Blindspot, “Pilot” (1.1) - Series Premiere Review



9/21/15, 10 PM, NBC

In Times Square, a cop notices an unattended bag with a tag attached to it that says “Call the FBI”. After the space has been cleared, a member of the NYPD Bomb Squad approaches it. Not detecting any radiation from it, he goes to inspect the bag. But the bag then moves, a zipper is pulled open from the inside and a naked woman (Jaimie Alexander) with tattoos all over her body emerges, dazed and confused as to what’s going on. In rural Kentucky, Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) leads a raid on a farmhouse where a man is holding three women hostage. After said raid, he is called back to New York. The woman has no ID in any database and is pumped full of an experimental drug that has completely wiped her narrative memory, meaning that she has no memory of who she is and why Kurt Weller’s name is tattooed on her back. As they and Jane Doe put together the pieces of what’s going on (one of them being a blacked out tattoo that only Navy SEAL’s get, even though there’s never been a female Navy SEAL before), they discover that she can read and speak a rare dialect of Chinese and has the Chinese symbols for today’s date tattooed behind her ear as well as great hand to hand combat and marksmanship skills. This leads to them unfoiling a Chinese terrorist’s plan to blow up the Statue of Liberty and realizing that the tattoos are a map to stopping crimes and conspiracies as well as her first memory of shooting training in a forest with a bearded man.

After the success of The Blacklist, it’s clear that NBC is now doubling down on the “procedural crossed with mystery” formula that has given the network the rating success it desperately needs, which is why we’re seeing this cross pollination between The Blacklist and Memento. The similarities between it and Blacklist in terms of character and structure are no accident. As for execution, seeing as how we have three scenes of Jaimie Alexander sitting or standing up naked with either a blinding fill light or creative blocking allowing them to get past the censors, it and the earlier raid scene of the women chained up gives the pilot a sense of neutered exploitation that is not only off putting, but is frankly lazy.

But while the success of The Blacklist can be attributed to James Spader (or at least is the sole reason I watch since I like to imagine Red Reddington as Robert California from The Office as a Bond villain) there are two people here that have the potential to turn this series from just another procedural into something special. The first of course being Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe. Anyone who has seen her as Lady Sif in the Thor films (or her guest appearances on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) knows that she has a screen presence and personality that just jumps off the screen. And since the majority of procedurals rely on the on screen charisma and personalities of their leads for their continuing success (the aforementioned Spader, Nathan Fillion on Castle) and to counteract the rote predictability of the plots, Alexander’s performance of a woman slowly discovering her identity is what will keep viewers coming back week to week. The second being producer Greg Berlanti. Having gone from “the quiet David E. Kelley” to the Bruce Timm of the CW DC Universe, this is a guy who can bring freshness and creativity to well trodden material. This is evidenced in an almost throwaway scene between Jane and one of the doctors who offers her coffee and tea to see which one she prefers. When she refers to the tea as tasting like grass trimmings, the doctor explains that she knows two things about herself now and that the small choices she’ll make is what will help her discover who she is. Between the way Alexander plays this moment and how it’s written and directed, we can see the seed in what ultimately the show can be if it focuses on Jane’s journey of self-discovery over what the tattoos on her body mean.

6.5 OKAY

The onscreen presence of Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe and Greg Berlanti as one of the producers are what gives "Blindspot" the chance to be more than just a Blacklist clone.

  • OKAY 6.5

About Author

Film geek, podcaster and newly minted IATSE member from Regina, Saskatchewan. I met Don McKellar once, and he told me that Quentin Tarantino is exactly like me.