That's more like it. After a couple bumpy episodes to start the new year, Blindspot turned in a strong effort this week that recalled the show's propulsive, borderline fun, fall run. Unlike the busy midseason premiere or last week's plodding standalone affair, "Devil Never Even Lived" (perhaps the most normally titled episode all season), this hour managed to both connect the case of the week to ongoing A-level plots and have some fun while doing it.
Although the show built its first season on tattoo conspiracies, ladies in duffel bags, and freeway explosions, Blindspot is at its best when it at least tries to mix things up tonally. It doesn't have to feature laugh-out-loud moments or zany hijinks; any variety is better than no variety.
The plot summary of "Devil Never Even Lived" doesn't imply much fun: The discovery about Jane's (Jaimie Alexander) missing tattoo enabled our hero to convince the team that Roman (Luke Mitchell), he of a recent psychopathic diagnosis, needed to be out in the field to chase down a lead involving a murderous, criminal motorcycle club (and aren't they all). Faceless characters were murdered, Roman questioned Jane's loyalty, and Kurt (Sullivan Stapleton) sulked about losing his non-traditional family to Colorado. Not exactly an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Yet, Blindspot navigated these different plotlines with more of a pointed zip than we've seen in the last few weeks. The A-story, with Roman and Jane going undercover with The Viper Kings and tough gal Kat Jarrett (Amber Skye Noyes), nicely integrated the show's key tensions among characters with some smart moments of deviation. While the team's distrust in Roman continued to drive Jane to prove them all wrong, Roman's growing consciousness in the field made for some tricky obstacles. Like Jane, Roman's muscle memory allowed him to quickly snap into scumbag heartthrob mode around the Kings and Kat, his former flame and business partner. But unlike Jane, Roman's on-the-fly realizations about his past pushed him to act compulsively, occasionally jeopardizing the operation and further justifying Kurt's skepticism.
The show backed itself into a small corner in wiping Roman's memory. On one hand, this episode demonstrated how that choice can generate compelling weekly stories and permit Roman -- a damaged but sympathetic character -- to experience a level of redemption. On the other hand, that Blindspot has already done this story with Jane means that it has to rush through some of the basics of Roman's "realizations," if only to avoid repetition. As a result, the show has to concoct very specific scenarios in which Roman's quick learning/remembering can track with how the magical mind-wiping drugs function.
This plot was indeed one of those strong scenarios. If we accept the realities of this amnesia, it's easy enough to also accept that Roman would so rapidly remember huge chunks of his past relationship with Kat, a woman whom he wanted to run away with if it weren't for the strong hand of his sister. Throwing Roman back into the criminal underbelly inspired an equally fast proficiency in handling the intensity of negotiating with the evil leader of an MC, hijacking a moving transportation vehicle, and "shooting" Kurt and Edgar (Rob Brown) to keep up the facade of criminality.
This run of scenes did good work in illustrating the importance of context in recovering from this ridiculous form of amnesia. Jane experienced her awakening in the arms of the FBI, where she mostly encountered strangers and was encouraged to work in the name of some idea of moral good. No one around Jane knew any better, so despite their initial skepticism, they created a mostly safe environment in which she could figure it all out.
Roman, however, has not experienced a similar path. That others know what he's done only works against him, where there's little trust and many constraints. And here, he wasn't tossed in the fire against a stray bad dude with a terrorist plan; he faced off with his former lover, with the help of his sister, as part of a bigger plan to take down his mother. That's... messed up.
Sure, it lacks the discovery element that drove Jane's story in Season 1, but Roman's recovery is, frankly a bit more compelling without the mystery. In fact, knowing that he's eventually going to discover the truth about what happened to him -- and Jane's role in that process -- only makes episodes like this better. Unlike with Jane for much of last season, Roman's big realization is going to come with a real sense of betrayal.
The story also gave both Mitchell and Alexander the chance to play slight variations on Roman and Jane. The brief flashbacks showed a conflicted Roman in love, not the same broken-down dude he's been in recent weeks, while Jane/Remy was more controlling and jealous than ever before. Likewise, in the present, the undercover mission brought about a coolness in Roman and a sense of responsibility in Jane. It's simple stuff -- Roman is now in the Jane role and Jane is kind of like the New Kurt -- but productive nonetheless.
Roman wasn't the only one experiencing the pains of romance in this episode. Kurt, basically wrecked by the combination of losing Allison and their unborn kid to Colorado, plus the administrative tasks of his promotion, took another hit when Nas (Archie Panjabi) decided she was ready to end their fling. Elsewhere, Edgar found himself in the arms of yet another woman (this time, it was the former girlfriend of Freddie, the guy Edgar sent out of town after the traumas with their football coach), while Tasha (Audrey Esparza) continued to prod him about his hook-ups out of a not-so-secret pining for her partner/best friend.
Perhaps most important of all: That final scene. Jane showed up at Kurt's place with some Pennsylvania beer, they flirted a little, and then made a shocking discovery about their past. (In this case, it's that Shepherd [Michelle Hurd] was somehow involved in Kurt's military academy). Shocking revelation aside, it was just like old times for those two, jolting the show's central pairing back to life for what's surely going to be a fascinating final string of episodes.
Blindspot is not a show where you need to see a lot of flirting or kissing or discussions of love. But those moments do give episodes like "Devil Never Even Lived" something more amid the normal routine of punching and shooting and scowling. It's a particularly good sign when the show can craft these moments without having to lean so hard on Patterson (Ashley Johnson). Hopefully Blindspot continues to find ways to diversify as the mysteries and the Sandstorm conspiracy plotline takes more precedence.
Blindspot airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.