Tuesday, September 29, 2015

REVIEW: 'Blindspot' - Jane Doe Wonders If She Was a Good or Terrible Person in Her Former Life in 'A Stray Howl'

NBC's Blindspot - Episode 1.02 "A Stray Howl"

The team unlocks a cryptic tattoo that points to Major Arthur Gibson, an Air Force pilot with a painful past and a lethal agenda. Jane continues to search for clues to her identity and is haunted when flashes of a disturbing memory force her to question her past. Weller thinks he might know Jane's true identity.

Blindspot has a completely preposterous and ridiculous premise but that didn't stop viewers from sampling the show last week. It had the highest rated premiere of any new show on the broadcast networks for the first official week of the new season. It only continued to grow as delayed viewing figures started coming in. People are interested in this show. "A Stray Howl" has to keep that momentum going. It has to engage the audience in a way that is evocative of the premiere while also showing what the ongoing format is going to be like. Second episodes are typically just broad repeats of the tension and stakes of the first ones. Blindspot embraces that quality. It certainly goes bigger and badder in this episode with multiple explosives as the team races against the clock to stop their new criminal. But this hour also smartly delves into the mystery of the characters in an exciting way that is unexpected and refreshing.

The case-of-the-week does take up a lot of the running time of this episode. That's to be expected though. This show isn't afraid to dig deep into the mythology of the characters right away. But it still has to be a procedural as well. In fact, the stakes of this hour may be even higher than that of the premiere. There's so much risk for collateral damage over the course of this episode. Patterson is able to unlock the next clue in the giant tattoo maze that is Jane's body because of information from the previous case. That leads the team to an Air Force pilot who is secretly a part of a highly classified unit in New York manning drones that are flying over American soil. He leaves the program hoping to blow the whistle and tell the American public about this secret operation. But his efforts to speak out are silenced. So he chooses to use the drones to target the people responsible for the program in the first place.

It's a very actionable main story of the week. The explosions start fairly early and are able to keep things tense throughout the hour. But only so much excitement can come from blowing stuff up on a regular basis. It is thrilling and horrifying to see so many people targeted and killed by these drone missiles. Arthur Gibson is on a mission to harm the people who have destroyed so many lives. The FBI team can't allow that to happen and have to force their way into learning the scope of this secret operation. The generals aren't that forthcoming but Weller and his team still learn the truth and locate Gibson before he can launch his final strike on the building where all of this takes place. It all leads to one final action sequence where it's up to Jane to save the day. She's the one in the car chase with Gibson. She's the one who needs to stop him or risk him getting away and doing even more harm. Sure, she flips her vehicle in the process but she is successful with her mission - with some help from Weller, of course.

But the more interesting aspects of this episode are the show's willingness to start offering up clues and theories about Jane, her purpose and her identity. Everyone is still very perplexed about why she has been presented to the FBI in this way. Agent Reade voices some serious concerns about just going along with the tattoos no matter where they take them instead of doing meaningful research to stop these terrorist attacks before they happen. He sees it as the FBI's fault that Gibson became active with his mission at this particular moment. He improvised and that's what led to his capture. But it still cost people their lives - which is a direct consequence of the tattoo's leading them to Gibson in the first place.

Meanwhile, Jane is afraid of who she used to be. Dr. Borden has her look at some Rorschach tests which then triggers a memory much more horrifying than the previous one. This time she is in a church and coldly kills the nun. Jane takes this as meaning she was a terrible person in her former life. She is struggling with the idea of whether or not terrible people can do good things and vice versa. Certain members of the team voice their own opinions. But Weller is right to point out that ever since they met her first instinct has been to help people. This memory that she has acquired isn't useful without the context that should accompany it. It's not as straight-forward as it originally seems. Turns out the nun is secretly someone else and carrying what will probably be an important flash drive. But it's enough of a hint for Jane to start thinking about who she was before. And whether or not the actions of her past are still defining her now.

Additionally, Weller now has a working theory as to who Jane is and why he is connected to her. He has no proof whether or not he is correct but he definitely feels certain with his assumptions. Confidence is the first step in believing something to be true. That is very apparent in this story. His conviction is able to build intrigue and mystery out of a scene that is mostly just exposition and speculation. He now believes that Jane is his childhood friend, Taylor Shaw, who went missing at 10 years old. His father was accused of the crime which ultimately destroyed his family even though nothing was proven. These details help make Weller feel more like a human character and not just someone in a suit working for the FBI. He has a personal connection to Jane. It's important for the show to explore that. Plus, it seems Weller will soon get confirmation on whether or not he's correct as Mayfair is having the DNA tested for comparisons. That gives this hour a sense of wanting to deliver answers while also establishing a pace to give them. That's satisfying and makes things more enticing to watch next week.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Stray Howl" was written by Martin Gero and directed by Mark Pellington.
  • Jane still has no idea who the mysterious bearded man in her one memory is. But she does spy him watching her and the team from a distance while they are out in the field. He is able to slip away because of the chaos from the drone. But he's not gone for long as he's waiting for Jane in her apartment later that night.
  • Mayfair plays along with Weller's theories about Jane but that could soon became a precarious situation given her own connection to the tattoos on Jane's body.
  • Weller's sister is played by Jordana Spiro which makes it pretty likely that his family life will play a very important role on the show this season.
  • Series creator Martin Gero says the audience already has all the clues to solve the mystery of Jane Doe and her tattoos. That sounds like a lot of work though. I don't have the time to analyze everything about her. I have theories but I'd rather have the show explore those possibilities instead.
  • Mayfair: "So it's like a Google Alert for her tattoos." Patterson: "Well, it's a little bit more complicated than that. But yeah, it's like a Google Alert."