When season 9 kicks off Thursday, two years will have passed since the events of the finale and the death of Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Things have dramatically changed in the intervening years, with the Task Force disbanded, its team members in very different places and Raymond Reddington (James Spader) nowhere to be found. So when one of their own suddenly finds himself with the threat of danger, the team that was begrudgingly reunites to get justice.
"Liz’s death has changed everything. Red has disappeared and criminals have filled the void. The team has broken up and two years have passed. Then Dembe’s life is put at risk, the team regroups to help him -- and the SOS goes out to Reddington. His return signals a new beginning as well as a chance to settle his biggest score," executive producer John Eisendrath tells ET in a preview of the new season.
In ET's exclusive sneak peek from the premiere, a grizzly-looking Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) -- looking worse for wear and still haunted by Liz's death -- scoffs when he sees former head of the Task Force, Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix), on television doing an interview likening criminal empires to authoritarian regimes often ruled by a single leader.
"When that power becomes centralized or fractured, it leads to a period of chaos or instability. So when a leader of a criminal organization steps down or dies, it leads -- inevitably -- in a rise in crime as others fight for control over what he left behind," Cooper says, prompting Ressler to make the connection that he's referring to Reddington.
When the interviewer asks Cooper if he's alluding to crime bosses actually making the world "safer," Cooper doesn't refute it, which doesn't sit well with Ressler. "The best of the crime bosses know them all and have the power to keep them in check, so when they stop doing that then yes, the world is less safe as a result."
The Blacklistpremieres Thursday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. For more, watch below.