NBC’s BLINDSPOT has an intriguing opening. A naked woman, covered in tattoos, is found in a bag in Times Square. She has no memory of who she is, what happened to her, or how she got all the tattoos, which were done recently. But some of the ink on her body holds clues, both to her past, and to future crimes.
Unfortunately, BLINDSPOT is not nearly as cool as its premise. The muck ups start early in the pilot when agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton, Strike Back) is called on the scene. His name is on the girl’s back, and yet he is placed in charge of the case. I understand why Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Without a Trace), the boss, would want him involved, given his connection, even if no one can explain why his name is there yet. But surely it presents a conflict of interest to have him running the investigation?
Then, Kurt brings the woman (Jaimie Alexander, Thor, Kyle XY), whom he suddenly begins calling Jane (as in Jane Doe) mid-episode, with him into the field. Not only that, she gets to go into dangerous buildings and be near bombs. That she ends up being capable of handling herself and lending the team support is of no consequence. She is an unknown quantity and not an agent, so should not be allowed out.
I admit, the central mystery is intriguing. There are lots of tidbits sprinkled into the episode to hint at Jane’s story without giving too much away. A flashback or two is quite illuminating, and I am left wanting to know more about her and what is going on.
However, the approach BLINDSPOT makes feels forced and false. It is trying too hard to craft a puzzle, merely tossing up the façade of a deep, serial drama. It resembles high quality programming, but fails to live up to the high bar itself. A showdown in a familiar setting seems completely artificial, favoring style above substance.
There are many good things going on with BLINDSPOT. Alexander is terrific, and while it takes a bit of time to warm up to Stapleton, I get what he’s doing and appreciate it. The supporting cast, which includes the delightful Ashley Johnson (The Killing) and Rob Brown (Treme), is enjoyable. The production builds suspense appropriately, and manages to toss in a few unexpected surprised.
But at the end of the day, BLINDSPOT has plot holes and some weak elements, as mentioned above, that bring it down. It also seems very likely to be a procedural, with the core mystery only being brought out in little bits, most of the hours being devoted to tracking down individual criminals who will see justice before the ending credits roll.
What’s more, because of the obvious weaknesses in setting up the main plot, I have little confidence that things will be concluded in a satisfactory manner. The first tattoo on Jane leads to an immediate danger, but how can the others possibly be laid out to take her from one event to the next? That would require a TON of knowledge of the future, and this show lacks the supernatural bend necessary to make that work. So I’m left assuming that the writers don’t have a clear idea of where they are going, or even if they do, they’ll take short cuts that don’t make sense, as they did in getting Jane and Kurt out into the field together so quickly.
If the total sum of programming in the world were still confined to the broadcast networks, there is no question that I would consider BLINDSPOT one of this fall’s series to look forward to; even with its flaws, it is far more creative and interesting than most of the fare on the Big Four. But living in the age of a multitude of choices on cable and streaming outlets, this one fails to make the cut, outshined by many, many higher quality choices.
BLINDSPOT premieres next Monday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.