NBC clearly wants (and expects) its new action/thriller series ‘Blindspot’ to target the same audience that made ‘The Blacklist’ such a hit. The two shows will probably make a good pairing, though this one gets off to a shaky start and has a premise I’m not sure is sustainable.
If you’ve seen any of the network ads, you already know the setup. An unattended duffel bag is discovered in the middle of Times Square with a tag that says, “Call the FBI.” Police evacuate the area and bring in the Bomb Squad, who open the bag to reveal a naked woman, her body completely covered in tattoos. It’s a neat hook and is well executed with some suspense and intrigue, but the episode races right through it.
The girl has what appears to be a chemically-induced form of amnesia. (Wasn’t that the plot of ‘Castle’ last season?) She has no idea who she is or what’s happening to her. All of her tattoos appear to be freshly applied. A big one on her back contains the name of FBI Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton from ‘Strike Back’). He gets called in but doesn’t have any idea who she is either. They call her Jane Doe.
In examining laser scans of the woman’s countless tattoos, the FBI science tech (Ashley Johnson from ‘Growing Pains’!) finds some Chinese writing behind her ear. Jane realizes that she can speak the dialect. The tattoo reveals a name and a date that will lead them to a Chinese radical who plans to murder a politician with plastic explosives. Jane is headstrong and insists on tagging along with the FBI on their raid. In doing so, she discovers that she has highly-trained fighting skills. Back in the lab, the techie girl finds an old tattoo hidden underneath a newer one. It’s a Navy S.E.A.L. logo and motto. That would explain a lot, but why doesn’t the Navy have any record of her?
Weller chases the terrorist through a subway and narrowly avoids getting blown up with a bomb. Ultimately, they wind up inside the Statue of Liberty, where the terrorist gets the jump on Weller and Jane has to take him down (non-fatally). He gets taken into custody, but is murdered in the hospital by a mystery man who we’re shown in flashback knows Jane. The scene implies that all of this was staged on purpose for Jane’s benefit. A redacted file also suggests that Jane’s past is somehow connected with FBI Director Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).
Episode Verdict / Grade: B-
Going forward, it appears that the show will become a case-of-the-week procedural, with the gimmick being that some new clue in the tattoos will help to solve a crime every week. How long can that really go on? Will the characters still be deciphering new info two or three seasons from now, and if so how would it still be timely or relevant? How does the person behind this mystery conspiracy know in what order the FBI will interpret the clues? The whole concept here seems pretty flimsy.
The series is obviously supposed to be ‘The Blacklist’ crossed with ‘Prison Break’ with a touch of ‘Memento’ sprinkled on top. The pilot episode moves at a breakneck pace and wastes no time jumping right into the procedural formula. Unfortunately, the first case is fairly ridiculous.
What holds the show together is star Jaimie Alexander (Lady Sif from the ‘Thor’ movie franchise), who projects a very complex and appealing mixture of toughness and vulnerability. I believe her as scared and confused victim, and as a kick-ass action hero at the same time. She’s terrific. I wish the show around her were better, but maybe it will improve as it finds its footing? I’m willing to watch again and hope for the best.