Law & Order: CI “Blind Spot”


A fairly recent episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent found a new use for female characters, and gave Eames a helluva chance to be her own hero. In this episode, a serial killer case had brought Goren back in contact with a childhood friend – Jo (Martha Plimpton) – and criminal profiling mentor – Jo’s father, Declan. On any other show, I’d have instantly concluded Jo was going to have some sort of romantic tension with Goren, because that’s what extraneous women characters are for, right? Maybe not, with this show.

The serial killer was behaving very much like a past serial killer described as Declan’s “white whale”, called Sebastian. Declan even thought the killer was Sebastian, back at work, because these killings matched Sebastian’s in details that had never been made public. If it wasn’t Sebastian, it was someone who knew exactly how he went about his highly ritualized brutalizations and killings.

Then the killer got hold of Eames, and my optimism began to falter. Getting caught be a serial killer has to change a character, maybe strain a partnership. If they didn’t carry this off with the proper gravity, I was going to be pissed. If it all boiled down to Goren blindly believing the killer because he’d taught him so much, I was going to be pissed. Instead, Goren began to suspect Declan the instant there was good reason to, and somewhat violently demanded to know what he’d done with Eames, as we would expect given their partnership. But he also forced himself to keep a clear hear, knowing that was the only way to save her.

In the end, she saved herself with some very clever yet believable tricks that got her out of her bonds and to a window in the impenetrable fortress where she was being held, where she could call for help. Meanwhile, the evidence against Declan continued to mount, and he was arrested. And then Goren got a hunch and brought Jo in to see her father.

As Declan rambled on and on to his interrogators about how every serial killer has a story no one would listen to, and in listening to their stories he got their confessions, Goren listened to Jo on the other side of the one-way mirror. Slowly the story unfolded: how her father had exposed her to all the details and crime photosand violence paraphenalia of his job, how he’d wanted a son and treated her more like a lab assistant than a child, how nothing she’d done had gotten his attention, how he didn’t believe a woman could ever be a serial killer, how he didn’t believe she amounted to anything. She’d shown him, by recreating Sebastian. But even then, he’d paid Goren more attention than he paid her, and that’s when she’d taken Eames and framed her father. And once she was jailed, she figured her father would listen to her.

It was tragic and sick and offensive. But it was so clearly established that Jo was tragic and pathetic and warped like a serial killer, not like a woman. Not even like a spoiled daughter. She’d killed for the reasons many serial killers kill; she’d gotten away with it for the reasons many serial killers do; and she’d been caught for the reason most of them get caught: that on some level, they want to. It’s the only way they will be heard.

ETA: Martha Plimpton rocked.


  1. Pat Mathews says

    Yes. It could even, with a slight alteration, have been one of those tragic father-son dynamics with the son, overshadowed by a famous father who never, ever listened and treated him like a lab assistant rather than a child and who thought Sonny was incapable of ever being a good profiler. The only main difference was that Goren would have been on that like a cat on a mouse very early on. Having it a daughter worked because of that factor. too.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Actually, they might even have been able to sell Goren missing the son as a suspect, because of considering him a friend.

    But you’re right – the only difference her gender really made was that it made people less likely to suspect her, thanks to their gender assumptions.

  3. Maartje says

    I’ve never watched any of the L&O’s so I have to ask: Is this episode a fluke or are there more women friendly episodes?

  4. Purtek says

    I really like that they called the episode “Blind Spot”, because it zeroes right in on the key to the problem.

    I’ve never watched any of the L&O’s so I have to ask: Is this episode a fluke or are there more women friendly episodes?

    Well, I don’t know how much I’d say this episode is designed to be “woman friendly”–us crazy folks around here like it, because it points out all the problems with assumptions and “profiling” and whatnot, but mostly I think it’s just supposed to shock us. I used to adore L&O in all its forms, but in all cases, it’s all about “shocking twists” and titillation–occasionally they make some good commentary on current events intentionally, occasionally they do it by accident, but they’re all way more hit than miss these days. SVU, sadly enough, is the worst of them all–given my tendency to write posts relating to the portrayal of sexual assault, you’ll likely see one on why one of these days.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    Maartje, L&O:CI is a show I’ve had nothing but positive comments on, as far as gender goes. Eames is a fantastic female character IMO, and her relationship with Goren is very intense and caring but without even a hint of sexual attraction. It’s subtle – L&O is about the cases, not the detectives. But I love it.

    The original L&O has more room for improvement in that area, IMO, but it’s still pretty good.

    L&O:SVU I really don’t know well enough to say. But I’m not surprised by Purtek’s comment – from what I have seen, it strikes me as less capable of handling rape storylines than the other two shows… which is odd, because it’s supposed to be nothing BUT sex crimes.

  6. SunlessNick says

    Perhaps because the other two shows have a chance to go all out on the horror of it; SVU, by dealing with it all the time, either has to be too blase or be such an unrelenting horror as to burn a lot of viewers out.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    Nick, you may be right. Or maybe they think to the detectives, it would become blase. I did come across an ep in which a police psychiatrist of some sort was interviewing all the detectives to see if any of them were close to “burnout”.

    But maybe if that’s the best you can do with a show about sex crimes, then it’s just not the best concept for a show.

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