Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 4, 2016)
Throw a rock at a TV and you’ll find a series involving crime/law enforcement. Blindspot tries to bring something new to the game with a central character who comes with a mysterious past. This four-disc Blu-ray set contains all of Season One’s 23 episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the packaging.
Pilot: “A beautiful woman with no memories of her past is found in New York’s Times Square, covered in mysterious tattoos, including FBI Agent Kurt Weller’s (Sullivan Stapleton) name.”
Pilot episodes usually embrace exposition above all else, and that becomes the case here, as the show exists mainly to set up lead characters and various situations. I’m fine with that narrative choice, but I could live without the program’s frantic visual style. Too much of the episode feels “urgent”, and that will get old fast. “Pilot” sets up the series well enough, though.
A Stray Howl: “While Jane (Jaimie Alexander) continues to search for clues to her identity, the team unlocks a cryptic tattoo that points to an Air Force fighter pilot with a painful past and a lethal agenda.”
For a series that at least partially revolves around the mystery of Jane’s identity, “Howl” seems eager to spill those beans right away. Of course, this episode’s potential revelation may be a red herring, but if not, it seems like a strange choice. The rest of “Howl” feels like an extension of the “Pilot”, for good or for ill. So far Blindspot leaves me a little cold, but I hope to see improvements.
Eight Slim Grins: “Jane’s tattoo ties her to a criminal who may have clues to her past. Meanwhile, the mysterious man (Johnny Whitworth) from Jane’s first memory pays her a visit.”
Only three episodes into Season One and I already feel fatigued. The series seems to want to make each program an action film in its own right, which sounds fine on the surface, but it leads to a series that lacks variety. Can’t we get a story without massive violence and world-threatening events?
Bone May Rot: “Patterson (Ashley Johnson) and her puzzle expert boyfriend David (Joe Dinicof) decode a tattoo clue and hidden message that leads to a catastrophic global plot at the CDC.”
“Rot” offers arguably the series’ best episode to date, partly because it allows some supporting characters room to expand. The addition of Patterson’s side adds life, and the show hints at other developments. Perhaps “Rot” will lead toward greater pleasures in the future.
Split the Law: “After a seemingly straightforward hostage situation goes bad, the CIA and FBI find themselves racing against each other to apprehend the same criminal.”
For the most part, “Law” offers a decent twist on the bank hostage tale. Parts of it sag – mainly when it gets sappy via the Weller/Jane story – but it gives us enough action and intrigue to become a fairly good show.
Cede Your Soul: “When an assassination leads the team to an app that allows criminals to track government vehicles, the team works with an unlikely ally to stop the malicious software.”
While aspects of Blindspot entertain, the series suffers from a muddled overall narrative. The show seems to want to point somewhere, and I suspect this will tie together eventually, but so far, it all feels awfully random. “Soul” sputters as it keeps things too vague for my liking.
Sent On Tour: “One of Jane’s tattoos sends the team to a remote location where they are cut off from Home Office – and comes face to face with one of the FBI’s Most Wanted (Lou Diamond Phillips).”
“Tour” benefits from two elements. I like the infiltration of the militia’s territory, as the shift from the usual city confines adds zest. In addition, Phillips offers a lively performance as the episode’s baddie. These add up to make this a better than usual program.
Persecute Envoys: “When Patterson unlocks a disturbing tattoo predicting a police officer’s murder, the team must chase a violent clue trail to stop a series of cop killing.”
Back in NYC, “Envoys” regresses after the strides of “Tour”. While it attempts more of a topical feel with its commentary on rogue cops, it seems more than a little muddled. We do get some useful backstory, but the episode lacks a lot of entertainment value.
Authentic Flirt: “Jane and Weller go undercover as a world-class assassin couple to prevent deadly information from getting into the wrong hands – drawing them closer than ever.”
Is the Jane/Weller romantic subplot inevitable? Apparently – I guess a TV series can’t place two attractive people together without forcing them into potential smoochy time. I really wish Blindspot had avoided that trite choice, though, as the Jane/Weller relationship becomes a real drag on the series.
Despite that, “Flirt” turns into a pretty good episode. It eschews the series’ usual manic tendencies much of the time to focus more on a spy thriller vibe, and that change of pace allows it to bring us an entertaining twist.
Evil Handmade Instrument: “The team goes after a ring of sleeper spies that has just been activated, and race to stop a slew of assassinations.”
“Flirt” ended with the death of a regular character, and “Instrument” follows the aftermath – to some degree. Not exactly a contemplative series, Blindspot won’t take the time to dwell on emotion, so it mostly focuses on the usual investigative intrigue. That leaves it as a fairly average show, though it does pack some revelations at its end.
Cease Forcing Enemy: “When Jane reels from revelations about her tattoos and grapples with whether to trust Oscar (Francois Arnaud), the team follows a dangerous case overseas.”
In a series largely populated with alpha males and females, the introduction of John Hodgman as a conniving bureaucrat becomes a welcome addition, as the show needs someone quirky. The rest of the episode seems more traditional, though I do like the excursion from NYC – I always appreciate shifts in terrain.
Scientists Hollow Fortune: “When a disturbed Iraq War vet shoots up a military base, the team exposes a sinister plot, as Jane and Weller race to stop a single-minded scientist.”
The most interesting aspects of “Fortune” hint at Jane’s “origins” and show us others like her. That side of things works, but the rest feels fairly “standard issue”, as the episode emphasizes the series’ usual frantic antics.
Erase Weary Youth: “After a tip reveals a mole within the FBI’s New York office, the team must hunt for the operative while facing extreme scrutiny from Inspector Fischer (John Hodgman).”
That latter character comes to the fore in this unusual episode – well, unusual for Blindspot, as it eschews the standard level of action and mayhem. I appreciate that change, as I’m happy to see something more subdued and less hyperactive for once. “Youth” manages to move along plot elements well.
Rules In Defiance: “As Jane considers leaving the FBI, an anonymous tip leads the team to investigate an urgent Death Row case – ultimately sending Zapata (Audrey Esparza) underground.”
The farther into Season One we go, the less the series seems to focus on Jane – which is good and bad. On the positive side, I appreciate the extra breadth we find, especially since the “tattoo of the week” premise threatened to get old.
On the other hand, though, the series lacks a lot of narrative clarity. The overriding theme of Jane’s identity/motives still exists, but it gets obscured, and that lack of development makes S1’s overall impression less clear.
Still, I’ve enjoyed Blindspot more and more since it lost the heavy emphasis on Jane’s issues, so I won’t complain. “Rules” gives us another fairly good show that deepens the supporting characters and situations.
Older Cutthroat Canyon: “After a painting featuring one of Jane’s tattoos is heisted from a gallery, the team discovers Jane is the real target. In order to protect her team, Jane goes AWOL.”
Initially, “Canyon” looks like it might give us more of a comedic feel than usual, as it appears to mock the pretensions of the art world. However, that avenue fails to receive exploration, so the episode sticks with the usual frantic action most of the time. It moves along the overall narrative acceptably well but it lacks the zing to stand out from the other shows.
Any Wounded Thief: “After an armored truck is robbed, the team discovers that the stolen goods are chemical weapons, forcing them to race to thwart a deadly terrorist attack.”
At the episode’s start, it looks like “Thief” might actually take a fairly character-focused, contemplative approach. That doesn’t last, of course, as the show quickly shifts to mayhem and action. Some intriguing moments still emerge, but I admit the series’ “all climax, all the time” bent gets a little old.
Mans Telepathic Loyal Lookouts: “After Patterson discovers a hidden message in a crossword, she embarks on a tattoo scavenger hunt that leads her into danger. Oscar finally tells Jane more about who she was.”
Patterson offers arguably the series’ most engaging regular character, so I like this episode’s emphasis on her. Granted, it uses a somewhat contrived way to explore this, but “Lookouts” nonetheless manages to go down some interesting avenues. These allow it to become a solid program with some good twists.
One Begets Technique: “In order to take down a dangerous international criminal, Jane and Weller are forced to collaborate with an unlikely ally: their former target, Rich Dotcom (Ennis Esmer).”
In a series packed with somber characters, Rich comes as a breath of fresh air. Sure, we’ve seen personalities like him many times elsewhere, but I still welcome anyone quirky. Combine Rich with a fun heist theme and you get a better than average episode.
In the Comet of Us: “When a school shooting breaks out during the investigation of a tattoo, the team splits up to take down the shooter. Meanwhile, Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) copes with some issues from her past.”
After the semi-comedy of “Technique”, “Comet” reverts to the series’ standard action-oriented bent. In this case, I don’t view that as a bad thing, for the episode’s focus on a campus shooting gives it an interesting twist.
Swift Hardhearted Stone: “A mysterious girl with a tattoo connection falls into Borden’s (Ukweli Roach) care. He brings her to the FBI team – but her ties to a terrorist organization prove dangerous for all of them.”
A third-level character, Dr. Borden gets a rare moment in the spotlight here – and doesn’t add much. He feels too much like an expository device and fails to help the episode develop. While it comes with a few intriguing elements, “Stone” seems a bit lackluster overall – and the contrived semi-flirting between Borden and Patterson doesn’t help.
Of Whose Uneasy Route: “When criminal hackers infiltrate the building, the FBI goes on lockdown – trapping the team inside and leaving them to confront their personal conflicts.”
The lockdown gives the episode some tension, but it seems to exist mainly to force characters to talk to each other. Despite the contrived nature of this choice, I appreciate any shift from the series’ usual manic nature. The exposition may be clumsy, but it adds a little depth – and I like the comedy from a freaked-out woman trapped in an elevator with Reade and Sarah.
If Love a Rebel, Death Will Render: “After an abandoned baby is found with a tattoo identical to Jane’s, the team races to piece together the child’s identity and saves dozens of infants.”
As Season One draws to a close, “Render” follows a mix of plot elements intended to ramp up the tension and action. For the most part, it does so fairly well, even if I do still occasionally wonder what the series’ overall narrative intends to be. Muddled threads aside, “Render” pushes toward the finale in a positive manner.
Why Await Life’s End: “In the shocking finale, Weller searches for the truth within a heartbreaking and confounding assertion, while Jane reaches out to a former suspect for help with Oscar.”
After all the drama to date, Season One ends with even more theatrics – and it does so reasonably well. “Await” provides answers to a mix of burning questions – not always great answers, but answers nonetheless.
This leaves “Await” as a pretty good finish to a pretty good series. Blindspot struggled at its outset and took a while to get into a groove, but once it did, it became reasonably entertaining. While I don’t think it offers a great series, Blindspot manages to offer something mostly engaging.