Blindspot: 1.2 A Stray Howl Review

Blindspot‘s second episode starts out ludicrous, but fortunately, the first five minutes are by far the worst. It begins with a “What the heck?” montage of violence, and then...

Blindspot‘s second episode starts out ludicrous, but fortunately, the first five minutes are by far the worst. It begins with a “What the heck?” montage of violence, and then we’re hurtled ten hours back in time to Dr. Borden’s office. The psychiatrist, who is swiftly shaping up to be the most irritating character on this show, performs a Rorschach test on Jane, because this is the only psychological diagnostic test that TV has heard of. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Teen Wolf, but I was disappointed that Jane didn’t just say everything was a butterfly.

The disorientation continues in Agent Weller’s kitchen, where he and his sister argue about attending a memorial service. At first, it’s annoying to be presented with so little context, but the scene ends up paying off – instead of pouring on a truckload of exposition, Blindspot quietly lays out the evidence that Weller is a complex human being instead of a law enforcement cliché.

Weller takes Jane out to a gun range to “trigger memories” (please let that pun be intentional), because it can’t be less effective than a Rorschach test. His observations there begin a path of clues that lead Weller to figure out who Jane used to be. It’s a real left turn, since the pilot set up Jane’s identity as one of the show’s central mysteries, and it looks like the resulting story arc will produce more interesting conflict between Weller and the rest of the FBI team. There’s enough information for Weller to be certain, and for the audience to go along with him, but the other characters have reason for doubt.

I forgot to mention last week that Jane’s eye makeup was perfect even when she was trapped in a duffel bag in Times Square. It remains perfect even when she’s crying about a recovered memory that makes her worry that she used to be a terrible person. Fortunately, Blindspot pushes us toward a shades-of-gray attitude toward morality, mostly by making Agent Zapata look foolish for dividing the world into heroes and villains.

The villain of the week – as identified by decoding a tattoo based on clues from last week’s tattoo, which is neat – is a former soldier who was a drone expert before he lost his marbles. That means lots of explosions over the course of the hour. If you have drone paranoia, “A Stray Howl” will totally feed into that, even as the characters perfunctorily note that nobody has ever actually drone-bombed an American civilian target.

While this week’s case is less ludicrous than the pilot’s, it’s still full of questionable logic. Is it really that hard to evacuate a building in an hour? Wouldn’t that gun be out of ammo by now? How is Jane’s eye makeup less smudged after almost getting blown up than mine would be after an hour at a bar?

There are a few howlers in the dialogue, too, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste is especially saddled with dry plot advancement that even she can’t act her way out of. But the writers are starting to find voices for some of the other supporting characters, and in a few weeks, Patterson and Reade in particular might have consistent, distinct personalities. Once they do, Blindspot will be able to dig deeper into the moral questions that it clearly wants to address. If each new episode gives a different member of the main cast the kind of background information and emotional depth that this one did to Weller, than we’ll be in great shape by the mid-season break.

It’s always a relief when a new show’s second episode is an improvement over the pilot. Blindspot hasn’t fully addressed its weak points yet, but it’s on the right track. And a cool car chase sequence, plus many luminous close-ups of Jane’s lip quivering with internal conflict, are enough to make up for the aspects that haven’t clicked yet.

Image courtesy of NBC

Sarah Rasher is, among other things, a freelance writer based in Chicago. You can read her writing at the Friendly Atheist and Graphic Policy as well as on her own blog, Sarah Explains the Finer Sports.