It's 2016 and the concept of "the procedural" still scares away many TV viewers. Even the word itself is a modern deplorable among those who consider themselves above the supposed simple pleasures of a show that examines a standalone, open-and-shut case each week. Yet, while most people would rightfully refer to Blindspot as a procedural, the show continues to be a great example of how you can do compelling, mostly character-based storytelling within the confines of that familiar framework.
This episode -- the spectacularly titled "Hero Fears Imminent Rot" -- definitely provided a case of the week, and an amusing one at that. Guys were detonating bombs in New York City and announcing them via pre-scheduled tweets! I know it was supposed to be very serious given that the bombings were done in the name of revenge over some deadly weapons tests, but c'mon: scheduled tweets! Patterson basically hacked Hootsuite to solve this case. The villains, despite a last-ditch effort to humanize, didn't register at all as characters.
And this was a good thing! Sometimes, there's nothing more frustrating than when a show with lingering mysteries or intriguing hanging plot threads pumps the brakes to do filler standalone episodes for a few weeks. Those shows, however beholden to the unfortunate constraints of broadcast scheduling, help create the negative view of procedural TV (it's a matter of expectations; when you want answers, an episode about duffel bag bombs lands with a thud).
Flush with new information, new characters, and new dynamics, Blindspot smartly doesn't seem to be that invested in the cases thus far in Season 2. Instead, like last week's solid affair, "Hero Fears Imminent Rot" used the case when it needed it to hit productive character beats, and then pushed it aside when it wasn't really needed at all. That kept the focus on the uneasy relationships and circumstances facing the characters, which is where the show typically finds its best material.
If the previous episode was about showing how Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) could reestablish their connection as a duo in the light of tumultuous events, this hour had more interest in how all these horrible things have impacted them individually. So, the show smartly split them up for most of the hour, with Jane under Roman's (Luke Mitchell) watchful eye during a mission for Shepherd (Michelle Hurd) and Kurt leading the charge to discover America's most dangerous tweeters, non-Donald Trump division.
Both characters struggled with how new information reconfigured their view of themselves. For Jane, a forced sojourn with her brother where she was ordered to kill a microchip developer to prove her allegiance to Sandstorm got her thinking about those age-old "nature vs. nurture" questions. If she was raised in a terrible environment and then trained to be a killer, how can she ever be anything other than a terrible killer? Those instincts make her comically effective in the field, but they don't exactly make for a healthy "normal" life.
These questions gave Blindspot the best scenes of the season, with Jane struggling with the assignment and Roman feeling her out in the process. Jane tried to rationalize her adopted brother into saving Cantor, the microchip developer, but well-reasoned arguments don't matter when you're plotting to tear down the United States from the inside. Roman of course killed Cantor himself, sending Jane into a panic about what she's capable of and how she could be burned by her own brother, even if Roman ultimately covered for her with Shepherd -- this time.
Meanwhile, Kurt wrestled with big news of his own: that he's going to be a dad. Instead of sharing that information with anyone in the office, Kurt internalized it, mashed it with his percolating anxieties about Jane (who was kind of like a newborn last season) and Nas' (Archie Panjabi) interference, and turned into more of a grumpy dad than normal. No one got growled at, but Kurt and Nas continued to tussle over protocol and bureaucracy. Though those scenes are to be expected, they work better when Sullivan Stapleton gets to face off with Archie Panjabi.
Once Jane and Kurt came together to work on the case, it wasn't really about the case at all. Jane got benched, driving up her concerns about her vitality in the field and as a person, but Kurt swooped in for the uplifting speech about how she should trust her instincts above all else. They both got something out of that conversation -- Jane had her fears calmed, and Kurt got in some motivational dad-speak reps.
The episode was so purposefully disinterested in the case that it even made some real room to develop stories involving Patterson (Ashley Johnson), Borden (Ukweli Roach), and Edgar (Rob Brown). I'm not sure there are too many people thrilled about a Patterson-Borden "will they or won't they," but it's a fine way for the show to tease audience expectations regarding Borden's mole status.
In this hour, Patterson "caught" him speaking Arabic to an unknown person over the phone, which he patently denied. That was a clear sign of shifty behavior, which either signals he is Shepherd's mole or an obvious red herring. Putting Patterson, the show's most sympathetic character, in danger, or at least closer to danger, is probably the best move Blindspot has to drum up real stakes for a very familiar mole storyline. (She doesn't need another bad relationship, though. Keep hacking those tweets, girl!)
Meanwhile, Borden's odd behavior leaked into Edgar's story as well, as the latter asked the licensed medical professional about repressed memories and the former turned it into a chance to poke around about Jane. Again: it could be a swerve; it almost has to be, given how obvious the show has been the last two weeks. But if the show is looking for a non-Patterson way to illustrate Borden's stealth mole skills, walking Edgar into re-discovering his repressed memories of being molested by an old football coach is certainly one way to do it.
"Hero Fears Imminent Rot" wasn't quite as engaging as the first two episodes of the season, but it continued a strong trend for Blindspot. The show keeps moving forward -- the story, the characters, everything -- without sliding back into the safe, comfortable rhythms of the procedural formula. It's starting to feel like the cases, and even the tattoos, don't matter as much, and the show is better for it.