Spoilers for Blindspot Season 5, Episode 1, “I Came to Sleigh,” follow below.
With the explosive (literally!) Season 5 premiere of the NBC drama series Blindspot, the final season is set up to be one full of high stakes that will only continue to get more and more dangerous for Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and the surviving members of the former FBI taskforce, as they remain on the run. Without their usual gadgets and tech, and unable to turn to their list of allies for fear of putting them at risk, they know they must do the impossible and find a way to stop Madeline (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) before she takes them out for good.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, creator/showrunner Martin Gero talked about how they came to the decision about which cast member would be saying goodbye at the start of the season, figuring out that final moment, how much more challenging things will continue to get for the team, how it changes the storytelling when you no longer have to set things up for the next season, whether viewers should expect more casualties before all is said and done, and finally revealing Patterson’s (Ashley Johnson) first name.
Collider: When you made the decision to blow up the cabin for the finale last season, did you know who would make it out alive, in that moment, or was that something that you had to figure out later?
MARTIN GERO: At that point, we knew. We didn’t know if we were gonna get another season, but we knew that, if we did get another season, we had a pretty strong idea of who it was gonna be.
How did you come to the decision that you’d be saying goodbye to Reade (Rob Brown)? Had you considered other characters, and had you thought about more than one character?
GERO: It came first from purely a business side. It’s complicated to get into, but it became very clear that, in the fifth season, we would need to [lose] one of our leads, and possibly two. And so, we started having the discussion, creatively, about who that could be and who that would be. As we played out various scenarios, unfortunately, the one, the story that came out of Reade passing, and how it affects the other characters, specifically Zapata (Audrey Esparza), got us really excited. It was awful. We all love Rob, and he’s been such an incredible cast member and friend, and he was so gracious about it. He totally got it. Everyone was worried it was gonna be them, and everybody was so great about it, in a weird way. Everyone was like, “Listen, if it needs to be me, I totally get it,” which was pretty nuts of them. And then, when we got our pick-up, I called Rob first and let him know, and he was great. I will say, this is not the last you’ve seen of Rob Brown on the show. The character is very much dead. It’s not like we’re doing a surprise twist, or anything, but we are doing a fair amount of flashbacks this season, so you’ll get a little bit more of Reade, even though he’s not a main cast member anymore.
What was it like to figure out what his final scene and final moment would be, and then to see how that turned out?
GERO: It had been planted, in the previous episode, that there was this tunnel system under the cabin and always knew that they would escape through that, but that it would collapse on them and somebody would perish. And so, execution-wise, we knew how to do it. And then, it was just a question of where to put it in the show. What we’ve typically done is that we picked up the next season, right where the other season left off. My original instinct was to start with that sequence. But the more we talked about it, the more devastating we realized it was gonna be. It was gonna be an impossible way to start an episode, let alone a season, so that’s when the writers and I came up with the idea of doing a little bit of a non-linear episode, so that we could give it its proper due, towards the end. After that scene, you just don’t wanna watch anything else. You just wanna see them mourn him properly, and then call it a day. It would have been impossible to then go rescue Rich (Ennis Esmer). So, the idea of slowly introducing the characters, one by one, and then being like, “Wait, where is Reade?”, and having that be a dangling question, grew out of that, and I was just blown away by the execution. We brought in the director from the pilot, Mark Pellington, to come do that episode for us because we knew how important it was. And Rob and the Audrey, and everybody, I don’t cry, usually, when I watch a director’s cut of an episode, but I was very emotional. I cried. It was so beautiful.
This is a team that’s stripped of the extensive resources that they’re used to having. How much more challenging will that make things for them?
GERO: It’s really hard. The first and foremost one is that they don’t have a badge and they don’t have the official cover of the government. Every time they leave that bunker, it’s at their extreme peril. And also, Patterson (Ashley Johnson) does not have a giant supercomputer. She’s cobbled together a working database, but also needs to be so careful about hiding herself. She and Rich are deeply frustrated at the limitations of their system and it requires a lot of innovation, on their part. Every season, we try to make the show feel a little different, so it’s not just four seasons of the same thing. This year, it’s very much Blindspot, but it’s in a total different configuration that makes the show really vital and exciting, for these last 11 episodes.
With everyone that they go to for help getting a target placed on their backs in return, will they have to now consider every step that they take and really think about that, before they turn to anybody else?
GERO: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Absolutely. They’re gonna be very careful about the people that they reach out to because the stakes are so high.
Does it change the storytelling when you know that you don’t have to set up future seasons anymore and you can just leave everything out there that you want to leave out there, because it’s the last chance to do it?
GERO: Yeah, and you’ll see that in the episodes. Everyone is writing their last episode of Blindspot. All of our guest stars are performing in their last episode of Blindspot. This has been a happy home for a lot of people to come and visit, again and again. And when we made those calls to all the guest stars and said like, “Hey, can you come back and do one more?,” it was so overwhelming that everyone said yes. Also, it makes it so that we can take some risks with the storytelling, that we would never do before. The character of Shohid Akhtar (Ajay Naidu) has been with us since Season 1. We do an episode a year with him. You would never kill off that character ‘cause we want him to come back. But this year, it was like, “That’s it. He did his episode with us, so let’s kill him because it’s scary.” It really elevates the stakes this year because you’re not trying to protect yourself in the future. You’re not trying to go, “We don’t wanna do that ‘cause that would make a cool thing in Season 6.” Now, we can be a little more reckless in our storytelling. Not to disparage other showrunners, but there are some shows that have ended recently, where I wish more people had died, and there are some shows that I thought too many people died. There are two needle heads you wanna thread. You don’t wanna alienate the audience by like killing everyone they love, but this show, this last season, is about the finite quality of our lives and the finite quality of the show. It will end. This show is about endings. It’s about saying goodbye, and there’s no bigger goodbye than losing somebody that you’re close to.
Should we expect more casualties then, before all is said and done?
GERO: Yeah, I would.
At the same time, does it become harder to find the levity, or are you still able to find those moments?
GERO: No, not at all. I think this season is the most fun we’ve had. What our show has done really well, just speaking totally arrogantly, is finding that balance between the darkness and the light. We try for the show to feel escapist, but we want you to feel things, as well. We want it to be the whole kitchen sink of emotions. We want you to feel devastated, and then laugh really hard. We want you to have fun and go on a treasure hunt, but then come to terms with some pretty emotional stuff, at the same time. It’s a balancing act. We’re trying to paint with all of the colors, for this last season.
Does Madeline have an Achilles heel? What we start to see how this team could really, truly beat her?
GERO: She’s pretty ruthless. If anything, how mono-fixated she is on her goals starts to become a weak point. It’s hard to get into specifics without ruining the season.
Did you always know that, at some point before the series was over, you’d let the audience in on Patterson’s first name?
GERO: Well, it’s a funny story. Here’s where all that came from. When you’re doing the first season of a show, it’s the most overwhelming and exhausting thing, ever. I just had never named that character. That character was named Patterson. And then, they were making her badge and were like, “We need a first name for her badge.” And I was like, “I can’t think of anything cool. Just leave it. It’s just Patterson.” They were like, “Don’t we need a first name?” And I was like, “No, we don’t. We don’t need a first name.” And then, it just grew into this thing. I was like, “No one will notice that she doesn’t have a first name. And then, I don’t have to think of a first name.” Then, of course, everyone suddenly became obsessed with, “Wait, what’s her first name?” And then, it became a fun game of, “Well, now we can avoid and lean into the fact that everyone wants to know her name, and we won’t give one to her.” And then, I realized, “Well, shit, at some point, we’re gonna have to let people know” . . . I told Ashley in Season 2, and she loved it. We just pinky-sweared to keep it a secret until Episode 502. I hope people will not be disappointed.
Blindspot airs Thursday nights on NBC.