Blindspot continues to make simple alterations to its episodic structure in the search for energy. Last week's effort used the "fun guest star" approach, as another memorable return for Rich Dotcom (Ennis Esmer) led to one of the season's better episodes. This week, the show employed an equally basic-but-productive strategy: splitting the core characters into pairs and having them work different threads of the latest tattoo case. While "Draw O Cesar, Erase A Coward" wasn't nearly as delightful as the prior episode, the novelty of the three duos made for another successful outing.
Per usual, the particulars of the case were fairly meaningless, involving constitutional coins, health spas, and rogue cartels. But the episode navigated around those empty characteristics with some shenanigans. It began with Patterson (Ashley Johnson), with some off-screen help from Rich, linking together multiple tattoo clues and stumbling into a piece of evidence involving a criminal already in custody for a non tattoo-related crime.
That was a small choice, but a creative one regarding how to handle the tattoos. The premise is inherently silly; there's no reason not to play with it a little, right? If these tattoos were crafted months in advance to unveil crimes as they happen, they can also then have their own coded, intertextual language. Numbers, symbols, it's all filler to get to the case; get nuts is what I'm saying.
From there, "Erase A Coward" divided up the squad into partnerships we don't see that often, or really haven't seen much at all: Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and Tasha (Audrey Esparza), Patterson and Edgar (Rob Brown), and Kurt (Sullivan Stapleton) and Roman (Luke Mitchell). And to make things a bit more disorienting, the episode featured what I would refer to as light timeline hijinks — following one partnership through its full investigation before returning to the same point in time to follow the next duo out in the field.
The aforementioned hijinks weren't as generative as the Rashomon-style tactics used in the fall episode "We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters," but it gave the show space to develop the rapport between people who don't normally interact that often. Jane and Tasha have had quite an icy relationship since the events of last season, but their shared exhaustion over trying to date in such a high-profile job served as the first real thawing in a while. Both women have established trust issues — for good reason — and it was compelling enough to watch them vent about sketchy men in their lives.
Patterson and Edgar's storyline felt the most undercooked to begin with, if only because a scattered (read: high) Edgar bounced into work too late to get off on the right foot with his temporary partner. Eventually it got going, once Edgar's timidity in the field was too hard for even Patterson to ignore. When a suspect's crocodile tears about the futility of life actually worked on Edgar, Patterson had to jump in for the save, but of course the former had no interest in explaining his funk to the latter.
Between these first two pairings, Blindspot worked hard to suggest that these people are friends, if not necessarily the best of friends, something that doesn't always come through in a show with such a high-concept premise and the constraints of the weekly procedural. Indeed, the underlying tension between both Jane and Tasha and Edgar and Patterson made otherwise banal conversations more watchable. The show turned one of its weaknesses — the characters not always feeling like real people — into a strength, playing up the awkwardness to lead in different directions (a minor sense of understanding for Jane and Tasha on one hand, and a wired outburst from Edgar on the other hand).
The centerpiece duo, however, was Kurt and Roman, two men who view themselves as very different from one another but who are actually very similar. They're both extremely loyal soldier types, with an admirable affinity for family above all else (even to their own detriment). While the episode twice tried to misdirect the audience — once at the beginning with the two men "fighting" to trigger Roman's memories and later when Roman pretended to snap as a way to gain access to a keycard — it also gave the characters a chance to see the other side of this ongoing struggle over what to do with Roman/Sandstorm.
For Kurt, the field experience recalled his early time with Jane. Roman's skills helped the mission and showed Kurt the value of having another Shepherd (Michelle Hurd)-raised kid in the mix. Roman started to recognize Kurt's perspective as well. Of course, the growing bond between these beer buddies has an underlying problem: the truth. Kurt still didn't learn about Roman's role in the death of Taylor Shaw's mother, and that's going to be even uglier now. For shame.
Again, this wasn't a revolutionary approach or a standout episode. But it did the job with an effective wrinkle, and was quite watchable in the process. As I keep saying this season, Blindspot needs more than tattoo mysteries, global terror conspiracies, or sudden deaths — this week's cliffhanger suggested Nas (Archie Panjabi) is on the way out — to become a better show. It's been an inconsistent march toward that progress, but there's been progress nonetheless.
Blindspot airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.