‘Blindspot’ Is a Rare Bright Spot in a Drab Season for New TV

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It’s not shocking to say that this is a pretty dismal fall season of television. There isn’t really much that I’m excited about — I can barely even muster the enthusiasm for The Muppets, and elsewhere the sitcoms all seem too familiar, the dramas too desperate and poorly plotted. The reason I say this is to set the parameters for this review of Blindspot: my standards for the fall season are so low at this point, that it was sometimes hard to tell if I actually enjoyed it or just enjoyed it in comparison to the rest of the schlock.

Blindspot has been compared to Memento and The Blacklist, but with an incredibly attractive woman — Jaimie Alexander — in the lead. Much ado has been made about Alexander already, and not just because she’s a stellar actress, but because the posters promoting the show are mostly promoting her naked, tattooed body. The show actively celebrates both aspects (talent, body), often by shooting Alexander nude but for strategically placed lighting and shadows, but also by showcasing that she can make the mundane interesting.

It’s not that the premise of Blindspot is mundane, exactly — but it can come off as just another procedural with a slight tweak to set it apart from the rest of the procedurals that also employ slight tweaks. The cold open is undeniably gripping: a suspicious bag is found in the middle of Times Square, a note attached that says “Call the FBI,” and when the cops get called in to investigate, the bag moves and begins to unzip. Out pops Jane Doe, scared and confused and naked except for the tattoos that cover every inch of her body. She doesn’t know how she got there or who she is or what any of the tattoos are.

Jane Doe has been given massive doses of an experimental drug that created a “chemically induced state of permanent amnesia.” She knows what music is but she can’t remember the Beatles. Even more mysteriously, she has the name of FBI Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) tattooed on her back although he’s never met her. The tattoos are all clues, comparable to a map (I’d like to imagine this takes place in the same universe as Prison Break), and it turns out each one is a link to a crime that needs to be solved. That’s where the procedural aspect comes in — each week, I imagine, will be solving a new crime with the help of some ink and Jane Doe’s special skills.

BLINDSPOT — “Pilot” — Pictured: Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

See, throughout the pilot, we learn that Jane Doe has some surprising skills she doesn’t know about — randomly speaking a different language, the ability to kick a man’s ass, etc. — that both hint at her past but make it even more of a mystery. Alexander’s character (and performance) is the easy hook to the series. She doesn’t know what she likes — in one scene, she tries to figure out if she’s a coffee drinker or not — so she has to figure things out by making choices and seeing what sticks. There’s definitely something interesting happening: a grown woman essentially beginning from scratch to figure out who she is, what she likes and dislikes, what her basic personality is, and so on. This is enough to keep me tuning in for a few episodes in hopes that the writing grows stronger and the show’s intentions and aims are made clearer.

Beyond that, however, I’m hesitant to fully reccommend the series without many caveats, and without seeing more episodes. Sure, I’ll stick around for much of the first season but beyond that, my friend and fellow culture writer Todd VanDerWerff nailed it when he told me it’s a series that I’ll watch obsessively on Netflix five years from now (similar to my recent binges of House, Prison Break, and Criminal Minds). Why? Because it’s tough to see how this is all going to play out in the future, and whether or not it’s worth getting invested in, but there are occasionally hints that it could be a fun enough watch. And the television season definitely needs that.

Blindspot premieres Monday, September 21 at 10 PM on NBC.