Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 5 - "Split the Law"
What writer/creator Martin Gero lacks in originality, he makes up for borrowing from the best.
BlindspotAirtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Michael Gaston, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Ayman Samman, Sullivan Stapleton, Jamie Alexander
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 5 - "Split the Law"
Air Date: 2015-10-20
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
On October 19, 2015, Fox released a poster of its upcoming six episode miniseries revival of The X-Files. The poster features a heavily backlit man holding a cigarette with the text "TRUST NO ONE". The image is recognizable as C.G.B. Spender, aka "The Smoking Man" (William B. Davis), who, for the run of the series, became the embodiment of a shadow government that was running the world. On the same day, NBC also aired the fourth episode of Blindspot, “Split the Law.” While The X-Files belongs comfortably to the supernatural thriller TV genre, which includes shows like The Twilight Zone, The Night Stalker, and more recently, Supernatural, this episode included two X-Files-inspired backstories that Gero adopts and applies to his espionage drama.
What Martin Gero lacks in originality, he makes up for in good taste.
The first is the reveal that Blindspot has its own "Smoking Man". Michael Gaston plays CIA Deputy Director, Thomas Carter; both belong to the tradition of the shadowy government Bogeymen: white, late middle age, suit-wearers that embody a shadow concern. In earlier episodes, we are introduced to him only through his conversations with FBI team boss Bethany Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). In "Eight Slim Grins", they meet to discuss Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander). The tattoos on her body link her to the ominously named "Operation Daylight". We are told that only four people in the world knew about "Operation Daylight" and one is dead. Carter sees Jane Doe as a loose end best eliminated.
In this episode, we first see Deputy Director Carter as the team raids a bank where a team of men holds dozens of people hostage in a bank. While a local bank heist gone bad wouldn’t normally be on the FBI’s radar, this particular bank pops up because its address matches one of the permutations of a set of numbers tattooed on Jane’s thigh. The siege itself ends up being just a cover for the extraction of Dodi Khalil (Ayman Samman), a rogue bomb-making terrorist. Below the bank, the CIA created a "black site"; a place where they can take people and do their CIA stuff on American soil.
Blindspot doesn’t seem to want the viewer to think about the idea of a CIA "black site" holding a known foreign terrorist guarded by a single plain-clothed agent with a gun and zero lockdown procedures. Additionally, while Carter seems fixated on the security risk of the address being tattooed on Jane’s thigh, he seems oblivious to the fact that a known foreign terrorist cell knows the exact location of his secret prison.
Gero seems to be writing Deputy Director Carter with a similar personality and morality as "The Smoking Man". Both men personify supercilious assuredness. They both know that the game is rigged and whatever Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) or Mulder (David Duchovney) eventually discover will be what they’ll allow them to discover. Additionally, both take nihilism to the point of being evil. The only thing Carter seems the least bit interested in is keeping "Operation Daylight" secret. Everything else, up to and including an impending terrorist dirty bomb attack, is just background noise.
The other main link is the similarities between Weller and Mulder’s backstories. In The X-Files FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder is motivated by finding out the truth behind the abduction of his sister Samantha Mulder (Vanessa Morley) when she was 12. The relationship between FBI agent Kurt Weller and Jane Doe share some of these narrative qualities. Kurt Weller believes that Jane Doe is Taylor Shaw, a childhood friend who was abducted at 10. Gero’s choice to change the lost girl from sister to childhood friend allows a potential romance to blossom between the show’s two attractive stars.
“Split the Law” also fills in the background of Jane Doe’s abduction. Throughout the episode, her flashback scenes become more intense. The audience is told that she was taken to a room with many other children who were scarred and disfigured. This suggests that she was part of an experiment -- further mirroring her character to that of Samantha’s, who, as a child, was given to the shadow government by her father (also an FBI agent), as part of an experiment.
The timing of having "The Smoking Man" poster release on the same day as Blindspot rolls out its version of “The Smoking Man” seems uncannily coincidental. But if you are like Mulder, and maybe Weller -- you do not believe in coincidences. It almost makes it seem like there is a shadow network agency in which all of the prime time programs are coordinated. Either way, the truth is out there.