THIS POST CONTAINS TOTAL SPOILERS FOR L&O:CI EPISODE “BLIND SPOT”. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
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.