I’m saying that Blindspot is the fall TV season’s first network must-watch show, because I want you to at least check out the pilot episode tonight to decide whether you’re in or you’re out: It’s a show that people are going to have strong opinions about, and you’ll want to make up your own mind. You’ll also have to take a position on whether you cotton to the idea of a show that spends a lot of time running its camera over the smooth, tattooed body of its female star. Curiosity-factor and feminism-test: It’s an unbeatable combo.
Jaimie Alexander stars as nobody — that is, as “Jane Doe,” a woman who can’t remember her name, who wakes to find herself zipped up in a duffel bag in New York’s Times Square, naked and freshly tattooed. This is either the world’s worst sorority initiation, or the introduction of one of TV’s more unusual heroes.
If she could look at her own back, this Jane Doe might think her real name is “Kurt Weller,” but nope, that’s the name of the FBI agent who’s immediately called into this case as soon as Jane is found by police. Weller, played by Sullivan Stapleton with some of that sandpapery stubble you could strike a match off of.
The tattoos, it soon becomes clear, are clues, signs, warnings — of crimes committed and yet to be committed. Jane Doe and Kurt Weller knock one tattoo-crime off the list (and by “list” I mean “her body”) in the opening episode, and I have this image of Weller spinning Jane around like a naked globe and stopping her by jabbing a finger at another part of her body each week, saying, “Okay, that’s the one we’ll solve next!”
What keeps the first episode from slipping into absurdity is the commitment to action displayed by star Alexander and creators Martin Gero and Greg Berlanti. They get Jane Doe into dangerous situations in which she discovers that one of the abilities she doesn’t know she had is crack fighting skills. The in-close, punch-kick-elbow-knee work here is extremely well-choreographed and exciting to watch. Alexander, herself a solid athlete with a background in wrestling and martial arts, really comes alive in these scenes.
Is Blindspot exploitive in its use of Jane Doe’s body as a map to be read by the mostly-males gazes of the FBI? You bet it is. But the show is also signaling that it plans to move quickly beyond the novelty of body tattoos to work up a back-story about how this woman got the way she is. By unfolding that tale and keeping the narrative moving with action scenes like the ones in the premiere, Blindspot could be a good show — nothing revolutionary, but a fun escapade in the weeks ahead.
Blindspot airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.