How do you reveal "twists" that were never exactly twists to begin with? It must be the week for answers to that question. While Westworld confirmed one of the web's most prominent theories with a bloody thud in Sunday's episode, Blindspot's fall finale took a more measured approach to one of its central mysteries of Season 2: the identity of Sandstorm's mole within the FBI.
Of course, every single viewer knew the identity of this informant almost immediately after Shepherd (Michelle Hurd) barked out the existence of a mole months ago. Sandstorm's agent on the inside was Dr. Borden (Ukweli Roach), he of previously minimal influence and of more recently a sudden romance with your favorite tech expert (texpert?) and mine, Patterson (Ashley Johnson). Save a few minor red herrings involving Nas (Archie Panjabi), it appears that Blindspot always wanted us to know all along that it was Borden. And despite some bumpy spots in tonight's "Why Let Cooler Pasture Deform," the show did the best it could given the circumstances.
Twists, especially mole/informant/secret-agent twists, are hard to execute. Done poorly, the clues can run roughshod over the more essential elements of a story, and even if done well, you almost train the audience to distrust every reveal moving forward (this is the problem Westworld is going to have very soon). Though Blindspot could have avoided this conundrum altogether by just not doing a mole plot, the minimalist, almost matter-of-fact handling of it this fall kept Borden and his potentially nefarious motives on fringes of the story. Really, all the show needed to do was put Patterson in jeopardy, slowly building that dread for the audience.
To the show's credit, the actual reveal of Borden's intentions worked hard to present us with a character thrust into a dangerous choice after an egregiously traumatic experience. As it became apparent in this episode, Borden and his fellow doctor wife were the ones to rescue Jane/Remi (Jaimie Alexander) in Afghanistan after the government tried to clean up the Orion mess and left her for dead.
Amid his legitimate protests about the mysterious woman's condition, Borden's wife cared for Remi, right up until it was too late and she was murdered — either by official U.S. forces or Orion-esque contractors. Rightfully shaken and extremely angry, Borden took Remi's suggestion to return to the States and join the fight as the tyrannical forces that would both create and then attempt to dispatch of Orion. And thus a mole was born!
Obviously, this information came out of the blue and therefore felt a little rushed. Yet, there's only so much a show in this position can do. Reveal Borden's backstory five weeks ago and we're stuck waiting on the other shoe to drop, with Borden slinking around and us losing any empathy we may have for him. Holding off, and using Jane's memory blockages as a crutch, enabled Blindspot to do one sizable information download for both its core characters and us, while somehow keeping Borden from full-on psycho status in the process. That's admirable.
It also served the season's larger thematic interest in illustrating that the U.S. intelligence and military apparatus is far more to blame for Sandstorm than Kurt or the FBI would want to admit. Characters like Shepherd and Roman (Luke Mitchell) have bastardized the vengeful spirit displayed by Remi in the flashbacks here, morphing Sandstorm into a real global terror group — but still one with some legitimate gripes about the long shadow of the United States.
That makes Borden a bit of a sad figure, a generally okay dude stuck in an unbelievably bad situation and primed for manipulation. Subtle? Not exactly, especially without knowing exactly everything that Borden did in the name of Sandstorm's burn-it-all-down endgame, but the show's willingness to work more in shades of grey this season is a step forward.
"Why Let Cooler Pasture Deform" also deserves credit for teasing out this reveal and intel dump during what was a propulsive, fun fall finale. Roman and Shepherd finally stopped playing games with Jane, duping her and the team into a huge and disastrous trap. The show needed to demonstrate the skill of those characters — and Sandstorm in general — instead of just retroactively giving them credit for Season 1's horrors.
Here then, Shepherd's cunning plan to convince Kurt (Sullivan Stapleton) that his unborn child could be in jeopardy, leaving the rest of the team to fend without their leader, while also lulling Jane into a false sense of security, worked very well. The plan's overall effectiveness was hamstrung by typical TV logic — Nas and Edgar (Rob Brown) were seemingly trapped deep underground in rubble, only to survive — but at least lent credence to all of Shepherd's bluster about taking down the FBI piece by piece and then all at once.
Shepherd's big plan not only showed her power; it catalyzed the other big event that the fall run of episodes has been leading to: Roman's slight turn toward the light. Season 2 has spent a lot of time on different pairings of people, but none has worked better than Roman-Jane, making the former's decision to betray his mother and save the latter that much more satisfying.
Like with Borden, Blindspot was clearly building to this, only the show had more space to make the build compelling. Roman has been portrayed as unstable at worst and severely confused at best and that was portrayed in his choice here. Although he ultimately chose his sister over his increasingly egomaniacal mother, his own pain and hate for himself and what they've done kept him jawing at Jane about just leaving him forever.
But as the season has displayed, Jane is supremely alone: she needs her brother just as much as he needs her. In fact, Jane proved her dedication to not only saving her brother but actively helping him by... using the super-drug to erase his memory! Nothing says sibling love like applying a psychoactive drug to remove any and all traumas. But hey, that fresh start has worked out okay for Jane, right?
The memory-wiping drug is kind of a silly device, but Blindspot has, from the beginning, been a silly show. The difference in these nine episodes is that it has more successfully crafted relationships and interpersonal stakes that make the wonkier parts easier to swallow. That I actively cared that Edgar or Allison (Trieste Kelly Dunn) might die, or that Roman wouldn't join Jane is a testament to the show's improvements in these fundamental areas.
It remains to be seen how the show moves on from a couple significant cliffhangers. Roman's memory problems and the gunfire between Patterson and Borden could lead the show down some frustrating directions — I, for one, don't need another sad Patterson arc. But those concerns can wait until 2017. Blindspot deserves credit for this fall run.
Blindspot airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.