From Script to Screen: How 'Blindspot' Invents New Ways to Keep Its Twists Unpredictable (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
The scenes you remember from your favorite television shows don’t often start out that way. From conception to the page to the small screen, changes are made for creative, budgetary and/or time constraints that viewers often aren't aware of. In the From Script to Screen series, we break down a pivotal scene from the current TV season with the people who put pen to paper, to give us an exclusive inside look at how an original idea transforms into a memorable TV moment.
Blindspot is finding inventive new ways to peel back the intricately woven mystery currently driving the third season.
In Friday’s episode, titled “Fix My Present Havoc,” NBC’s action thriller dives into the latest bombshell plaguing the team: How are they going to take down their own boss without her knowing? After FBI Director Eleanor Hirst (guest star Mary Stuart Masterson) is discovered to be the internal mole and the ruthless killer behind Stuart’s death, Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) recruit their trusty cohorts to work overtime -- unofficially, of course -- so they can give Hirst her overdue comeuppance.
Creator Martin Gero zeroed in on an early scene from the episode as an example of a moment that serves multiple purposes for the story: re-establishing the narrative, infusing humor in a high-stress situation and putting the wheels in motion for the team’s next move. In the scene, Jane and Weller’s apartment has transformed into an unofficial home base as they investigate Hirst’s abhorrent intentions. As the scene depicts, working 24/7 -- including weekends -- to make this possible has made some people, namely Patterson (Ashley Johnson), insane.
“It’s a really fun scene, because there are a lot of intersecting things happening at once,” Gero tells ET. “On a show like this, where there are a lot of complex plots that are ongoing, we can’t assume that everyone is watching every episode. Every TV show has to kind of introduce the idea and the concept of what’s going on. How do we do this in a fun way so that it feels like it’s not just what it is?” The scene also connects Roman (Luke Mitchell) to the narrative in a thrillingly unexpected way: through a seemingly innocent Christmas present for Weller's daughter, Bethany. Up to this point, it has remained unclear how Roman’s parallel international arc fits into the grand scheme of things, which, as Gero explains, is all by design. "They're essentially working in tandem with Roman to take down Hirst and they don't like it. That's why this scene is such a fun one."
Taking the team out of their typical confines in the sterilized setting of the FBI office provides a new look and feel to the story, giving a show midway through its third season the opportunity to shake things up on a micro level. "We had had an idea a long time ago, that at the end of season two that they were all going to get fired by the FBI and they were going to spend the start of this season working out of Weller's apartment," Gero reveals. "We went away from that for a bunch of reasons, but I've always loved the image of them having a clubhouse away from it all where they're still breaking cases. We were able to find a better place for it."
Speaking more specifically to the Hirst twist, Gero shared that Masterson wasn't aware when she signed on that her character, previously portrayed as a powerful and supportive authoritative figure for Jane and Weller, would have such an evil turn. "She didn't know," Gero says, adding that the only piece of intel he told the actress beforehand was the number of episodes they wanted her for. "I remember directing the season premiere this year and giving her some direction: 'It's important for you that you don't want the team looking into the tattoos. You're very worried about that.' And she was like, 'Why am I worried about them? Wait, don't tell me, don't tell me, don't tell me!'"
"She had her suspicions that she was one of the main bad guys, but part of the fun of that role was that [Hirst] was the typical Mary Stuart Masterson part," he continues. "She's such a lovely, likable person who the team felt was rallying for them and supporting the team and then suddenly, you realize that she's been passively aggressively dismantling the team piece by piece." The fact that it's taken an all-out endeavor by everyone(and we mean everyone) to bring Hirst down speaks to how "powerful" she is. "She requires this Sisyphean effort and the problem is, every time they get close, they realize 'Oh man, she's got a leg up on us.' It takes them literally moving the FBI to Weller's apartment just so they can talk about it. She's a great bad guy."
Gero points to the flashbacks to the night of Stuart's death, where it dawns on the audience that Hirst will go to any lengths to keep her mission on track, as a major pivot point in the evolution of that particular character. "The whole dynamic of the show shifts," he says. "This person who went from incredible ally goes to treacherous foe in the course of three lines. Mary Stuart pulls it off so well, it's very scary in how removed she is and how calm she is when she slices his throat." The final scene in Friday's episode is just as chilling. "The next episode is them asking, 'Can we take her down? It's us or her.' To have that [final] moment represent the ultimate chess move, where she knows what's going on when she comes into Reade's office, it's a great moment," Gero adds. "To see Reade wiggle his way out of it in the next episode is incredibly satisfying."
As for how the Blindspot team wiggles their way out of an impossible corner, Gero teases that the fall finale is "in some ways simple, but it's incredibly engaging." "We're trying to find ways this year to turn the conventions on its head," he says, going back to the highlighted scene from the penultimate episode of the year. "It shows immediately that they're operating from behind. It's a regular day, it's a regular episode, but we're able to brand it so differently, it feels different and dynamic in a way while still being able to do the case of the week. The way we get into the puzzle -- Roman sending them blocks and it being terrifying that that it could have ended up in Bethany's hands -- and yet still triggers a tattoo [is gratifying]."
Gero remained coy when asked how the three puzzle pieces -- Hirst, the team and Roman's tandem storylines -- ultimately fit together but notes viewers will have a "much better understanding" in next week's fall capper. "They definitely fit together in the midseason finale. You finally get a bird's eye view of what at least Roman's driving at and how that involves the team and how that involves Hirst," he teases. "Just wait. It's real good, I promise you." And don't forget, Weller's Berlin secret -- him having already met Jane's daughter, Avery -- plays out in shocking fashion: "You'll find out a lot more." Believe us when we say this: It's good.