We gave it a C-
Beautiful Jane Doe is found naked in Times Square, covered with fresh tattoos and with no idea who she is.
It’s telling that this is the way NBC describes Blindspot, the new series from creator Martin Gero and executive producer Greg Berlanti, on the network’s website. Apparently, it’s important that we understand that Jane Doe, played by Jaimie Alexander, is beautiful. Because if somebody found an ugly woman lying naked in Times Square, covered with fresh tattoos and suffering from a “chemically induced state of permanent amnesia,” as it’s called here, they’d probably just give her a flier for a discount comedy showcase and leave her to fend for herself, right?
From the description alone, it seems clear that one’s feelings about Blindspot will depend largely upon one’s appetite for heightened action-thriller silliness. And once the show actually begins, Blindspot does not disappoint on that front — though it disappoints in just about every other way. From the first very scene, it obsesses over how gorgeous Jane is, even if that means making the creepiest possible situations look sexy. She’s found naked inside a duffel bag that’s labeled “Call the FBI” and has to climb her way out, contorting her body in a high-fashion style that suggests Tyra Banks is standing behind her, directing a shoot for America’s Next Top Model: Duffel Bag Edition, yelling, “C’mon! Show us fierce!” And just in case whoever finds Jane can’t figure out what F-B-I spells, Jane conveniently has the name of an agent, Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton), scrawled permanently on her back, which gives the show every opportunity to perch her on a table before doctors and agents and pull down her flimsy hospital robe every time anyone wants to inspect her body art for clues — or, presumably, to giggle about the fact that you can almost see her ladyparts.
Even when Jane is finally within the privacy of her own room, she spends her time standing naked before a full-length mirror, looking at her own ink, sobbing, then gazing at her body some more. (You can almost hear her thinking, “My beautiful thighbrow is ruined! Nooooo!“) For a woman who just spent a whole lot of time letting a duffel-bag zipper chafe her bare backside, she sure does hate to wear clothes.
Why is Jane so averse to putting some pants on? That’s not the only unsolved mystery here. Better to ask why the FBI needs to send a helicopter to officially assign this case to Kurt. (Couldn’t his boss just text him?) It’s also hard not to wonder how that “chemically induced state of permanent amnesia” totally erased Jane’s memory, but left certain procedural skills — say, her black-belt-level martial arts skills, or her ability to speak foreign languages — intact. Still, it’s fortunate that she speaks fluent Wenzhounese — among other Chinese dialects — because there’s a clue written behind her ear in that language, meant to tip the FBI off to a planned terrorist attack, and it’s labeled with today’s date! Good thing they looked at her ears today, instead of waiting until tomorrow, when the buildings had already blown up. That would’ve been embarrassing.
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It’s also a good thing that Jane’s memory is gone. Otherwise, she might notice that this kind of story has been told before, in dramas like Memento or The Blacklist or Prison Break or even Fox’s 2002 series John Doe, another show in which the hero woke up forgetful, tattooed, and smarter than he was the night before. (In Vegas, they just call that “hungover.”)
Maybe all of this is too harsh. It’s always hard to judge a pilot on its own. The intrigue of who tattooed Jane and why might get stronger every week, as long as we don’t suddenly uncover, say, a Calvin and Hobbes tattoo on her lower back. And Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who plays the head of the FBI, is wonderful in every drama she graces, so let’s hope her character becomes something deeper than Stern Boss-Lady Who Doesn’t Have Time for This Crap. After all, Alexander can’t give this show the gravitas it needs on her own. Her facial expressions are sometimes unintentionally hilarious. Shielding her eyes from the harsh spotlights in Times Square, she crosses her small hands in front of her and grimaces like a tiny hamster that’s trying to stop a toddler from breathing in its face. While kick-boxing a slew of anonymous villains, she scrunches up her nose like she just smelled something delicious — is that McDonald’s french fries? — and she’s really mad that someone isn’t sharing their lunch.
For right now, though, there’s a much bigger problem with this show: You can’t take a drama about a woman with superhuman powers and expect it to exist in the real world. Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash) and Alexander (Thor, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) both do their best work in comic-book universes where origin stories don’t have to make literal sense, as long as they’re imaginative, but Blindspot really only works if you don’t think about it too hard. If that’s cool with you, then by all means, stick with it. But be warned: Don’t go learning Wenzhounese before you watch this show.
Blindspot premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.