Blindspot: Pilot

Weller: "That was right under our nose."
Reade: "Behind her right ear, actually."

Here we have yet another high concept series about a mystery/conspiracy involving the FBI. On the surface, this feels like another version of Blacklist without Raymond Reddington (I wouldn't be surprised if the shows existed in the same universe). Yet I found myself engaged with this pilot, which was probably due to the likability of Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe.

Alexander is a good lead, and Jane is an interesting character from the start. The tattoos are just the beginning of the mystery of her character, who appears to be a secret female Navy Seal trained in advanced hand to hand combat, firearms, and obscure foreign language dialects. But more than that, she is vulnerable. A stranger to the world, and that humanizes the character who would otherwise be your standard bad-ass. She manages to inject a sense of deep violation, isolation, and exposure into her mannerisms. Which makes total sense, given that her whole body has been used as a prop in someone's game, and she doesn't even know where to start to deal with it.

The whole amnesia thing being drug induced is a cool and unique twist. I bet there will be all sorts of complications, and side-effects from that process. Plus it seems it was at least somewhat voluntary on her part. I also really liked the doctor who explained to Jane that even if she never regains her memories, it is her choices that define her, and through those choices she can discover who she is. That could be an interesting journey to take with this character.

I'm not quite as fond of Kurt Weller, who doesn't do much to separate himself from every other square-jawed hero type in every other FBI procedural on the air. That opening scene with the raid on the asshat that was holding those women hostage was supposed to be a character establishing moment for Weller, but I don't think it fully worked. While I got that he was a good guy who can improvise, I didn't get anything particularly special from him.

Speaking of Weller improvising, I bet that is probably going to be a reoccurring thing, because him tearing off some of the C4 to reduce the size of the explosion in the subway scene was pretty damn smart.  Plus would it have killed Weller to have dinner with Jane that first night? She was clearly terrified, alone, and in need of human connection. He did seem kind of freaked about the whole situation too, so maybe I shouldn't be too hard on him.

At least the supporting cast seems to be strong. Ashley Johnson (Patterson) was fun as the primary tech who is in charge of figuring out the tattoos (and who also shares Marvel alumni status with Alexander). Then there was Rob Brown (Agent Reade) who had the two best lines in the episode. Audrey Esparza (Agent Zapata) had a nice presence, even if she really only had a couple of lines. Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Director Mayfair) was good change of pace for the typical leader character, yet her secret file with illicit sounding words like embezzlement and murder makes me wonder if she is a good guy. It doesn't look good that the file she seems so concerned about corresponds to a tattoo on Jane's body.

There were some moderately original moments in the episode as well. From the opening shot of an empty Times Square and Jane crawling out of a duffel bag, to the final confrontation inside the head of the Statue of Liberty, it felt like a lot of money was put into this pilot. The primary antagonist was pretty throw away, though, and it was appropriate that he was killed off just as easily as the heroes took him down. I hope the threats in future episodes are more interesting.

Overall I think this was a strong pilot, with a lot to like. Whether the series plays out in the long run is anyone's guess. The show basically rests on Alexander's shoulders, both as the lead and as the central mystery. Even if the story isn't woven properly, and the reveals don't fully pan out in the long haul, she might be worth watching from week to week.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.


Billie Doux said...

Nice review, J.D. I agree -- I liked this pilot much better than Minority Report's pilot and I think it has real potential, mostly because of the lead, Jaimie Alexander. Her character and the situation she was in was very intriguing.

TJ said...

Yes, much more potential than MR. This one reminded me of The Whispers, where Milo Ventimiglia also had tattoos and no memory. But the similarities ends there. TW didn't have the psychological aspect of rediscover the personality that Jaimie's character seemms to have.

But I couldn't help thinking if Jaimie Alxeander has enough tattoos that will last for a whole season. Because surely this is going to be a solve-a-tattoo-per-week kinda thing? And then at the season finale Jaimie will be kidnapped by the Mystery Guy and re-tattooed for season two?

Josie Kafka said...

In the second season, she will use her tattoos to break her brother out of prison.

Mark Greig said...

Then in season three they'll team up to fight the Flash.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Josie, Mark that was soooo Meta.

sunbunny said...

Jaimie Alexander's performance was insanely good. It totally could have been a disaster in less skilled hands. One thing that was actively distracting about the show is that there is at least one super secret female Navy SEAL (not secret enough to avoid advertising her affiliation on her arm) and there is no record of her anywhere. I hope that's explained later as a cover up because that's totally unbelievable.

I feel similarly meh about Kurt Weller. How many times have we seen this exact character before? They couldn't do anything different? And I'm not looking forward to the inevitable romance between him and Jane. They have remarkably little chemistry.

migmit said...

I'm feeling underwhelmed. The story of the week was boring, with some ridiculous moments (yes, sure, any random nobody can easily smuggle explosives into the Statue of Liberty). The fight between Jane and random chinese guys was too long — she is supposed to be a Special Ops Navy Seal (do I need more capital letters?), after all.

I love Lady Sif, and I can't be a good judge of Jaimie Alexander's acting, but I don't have any bias towards or against Weller, and he doesn't exactly make me like him. Actually, none of the characters, other than Jane, makes me care of him/her.

So, all in all — pretty mediocre. I'll give this show another try next week, and I certainly hope they'll do better.

Patrick said...

sunbunny, that distracted me too about the whole "off-the-books female SEAL" thing. I don't care how hard they tried to scrub the databases of her. If she was a Navy SEAL, she would have had to go through BUD/S training. And whenever the first woman gets approved to go through that, it's going to be BIG news. That isn't something they'll be able to keep "off the books". The Navy brat in me rolled my eyes SO hard during that scene.

And yes migmit, you need more capital letters. It's SEAL. Though the plural has a little s at the end. :)

I also agree that the two leads have ZERO chemistry, mostly because I thought the guy playing Kurt Weller was generic as hell. Seriously, there was absolutely nothing interesting about his character and the actor's performance was paint-by-numbers.

Jaimie Alexander did a good enough job, and I adore Ashley Johnson even though this show is keeping her away from Critical Role, the D&D web series she had been doing with other professional voice actors over on Geek & Sundry(at least her character's still alive so she can pop in for a visit once in a while).

My biggest concern with the show however is how long they'll be able to keep up the conceit. Are each of these tattoos related to completely separate crimes? Did the people responsible know about that many plots so far in advance? Are they all connected to some larger plan? These are questions that they won't be able to leave hanging for very long. If they're still reading clues off her body midway through Season 2, I suspect this show will have begun to drag quite a bit.

migmit said...

2Patrick: sorry, didn't know that. I'm not from Usa.

Patrick said...

migmit - no need to apologize :)

sunbunny said...

Patrick - the secret female SEAL thing seems even more ridiculous given how much media attention the two women who've just recently completed Ranger school have been receiving.