Blindspot First Impressions
Back in 2006, CBS introduced a show into their lineup called 3 lbs. which starred Stanley Tucci as a brilliant but misanthropic neurosurgeon who dealt with bizarre and unusual cases all while muttering off a catchphrase (“Wires in a box.”). It was not a particularly good show, but it’s pretty easy to guess why it was made, given the time frame and the premise. CBS wanted their own version of House. I bring this up because Blindspot bares a number of parallels with this long forgotten program. Tell me if this sounds familiar: A show with nine-letter title which is a composite of a 5-letter word starting with “Bl” and a 4-letter word ending with a “t” starts off with a peculiar individual being taken into custody. For reasons unbeknownst to our main character, they get called in to handle the case. As it turns out, the character that was taken into custody is capable of serving as a capable, if not always cooperative, asset, and thus a peculiar crime fighting duo is formed. So… yeah… NBC really wants a repeat of the success they’ve had with The Blacklist.
Now, the comparison to 3 lbs. isn’t entirely appropriate, because, whereas 3 lbs. was a derivative pile, Blindspot seeks to try and bring something to the table. While aspects of its plot are certainly reminiscent of The Blacklist right down to the politically motivated bombing in the first episode, Blindspot seemingly wants to at least try to maintain the illusion of being grounded in reality. As someone who found The Blacklist to be a bit too silly for my liking, I consider this to be an admirable goal, but it’s one that the show doesn’t quite accomplish. If you’ve somehow missed all of NBC’s advertisements for Blindspot, the show centers around an amnesiac, played by Jaimie Alexander, who is found naked in a dufflebag that was left in Times Square. There isn’t really any reason for her to be naked outside of showing the full body tattoo that she is sporting, and, of course, displaying some tantalizingly barely-censored shots of her body. It feels like a rather crass way to start a show that wants to take itself this seriously, but that is hardly the only problem with the opening. It would appear that the show recognizes how much its premise strains at the viewer’s suspension of disbelief so what it attempts to do is rush through it as quickly as possible. The downside is that this results in a rapid fire series of exposition based scenes. Apparently, Jaimie Alexander’s Jane Doe was administered an overdose of a drug intended to treat PTSD which effectively wiped her memory. Her entire body was tattooed in essentially a single session, and the name of FBI Agent Kurt Weller, played by Sullivan Stapleton, was given a prominent position in the center of her back. As they try to analyze the clues distributed across Jane’s body, a Chinese tattoo behind her ear leads them to uncover a plan to blow up the Statue of Liberty.
This has all the hallmarks of a pilot episode. It feels like Blindspot is trying to go down a checklist of things it needs to do to establish itself. Memorable opening scene? Check. Introduce our main characters? Check. Establish how the weekly cases will work? Check. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing all of these things, but, much of the episode feels stilted and peculiar, like it hasn’t quite found its footing. In fact, the dialogue can alternate wildly between witty and fun, and outright painful. This is particularly notable with Sullivan Stapleton early on, though, given that many of his early scenes require him to either be receiving or delivering copious amounts of exposition, he might not be to blame for the rather awkward delivery. Jaimie Alexander does an impressive job of keeping the show emotionally grounded. She comes off as convincingly vulnerable, and the scenes where she is alone have a haunting sense of isolation to them. The chemistry between our two leads has a peculiar feel to it though. I think that, given the way Jane Doe is presented, her tendency to open up to and physically embrace Special Agent Weller ends up feeling a bit off. It makes her feel more exposed than I think she should. Given her apparent SEAL training and her current condition, I would expect a more guarded and cautious approach where she only revealed her true insecurities when she was alone. Maybe this is a nitpick, but it bugged me and made many of the scenes between our two lead characters feel forced.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Jaimie Alexander is, of course, best known for portraying Lady Sif in the Thor films as well as on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Amusingly, in her more recent appearance on Agents, she played an amnesiac version of that character, as well.
- Sullivan Stapleton is an Australian actor who is probably best known for playing Themistocles in 300: Rise of an Empire.
- The side characters don’t really get much to do in this episode, but there are some promising faces in the bunch, including Rob Brown (Finding Forrester, Treme), Ashley Johnson (Ben 10, Ellie from The Last of Us), and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Without a Trace, Broadchurch [US Version]).
- So why does Special Agent Weller end up leading the unit tasked with investigating Jane Doe? I mean, I get that his name is tattooed on her back, but it seems to me that you would want someone who isn’t directly involved to be heading up the investigation.
- Furthermore, why is it that only the three FBI agents that were in the SUV were available to respond to the Liberty Island bomb threat? Do all of the other FBI agents use the subway to get around?
Blindspot is a bit muddled at the moment. There is plenty of potential here, but there are also a lot of foreseeable ways in which could fall flat. The premise is a bit ludicrous given the tone that the show seems to be aiming for, and its attempts at characterization are a bit of a mixed bag. That being said, if it can iron out those problems and properly establish an identity for itself, we may have something interesting here. Otherwise, it will probably be promptly forgotten.
As far as procedurals go, Blindspot is hardly the most derivative or uninspired, but it isn't clear exactly what it wants to be. The writing and presentation aren't terrible, but it needs some work, nonetheless.