Chris Harrison. While most contestants didn't manage to answer the complete roster of trivia questions (even with lifelines like "50:50," "Ask the Audience," and "Phone-a-Friend"), there have been a total of 12 people to answer the "Million Dollar Question" correctly and take home the grand prize.

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When you think about how much money the show has had to give away over the years, it's a little less surprising that it's is coming to an end, right?

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