Blindspot’s mythology terrifies me, and even to the extent that it factors directly into the case of the week or leads to significant character beats, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this show is a stylish shaggy-dog story about a woman with inexplicable tattoos. “Persecute Envoys” does a better job of laying Blindspot’s foundation because it contributes to the broader mystery, but doesn’t have a mystery of its own. It’s an episode that resolves questions without introducing twice as many new ones. It also offers the insights into Mayfair the show has been promising since she first grimaced at the tattoo based on Saul Guerrero’s case number, and manages to fold in anti-black police violence in a way that, while needless and bereft of a point of view, at least isn’t deeply offensive.
“Persecute Envoys” picks up where “Sent On Tour” left off, with Weller demanding Mayfair tell him the truth about Guerrero, who Weller’s team went to the trouble of extricating from militia country only to find out Mayfair has never even met her alleged confidential informant. As it turns out, Guerrero was merely the fall guy for Operation Daylight, an illegal NSA surveillance program using all manner of improperly obtained information to nab bad guys. The untouchable Guerrero was just the cover for the program, and he was a pretty good one until Jane Doe popped up and put everyone back on Guerrero’s scent after most of the law enforcement community had resolved to leave him be.
The Daylight program begins with a shady meeting when Mayfair, Tom Carter, and Sofia Barma (guest star Sarita Choudhury), a highly placed White House staffer, are called into a meeting with the White House chief of staff to discuss a plan to utilize the illicit intelligence. Mayfair is convinced that the ends justify the means, but Weller is not on board with the program. He calls Mayfair on the carpet over her illegal operation and the “laundered” tips. It’s an interesting conversation in that Weller seems to gloss over the obvious parallels between Operation Daylight and Operation Do Whatever The Sexy Tattooed Lady’s Inner Thigh Tells You To. For weeks, Weller’s team has been chasing the leads they find on Jane, despite being no closer to discovering the identity and true agenda of the people who left a human treasure map. But the tattoos have proved invaluable leads that stop crimes and save lives. Sounds like pretty similar rationale, but Weller is convinced that, compared to Mayfair, he occupies the ethical high ground.
The Daylight reveal intensifies the slow-burning feud between Weller and Mayfair, but more than that, it provides some much needed character development for someone who isn’t Weller or Patterson. There’s been woefully little effort to build out the other characters, which is a necessity in Jane’s case because the show hinges on the withholding of her true identity and background. But there’s nothing stopping the writers from shading in Mayfair, Zapata, and Reade, and the quicker they do so the better, because I have yet to warm to Kurt Weller. Sullivan Stapleton’s rigid performance certainly doesn’t help matters, but I haven’t bonded with him to the degree that I have with Jane, Patterson, and now Mayfair. For Mayfair and Sofia, Daylight isn’t just an illegal surveillance program, it’s their meet-cute. Their clandestine pact blossomed into a forbidden love. Well maybe not forbidden, but probably something that would come up during the Congressional hearings.
The operation spirals out of control, as illegal government programs sometimes do, and a panicked Sofia urges Mayfair to split to Hong Kong with her to avoid the inevitable backlash. Mayfair refuses, and Sofia is ultimately crushed under the weight of the guilt after she has to go to mercenary means to keep the program under wraps. The Sofia part of the Daylight story serves to acquit Mayfair, which foreshadows a reconciliation with Weller. He more than anyone can understand how having intense personal feelings about a operational collaborator can affect your judgment.
The case of the week is a half-hearted attempt to take on the of-the-moment topic of police shootings of unarmed black men. The twist is that the swipe at political relevancy is really nothing of the sort. It’s like a regular episode of Blindspot with a politically relevant Instagram filter on it. There’s no position, just the eventual outing of a few corrupt NYPD cops who used body camera footage to blackmail rich people, then eliminated anyone who could connect the dots. It’s not an offensive use of the subject matter, just a pointless one. There are a thousand different paths to get to the same conclusion, and the police shooting angle suggests something more nuanced and less traditionally twist-reliant is coming.
But at least the twist clarifies the meaning of the tattoo, and establishes that whoever left Jane Doe’s tattoos isn’t literally predicting crimes as much as pointing the team in a general direction. That they’ve arrived in time to prevent some of the crimes is mostly dumb luck. Oddly enough, that’s probably the more interesting version of the story.
- The brief sparring session between Jane and Zapata is a fun little detour, as is the girls’ night out.
- Patterson’s boyfriend is trying to weasel his way back in, so he’ll still either get murdered or reveal himself as a mole of some kind.
- Zapata is still under Tom Carter’s thumb because he’s not thrilled with the intel he’s gotten from her so far. That probably means a Zapata episode is coming soon.
- More Ukweli Roach, please.