Blindspot Recap: So Many Flashbacks

Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe. Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Episode Title
A Stray Howl
Editor’s Rating

Get ready for an onslaught of flashbacks.

For some yet-unresolved reason, episode two opens on bullets spraying across an SUV windshield and then time-travels back to a moment "10 hours earlier" in which Jane Doe is taking a Rorschach test and the brainy FBI scientist Patterson (Ashley Johnson) is explaining the next tattoo.

A series of seemingly random letters and numbers, the tattoo of the day is actually a Vigenère cipher building off of last episode's Chinese characters, which the team miraculously decoded on the exact day a bomb was meant to go off. This new cipher, ounce unlocked, provides the team with the name Major Arthur Gibson, a former Air Force pilot who operated top-secret drones within U.S. borders and was terminated after being exposed by a fellow operator. Feeling vindictive, Gibson blows up his own house, takes a former colleague's kid hostage, co-opts a drone, and launches a missile at his former boss. Between explosions, Jane subdues the whistle-blowing operator with a throat-chop and a couple of uppercuts. Every episode needs at least two more Jane-centric fight scenes with 100 percent more roundhouse kicks.

Also, between explosions, sinister handsome bearded guy from episode one appears lurking around a corner, but this time Jane spots and recognizes him from her flashbacks. Incidentally, Jane repeatedly flashes back to a scene in which she — long-haired and wearing a cute striped sundress — shoots a nun in a chapel. She's horrified at the thought that she might have been a cold-blooded killer in her pre-inked life. I think we can all agree the haircut did wonders for Jane's volume.

In the end, Jane and Weller save the little girl taken hostage and chase down Gibson (poorly connecting the opening gunfire scene) before he can blow up an Air Force base.

But the fiery-explosion-filled A-story is not what drives this episode's plot. It's the bits about Jane's identity and Weller's past that occupy our curiosity through the rote military-man-goes-rogue routine. The episode not-so-subtly sets Jane up as Weller's long lost playmate, Taylor Shaw, who disappeared 25 years ago. When Weller notices a scar on Jane's neck — similar to one Taylor acquired while they climbed trees as kids (which warrants Weller's own blurry-edged flashbacks) — he tells Mayfair (who isn't so certain) and his newly introduced sister. In a rush of clunky information, his sister fills in some gaps that help to explain Weller's weird, addled sulkiness: Their father — to whom Weller doesn't speak — was accused of kidnapping and killing Taylor 25 years ago, has lived with the recrimination since, and is now dying of lung cancer. Weller's sister begs him to visit.

And to round out all of the plot points, when Jane goes back to her apartment and takes off her shirt, creepy handsome bearded guy is there waiting to tackle her. And not in the sexy way.

Tattoo Meanings
This week's tattoo, a series of letters and numbers, builds on last episode's serendipitously discovered Chinese characters. The cipher leads them to unlock the name Major Arthur Gibson, an angry former Air Force officer.

Blind Sides:

  • The major stumbling block of this episode is its unnecessary jumpiness. Yes, flashbacks are crucial to explain Jane's point of view and memory-recovery process, but when the opening scene acts as an arbitrary tease, the time travel — when combined with Weller's memories and the constant location changes — becomes distracting, confusing, and excessive.
  • The second weakness lies in the show's inability to balance action with introspection. Though dramatics and explosions are part and parcel to an FBI drama, there is too little time spent developing our characters' personalities and interactions in lieu of packing in plotline. When the majority of "meaningful" conversation happens in a car en route to an explosion via empty dialogue, it hacks away at our characters' potential. And at our ability to care about what becomes of them.
  • Furthermore, with so many scene-cuts between explosions, chases, and locations, it seems like past revelations are stuffed in as an afterthought. Right now these are actually the most interesting parts of Blindspot, and it feels as if they're being quickly unpacked into a messy pile.
  • Finally, when Jane splits from Weller for her own SUV chase scene, she displays a sense of determination — jaw set, eyes fierce. It's a fantastic shift from her usual wistfulness.
  • Weller continues to vacillate between haunted and rattled. It's exhausting.
  • Many longing looks are exchanged between Jane and Weller, but still, no make-outs. For a show that can't seem to just slow down and take its time, it sure is drawing out the tension.