Donald Ressler is a protagonist on The Blacklist. A Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was the lead agent on Raymond Reddington case until Elizabeth Keen was specifically requested by Reddington during the process of cooperating with Assistant Director Harold Cooper.
Ressler is a veteran field agent who has been tracking Raymond Reddington for 5 years, the bulk of his career. Ressler's greatest asset is his single-minded, almost obsessive devotion to his work. Despite his by-the-book methodology, he is always been one step behind Reddington. He was involved in a failed FBI plot to assassinate Reddington in Brussels, Belgium, and later arrested a suspected ally of Reddington's in Japan, Mako and Aiko Tanida. According to Mako Tanida, the pair were considered "collateral damage" during Ressler's pursuit of Reddington, later staging the events of revenge killing after Aiko's unexplained disappearance.
He was once engaged to a woman named Audrey Bidwell, but his obsession with Reddington caused them to break up.
When Reddington turns himself in, Ressler is caught off guard and is unsure of the criminal's motives. He is perhaps more troubled by Reddington’s obsession with Elizabeth Keen, a novice FBI agent and someone Ressler doesn't trust when she is appointed to his case.
Ressler is adamant that Reddington should communicate with him and not Elizabeth despite Reddington's insistence on ignoring him. Ressler is determined to find out why Reddington turned himself in and the nature of his relationship to Elizabeth Keen.
In "Kings of the Highway", Ressler revealed to Reven Wright that his father was an officer in the Detroit Police Department and was killed by a drug dealer as part of a trap set by his corrupt partner, Tommy Malkin. The police superiors whitewashed the murder since they were corrupt and did not want a trial.
As case agent, he was in charge of Raymond Reddington after his surrender until his superior, Harold Cooper, arrived. When Red told them about the impending abduction of Beth Ryker he was reluctant to proceed but eventually acquiesced. During the abduction he saved Elizabeth's life when he killed one of the abductors.
After Reddington's escape he lead the ground unit attempting to recapture him. Using information supplied by the tracking team he cornered the man he believed to be Red on the roof of the National Museum, only to discover that it was Ranko Zamani.
When Zamani took something from his pocket he shot him, causing him to fall to his death. The item was a pill tube containing Reddington's tracking chip. He also attended the meeting where Red laid out the new terms for his cooperation.
He goes with Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen to Montreal, where he liaises with the RCMP. When Reddington and Elizabeth are in the restaurant he is in the control vehicle monitoring their conversation and the other customers.
When Reddington goes missing, he rushes into the restaurant and attempts to pursue him. After searching the restaurant without finding Red, he returns to the control vehicle to find Reddington inside, waiting for him.
He later interrogates the Freelancer with Meera.
When Reddington and Elizabeth fall out of traceable range, he is very keen to storm the radio station, since Red may have escaped again or, as a secondary consideration, they may be in danger. When Henry Cho's name is received, he goes with Meera Malik to try and protect him.
Once they reach the building, he finds one assassin about to kill Henry and manages to distract him and then he throws him from the building. Dealing with the other assassin is more difficult and only after a long fight does he manage to subdue him, just as Meera shoots and kills the third assassin.
Back at the Post Office, he congratulates Elizabeth on a job well done and tells her that regardless of what happened in the bunker, the fact that Henry Cho is still alive, is thanks to her.
Once Elizabeth has left taking her redacted copy of the ballistics report with her, he takes the unredacted version to Harold Cooper and reveals that due to his suspicions about Liz's relationship with Red, he had put a flag on her and all intelligence that she requests would come to them first.
He and Harold Cooper are again discussing Elizabeth Keen and the classified homicide. They decide that she will get nowhere in her investigation as she has nothing to go on. As a precaution, Ressler decides that he will go to court that afternoon with Liz, to keep an eye on her.
At court, after the juror has a seizure, he tells Liz that the seizure was chemical and both rush to check the witness. They are too late and only find a dead marshal.
After Elizabeth is kidnapped, he goes with Reddington to meet with Hector Lorca. At the meeting, Red tells Lorca that he is an FBI agent and one of Lorca's men holds a knife to his throat. He disarms the man and tells Lorca that he is the person that procured the false identity using FBI resources. Red implies that his fee is the release of Liz. With Meera, he is able to discover that the Stewmaker's real name is Stanley R. Kornish.
He leads the FBI strike team on the Kornish family home and using information gained from his wife, organizes a search for the cabin.
At the cabin, he leads the raid and calls a medic for Elizabeth. After Elizabeth is in the ambulance, he asks Red about Lorca. He says to Reddington that Lorca was disrespectful and that Reddington does not like that. Reddington responds that Lorca is on his jet.
He leads the surveillance team at the Farmer's Market, directing the ground team following Hamid Soroush.
After the capture of Tommy Phelps, he tries to interrogate him, but due to the Courier's inability to feel pain, is unsuccessful. Ressler is visibly surprised that Phelps is immune to pain.
When Laurence Dechambou is identified as the kidnapper of Seth Nelson, he goes undercover into her nightclub to try and persuade her to return to the place she left Seth, for the Courier. The ruse is unsuccessful, even though he cuts his arm with a broken champagne glass without showing pain, because Dechambou is aware that the Courier kills both parties to any failed transaction. He survives the firefight, while Dechambou is arrested by the SWAT team outside.
After Phelps escapes, he and Meera Malik lead a search team to his house, where they discover he has taken refuge. After a firefight, he manages to enter Phelps' house, but finds it empty. The agents pursue Phelps through the forest, but he dies just before they capture him.
As the rescued Seth Nelson is being loaded into an ambulance, he complements Elizabeth Keen on a job well done.
As Tom Keen is brought in, he tells Liz that she should be worried about herself, not Tom.
He goes with Liz to the hotel room booked using the credit card of Gina Zanetakos's alias Shubie Hartwell. When they find the body, he heads downstairs in the elevator/lift. As he is on the phone coordinating the search for Gina, he does not notice that she is hiding in the elevator, behind some innocent people. Once Gina is alone in the elevator with him she attacks him and manges to subdue him. In the struggle Gina's phone falls from her pocket and he retrieves it.
He is part of the raid at Gina's apartment. Liz is showing him the box she found when one of the other searchers shows him the picture of Tom found next to Gina's bed.
He leads the search at the port of Houston, and when the car is discovered he drives it into an empty dock, leaping out just before it plunges into the water. The car explodes shortly afterwards, underwater, preventing the spread of the radioactive material.
He calls Elizabeth Keen, from outside the subway station where the victims are being removed.
He and Liz go to the hospital, where they learn that the victims died from a weaponized form of Kurz disease.
At a meeting with Harold Cooper, Liz and Meera Malik, Red tells them that he has a contact for the Strontium 90 used in the gas bomb on the subway. Liz elects to accompany him to visit Anne Forrester, one of Barnes' former co-workers, rather than accompany Red to Cuba. After meeting the family, Liz tells him that she thinks Barnes is trying to publicize Kurz disease so that public reaction will demand a cure be found since the disease is being used for biological terrorism.
At the courthouse, he pulls the fire alarm to evacuate the building and then starts searching for Barnes. He finds the zip tied jury room, requisitions a mask and air tank from some fire fighters and enters the room, finding the survivor, whom he helps to safety.
He reports the fact that Liz gave up her weapon to Cooper and tells her that while he respects her work and position on the team, she is not a trained field agent.
After Liz killed Barnes, she tells him that she made the right decision. When Liz says that Barnes' cure would probably have worked, he adds that by the time it is properly tested, it will be too late for Ethan. She replies that it is the job.
Donald Ressler is at the briefing, where the suspects in the cargo plane bombing are identified as residing at the same address. Along with Liz, he participates in the raid on the home.
When it is discovered that the current alias of Nathaniel Wolff has just been identified at Reagan airport, he and Liz rush to the airport to co-ordinate the search for the bomb, arriving just in time to be knocked over by the explosion.
Ressler and Liz, directed by Aram Mojtabai, attempt to intercept the armored car with Wolf on board. With the assistance of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC), they manage to stop the armored car, but Wolff escapes after a gun battle, by dispersing 500,000,000 dollars in a General Ludd protest march and joins the crowd.
At a remote airport, he arrests Wolff. Nathaniel Wolff takes the time to mock Ressler for his loyalty to the powers that be.
While escorting Reddington to the box during Anslo Garrick's raid, Ressler is shot in the leg by a mercenary and Reddington uses Ressler's gun to return fire. Red grabs medical gear and retreats to the cell. While Reddington tends to his wounds, Anslo taunts Ressler about not assassinating Red in Brussels, despite giving him insider information as to Red's whereabouts.
Sometime later, Red asks for Ressler's blood type, which coincidentally turns out to be B-negative. He questions Red's willingness to save his life, despite being aware of how much Ressler despises him and knowing about the failed assassination attempt in Brussels. While Red administers emergency blood transfusion, Anslo further taunts Ressler about his leg.
When Anslo Garrick threatens to shoot Liz, Red wakes Ressler, reloads his gun and puts it to his head telling him that he will kill him if he does not tell him the box's password. Realizing that Red is serious, Ressler tells Red the password, allowing Anslo to open the door. Red exits the box, leaving Ressler's gun by his head.
In the hospital, he is visited by his former fiance, Audrey Bidwell, who was still listed as his emergency contact.
Along with the rest of the team, he is interrogated about the incursion.
He accompanies Liz to the mortuary where Karen Brodine's husband will identify her body. While Liz supervises the identification, he talks to Michael, her son.
When Liz tells the team her theory about the injuries inflicted upon the Good Samaritan's victims, he decides that they need to interview Michael Brodine.
In the interview, he gets Michael to admit that he was being abused by his mother.
He and Liz visit the hospital where Karl Hoffman is employed, and learn that the only abused person recently treated by Hoffman was a woman named Melissa. When they interview Melissa, they learn that her husband, George, is attending a support group. The facilitator of the group identifies Karl Hoffman as an attendee, who left with George. He goes with Liz to Hoffman's childhood home.
During the whole episode, because he is still recovering from his leg wound, Ressler uses a walking stick.
Ressler, accompanied by Elizabeth Keen and Meera, goes to Budapest to arrest Pytor Madrcyzk. While waiting for him to arrive at the restaurant, he tells Liz that he has heard from his former fiancé, Audrey Bidwell, and that she wants to meet. When Madryczk tries to flee the restaurant, Ressler stops him at gunpoint.
Back in Washington D.C., Ressler attempts to interrogate Madrcyzk, and offers him a new immunity deal, to replace the one he broke by leaving the country, for information on the Alchemist. He states that breaking the original immunity deal will result in additional criminal charges. He is interrupted by Eric Trettel, claiming to be Madrcyzk's lawyer.
After he leaves the room to allow for an attorney-client discussion, he meets Liz, who shows him Trettel's photo. Realizing that he has been duped, he races back the the room, only to find Trettel missing and Pytor Madrcyzk dead.
With Meera Malik, he finds the burnt out rental car hired by Trettel, with the body of Catherine Madrcyzk in the trunk.
During the raid on Trettel's laboratory, he realizes that Trettel is killing everybody who is connected with him and they rush to Molly Trettel's home, only to find two bodies.
When he goes for his meeting with Audrey, she tells him that she has called off her engagement, and they leave the restaurant arm in arm.
He is with Elizabeth Keen on the stakeout of the Rowland's meeting with Theodore Caldwell and is there when Caldwell steps in front of a bus.
He discovers that 5 of the women, the mothers of 12 of the children, have been reported missing.
He and Liz interview the medical examiner who examined the body of Kate Ellison and learn that she had given birth on more than one occasion, while drugged with Hydroxipam.
At the Galatea clinic, when Nestor stalls and then draws a gun, Ressler arrests him. He is searching the clinic, when Dr. Hadley shoots at him. Ressler returns fire and kills Dr. Hadley. Later in the search, he shoots Owen Mallory in the shoulder, as he is about to kill Liz.
He questions Liz about her alleged criminal past, when Red states that she is capable of stealing the Effigy of Atargatis.
He aids Liz in stealing the diplomat's ID, so it can be copied. Later, he led the SWAT team that recovered the Effigy of Atargatis.
A member of Ressler's former task force, Sam Raimo, is murdered by Japanese criminal, Mako Tanida, which was staged as a ritual suicide, called seppuku. Ressler had become suspicious regarding Raimo's cause of death, and is later approached by Reddington who says that Tanida had escaped from prison, and that the remaining members of Ressler's team are in danger. Fearing for Audrey Bidwell's safety after hearing another member of the task force, Pete Maguire, was murdered by Tanida, Ressler attempts to relocate her to a remote cabin in Prince Georges County, owned by his parents. However, Tanida ambushes the pair en route to the cabin, causing a gunfight between Ressler and Tanida's henchmen. However, during a hand-to-hand fight with Tanida, the latter fatally shoots Audrey in the stomach, causing her to bleed to death. Driven purely by vengeance after being temporarily placed on leave by Cooper, Ressler and surviving task force member, Bobby Jonica, follow a lead from Reddington, pointing them to a residential house in Columbia Heights, serving as an underground hospital. After torturing the surviving henchman, Ressler and Jonica capture Tanida at a club. En route to Ressler's remote cabin, Tanida explains that during his arrest, he never saw his brother and had suspicions that either Ressler, or Jonica, are the only ones aware of wrong-doing regarding his brother. Jonica orders him to keep his mouth shut, prompting Ressler to suspect the truth. Jonica promptly shoots Tanida in the chest, inadvertently revealing that he was responsible for the death of Tanida's brother, seizing the funds from the arrests he made. As a result, Ressler commandeers the wheel of the SUV, causing it to topple over and lose control. Tanida escapes the vehicle, while Ressler pursues Jonica on foot and berates him for the deaths of the other members and Audrey, later admitting to his working relationship with Reddington. It was because of Red, he had more time with Audrey and tries to force Jonica to commit Seppuku at gunpoint, threatening to kill him if the latter does not cooperate. Elizabeth shows up at the scene with back-up, barely deterring Ressler from killing him. Ressler shoots repeatedly near Jonica's position, and while walking away, discussing with Liz how much time in prison Jonica will serve, witnesses Jonica committing Seppuku. During the aftermath, a mournful Ressler looks through Audrey's belongings, finding a pregnancy testing kit. Before breaking down, Ressler receives a package from Reddington, which is Tanida's head in a box.
He fakes a street shooting, so Ivan will turn to Red for assistance.
He is surprised that Meera Malik knows about soup types.
He leads the raid at the port where the Pavlovich brothers are preparing their escape.
He is skeptical of Red's theory, that Chandler would risk his life in a staged accident, for public attention.
He arrests Patrick Chandler for his collaboration with the Kingmaker.
He kills the Kingmaker, to stop him from strangling Liz.
He was seen with Meera Malik, hunting for wanted fugitives from the plane crash at a club. After Meera's death, he goes after the assassin who killed Meera and almost killed Harold Cooper, only to successfully capture him eventually and interrogate him. At the end of the episode, he is seen alongside Harold Cooper, while Cooper is on a ventilator.
Ressler refuses to talk to the psychologist.
He snaps at the psychologist saying he feels like "crap"
At the end of the episode we see Ressler taking pills.
Ressler is late to work. He tells Liz that he missed his train, but he is lying.
His reaction times are off when Liz needs help in Warsaw.
After Liz apologizes and they share a quick laugh, Ressler reaches into his desk drawer and picks up a bottle of pills.
He agrees with Liz that James Covington can work on the dying boy to try to save his life.
Ressler argues with the pharmacist telling her his pills were "stolen".
Ressler was late to work again and Liz notices. She asks why and tells him he seems a little on edge. He snaps back at her, saying, "I'm fine, thanks mom".
In Sitka, Ressler gets the residue of the pills in his mouth and then purposely breaks his thumb to get a new prescription for his pain pills. It is now clear that Ressler is struggling with addiction.
Ressler is abducted and his pills were taken from him. He starts to go into withdrawal in the woods and the other abducted man accuses him of being a junkie. Ressler slams him against the tree and tells him he is not a junkie. The man gets killed and Ressler rips the arrow out of his chest to use as a weapon. Ressler is being hunted and tries to stop and talk to a group of people at the campfire he finds, but it turns out they are all stuffed humans. He disguises himself as one of them, when the hunter comes. His withdrawal causes him to start to shake and the hunter notices. The hunter is just about to kill Ressler when he pulls out the broken arrow and stabs the hunter in the abdomen. Ressler runs away.
Later, Liz finds Ressler's badge, ID, gun, and his pills. She counts to see how many pills were prescribed that day and how many are now left. She now knows about Ressler's addiction.
She walks out to find Ressler in the back of the ambulance. He looks pretty torn up and is wrapped in a blanket. She confronts him with the pills and looks ashamed. She gives him a reassuring look and sits beside him and puts her hand on his shoulder as he starts to break down.
Liz confronts Ressler at the beginning of the episode, saying she wants him to get help. He acknowleges it, but says he can do it on his own.
Ressler and Liz are in a car accident and are rushed to a "hospital".
Liz is told by the "doctor" that Ressler has head trauma and is upset. Liz eventually finds out something is up and that they actually are not hurt or in an actual hospital. Liz stabs a nurse with the needle containing a sedative and runs over to Ressler, who is sedated and shakes him awake. The two dress in their normal clothing and while doing so, Liz beats a "cop" who tried to shoot Ressler, with a phone. Liz runs back to Ressler and puts her arm around him to support him as they hurry to get out of there. They sneak out to find they are in a warehouse and the entire hospital was fake. Liz has just taken down a guy who tried to stop them when someone comes at her from behind with a gun. Ressler pulls her in and the man is shot by Samar. Ressler supports Liz as they are escorted out by the FBI.
At the end of the episode, Liz confesses that she thought she was going to lose him in the hospital. He makes a sarcastic remark about how terrifying it must be to live with out him. Liz says, with all seriousness, that it was very terrifying.
After Liz's confession, he skips out on going to the crime scene and we see Ressler in the bathroom, washing the pills down the sink.
Liz tells Ressler about her keeping Tom captive. Ressler tells her she has to turn him in.
Tom tells the two of them that he has an address for the location of Berlin. Ressler insists it's a set up and doesn't want Liz to go.
Tom asks Ressler if he is Liz's boyfriend and Ressler shoves Tom. Tom shoves him back and Liz pulls a gun on him. Tom gives them the address of where Fitch is. Tom walks away and Ressler tells Tom that he is coming for him.
Later in the office, Ressler tries to appoligize for what he said in the car. Liz says not to worry about it and she will tell Cooper about Tom.
When Liz is confronted about her source, Ressler lies to their superiors for her, saying it is Reddington.
Ressler is seen with the other FBI agents, trying to find the location of Reddington.
Ressler flies with Liz and Agent Navabi to get Reddington back.
Agent Navabi gets shot, as they try to enter the building, along with a guard who was trying to tell them to turn back. Ressler is by Navabi’s side and they both get captured.
Ressler wakes up in a room along with Samar Navabi and the guard, with chains around their necks, balancing on boxes. He calls out for Samar and she replies that she can’t put any weight on the foot in which she was shot.
The guard loses his foothold and starts to choke. Ressler tries to help him regain his balance.
Ressler and Navabi try to convince the hostage-keepers to let the wounded guard down.
At the end of the episode, we see preparation for the execution of Liz and the injured guard, before the missile hits the building.
Ressler wakes up in a burning room, takes out an enemy guard and saves Agent Navabi from getting strangled. They find Reddington. Ressler asks where Agent Keen is and Reddington says she was taken by Luther Braxton. Ressler asks him why.
Ressler is later seen reporting that there are more than three survivors of the missile attack. They are then saved by the FBI’s search and rescue team.
The FBI agents follows a series of leads which bring them to the location of Luther Braxton and Agent Keen.
Ressler finds Liz in a sort of trance with Reddington and Dr. Selma Orchard next to her and asks them what the hell they’re doing to Liz and orders them to wake her up right now.
Later on, Ressler supports Liz as she gets out of her seat, exhausted from what she’s been through.
When Liz is held captive by the Deer Hunter, he arrives with other FBI agents to free her before she strangles the Deer Hunter.
Ressler is made the interim head of the Task Force and leads the manhunt for Reddington and Liz.
He appears before a presidential commission.
- Ressler seems to hold a great deal of contempt for the wealthiest people in society and has been able to relate to Blacklisters who have targeted them specifically, such as Eli Matchett, Nathaniel Wolff, and Vanessa Anne Cruz. He also shows outrage when the powerful are able to escape justice because of their political leverage.
- Will his distrust of Raymond Reddington and his bias towards taking action result in breaking Red's cover story or Ressler being removed from the team?
- This became a blog debate, to partake click here.
- Why was Donald Ressler, an FBI agent, involved in an operation to assassinate Raymond Reddington? Even for the CIA, the chance of such an illegal operation being exposed would make it risky. Even if the foreign government approved the assassination, why include an FBI agent? Why did Harold Cooper not know of the assassination attempt?
- A: Ressler chased after Red for 5 years, trying to make a name for himself in the FBI and losing his engagement to Audrey Bidwell in the process. In Brussels, Garrick got him involved in an assassination attempt on Red's life based on the information he provided. The assassination attempt was a failure and Red found out anyway. He never told Cooper about Ressler's involvement in the failed assassination attempt on his life since it was between both of them.
- In "Pilot" why did Ressler contact Elizabeth Keen in public with multiple cars/agents? He could have contacted her at the local FBI office. Did he already suspect her since Red demanded her as his liaison?
- Could Ressler be the FBI double agent that is suspected in supplying insider information about Red and the FBI to the Cabal?
- A: Highly unlikely. Meera has been revealed as the double agent in "The Alchemist".
- What will be the result of Ressler's rogue actions in "Mako Tanida"? Elizabeth Keen's unauthorized actions have damaged her credibility.
- A: Exposing a corrupt former agent and destroying a major smuggling cartel will mean a favorable view is taken, where he was undercover and all actions were approved.
- Q: It was a rogue operation. Even if Harold Cooper whitewashes the incident, he can have Ressler re-assigned in the future.
- A: The longer Cooper keeps quiet, the harder and more complicated it becomes to exact any retribution on Ressler.
- Q: In "Berlin Conclusion" Ressler invokes Audrey's death when he loses control during the interrogation.
- What will he do with Mako Tanida's head?
- In "Ivan", why did Ressler refuse to take time off to grieve for Audrey? Keen stated that if she was in his position and Tom had been killed, she would want time off to grieve.
- A: He was haunted by the deaths of Audrey and his former teammates, along with dealing with Jonica's betrayal. Ressler believed that going to work was a way to deal with his loss, rather than be at home grieving.
- In "Tom Keen" at the meeting with Tom, when Tom says that Donald Ressler looks like a cop (in german,) Ressler replies "I am a cop" in english. Is that a continuity issue or does Ressler really understand german? When they seized the guns with the BMI he needed the officer to interpret.
- A: There is a difference between understanding a few phrases in another language, and being fluent in that language. Having persued Red all over the world it is likely that Ressler knows the phrase "are you police?" (or similar) in several languages.
- A: Many travel guides state that a tourist should know some basic phrases when traveling overseas.