At certain points this season, Blindspot has appeared to be at war with itself. The show arrived on NBC as a significant hit, doing the kind of mystery procedural thing that made The Blacklist (and dozens of other projects) an even bigger success in years prior. As the show was conceived last season, there wasn't much room for comedy, self-awareness, or even fun — unless you consider bureaucratic conspiracies and SUV crashes fun.
In Season 2, Blindspot has been more adventurous in general, but more interestingly, there's a newfound playfulness that occasionally leaks into the show's otherwise stuffy vibe. It's happened in the fleeting moments when Patterson (Ashley Johnson) hasn't been experiencing an emotional breakdown, when Rich Dotcom (Ennis Esmer) appeared, or even when Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) or Jane (Jaimie Alexander) have been forced to confront any other human beings equipped with a sense of humor (something they lack). Tonight's "Regard a Mere Mad Rager" is another one of those efforts, and a signal that Blindspot should try to be as weird as possible, as often as possible.
The episode didn't do anything inventive structurally, or even on a plot level. Weller and Jane went undercover as they often do to retrieve some essential documents related to the spooky Truman Protocol that Nas (Archie Panjabi) couldn't quite unveil. Shockingly, Weller and Jane were successful in their mission, using both expert intelligence and combat skills, along with social finesse to procure the cache of data (there was a literal black box, because of course there was). The Elite Tattoo Unit now may have a temporary upper hand against Shepherd (Michelle Hurd) for the first time in, well, ever.
That's typical Blindspot stuff. It's how the episode got there that made "Regard" rise above the normal fare. Amid the tension about being discovered or faceless set dressing being murdered, the show had some fun. To get their hands on those important documents, the team had to thrive in a series of hacker-driven puzzle hunts, quests, and color-coordinated quiz-offs with the punishment of death. Oh, and to prove their bona fides, Weller and Jane had to agree to sign up for a flash mob. And just to do that, Patterson made Weller and Jane watch a Mannequin Challenge video. IMAGINE THE DISGUST.
When I type it out like that, it's all a dumb — and that was the gleeful point. Forcing uptight characters like Weller and Jane to have to experience the depths of web virality while also trying to save the world was a wonderful idea. Sullivan Stapleton is great at many things, but I think I might enjoy him most when he's just completely annoyed with other people's enthusiasm for anything. His delivery of a perfectly gruff but self-aware line like "Don't explain, just type it" is what we should be getting from Blindspot every week.
Meanwhile, the episode's puzzle solving felt like a minor breath of fresh air because it was exactly that: traditional puzzle solving. The characters were less reliant on Patterson's expert do-it-all-ness and instead forced to actually use their brains to solve riddles or moral quandaries in the moment. That approach probably wouldn't work every week on a show where people expect automatic weapon firefights and expert fight choreography (seriously, watching one episode of Iron Fist has made me appreciate Blindspot so much more), but it's a really fun reprieve.
The set and costume design aided in the episode's zip as well. It turns out that there are non-grey colors in the costume department! Red looks good on this show's two leads.
To cap it off, the show employed a near-perfect guest star in Jewel Staite as the head of the hacker group that was equally invested in going viral/trolling as it was information freedom. Like Ennis Esmer or some of the show's other one-off guest stars, Staite brought the proper energy. Her character wasn't simply full of jokes, but rather knowingly toyed with Weller and Jane in a way that didn't limit the supposed danger of the mission. In a plot nominally about the brokerage of state secrets, she couldn't stop complaining about how annoying it had become to manage a Wikileaks-esque website. It felt like Staite came in from an entirely different show, and in a good way.
As "Regard" managed to have some fun with the leads' circumstances, it produced some of the better romantic scenes between Weller and Jane ever. They were forced to tell the "truth" about their first encounter, which brought their lingering feelings to the surface in a mostly logical way. Blindspot has slowly been rebuilding the pairing as a legitimate romantic core. It's always felt predetermined that we would return to "Jeller." After an episode like this, where they aren't as trapped in the mess of all things Sandstorm, Shepherd, or Roman (Luke Mitchell), the show has at least found a solid way of rekindling the flame.
Perhaps this episode had a fitting ending. The penultimate scene featured the team celebrating their procuring of the data cache, giving them a much needed W over Sandstorm and Shepherd. There were jokes! And laughing! And almost kisses! For an hour, it was delightful to see the type of show that Blindspot could be more regularly if it took itself even 3-5 percent less seriously.
But then, the final scene brought us back to the normal Blindspot reality. Shepherd, who received her most screen time of the season as she manipulated and murdered her way out of captivity in Bangkok, decided that it was finally time to kill Weller and move ahead with the next Phase Two planning. Suddenly, the show jolted us right back into the unbelievably high stakes and extremely grave circumstances in which these people normally operate.
This clash between two versions of the same show is as compelling as it is frustrating. When it comes to the end of the season, there's only so much Blindspot can do; it's invested so much time in this cataclysmic showdown between Sandstorm and the team. It should indeed deliver on those promises. But as much of the episode demonstrated, Blindspot could be just as fine telling smaller stories with lower stakes and a bit more of the personality that we know is already there.
Blindspot airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.