Photo: Barbara Nitke/NBC
With only two episodes to go, the theme of Blindspot’s “Persecute Envoys” was name-dropping current events, in a seeming effort to prove its relevance to Monday-night television. First, it’s cop killings in Brooklyn. Two cops at the borough’s 65th Precinct have been shot to death, and the FBI is called in to investigate. Then it’s a closeted NFL player who is being blackmailed with scandalous photos of his extracurricular affairs. And to thread it all together are flashbacks from Mayfair’s past with Daylight, an operation, it turns out, that was meant to make use of information gleaned during the NSA’s illegal wiretapping days.
Drawing parallels to real-world news is not an unfamiliar tactic in television; in fact, it’s requisite in shows like The Good Wife, Scandal, and The Newsroom. But like Law & Order: SVU (the worst offender of peppering plotlines with headlines), Blindspot’s dealings in these issues comes off as shallow and two-dimensional. True, the show we’re talking about has all the subtlety and suave of a hedge-fund bro cruising Tinder, but as entertainment centered on the premise of FBI superhero absurdity, perhaps the real-world issues would be better dealt with one at a time so as not to simplify the deep complexities that gay professional athletes or widows of police officers (or Edward Snowden) deal with in their own very real lives.
It turns out that the cop killings were actually carried out by two dirty cops who had been blackmailing citizens caught on police body-camera footage in compromising positions. In a strange, sociopathic turn, the dirty cops have initiated a killing spree aimed at anyone who might reveal their operation. Of course, Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) eventually save the day, which includes Jane tackling the NFL football player on a sprawling yard in what looks like the Hamptons and rescuing a police widow from the dirty cops’ line of fire.
As usual, beneath the evening’s fore-plot is a backstory. It’s one that draws us into CIA deputy director Bethany Mayfair’s (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) fraught reasoning for getting wrapped up in Daylight. Sepia-colored flashbacks transport us to an abandoned office building five years ago. On order from the White House chief of staff, Mayfair is meeting with the lurky CIA deputy director Carson and the lovely White House political director Sophia Varma (Sarita Choudhury). They’ve been dispatched to carry out Daylight together; conscientious Mayfair is resistant, but eventually gives in with some prodding while simultaneously taking up a love affair with Sophia. In the end, the flashbacks reveal that Daylight was more trouble than it was worth; Sofia commits suicide, Carson continues to be creepy, and Mayfair is determined to legitimize Daylight as the lesser of two evils.
Blindspot’s writing is not ignorant to the complex layering of clues — to a point of silliness — yet somehow it continues to be ignorant to the subtleties of dialogue and character development. Even with this episode’s glimpse into Mayfair’s past — and the fact that Jean-Baptiste has the most strongly written part — it feels as though we are only allowed to skim the surface of any given piece of the show’s puzzles, human or otherwise.
Thankfully, Blindspot’s writers drop in a few bright moments each episode, lightening the FBI offices’ ever-dour atmosphere. Often, these center on Patterson’s (Ashley Johnson) inquisitive naïveté or her relationship with the quirky, squeezable David. In this episode, the bright spots surround Jane who exuberantly spars with Zapata (Audrey Esparza) in the FBI gym and goes to the bar for a girls’ night with Patterson and Zapata, who feed her Fireball shots. Patterson gets tipsy, Zapata finally smiles, and Jane can definitely say she does not like Fireball.
- A tattoo of a butcher knife marked with “65” in the crosshairs of a camera lens connect the cop killings in the 65th Precinct to the body-camera scandal. Each killing is marked with the macabre, bloody graffiti, “Butcher the butchers.”
- Did you guys catch it? Weller made a joke! And he smiled!
- Is Patterson’s boyfriend David coming back? I’m confident his little bespectacled face will pop up again soon.
- Is Jane still having sex dreams? Where is tree-tattoo guy?
- Still no progress on Jane’s identity.
- Still no progress on Jane and Weller’s nonexistent chemistry.
- This week’s episode title anagram is “suspect everyone.”