Slowly but surely, CBS’s globe-trotting tale of Nazi prophecies and blood antiquities is beginning to find itself — Blood & Treasure Season 1 Episode 5, “The Brotherhood of Serapis,” is the most confident, fully-formed hour of the young drama.
It benefits greatly from two important tweaks to its formula: “The Brotherhood of Serapis” plays out on a much smaller scope than previous hours, less privy to the whiplash of constantly shifting locations and time periods that constantly unmoor Blood & Treasure from its characters and (still) maddeningly vague central story
More importantly, Blood & Treasure‘s fifth hour is the first to truly embrace Lexi as the show’s main character, smartly letting noted Good Bland Boy Danny McNamara slide into a more natural supporting role, which pays huge dividends in giving Blood & Treasure some much-needed touches of personality.
Lexi is the beating heart of Blood & Treasure; she embodies the dangerous, slightly-morally-compromised sense of adventure that this series wants to make its trademark.
Unfortunately, too much focus on Danny’s moralistic White Savior journey robbed the opening episodes the room to effectively establish this tone; “The Brotherhood of Serapis” is a marked shift in the right direction, elevating the dramatic beats by embracing the show’s most unique, fun character as the driving force of its story.
Opening immediately after the cliffhanger ending of Blood & Treasure Season 1 Episode 4, “The Secret of Macho Grande,” “The Brotherhood of Serapis” immediately makes its argument for Lexi as its protagonist.
While the motivations of the frustratingly amorphous Brotherhood remain a sticking point, them abandoning Danny to die down an elevator shaft is an unconsciously hilarious — and telling — moment: if the Big Bads in Blood & Treasure‘s world don’t take Danny seriously, why should the rest of us?
I’ve openly clamored in previous reviews for Blood & Treasure to make this shift; once Fabi reveals himself as a Brotherhood member to Lexi and forces her into an uncomfortable negotiation, “The Brotherhood of Serapis” immediately begins to pay dividends.
As the one character who can effectively exist in both the “good” and “evil” halves of the art antiquities world, Lexi is the moral fulcrum of the series.
She is also the one who bridges the mostly isolated pieces of Blood & Treasure‘s story together, offering venues to further integrate Farouk’s plan into the growing mosaic of government agents, art hunters, and mystical organizations chasing down Cleopatra’s doom-bringing sarcophagus.
Farouk’s presence, like The Brotherhood, is still frustratingly obtuse.
Though his attempt to create an international political incident fails, his increased interest in Lexi — and the reveal (if slightly stereotypical) his terrorist organization was funded by her father — at least makes him an intriguing secondary antagonist, one who offers some personal stakes to the superficial adventures of chasing down Egyptian artifacts.
Admittedly, I still don’t understand why he destroys an entire highway and kills a bunch of people to…leave fake antiques so it looks like nothing happened?
It also helps that “The Brotherhood of Serapis” isn’t trying to jump between four different periods of time; save for a single flashback to 1944 Germany. Blood & Treasure firmly plants itself in one time period — the present — and mostly avoids rapidly shifting locations, another important aspect in the young action series figuring out its identity.
The more Blood & Treasure moves around the world, the smaller and more insignificant its story seems; doubling down on character, and doing so in a limited set of scenes and locations, allows B&T to drill down a bit further, stretching scenes, ideas, and arcs just a bit further, which makes for a much fuller, enjoyable dramatic crescendo as the hour progresses.
It is still a work in progress, of course; Danny’s awkward luncheon with the corrupt Egyptian minister proves Blood & Treasure still has work to do in developing half of its central pairing.
All five episodes have tried to focus on Danny’s inherent awkwardness as his defining trait; unfortunately, this just makes him boring, a rather reactionary presence on a show about seizing and defining destiny on your own terms.
That bumbling sensibility works well in some scenes — like when Lexi reappears while he’s in the shower (itself a rare example of a network show effectively utilizing the female gaze) — but when isolated from the main cast, his flaws as an inconsequential character are glaringly obvious.
To call the character a snooze fest is an understatement, often smothering scenes with his overwhelming blandness. Perhaps more importantly, he undercuts the show’s lighter, flirty-er elements with his boring self-seriousness.
It’s hard to make something a sexy adventure when it feels like half of the central pairing is vastly more interesting than the other, which is certainly the case with Lexi and Danny to this point.
There is opportunity to build out Danny in more interesting ways. His interactions with Jay and Chuck (who is unfortunately absent for this episode) parallel those between Farouk and Lexi, two entities with unclear motives, whose ties to the pasts of Blood & Treasure‘s main characters make them avenues of discovery for the audience.
Right now it appears the only way Blood & Treasure is able to effectively build in any layers to its flattest main character: in theory, leaning even harder into this could finally unearth some interesting nuggets of character.
Time will tell, of course.
“The Brotherhood of Serapis” tells the story of a team starting to find a path to begin unwinding the web of corruption, blood oaths, and mysticism at the heart of Blood & Treasure‘s mystery. In many ways, it parallels the show’s own journey of discovery.
It appears CBS’s big summer drama is beginning to figure out its creative blueprint, as it continues to build out its strange story of blood relics, ancient evils, and apocalyptic cults.
What did you think of this episode of Blood & Treasure? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Blood & Treasure airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS.
Want more from Tell-Tale TV? Subscribe to our newsletter here!