Finally, it's time to understand who Shepherd really is

By Kyle Fowle
February 08, 2017 at 09:00 PM EST
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Credit: Barbara Nitke/NBC
S2 E13
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  • TV Show
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  • NBC

Apparently it’s only been three weeks since Blindspot‘s previous episode, but boy does it feel like ages since Weller discovered that he knew Shepherd years before he even dreamt of being an FBI agent. I’ve been salivating over that cliffhanger for three weeks now, and, thankfully, Blindspot is back to clear things up with “Name Not One Man,” an episode that’s as twisty and captivating as the show has been all season.

“Name Not One Man” wastes little time getting to what everyone wants to know: How does Weller know Shepherd? Blindspot isn’t going to reveal all of its cards right away, but it does flash back to 1996 to give us a little insight into Weller as a blossoming, rebellious cadet. He keeps trying to sneak out of the Academy to check on his sister, who’s now in the care of their dangerous father — we all know about that aspect of his past thanks to the first season — which often results in Weller punching a guard.

These outbursts seem to overtake Weller, and that’s where Shepherd comes in. She speaks to the young Weller in the hallways of the Academy, telling him that if he can learn to control his anger and channel it toward something meaningful, he’ll do great things. Sure enough, he’s the Assistant Director of the FBI now, but the question remains: Is that what Shepherd had in mind?

That question arises when Weller, Jane, and Nas visit the Academy hoping to find some info on Shepherd. What they find is unsettling for Weller. It turns out that Shepherd was paying Weller’s tuition, sponsoring him when his father couldn’t pay the bills. All of that was unbeknownst to Weller, of course, but it plants seeds of doubt in his head. It also establishes one of the episode’s better threads, as Weller struggles to deal with his sense of duty and responsibility, and what his whole life means in this new context.

Based on this new information, the team does some digging and finds that Shepherd’s real name is Ellen Briggs. She was in the Army and was, at one time, the Deputy Director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Searching for some connections in her heavily redacted files, they find a name: Sean Clark. Shepherd worked with him for years. Now he’s holed up in an assisted living facility after having a stroke, and it looks like Shepherd is footing the bill. So, it’s time for the team to pay Clark a visit.

While Weller, Jane, and Nas visit Clark, only to realize that his stroke has left him with few memories outside MLB facts, the rest of the team is investigating a domestic terror threat that Patterson stumbled upon while once again sorting through Jane’s tattoos. Here, the threat is Jared Wisnewski, a man who runs a farming co-op. Seems innocent enough — until Reade and Zapata, still unbelievably awkward around each other after their fumbled romance, go up to the farm and find a stockpile of weapons and all the materials it takes to make an ANFO bomb.

Splitting up the team for the first chunk of this episode works in the story’s favor. There’s an urgency to both storylines, and the fact that they’re separate from one another keeps things clear and moving forward. Blindspot can get a little jumbled when it’s trying to rush through the plot points of its latest case, so it’s nice to see the show embracing a narrative structure that alleviates that pressure. What’s even better is the way the two storylines dovetail, as facial recognition software locates Wisnewski: He’s walked into the FBI building, heading to CTU. The team storms the floor and arrests him, but he has a pretty compelling reason for being there.

NEXT: This Land is My Land

As it turns out, the supposed domestic terrorist, Jared Wisnewski, is an FBI informant. And as for why didn’t Weller know about him, that’s where we return to the thread of Weller trying his best to separate himself from his unknown past with Shepherd. Weller didn’t know about Wisnewski because FBI Agent Boyd is keeping his program off the books. That program? Using Jared to infiltrate a group of farmers who are angry at the government for approving a pipeline that would ruin their livelihood, hoping to get ahead of any radicalized attack.

Weller is furious that he wasn’t informed, and while he wants to shut down the program, he also sees that doing so would risk an attack. Again, “Name Not One Man” does a great job of digging into Weller’s state of mind following the reveal about Shepherd. We come to understand his drive to do good, to make sure the FBI is playing by the rules. He’s trying to prove that they’re different from Sandstorm, despite Shepherd’s continued assertion that they’re basically on the same side.

The Sandstorm story in season 2 has primarily focused on illuminating who Jane, Roman, and Shepherd are, but perhaps no character has benefited from this story more than Weller. Along with the plot involving Allie and her pregnancy, the Sandstorm story has given Weller some depth outside of Jane and the mystery of her tattoos. He feels like a more fully formed character, and that really shines through in this episode, especially when he cracks down on Patterson and her use of illegal wiretaps.

Weller uses Jared to set up a meeting with a few of the other leaders, but things don’t go as planned. After a farmer named Tess changes the location, she snaps on Jared at the meeting. She’s suspicious (with good reason), but it only gets worse from there. She shoots Jared when he admits that “it’s all over” and takes off on her dirt bike. Weller and the team are unable to catch up with her.

After Weller fires Agent Boyd for his incompetence and secrecy, the next step is to figure out what Tess is going to do next. The team captured one of the farmers, and they manage to convince him to do the right thing and give up the target of the attack. He spills the beans, saying Tess is ready to hit the Bureau of Land Management, the office they deem responsible for cutting up their land over the years.

The team shows up at the building, but there’s no bomb inside. Instead, Tess is driving a truck full of explosives right at the building. Weller, being a goddamn superhero, steps in front of the truck and shoots out the tire. Before long, he’s appealed to Tess’ sense of duty as a soldier, convincing her to give up the detonator while making sure everyone is safe and sound.

NEXT: The Truman Protocol

Weller may have stopped one domestic terror attack, but there’s still more for him to dig into. After a touching conversation with Nas about how to handle the struggles and responsibilities that come from risking people’s lives while searching for the truth, Weller meets with Patterson and orders her to shut down the wiretapping program. He wants to do things the right way — or, as he puts it, “There has to be a line.” After some coercion, she agrees, but not before she makes Weller listen to a call. That call, from one year ago, is between Clark and Shepherd, who discuss a possible promotion for Weller. They say they need to stop it so that he can remain in New York as part of their plan.

Weller sure as hell wants to find out what that means, so he goes back to Clark to ask him some more questions, this time knowing that in some way, Clark is trying to send him a message with those MLB facts. Things don’t exactly go as planned, though, as Weller, after hearing about something mysterious called “The Truman Protocol” (head here for scoop from EP Martin Gero), is led up to Clark’s room and then jumped by Shepherd and her men.

“Name Not One Man” ends with everyone in a different place, both physically and emotionally. Reade is struggling with his new fling’s coke habit, and it looks like he’s about to partake; Jane is out on a date showing off some serious skee-ball skills; and then there’s Patterson, collapsing inside FBI headquarters after working herself to the bone — it’s kind of how she copes with this whole “my lover/colleague is a Sandstorm operative” thing.

Nobody, though, is in a worse place than Weller. Kidnapped by Shepherd, he has to watch as she kills Clark and tells Weller that despite his best efforts, he will help Sandstorm with their plan. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can tell you that I’m stoked for the eventual showdown between these two complicated, visceral characters.

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Blindspot

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