REVIEW: Blindspot premiere is far-fetched but compelling viewing
New US crime drama Blindspot premiered last night on Sky Living. Billed as “Bourne meets Momento”, the plot for the New York based show is intriguing to say the least.
It starts with a suspicious duffel bag left in Times Square with a label reading, “call the FBI”. The bomb squad is called in only to discover the suspicious package contains a naked, bewildered woman covered from head to toe in tattoos. “Jane Doe” (Jaimie Alexander) has no idea who she is or how she got there but her tattoos seem to hold some vital clues.
We dive headfirst into the show with an epic shot of Times Square completely empty bar poor little naked Jane Doe and the rather stunned bomb squad. Props should go to the actress straight away for managing to get on her knees with her hands behind her head, naked, and still maintaining some dignity.
We’re quickly introduced to our second protagonist, FBI agent Kurt Weller, who is helicoptered out of Kentucky having just single-handedly sorted out a hostage situation. This short un-related scene is a transparent signpost for viewers that Weller is to be our hero.
Flashing images of Jane Doe being poked and prodded are interspersed with our first bit of exposition. She has been flooded with a drug that completely erases her memories, giving her chemically induced amnesia. It’s nothing they’ve ever seen before and they have no idea if she’ll regain any memories. This is the first in a number of far-fetched features of the show that I swiftly learnt would just have to be bypassed in order for me to be entertained. Another of these tropes is the ridiculously sci-fi looking tech that seems to be always be at the FBI’s disposal. Jane is forced to stand naked in a disco-like display of laser beams in order to photograph all of her tattoos.
As we are as much in the dark about Jane as Jane is, we share in her surprise when she discovers a new skill. Looking at the photos of her tattoos she blurts out an address and a date in perfectly fluent Chinese. I expect this will be the first of many insights into Jane’s past. In fact, when things turn violent at the home of the terror suspect, Chao, we are privy to her next discovery: insane martial arts skills.
This scene is smartly juxtaposed with the assistant director of the FBI, Bethany Mayfair, discovering that the one tattoo that had been covered up on Jane’s body was a Navy SEAL symbol. Patterson, head of forensic science, dramatically states, “There’s never been a female Navy SEAL” as we see flashes of Jane Doe smashing two Chinese guys into walls.
With the agents pursuing Chao, we have our first real action scene of the programme; the fast-paced editing tells us so. Chao is tipped off that he’s being followed by an unknown number – is that you mystery man? Agents Weller and Reade pursue Chao onto the subway train and manage to prevent him from blowing up a carriage full of passengers. This scene also gives Weller the perfect opportunity to nail the hero-walking-away-from-an-explosion moment.
Weller cleverly (and far too quickly to be realistic) spots that this incident was not the intended target and DUN DUN DUN… Chao is planning to blow up the Statue of Liberty in revenge for the US government not helping his mother in a Chinese prison camp. Best not to dwell on the logistics and reasoning behind all of this, Blindspot doesn’t, why should I?
Up on the observation deck of the Statue of Liberty, Chao quickly manages to disarm Weller – I thought FBI agents were supposed to be good at this stuff? – who finds himself with a knife to the throat. Lo and behold who should save the day but our increasingly un-average Jane Doe. With a perfectly executed shot to the shoulder, Weller is saved.
Here, Jane and the viewer share the first glimpse into her past: flashback to our mystery man assisting a longhaired Jane in target practice. So many questions arise – why are they alone in the middle of the woods if she’s a Navy SEAL? Who is this man? And most importantly, what’s with the haircut?
I assumed that flashback would come into this storyline at some point as it will be entirely necessary to drip feed us Jane’s backstory throughout the series. Whilst the screen doesn’t shimmer with a harp music accompaniment, the flashback feels quite clunky somehow and I can’t help wishing it would have been slicker.
The climax of the show gives us a variety of clues and revelations in quick succession. The most interesting being FBI assistant director Mayfair’s discovery that one of Jane’s tattoos matches a case file of her own. The word “murder” flashes up at the screen, hooking us in for the next episode.
Our final scene is the biggest shocker of all. Flashing back to longhaired Jane, we see her willingly agreeing to have all of her memories wiped. Who is about to administer the drug? Why, our mystery man of course.
Whilst the show falls to the unoriginal and uncomfortable conventions of many of its predecessors’ – overly snazzy tech elements à la CSI and a couple of token ethnic agents as the hero’s backup – it does have its positives. The concept of the show is cool. There’s no denying that. It is inventive and will keep viewers coming back each week to see another of Jane’s tattoos decoded.
Another of the show’s real assets is its pace. The hour-long show flew by as we were bombarded with new information and characters, whilst managing to maintain a simple linear structure so as not to confuse viewers.
Jaimie Alexander shifts from little lost puppy to in control, military-trained fighter in a relatively seamless manner. She definitely seems more comfortable in the latter role and it will be interesting to see this side of her developing over the coming episodes.
Sullivan Stapleton takes the male lead in Blindspot and so far he does a good job of it. Unfortunately the role doesn’t give him much scope for in-depth character development but that doesn’t stop him being a compelling protagonist.
Whilst this show may not be the one you chat at length about over coffee in the office kitchen, it will definitely keep you coming back each week to discover more and more about the mysterious Jane Doe.
Blindspot airs on Sky Living on Wednesdays at 9pm.