Today, blue bloods is a term we use to describe people from socially prominent family lineages. Funny enough it came from Spain in 1834, translated from the phrase: sangre azul, it referenced certain families being uncontaminated by Moorish or Jewish blood; all due to their fair complexion making their blue veins apparent under the skin. As a title for a police procedural it sounds like an idea with promise. Back in 1843 when the term was coined, a black sheep had wool that could not be dyed and was thus worthless to the farmer to sell. Yet a single black sheep in a flock was considered good luck by those same shepherds. It’s a slightly different idea of black sheep than we normally think of, yet no less intriguing. In fact, a black sheep among a family of blue bloods sounds even more promising than either idea separately. In my post I propose problem child, Jamie Reagan, as that Blue Bloods Black Sheep.
As the oldest sibling, with a sister and three brothers, you’d assume I lead the flock growing up. In the animal kingdom, maybe, not so in my family. Where there are several years between my sister and I there is only a year or less between her and brother #1 and him and brother #2. Due to their extreme closeness, the difference of only a handful of years effectively cut me off from membership in their family club. As the years passed, all I could do is look on, watching as they played and fought together. Maybe because they rejected me, I wanted to do things differently from my family, or perhaps my differences really made me acute from them. Either way, over time, I came to see I was the black sheep in their flock of white.
Many years later I realized the youngest, brother #3, had been left in a like situation (there were 2 years between brother #2 and #3.) In talking to that brother, I realized a black sheep can also be formed from simply being a couple years younger than the flock, as much as being older did to me. Being cut off from our siblings, we tend to be less affected by peer pressure and we do things a little differently, not only from them, but from most of society. As I explained in Boring Blue Bloods, Jamie Reagan was mishandled. This doesn’t mean he’s a badly formed character. No, in fact, his already developed character makes him the best choice to be the Reagan family’s black sheep.
Why a Black Sheep?
Jamie Reagan has four major strengths. These are ones a youngest sibling would have: a gun-ho attitude and a willingness to deviate from his family’s traditional way of thinking (which is a benefit in solving puzzles such as crimes). His similarities to his siblings speak to the positives in being raised in such a family: his desire to make a difference in the world, and his spot on instincts. Instincts that work well in dealing with sudden situations: knowing when something is off or when he should or shouldn’t trust someone critical.
Tying him to specific plot points such as the Blue Templar operation was a good decision as well. His strengths as a youngest and as a Reagan lend themselves to finding out just what happened to his brother, Joe. He has a built in motivation too: bridge the gap that naturally developed from him being the youngest and a little different from his siblings. His brother’s death is the inciting factor. Hence my suggestion, in my previous post, to develop a year with Joe alive and use his death to explore the family. I think I make a strong argument for changing Jamie Reagan to strengthen the entire show, how to put the plan into action though?
With the right character in place and a strong plot to explore all we need are the right details. First thing up is a background that doesn’t feel contrived but that further emphasizes the family relationships that are developing among the Reagans. Since Erin covered the lawyer route it feels ‘been there done that’ so for the youngest to go over such familiar ground just doesn’t work. A middle child has no problem following an older sibling’s lead, like in the case of Joe becoming a cop, but rarely does a youngest do so. Youngests like to stand out as they feel they must in order to weigh against their older, already accomplished siblings. So in other words they like to choose a track less trod by their other family members.
How a Black Sheep?
To stay in character, especially one so perfectly developed to go with a youngest mentality, we should explore options that aren’t currently utilized in the story already. As careers go the possibilities are endless. We need to narrow down the options. To stand out from his white haired siblings we need something that contrasts to his family’s long dedication to the law. Due to the police procedural nature of the show I feel like our choices naturally fall into two groups to explore: ‘not in’ law enforcement and ‘in’ law enforcement. Makes sense, right?
‘Not in’ law enforcement has several choice ideas; I’ve narrowed them down to the most likely ones based on the Reagan family and their story. They are journalist, priest and contractor.
Writers use this career all the time to intersect with cops. It’s a good choice because they tend to see the world differently from law enforcement while sharing a common goal of justice for the common man. A little overused nowadays, there are still interesting intersections to explore. With his father, Frank’s problems with the press, the added conflict with the family would arise naturally from the Jamie making differing choices from the rest of the family. He could also be a benefit, journalists able to ferret out information law enforcement doesn’t have access to or even a right to probe into.
I enjoyed how they positioned Jamie Reagan as a young Frank, developing a conscience in a similar vein to his father. Because of this though it’s natural for him to chose a career in opposing paths to his father. Even if we want to imitate the examples of our parents it’s hard to do so in similar careers when they are as successful as his father and grandfather. Being a youngest makes this even more so as he already feels he’s behind his siblings as far as life’s progressions. This makes becoming a journalist an even better fit as it works toward his conscience as well as developing his as a black sheep.
This option made me laugh at first. It’s been done, I know. It’s still a subject that the audience find interesting: religion. Especially audiences who love stories about family, and it’s clear the Reagans have strong ties in this direction. It’s also totally believable that Will Estes might become a young priest. It works toward the actor’s strengths with his baby face and appealing vulnerability.
The possibilities for real conflict excite me, especially with his family members as a whole, as he would be their moral compass. A priest also has access to the people on the street in ways not dissimilar from those of a cop or journalist. This would give Blue Bloods a more balanced view: street, politics, religion. Jamie doesn’t necessarily have to be catholic either. A pastor or such who is allowed to be married would work as well, if not better. This does put a certain twist on the show as a whole. The writers would need to explore morally complex cases and position the Reagans better on diversive sides. Possibly not the direction desired for the overall family’s story arc.
This choice is a bit off the beaten path. It’s aimed more at New York than at a family in law enforcement. It’s a good choice as far as access goes to the different cases and people and it’s not really been explored much, if at all. It’s hard to imagine I know, but it wouldn’t take that much work. For example in episode 113, Hall of Mirrors, the story arc with the girl who was hearing things and found items moved around. Same story points: he meets her outside her apartment arguing with two beat cops (perhaps we keep his training officer character as his major beat cop interaction here) and suggests he investigate the walls for infestations. Same basic story proceeds, she gives him her key, maybe he escorts her downtown to put in a complaint.
In this way he maintains contact with police and lawyers while remaining totally separate from them. He’d act as a point of contact to explore points of a case that are virtually impossible to explore from a police or lawyer point of view. He’d stumble on bits of information or happenings needed to solve the cases or to put two and two together. Because he’s not vested in solving the cases or presenting them in court or even dealing with their fallout he can provide a perspective no other character can.
The problem with Jamie Reagan not being in law enforcement is it makes him stand out too much from the other members of the family. The premise of the show is: “Blue Bloods is a drama about a multi-generational family of cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement.” In order for these careers to work and not feel unbalanced Jamie would have to be the star of the show. Not a bad idea but not in line with our premise or an ensemble cast.
What Black Sheep?
We’ve established several requirements now in determining Jamie Reagan’s career choice. First, it has to be morally good and contribute something to the world. Second, he has to be able to use his instincts and be able to explore different situations each week. Third, it must add a quality to the Reagan family not already explored by the older family members. Fourth, it must be at odds with a cop family, yet must be part of law enforcement. The options I can see working well are private investigator, forensic scientist and medical examiner.
A bit of an odd choice I know, but it has so many possibilities. It positions Jamie as more of a drifter, a kid who doesn’t know what he wants to be but he knows where his skills lie. It’s in league with law enforcement so it works on that front, but it’s been seen as a dirty leg of the law as it’s morally ambiguous. It would be intriguing for Jamie to be a ‘by the book’ investigator and try to still be successful.
We could go even more specific and make him an insurance adjuster. They private investigate but for their insurance firm. This would need plot changes to work well with the cases but it’s an interesting idea. These guys aren’t heroes by any stretch of the imagination but you can imagine Jamie doing this separately from his family and then coming home and doing it in New York. It’s not been overly explored except in a shallow way so there are places to go. The problem is an investigator of any kind is rather random, the career doesn’t fill a specific spot in the Reagan family and own it.
This is an exciting field that many have entered into due to it’s glamorous portrayal on television. It’s a details career, it’s about the facts and nothing else. I can see Jamie liking this point of view. A lot of law enforcement is hypothesis and getting as much evidence as possible to support it, but it’s more an art than a science. The nitty gritty details that solve a case many times comes from these men and women behind the scenes.
It would be easy to segue this career into the FBI and have Jamie come from a more general ‘entire country’ point of view. It’s at odds with the family in that they are concerned with their world – New York City, not the world at large. It definitely shows a facet of law enforcement not explored by anyone else. Also we tread into favors territory where Jamie has access to more sophisticated machinery and equipment. What worries me is that it parallels Jamie coming from a law background. It’s too close to the rest of his family. It’s not much different from being a cop. It’s splitting hairs.
This last one is my choice as the best option. It keeps him in law enforcement but he doesn’t start out as law enforcement. He can make a career change, yet it’s not so radical as to be idiotic but others can question his desire to help people. It covers a side of the law process the show lacks plus it deals with concrete details. As a medical examiner he can get into all sorts of hijinks to do with Erin and Danny’s cases, while also stumbling upon new evidence that leads him to learn his brother was murdered.
This career also makes the most story sense. He can go out of state to medical school. This establishes his desire to escape his family, or rather escape the feelings of being left out his family arouses in him. At the death of his mother his visit home stirs up a yearning to belong before it’s too late. This feeling can pester him to reach out to the brother he was closest too, Joe. When Joe suddenly dies Jamie can be seized with the certainty that he needs to return home and take the place of Joe in the law enforcement world. This leads him to change his specialty to one in pathology. His first year back he could go under cover as a medical doctor with legal problems and investigate the criminal underworld. This leads to him being brought on at the medical examiner’s office.
Who’s the Black Sheep?
A black sheep is special in that it causes the white sheeps’ purity to shine brighter. Jamie assaying each body’s evidence would bring a balance to Danny and Erin’s hypothesis of the cases. His return to the family after so many years away at school would cause Frank much happiness but perhaps also make him wonder why his youngest felt a need to run off to find himself. He can be a family member for the dependents of his brother and sister to go to, to discuss his family and gain perspective on them different from Frank or Henry. Many times it’s through those things that are so different from us that we learn about our own strengths and weaknesses. Jamie could provide a depth the Reagan family lacks at times.
As a black sheep myself I think we have a unique view of our families and the world at large. We deviate from our family’s path and find in doing so that we really belong with them more than we really understand and know. We notice things that those who belong aren’t able to see from within. As outsiders we examine the whys behind others’ actions, curious to understand. I think Jamie Reagan would be a valuable member to add to the black sheep family. And it would make Blue Bloods a truly incredible show to watch.