October 6, 2015

BLINDSPOT: Terrorism and Tattoos Make Terrific TV

CLICK to visit the official BLINDSPOT website



Over the course of the past few seasons, Comcast-owned NBC has amassed a spotty track record when it comes to scripted drama. In addition to the last vestiges of the venerable LAW & ORDER franchise, there have been numerous high profile flops like SMASH, ALLEGIANCE, CONSTANTINE and THE SLAP. The network is also home to inexplicably popular junk like THE BLACKLIST and inexplicably renewed howlers like MYSTERIES OF LAURA. That’s why my expectations for BLINDSPOT were set pretty low. Boy, was I wrong. This cracker jack thriller starts out firing on all cylinders and never stops.

What makes BLINDSPOT such a pleasant surprise is how deftly each episode navigates a potential minefield of pitfalls and face plants. In less capable hands, this is one of those “high concept” hours that could have flown off the rails. Instead, creator Martin Gero has crafted a near-perfect balance of big action, great acting and eye-popping boom boom. Each episode plays out on a cinematic canvas that feels ambitious because it is. BLINDSPOT isn’t just set in New York, it works the city like no one’s business.

CLICK to buy from Amazon Instant VideoMuch has been made about the opening set-piece, a taut and terrific scene that more than lives up to the hype. A cop spots a duffel bag sitting unattended smack in the middle of Times Square. In short order, the area is evacuated and the bomb squad is on the scene. Before anyone has a chance to size up the mysterious package, a naked, tattooed woman emerges from inside. This “Jane Doe” (Jaimie Alexander) has no idea who she is or how she ended up stuffed in a gym bag. Her body art is also a mystery and one that is central to each twist and turn of the plot. On paper, it all sounds gimmicky and trite but the final product is riveting stuff. If you think this is just PRISON BREAK with a hot chick, think again.

Jane is hustled off to FBI headquarters, where she’s placed in the care of Special Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton). This is no random assignment; Weller’s name is front (or back, in this case) and center in the aforementioned tattoo. Much to his surprise, he is drawn to Jane almost immediately. It’s a vibe that goes much deeper than sympathy or professional curiosity. By the end of episode two, their connection comes more into focus as does the method to the madness of Jane’s elaborate ink job. Each piece of the tattoo unlocks a clue to a crime or terrorist act that has not yet been perpetrated. It’s up to Jane, Weller and his team to figure out the “whos and whens” in order to prevent death and destruction from raining down on NYC.

CLICK to buy from Amazon Instant VideoAction fans will be happy as piggies in a mud wallow with BLINDSPOT. There’s plenty of car chases, pyro and combat. In a refreshing twist, much of the really juicy mano a mano comes courtesy of Jane. It seems our mystery woman has extensive training that may (or may not) have come courtesy of a stint in Navy Seal Special Ops. Without doubt, she is not a woman to be tangled with. There’s a rollicking, balls-out beat-down in the pilot that will have you out of your seat cheering. Let’s just say, you don’t want to get caught abusing your old lady if Jane is within earshot. Other highlights in the opener include a runaway MTA subway train rigged with plastic explosives and a climatic shoot-out in the head of the Statue of Liberty. It will rock your socks.

Pulling off Jane is a difficult balancing act and Alexender is more than up to the task. She’s capable and complex, with gorgeous eyes that convey a world of hurt and desperate confusion. Still, as FBI psychologist Dr. Borden (nicely played by Ukweli Roach) reminds her, she is not helpless. We haven’t seen a female action hero this well realized on the small screen since Jennifer Garner was knocking heads as Sydney Bristow in ALIAS.

Stapleton is also strong here, with a sly, nuanced take on the stock “tough guy” character. He’s handsome and rugged, to be sure, but there’s genuine heart and soul in his portrayal of Agent Weller. It’s a nice touch that makes scenes with Jane work especially well and keeps the audience firmly in his corner. He’s got the acting chops to anchor a show this frenetic and hold his own with veteran thesp Marianne Jean-Baptiste (playing Bethany Mayfair, Assistant Director of the FBI field office in NYC). That’s no mean feat as Jean-Baptiste is a talent to be reckoned with. Like almost everything in BLINDSPOT, her character also has a dark past that is only hinted at in the first couple of episodes.

CLICK to buy from Amazon Instant Video

Rounding out a nicely gender balanced (and effortlessly diverse) cast are Audrey Esparza, Rob Brown and Ashley Johnson (yes, Chrissy Seaver from GROWING PAINS, all growed up). Each is a key player on Weller’s crack team of FBI agents. Brown and Esparza have small roles thus far but the former does manage to toss off some pointed one liners that inject a nice dose of humor into the proceedings. Esparza, however, barely registers. She looms in the background and glowers a lot but we have no idea why. Bad fish perhaps? Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out more in later episodes…unless she’s BLINDSPOT’s redshirt.

CLICK to buy from Amazon Instant VideoFaring infinitely better is Johnson, bright and engaging as Patterson, the resident forensic science expert. She nails every scene by not overplaying the part. Big props to her and the writers for creating a fully fleshed-out character; a welcome change from those asinine, loopy/quirky “tech geek” caricatures seen in CBS dreck like NCIS, CRIMINAL MINDS and SCORPION. Yeah, I know a lot of people watch those shows but that doesn’t mean they don’t suck.

BLINDSPOT is so good, it’s almost a pleasure to overlook the occasional plot holes and lapses in logic. You won’t care that sometimes the FBI is chock-full o’ agents and other times, for no good reason, it’s grossly understaffed. It won’t bug you at all when a major landmark or public transit system is targeted by a terrorist, Feds are on the scene but the NYPD is nowhere to be found. Seriously, Mayfair couldn’t dig up even one cop to back up Weller at the Statue of Liberty? Silly rabbit, these tricks aren’t for kids and asking a question like that of a show like this is a buzz kill.

If you’re looking for a series that’s not stingy with satisfying answers to intriguing questions and one that’s got plenty of meat to go with the hooks, then BLINDSPOT is definitely “must see” TV. Don’t miss it.

EDITOR’S NOTE 10/6/2015: Just finished screening episode three on Hulu and I have to say, BLINDSPOT keeps topping itself. The opening ten minutes alone is wall-to-wall action (plus one very messy head shot during a robbery gone wrong). Love this show. Big plus: the ratings continue to stay strong!

CLICK to buy from Amazon Instant VideoCLICK to watch on Hulu