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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TV Review: Blindspot

After a killer opening, it's all downhill for NBC series.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Blindspot, the new NBC series, has emerged as one of the fall TV season’s most buzzed-about new shows based almost entirely on the strength of its opening sequence, which, it must be said, is a doozy. A cop in Times Square notices a large, unattended duffel bag on the sidewalk. Upon further examination, he finds a note affixed to the bag demanding that the FBI be contacted at once. Cut to a few hours later and Times Square is an abandoned crime scene, with the bomb squad attempting to discern the contents of the bag. When the bag begins moving, the technician is stunned to find that it contains a nude, disoriented woman (Thor’s Jaimie Alexander) covered from head to toe in tattoos.

This is most certainly a grabber, but it’s really all Blindspot has going for it, at least in its pilot. Once the series starts unpacking the meat of its story, it becomes abundantly clear that what we’re being served is a hodgepodge of things we’ve gotten elsewhere. The woman, predictably dubbed Jane Doe due to the fact that she has no memory of anything prior to her emergence from the bag, is set up with the FBI for debriefing. One particular agent, Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton), is brought in as the primary on the case, due to the fact that his name appears prominently on Jane’s back, tattooed in big, bold letters. Jane’s tattoos are examined and one behind her ear, written in Chinese (which Jane helpfully can read) denotes an address and a date. That brings Weller, Jane and the feds to the apartment of a man named Chao, who, come to find out, has vengeful plans to blow up the Statue of Liberty.

So let’s take a quick inventory. The premise of Blindspot immediately calls to mind one of NBC’s other recent hits (not that there are that many of those to catalogue), The Blacklist, what with its concept of a mysterious wild card paired up with the FBI to solve cases. Jane’s tattoos being a flesh-based network of secrets recalls Prison Break. The amnesiac with a secret espionage-related past summons obvious similarities to The Bourne Identity even before Jane, all too predictably, finds out that she’s also a weapon skilled in adroit hand-to-hand combat (there’s also a little of River Tam from Firefly and Serenity here). Taking a step back, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single attribute of Blindspot that hasn’t been pilfered from something else.

Alexander is the strongest element to Blindspot. Putting aside her obvious steely-jawed beauty, she makes Jane convincingly lost and vulnerable throughout much of the pilot, before cutting loose with the toughness that’s more familiar to her based on her time in the Marvel universe. Stapleton, however, makes little impression. Weller is your standard-issue rough-hewn, unshaven authority figure, and is given no opportunity to evince any charm or charisma in the series’ inaugural effort. He appears to be cut from the same blandly masculine cloth that gave us current cinematic zero Jai Courtney.

Nothing about Blindspot gives any indication that this is going to be a sharp or witty endeavor. There is virtually no trace of humor in the pilot, and the series it points ahead to looks to be a mundane procedural with some hints of a greater story arc. Your basic network show, in other words. I suppose the narrative framework will be that each of Jane’s tattoos points out a different crime that she has to help Weller and the FBI solve each week, but the application of all those tattoos to Alexander’s body on a weekly basis seems like it will be such a chore that Jane will more than likely be covered with clothing most of the time to obscure them. So there goes the only thing Blindspot had going for it.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.


Matt Cummings September 22, 2015 at 8:55 PM  

Gotta disagree with you. Granted, it's a somewhat similar plot line behind The Blacklist, the casting is much, much better. Stapleton plays tough really well, and his chemistry with Alexander is very strong. He is in NO WAY related to that loser Jai Courtney. I also really like Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Mayfair. She's got a history that could add another layer to the villain of the week framework. You might be right that Blindspot might not make it, once the audience learns about all the tattoos. At the most, it feels like this one's got two seasons before they run out of ideas. But I'm willing to stick with it, if all the elements we saw from the pilot continue. Also remember: this is a Greg Berlanti production (Arrow and The Flash), which means you can expect a lot of quality storytelling.

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