by T.J. Logan
Let’s get down to it. You want to know if this new offering from NBC is worth heaping onto your probably already overflowing TV-viewing plate. The short answer: Yes.
If you like The Blacklist and other edgy (for network) shows that give weekly procedural satisfaction along with mysterious, longer character arcs, this one’s for you. And, let’s face it, NBC probably bought the show as soon as they saw the poster art (which was included after the title page of the spec pilot script):
Add to that a talented actress with plenty of sex appeal, who’s already made her bad-ass bones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Jaimie Alexander played Lady Sif in both Thor movies, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.) and we’re off to the races.
SPOILER ALERT: The following contains some minor spoilers for the pilot of Blindspot.
In our post-9/11 world, what could be scarier than a bag left unattended in the middle of Times Square with a tag attached to it reading: “Call the FBI”? Not much. The area’s cleared, the bomb squad called in and… the freakin’ bag moves. Then it unzips itself from inside and out crawls the tattooed lady (Jaimie Alexander), in all her naked glory.
So, who you gonna call? How about the FBI agent whose name is prominently tattooed on her back? Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton of Strike Back and 300: Rise of an Empire) gets pulled away from a hostage rescue, where he, of course, displays his own bad-assery, to explain why his name’s on this woman’s back. He has no idea, doesn’t recognize Jane Doe.
As it turns out, that’s the only name they can call her since she’s been shot full of a memory-erasing super drug (the PKM-zeta inhibitor, commonly known as ZIP…what, you never heard of it?) which means she’ll never remember who she was. She remembers nothing before crawling out of the bag in Times Square. But, she retains her “procedural” memory—her body and mind remember all kinds of things, just no specifics. This is a little convenient, but why not? As the FBI doctor points out, there’s never been a case like this before, so who knows? It’s possible something familiar could trigger a memory.
So the mystery begins. Who is Jane Doe? Why is she covered head to toe in elaborate tattoos? Why was Agent Weller’s name on her back? Who left her inside that bag and why?
First clue: all her tattoos are new, just a few weeks old. And there are hidden numbers, letters and images everywhere. It’s a “treasure map, a puzzle” as Weller puts it. Whoever did this left some kind of trail. To what or where, we don’t know. But we know what’s going to drive the story each week.
I’m not gonna synopsize the whole episode for you. You want to know what happens, watch it. Suffice it to say, one tattoo gets deciphered as an address and date (today of course). And hey, Jane reads and speaks fluent Mandarin…but still can’t remember her name. Yes, they stretch believability a bit, but what action movie/show doesn’t? She also discovers masterful martial skills (Whoa, I know kung fu), so she was highly trained by somebody before being wiped.
I’ve heard some people complain they didn’t keep up a breakneck pace the whole episode; but this is TV, not an action movie. We need time to get to know the main characters a little bit so we can decide if we want to come back and watch them next week. TV relies on characters at least as much as plot, if not more so. They spend some time showing Weller and Jane developing a sympathy/dependence kind of bond, Jane’s vulnerability and disorientation as she figures out her likes and dislikes and how to move forward. All necessary to make us care enough to tune in over the long haul.
This is the key to why I think this pilot works. We feel badly for Jane, her whole life is a blank and she’s being treated like a terrorist and inanimate object at the same time. We all like an underdog and she’s our girl. And Weller’s an all-American hero type (think Jack Bauer, with a softer side), so we want to root for them both.
In the end, we get to see them work together to solve a case and save some lives, and big and compelling questions are raised that we want answers to moving forward. It’s The Blacklist formula to a T, and that’s turned into a rather good show and big hit for NBC, so there’s high hopes Blindspot will be around long enough to give us those answers. Of course, for every The Blacklist, there are many shows that have promising pilots that fail to deliver on the rest of the show (see The Following, arguably one of the best pilots that year, but a downhill catastrophe after that).
So give Blindspot a watch. We’ll find out together whether the rest of the season lives up to its promise.
P.S. Geeks will also recognize another crossover from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Actress Ashley Johnson plays an FBI tech who studies Jane’s tattoos, among other things. She was the waitress that Captain America saves at the end of The Avengers and who praises them on TV when others are criticizing them for leveling the city.