'Blindspot' elevates the usual crime show

Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 5:37pm

NOSELL

NBC

 

A gray duffle bag rests in the middle of a crowded Times Square. Amid the mass of people, a sole police officer notices the bag and reads the red tag attached to it, “Call the FBI.” Cut to a now-empty metropolis, a lone bomb squad officer walks toward the bag through the desolate, LED screen-lit streets. He feels for wires, but instead finds movement. Stumbling back, he watches a naked woman emerge, covered head-to-toe in ornate tattoos. Dazed, the woman looks out at the world, trying to cover her eyes from the harsh brightness of her new reality.

Taken into custody by the FBI, the woman, known only as Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander, “Thor”), has no memory of who she is or what happened to her — completely lost in her own existence.

“Blindspot”
B-
Series Premiere
Mondays at 10 p.m
NBC

It’s a hell of a hook devised by creator Martin Gero (“L.A. Complex”) to introduce viewers to his latest series, “Blindspot.” Produced by the prolific Greg Berlanti (“The Flash”), “Blindspot” offers up a visually enticing concept for a series ­— tattoos containing clues to solve a crime — while remaining generally formulaic in its execution and structure.

Using the crime-solving duo trope that has been common since the days of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, “Blindspot” pairs Jane with FBI agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton, “300: Rise of an Empire”), whose name happens to be tattooed on Jane’s back. This pairing of an authority figure with an unknown wildcard is highly overused in this TV season — new shows like “Minority Report,” “Limitless” and “Rosewood,” which all incorporate variants of this formula. However, “Blindspot” allows itself to stand out from its contemporaries by giving the more intriguing maverick role to a woman.

Alexander is “Blindspot” ’s best asset, portraying the trauma Jane has undergone with a vulnerable humanity. Jane’s like a child in many ways — she understands the world and how it works, she but lacks a sense of belonging within it. While dramatic scenes like Jane breaking down as she looks at herself provide emotional gravitas, small moments truly give Alexander the ability to flesh out her performance. In one such scene, Weller tells Jane she should get some food to eat. Her quiet response, “I don’t know what I like,” reflects how lost Jane really is as Alexander stares, wide-eyed, looking for answers.

Stapleton, unfortunately, has less to work with than his onscreen partner. Weller is given, in many ways, a parental obligation to Jane, trying to guide this complete unknown through the world, and these moments give Stapleton his best opportunities to display a dynamic character. But, Weller, as of right now, is given minimal character detail. He has no home, family or anything to distinguish his work and private life from each other. It goes to show that by the end of the episode, more information is given about Jane’s cryptic past than Weller’s present situation.

Jane’s search to uncover the secrets of her past brings her to work with Weller. In this, Jane finds purpose, as she goes into the field alongside Weller when one Chinese tattoo gives the day’s date and an address. As the layers of mystery behind the markings unravel, so do the layers of Jane Doe. Certain aspects of her past life, including expert marksmanship and fighting skills, slowly unfold throughout the episode. While the show relies on the relatively traditional procedural crime structure, “Blindspot” lifts up its approach by adding a personal motivation of self-discovery for the show’s protagonist.

“Blindspot” relies on well-known storytelling methods that are essential to the crime drama genre. However, it introduces enough reconfigurations to its layout to make its premise not feel completely derivative, and uses its talented lead to sell the emotional necessity of each weekly case.