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Blindspot 2.1 Review – ‘In Night So Ransomed Rogue’

September 15, 2016 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
8.5
The 411 Rating
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Blindspot 2.1 Review – ‘In Night So Ransomed Rogue’  

[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen Wednesday’s season premiere of Blindspot.]

NBC got their season off to a bang last year as a tattooed Jaimie Alexander crawled her way out of a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square. Blindspot, the broadcast network’s latest attempt to build upon their strength as a home for compelling action dramas, found itself positioned as the fall’s new hit series. More importantly though, the show followed up on its attention-grabbing premiere by maintaining its narrative strength, bringing viewers inside the twists and turns of Jane Doe’s story and the team that bonds as it works to unlock her tattoos in order to save lives and get answers. It was the great work of the ensemble cast that allowed the series to shine through a muddy midseason twist, giving Martin Gero’s show time to develop through its balancing of procedural stories and the season-long narrative arc that accomplished a rare thing among action-thrillers: actually delivering on some of its promised answers and completely changing the game in the home stretch.

As season one ended, things looked incredibly bleak for the FBI Critical Incident Response Group. Mayfair was dead at Oscar’s hands and while Jane put an end to her ex-boyfriend, it meant he couldn’t be brought in to answer for his actions or give them more on the conspiracy. Meanwhile, Kurt learned that Jane was not in fact Taylor Shaw after his father confessed to killing the real Taylor in his final moments and Reade, Zapata and Patterson learned that Mayfair was dead. All of this culminated in Jane being arrested by a furious Weller in the final moments of the finale, leaving us wondering how and even if the status quo would recover from there.

Of course, this is a serial drama so the recovery of the status quo is pretty much a foregone conclusion. But the bigger question is what the new normal looks like in season two, and “In Night So Ransomed Rogue” finds its strength in not just going back to what worked in the first season. One of the big challenges for a serialized show like Blindspot is to allow new viewers an entry point in successive seasons in order to prevent inevitable ratings declines, and “In Night So Ransomed Rogue” functions well both in bringing new fans efficiently up to speed and setting a launching point for the season two arc. That is accomplished primarily by bringing Jane back in and putting her under an incredibly accurate (and illegal) lie detection machine, where she lays bare all the secrets remaining from last season, from her kidnapping at Carter’s hands and Oscar’s appearance to her unknowing participation in Mayfair’s frame job and Oscar’s killing of Mayfair.

Giving Jane the chance to lay all her cards on the table is an efficient plot device that allows writer/showrunner Martin Gero the opportunity to wipe any hanging plot threads from season one off the slate while creating division between Jane and the rest of the CIRG team. No one seemed to be under any illusion after three months that Mayfair had died, especially with what Zapata, Reade and Patterson discovered in the season one finale. But Jane actually saying the words is like a bullet to the chest and you can see it in each of the characters’ reactions. It’s a perfect way to create an ambivalent feeling within the team; it’s hard to deny what the coronary detector claims is the truth behind Jane’s motives, but it also doesn’t absolve her of her culpability in Mayfair’s death. That’s going to inform a lot of character motivation moving forward.

Jane isn’t the only person causing some tension on the team though, as we meet NSA “Zero Division” agent Nas Kamal who instantly gets on Weller and company’s bad side when she reveals that she has been closely tracking the Jane Doe situation from the get-go. What’s more, she knew important information about Jane’s loyalties and the organization (now called “Sandstorm”) that could have saved Mayfair’s life, among other things. From the moment she arrives by helicopter — which, as an aside, should be how Archie Panjabi enters every scene ever — Nas is an immediate presence to be reckoned with on the show. It’s going to be very difficult to fill the void left by Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s departure but Panjabi is off to a good start here. The way she handles the nuances of the interrogation scene and her confrontation by Weller later in the episode suggest something much deeper than what we can see on the surface. That’s an important task to accomplish when you’re cast in the role of yet another shadowy intelligence boss on a show that has already been filled to the brim with them just one year in.

To be 100% fair, Panjabi’s ability to elevate the role in this first episode would be a touch less necessary if her character wasn’t portrayed as such a typical intelligence bureaucrat at times in the episode. While Nas is a character I am enjoying thus far, most of her role in the episode is to function as an information dump and to make a crucial, mystifying decision to hide a second tracker on Jane when the latter goes back into Sandstorm to ferret out the identity of Shepherd. The first is a necessary evil on shows like this and the personal connection Nas has to the case is intriguing; you can bet that her vagaries about the friend of hers who was a Sandstorm mole will come into play down the road. But while the second has a certain logic to it, it is clearly there just to add tension to the scene where Jane meets Shepherd. The idea that it would go active after only two hours is eyebrow-raising but I can go with it; why she didn’t reveal it after Jane was shot is baffling though, considering how certain they were that she would be killed if Sandstorm suspected anything. I’m fine with characters making mistakes but if Nas is as capable as we’re to believe at this point, it does seem to be a major gaffe that undermines her credibility just a bit.

But then, undermining credibility is also something Blindspot actively seeks to do on a regular basis, and that generally works in its favor. Now that we know there is an active mole within the team, it’s easy to turn any mistakes a character makes into a question of whether it was intentional in order to help Sandstorm in some way. Going through the list of potential culprits at this point would be an exercise in pointless guessing, but on my initial sweep I would have the hardest time seeing Patterson or Weller as the active assets. Both of them have lost too much to this whole thing and are far too invested to be working for the enemy. Reade and Zapata would be shocking but possible, while Dylan Baker’s Director Pellington wouldn’t be very impactful at the moment (although that could always change). Dr. Borden would be an intriguing and obvious choice since he’s the one privy to everyone’s secrets, but obviously anyone is possible at this point.

It’s surprising and impressive that in an episode with as much going on as this one, most of these ensemble characters get their moments to shine. Patterson is always a delight and Ashley Johnson clearly loves tearing into the technical scenes where Patterson proves herself an invaluable asset to the team, but it’s the show’s ability to explore the characters’ depth that make them shine. That goes for Patterson as much as it does Reade and Zapata. Many shows with leads as clear as Jane and Weller are would jettison any side development in the interests of storytelling economy but here we get some fairly extensive exploration of not only how Weller is reacting to Jane being back in their lives, but the others too. From little moments like the conversation between Reade and Zapata at the car to big ones like Zapata being the one who shoots Jane (after she baited Weller into it) and the pow-wow back at base where they agree to work with Jane for Mayfair’s sake, this is a show interested in bringing all its cast members along for the ride and that’s a very appreciated touch.

That brings us to the moment that the show spent all last season building to: the reveal of Shepherd and of Jane Doe’s real identity. In another well-managed exposition dump (punctuated by a nice flashback montage) we learn that Jane Doe is actually Alice Kruger, a South African whose anti-apartheid parents were murdered, after which she and her brother were put through a Black Widow/Red Room-like program to turn them into operatives for the state. They were taken in by Shepherd, an American soldier who was there when they were liberated, and took on the new names of Remy and Roman.

These revelation work in that they provide answers we’ve been seeking for a while now but also raise so many more plot possibilities. There is no end to the amount of plot threads that can be pulled from this and the casting of Michelle Hurd as Shepherd really sells it. Hurd manages that balance between a hardened terrorist leader and a loving mother well, and in less than an hour Luke Mitchell has already established his character as more interesting than Lincoln was on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. His chemistry with Jamie Alexander feels very brotherly and the little touches to his spurts of violence suggest a deeply disturbed individual, which I hope to see further play out as the season progresses.

There are still a ton of things they can play off here; for one, Shepherd clearly doesn’t trust Jane fully and it’s an interesting coincidence that she told Jane to use the same story in order to re-infiltrate the FBI that the FBI told her to use against Sandstorm. Very little on this show can ever be chalked up to pure coincidence and I’m curious to see if this is one of those moments or not. I love the ambiguity there as to what Shepherd suspects about Jane; maybe she just thinks Jane isn’t the same person before she went under, or maybe she suspects Jane is working with the FBI. I’m sure the show will have fun exploring that, as Jane has to balance her loyalty to Weller and the rest of the team to her filial connections to Roman and Shepherd.

And finally — because Jane being a triple-agent, a mole within the FBI and the bad guys standing over a giant rocket/missile isn’t enough — Patterson manages to decode Mayfair’s files and reconstruct them with some help from Nas. This plot thread is normally something I’d leave for the final thoughts, but it does include a major revelation: Jane down and out in the middle of a surveillance photo. There’s a lot that this could mean, and I’m not entirely sure how to unpack it yet but Gero and company obviously consider it important considering where it was placed in the episode. The Orion files were part of an off-book special ops team — essentially, Seal Team 7 — who did some bad stuff along with all the good. This suggests that Jane ties directly into Orion somehow; remember the Navy SEAL tattoo from early in season one? It’s a new part of Jane’s past that will surely come into play somehow, giving the show that much more background to draw from for what promises to be a very fun second go.

Some Final Thoughts:

• So, what have you got for this week’s anagram? The best I can find is “Nothing is More Dangerous.” The key word there is “find;” I have my talents, but decoding anagrams cannot be counted among them.

• “I feel like you don’t give a lot of pep talks.” Patterson is the absolute best.

• There was too much to get into to cover this above, but the framing of the opening sequences for Jane and the team were wonderfully done. Jane’s re-establishes her badass credentials as she escapes from the Black Ops site, while Weller and company’s skills are put on display too with Gero (who also directed) clearly enjoying the tease that they were chasing Jane. Surprise! It was just a counterfeiter. Well done.

• Weller and Patterson on the second tracking chip that wasn’t designed to be shut off remotely: “Fine, then redesign it.” “That doesn’t make any sense!”

• Roman is clearly a badass, but if the checkpoint is any indication, he is not a very good liar at all.

• What are the odds that Cade — or at least his body — comes back into play somehow? With both sides using it as Jane’s cover story, I’d imagine it has to be pretty likely.

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Blindspot delivers in its its second season premiere with "In Night So Ransomed Rogue," which not only provides a good jumping-on point for new viewers but sets up a lot of new plot threads still to come. The cast continues to deliver stellar material and the reveal of Jane and Shepherd's identities both answer questions and raise new ones. It's still early yet, but Jane Doe and her teammates are off to a very strong start.
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