This review originally ran with our San Diego Comic Con 2015 coverage. You can also check out our ever-expanding review coverage of new and returning fall TV here.
It’s not surprising that a recurring element of the pilot for Blindspot is the looking over of the tattoos that cover the body of Jane Doe (Thor’s Jaimie Alexander), the mysterious woman that is found in a duffel bag in Times Square with no memories. The mural of inked images, numbers, and symbols that take up most of the woman’s body is both the obvious hook and only really fascinating element of NBC’s new action-mystery series, which combines elements of The Bourne Identity, Memento, and a handful of procedural shows (NCIS and CSI, primarily) into a competent but hugely derivative and predictable bit of intrigue. Unlike Christopher Nolan’s film or, say, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, the tattoos are not expressions of a tormented inner self and personal, cultural history but rather a map of crimes that will ploddingly lead the audience toward a criminal conspiracy that hangs heavily over the series even by the end of the first episode.
It’s FBI agent Kurt Weller, played by 300: Rise of an Empire’s Sullivan Stapleton, that is called into decode the tattoos and figure out the identity of the woman with the forgotten past, mainly because his name appears broadly on her back. Backed by a team of agents, forensics experts, and higher-ups, played by Rob Brown, Ashley Johnson, and Audrey Esparza amongst others, the pilot centers on Weller and Jane Doe hunting down a Chinese terrorist, Chao (Chang Yung-I), but the real focus is on the trust that begins to develop between the agent and his charge. At first, there’s a hint that Blindspot could double as a wildly inventive romance: a woman with her identity coded onto her body, being decoded by a man who keeps all his desires and emotions locked-up tighter than Fort Knox. Sadly, nothing that fascinating develops and the series is rather dictated by an overtly crafted plot that will likely take the entire season to reveal itself. And as for its politics, its easy enough to point out that the search for Chao hinges on Weller mistaking a clue as a statement against America’s lack of empathy for persecuted Chinese citizens, only to then reveal that its all a ploy in the service of a greater, international plan.
The element of an overriding mystery is all well and good – see: the first season of True Detective – but in this case, and dozens more on basic cable, the stress put on the overarching plot in the narrative snuffs out all other characteristics in the pilot. The pilot burns through its story so quickly that there are no small contemplative moments to catch the characters’ flinches of behavior or unique gesticulations that give a hint at their much-talked-about inner turmoil. Nor, for that matter, does the pilot showcase any revealing exchanges between the established characters that reaches past basic, familiar narrative turns and a knowingly structure of the plot. In fact, beyond a handful of admittedly gripping action scenes and a few hey-mom-look-at-me shots, Blindspot offers nothing but a tease of what might come, at the expense of making what’s going on minute-to-minute compelling.
★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated
Chance of Survival: Moderate
Blindspot premieres Monday, September 21st at 10 p.m. on NBC.