By now, you've probably heard of J.J. Abrams' infamous infatuation with the Mystery Box. Crystallized in a 2007 TED Talk and mockingly referenced in every comment thread about Abrams since, the Mystery Box concept essentially boils down to a simple thesis: the mystery is better than the answer. While the intrigue of the Mystery Box helped drive obsessions with Lost and Alias, a show like Blindspot demonstrates the highs and lows of when you turn the box into a person.
That's right, Blindspot's Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) is a Mystery Trap. It's like a Thirst Trap, but for mysteries. You can't stop watching because the show can't stop pilling new questions on top of answers, raising your expectations for what could actually be real regarding Jane and her past. You know it's part of the game the show is playing with you, but you keep coming back anyway. Because when it's works, it's very good.
Blindspot's Season 2 premiere was the show at the height of its twisty, surprisingly direct powers. After struggling to tease out the particulars of the whole Taylor Shaw ordeal in the back half of the first season, Blindspot returned with a sense of urgency, and a whole slew of legitimate answers to countless questions, both big and small.
This tactic began immediately, as "In Night So Ransomed Rogue" (anyone decrypt that anagram yet?) pulled no shenanigans with how Jane spent her summer after Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) took her into custody: the CIA provided her wonderful accommodations in an Oregon black site, including regular trips to the bottom of a bowl of water. The episode purposefully zipped through the scenes that tend to drag down stories like this, rapidly bringing Jane, Weller, and the rest of the team back together, admittedly begrudgingly and at the behest of a new face, NSA Zero Division's Nas (The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi).
Yes, there was tension — good tension, in fact — between the squad, with Jane miffed over Weller's willingness to let the CIA take her away and Weller equally as betrayed over Jane's role in the death of director Mayfair at the end of Season 1. Yet, instead of lingering too much on that tension, the episode effectively weaved it into a more active, answer-oriented plot involving Jane's outreach to her group of conspiratorial evil-doers — and wouldn't you know it, her point person was yet another hunky dude (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Luke Mitchell), Roman.
From there, "In Night So Ransomed Rogue" crafted a tight, two-pronged story: one following Jane's undercover fact-finding mission with Roman and the other tracking Weller, Nas and the rest of the team's attempts to sift through Mayfair's files on Daylight and Orion. While the latter resulted in some of the show's patented partial answers — the so-called terrorist group now referred to as Sandstorm has crafted dozens of seemingly random terror events and also had a mole within Nas' unit at the NSA — the former delivered the motherload of Blindspot answers.
Let's run down the most significant developments:
- Shepherd is a woman! More importantly, she's Jane's adopted mother. Roman is her adopted brother, though he's not a blood relative of Shepherd either.
- As that darn tooth suggested, Jane was born in South Africa, to anti-apartheid activists who were unceremoniously murdered by the government. Think that's bad? It gets worse! After their death, Jane was embedded in a secret school that served as a training ground for super soldiers. She and Roman thrived there until they were "rescued" by U.S. soldiers, including Shepherd.
- Jane's real name is Alice Kruger, but she — with the help of Roman and Shepherd — picked a new name once she began her fresh start. That name is Remy. (For extra credit, there may be parallels to the legend of the founding of Rome, which involved twins Romulus and Remus. Roman = Romulus, Remy = Remus. And, wait for it, it was a shepherd who took them in. Of course, in that story, things didn't end well for Remus.)
- Also, Shepherd appears to be in charge of a massive missile or rocket, presumably as part of the group's "burn it down to build it better" strategy.
Mylanta, that's a lot of information. Compare that hail of bullets with how Blindspot revealed pieces of the Taylor Shaw "mystery" in Season 1. This episode essentially answered more questions in two segments than it did in 23 full episodes last season. And it made for a legitimately fun (if slightly absurd) affair.
Perhaps best of all is that all of these answers or reveals, save the giant device, were told directly to a conscious Jane and she immediately shared this information with Weller and Nas. The audience isn't dramatically ahead of the characters intel-wise. Although the structure of the season looks to be similar to last season — Jane is stuck between two warring factions — the flow of information is entirely different. Jane and Weller know where the other stands for once, but have all the baggage of the previous events weighing them down. Meanwhile, the forces pulling Jane away from Weller and the FBI are, frankly, already far more engaging than Oscar was a season ago.
But this is how Mystery Traps work. They reel you in with flashy answers that seem to change the proverbial game and create 20 additional questions. Maybe the end of the Taylor Shaw stuff and this new information will enable Blindspot to sustain an improved energy throughout Season 2. That could be cool and awesome — until you remember that this is the season premiere, the show is already hinting at another mole storyline and there's 21 or 22 more hours to go in this season alone.
As this episode demonstrated, Blindspot is better than most when uncorking episodes jammed with legitimate steps forward in its narrative trajectory. But beware the Mystery Trap.
Blindspot moves to 8/7c next Wednesday.