Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's final season premiere of Blindspot.
Blindspot didn't play around in the first episode of its fifth and final season, keeping to its promise that a major member of the team would perish.
On Thursday's premiere, titled "I Came to Sleigh," the NBC series said goodbye to Reade (Rob Brown) after he suffered fatal injuries following the cabin explosion set off by a drone attack ordered by their main foe, Madeline Burke (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Stuck under the rubble with his weight pressing down on Zapata (Audrey Esparza), causing her to have difficulty breathing, Reade made the ultimate sacrifice -- mustering up any remaining strength he had so Zapata could be freed before the mounting weight of the rubble crashed on top of him.
The decision to kill off Reade, who had been a core member of the team since season 1, was a difficult one. "There were some business reasons why we needed to kill off one of the cast members. That was just the reality of doing the show," creator Martin Gero tells ET. "We had a long conversation and tried to figure out who of these characters that we all love makes the most sense, not only for that moment, but what will be a seed that we can plant that will grow into a lot of great stories in this final season?"
"For us, the more we talked about it, the more, unfortunately, it made sense for it to be Reade because of the impact it would have on the rest of the team and the types of stories we could do about it going forward," he continues. "It's always the hardest part of my job to make those phone calls. Rob has been such an incredible leader and member of this team. He was so gracious about the why. He was so gracious about doing it and, I think, does some of his best work."
Brown, for his part, found out that his character would be the one to go in between seasons 4 and 5. As he tells it, he wasn't the least bit surprised that it would be Reade.
"That's kind of the way that TV is going, that anyone can get it, which is great. And the thing for me was, Reade was straight, he really was. As a character, he never wavered, which I always appreciated," Brown tells ET. "He lost his way in the past a couple of times and he struggled with his own demons, but he was always straight as an arrow. It made sense that he would be the one to go down because either you have to break down after being so solid or you gotta go, I think."
"Reade could've gone at any point," the actor adds, commenting on the nature of the show. "That's the beauty of the show. Year to year, I was always like, 'Aw man, is this going to be it?' Even during the year, because, like, 'Damn, this guy can't be straight the whole time. He must be into somethin'. Him being straight this whole time made how he went out even more satisfying."
Giving the FBI special agent a hero's death was top of mind for Gero in a season where farewells are a running theme.
"The reason [Reade's death] is at the end of the episode as opposed to the beginning is it's just so devastating," the showrunner says. "I teared up when I saw it the first time, which is rare for someone to do watching a rough cut of their own television show. I was deeply moved by everyone's performance. It was just so incredible. That sequence needed to be exactly right. I just think they nailed it so hard, and this is a season of endings."
Brown noted that Reade sacrificing his life for Zapata's was a "quintessential, obvious Edgar Reade" move to make.
"It wasn't even his decision, like, there's no question that's what he would do," he says, breaking down that emotional goodbye. "Here's the thing: Reade would do that for anybody on that team, right? Of course, he would do it a little quicker for Zapata, absolutely. That's his best friend, the person he confides in the most, the person he's in love with, so even though he would do it for everyone, it was extra sweet that he went down for a good reason, and he went down for the ultimate reason -- to save his best confidante, his best friend and his lover's life. That's the way to go out. He has no problem with that."
"Personally, for me, as a fan of the show and as an artist, if you're going to go out, man... and I just saw it -- if that's how I'd get taken out, then I'm cool," Brown says with a chuckle. The actor recalled filming Reade's death scene, sharing that, on the day of filming, there was no time wasted: "We all just showed up, did our thing and got out of there." He praised Esparza for being an ideal scene partner, and the art department and director Mark Pellington for pulling off the "uncomfortable," eerie feeling he had while pretending to be in distress.
Losing Reade will have major consequences for the surviving team members, most notably Zapata, who was vocal over the fact that his death was entirely preventable. In addition to the team, she turns to Rich Dotcom for friendly comfort.
"The implications and the reverberations are going to be felt the rest of the year, especially of course for Tasha, who this is not something I don't think she'll ever necessarily recover from," Gero says. "But is something that she struggles with for the whole season for a bunch of reasons."
"They'll just be inspired," Brown says. "How can you not be when someone like that, especially in your family, goes down in the fashion that [he does]."
On a happier note, seeing Reade and Zapata finally together was a bittersweet and fitting end.
"I'm satisfied about the timing. People did have to wait forever, which is devastating, but it makes the moment that much more rewarding," Brown says. "This season, in a lot of ways, the show gives people what they want. Literally. And that was one of them. People wanted to see them get together."
Thankfully, Thursday's episode won't be Reade's final bow on Blindspot. Expect him to reappear later this season before the series wraps up for good -- and don't assume that it'll be through flashbacks.
"It's a mild spoiler, but this will not be the last you see of Rob Brown on Blindspot," Gero promises. "The character is very much dead, but this is a season that is going to revisit the past a lot and we'll get another glimpse of him."
"It will be satisfying," Brown agrees, hinting that these final episodes will "give the people what they want." He played coy about how Reade could return, saying that the writers have been very "creative about" the way in which he returns.
Even so, Brown expressed his gratitude for his run on Blindspot, saying that "this was a dream gig for me." "Every job has highs and lows, but it brought me home to what I grew up in. And I just want to express that I enjoyed my time."
But Gero warned that there may be more death looming for the beloved members of the team before the series is over: "I would be worried."
Blindspot airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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