The pilot episode of Blindspot is an intriguing mix of sharply stylised visuals, a fast paced plot, gun fights and explosions, and with convincing acting. A lot is packed in to forty three minutes as the scene is set and the main characters established. There is the mysterious naked lady who is found in a duffel bag with amnesia, dumped in the middle of Times Square, the solid FBI Agent Kurt Weller, whose name is tattooed on her back, and the usual supporting cast of FBI officers and analysts.
The ‘Jane Doe’ is portrayed with immense vulnerability by Jaimie Alexander. She is scared, confused and powerless. In a montage of clips, she is photographed, fingerprinted and scanned – the tattoos which cover her body are documented as the FBI try to ascertain her identify. She is not known in any database, her tattoos are all extremely recent, and tests conclude her amnesia is deliberate. Jane Doe has been given a unprecedented amount of a memory suppressant drug. However her vulnerability fades away as she stops the polygraph test and is very insistent on speaking with someone in charge, providing an early clue that Jane is anything but weak.
She views images of her tattoos and instinctively hones in on one with Chinese writing, automatically translating the symbols to reveal an address. It is the first clue that Jane is maybe Military or Federal intelligence. Further evidence is found when a new square tattoo on her arm has been inked to covering a pre-existing one; a SEAL tattoo, and as there has never been a female SEAL, then she may be Special Forces. Just as the FBI discover this, Jane is kicking-ass in the field (she convinced Weller she had to accompany them), as she saves a woman whose husband is beating her. Later she shoots the episode’s villain, the Chinaman who is about the slit Weller’s throat, a shot she had no idea is she could make.
The last incident triggers her first flashback of firearms training in the woods. She sees the face of the man training her and through the privileged audience perspective, he is the man that observed them leaving the flat in Korea town. Towards the end, there is another flashback, one to which Jane Doe is not privy, and the same man is telling her that the drug he’s injecting her with will wipe everything and she agrees to the action and consequences. So now there are two similar plot lines to weave; the characters unravelling the mysterious Jane Doe, as the audience piece together the larger picture of why she agreed to wipe all memory of her life.
There are repeated images of Jane Doe naked, her body is seen in lingering shots, however when she is viewing herself in the mirror, she breaks down, sobbing and shaking at the sight. In a more clinical manner, her body is objectified and studied in great detail by the FBI, with close ups of individual tattoos. As mentioned earlier, despite Jane’s vulnerability, she is set up early as a strong woman which is in direct contrast to the wife who is a victim of domestic abuse. Women as victims are set up from the start when Weller is first seen conducting a raid on a property where women are chained up, pregnant or with babies. And of course Jane Doe was basically packaged up for the FBI.
Weller likens the tattoos to a treasure map of crimes, and it is obvious that each tattoo will become the case of the week, gradually unravelling the secrets of Jane Doe. If each episode represents the unravelling of a tattoo, there is a risk that the season could become rather repetitive, like the doomed Sam Neill series Alcatraz. Certain scenarios and objects with trigger flashbacks and cause snippets of memory to return. The past will start to merge with the present until there is only one case. A future plot is set up at the end, when FBI Agent Bethany Mayfair studies a photo of a tattoo with a reference number which corresponds to a heavily redacted case file on her desk. The few unredacted words include murder, embezzlement and the name Bethany Mayfair. Did she did she investigate the case or was she investigated? With a surname of ‘Mayfair’, this could be a set up?
The key theme of identity (albeit lack of) is prevalent in several other TV shows, particularly Sean Bean’s ‘Legends’ ,and naturally throws back to the Jason Bourne films and Momento (2000), starring Guy Pearce, where a man with short-term memory loss tattoos himself to make him remember. Blindspot is an interesting concept but somewhat limiting; once identity is revealed, the only way to keep the show moving will be to focus on motive. But certainly, there is enough for a two or three seasons before the ideas run dry.