You guys, what is happening on Blindspot? While we can agree that the show's first season was pretty enjoyable, it was decidedly not funny, or even really amusing. In fact, it was mostly dour; that's what happens when you begin with a naked woman in an extra large duffel bag. Yet, this season — and the last few episodes in particular — have tried and mostly succeeded to be pretty fun, and even funny. It's... disorienting.
Tonight's "We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters" was another relatively standalone affair, and one that dressed up a standard botched undercover op story with a slew of bells and whistles. Sometimes, the kind of stuff attempted here can feel too forced or strained, but Blindspot navigated through it with solid production choices and — again this is very odd — jokes.
The core story here was pretty simple: Kurt (Sullivan Stapleton) and Jane (Jaimie Alexander), posing as elite thugs, went undercover for a job orchestrated by one of the FBI's most wanted. As happens in these situations, the job didn't go exactly as planned, as Patterson (Ashley Johnson) and the rest of the team seemingly lost contact with the undercover duo, a bomb went off outside an embassy, and Kurt was kidnapped. But it's how the episode revealed the details of this familiar story that made "We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters" one of the show's strongest standalone efforts to date.
Blindspot is no stranger to non-linear storytelling, but it was completely out of the equation this week. We joined the case in progress, with the bomb already off and Kurt and Jane purportedly missing. Once the team captured the two other members of this hired crime squad, the show went full Rashomon -- dueling and conflicting perspectives, corresponding color schemes, and a whole lot of confusion. In one corner we had a supposedly mild-mannered super hacker, willing to tell the truth about her involvement; and in the other, a multiple murderer and professional jerk more interested in making himself sound awesome than telling the truth.
Again, the story beats themselves weren't that surprising, but I really enjoyed the execution. The female hacker's rendition of the op was saturated in a green hue, with her seemingly only along for the ride with a bunch of jerks. The story from the murderer, however, was given an orange hue and was all about his superheroics and sex appeal — taking down every obstacle, turning Jane on and emasculating Kurt in the process.
The contrast between the two versions of the truth made for a fun puzzle for both Nas (Archie Panjabi) and us to solve, complete with over-the-top theatrics in the murderer's version of events. There, Jane turned from stoic, sad super soldier to an extremely horned-up sidekick, while Kurt amusingly couldn't even defend himself, morphing into, well, a cuck. What made this dude's clearly false retelling of the events so funny is that the show (through Nas) knew it was false and yet kept returning to that well. It was funny, then not as funny, then suddenly hilarious again. Bravo.
The joy didn't stop there, oh no. Eventually, the team discovered that this operation was all about kidnapping a scientist to build a TSUNAMI-producing bomb — because why not? Look, if you're going to be a big, silly broadcast show, just go for it. It's okay to have stakes but not be so serious all the time. The more low-key references to HAARP, the better. Soon after, Jane made her way back to the team to reveal that Kurt had been captured. The only way to get him back? DARK WEB HUMAN AUCTION. Heck yes.
Jane's return also enabled "Do Not Slack" to toss in a third competing perspective — complete with its own white-gray color scheme — and further talk back to the scenes that had already been explored. Jane's version of the op wasn't intense or funny, but it provided a proper corrective to the previously untrue information. And it fit her character: she doesn't lie to make herself look good, nor is she funny.
Amid these varying perspectives, the episode told a nice story about Nas, which was sorely needed at this point in the season. While Roman (Luke Mitchell) and Shepherd (Michelle Hurd) haven't been around too much, the show has given us sizable chunks of information about them and their motivations, however nebulous. With Nas, however, Blindspot has kept things pretty close to the chest, mostly relying on a half-baked love story with she and Kurt and Archie Panjabi's acting to carry the load.
In this one, Nas was forced to crystallize her undefined allegiances. Pressure from a jerk Assistant U.S. Attorney kept Nas on the defensive throughout the case, but also gave the character a platform to build trust with the rest of the team. Her partnership with Patterson here improved their relationship to the point where Nas is willing to entrust Patterson with all the Sandstorm files. She also had another nice moment with Kurt, reaffirming their relationship as a real thing and not just a long con by nefarious forces.
Like the rest of the episode, these scenes with Nas weren't fantastic, but they were useful for the season's long-term outlook. With so many sketchy figures hanging around the center of Blindspot's story, the show needed to give us more time with Nas, make us care a little bit more beyond a rushed relationship with Kurt. "We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters" didn't turn her into my favorite character, but she feels a bit more like a human being after this episode — one that actually fits in during a team-wide baby shower for Kurt. That's a success.
The same can be said for the continued fallout of Reade (Rob Brown) and Zapata (Audrey Esparza)'s collective bad decisions. There's only so much the show can do after choosing not to have Reade be the one who murdered his coach/sex predator (not saying that was a bad choice), but the paranoia between the two characters has made for solid C-story tension. Brown and Esparza have been good, and probably better than the material warranted in the first place.
Not every scene was as creative or as fun as the Rashomon-inspired investigation, but "We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters" nicely balanced those moments with some strong character stuff for Nas, Reade, and Zapata. After a couple of these episodes in a row, Blindspot probably needs to get back to the season's big questions and imminent danger. But the improvement in the show's standalone episodes shouldn't be ignored.
Blindspot airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.