Blindspot: Eight Slim Grins (Review)

Blindspot - Season 1

Show creator Martin Gero serves up the fantastic in Blindspot and rather than expecting us to “get it,” he provides enough moments of truth to make the unbelievable palatable and acceptable.  Unlike another network’s tale set in the world of the FBI, this show pays less attention to trying too hard and more to the characters, their interaction and the mystery of the former Jane Doe.

Those who have not watched this episode yet, either waiting for HULU or for the DVD of season one to be available in shops, stop reading now.

It should come as no surprise the Jane is actually the “missing for 25 years” neighbor kid that Weller’s daddy was accused of doing away with. Taylor Swan, aka Jane Doe has shown up after all this time, covered with tattoos and proficient enough at hand to hand combat to be registered as a dangerous weapon. There is also the fact that she can use about any sort of sidearm and rifle manufactured…

As this week’s episode deals with the Candymen who are all former SEALS (something that they believe Jane is, or was) who now rob jewelry stores the world over, Patterson finds another tattoo which turns out to be an old FBI file number. She grabs the physical file and drops it off to the boss, explaining that Mayfair worked on the case.  Mayfair, tells her tech that she will look at it later.

The man from Jane’s/Taylor’s memory turns up at her safe house at the beginning of the episode and after some satisfactory unarmed combat, the man is shot before he can reveal anything of use to Jane.   At one point Jane has a tooth knocked out with the table leg her assailant uses against her.  She spits the thing out, a’ la The Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and ups her game to overpower the man.

After telling her that she cannot trust “them” (the FBI) the man from her memory is killed. Patterson finds out that the Candyman who was shot in the jewelry store has the exact same SEAL tattoo as Jane.  Jane Doe and Weller go to question the man, who is in hospital. While they are there, the seriously wounded man’s colleagues come to rescue him.

There are a couple of good fights, a decent shootout and some interesting twists and turns. Rather unsurprisingly, the dour Mayfair turns out to have a secret and her contact, (actor Michael Gaston who always plays stinkers) wants to have Jane killed in case the secret comes out.

By the end of the show, Jane finally learns who she is after Patterson reveals that the results of the DNA test prove that she is Weller’s old childhood pal, Taylor.  Mayfair decides that Jane/Taylor can now accompany the team on all assignments and she is allowed to have a gun.

This show is fantastical, a woman covered in tattoos with no idea who she is or how she got those tattoos. She is proficient at hand to hand combat, better than good with firearms and is very intelligent. The FBI let her roam around the bureau and get involved with the investigations without really knowing who she is.

Despite these more “out there” bits of the plot, the show works.  Unlike the ABC series, Quantico, which opted to use FBI training as the integral part of their suspension of disbelief and failed, Blindspot relies on the characters, plot and dialogue to sell its believability.

Example: Patterson tries to explain a finding to Agents Reade (Rob Brown) and Zapata (Audrey Esparza):

Patterson: “You guys familiar with ALPR?”

Reade: “Like the dog food?”

Patterson: “No, not… A-L-P-R… Automatic License Plate Recognition.”

In the above interaction, Reade is teasing Patterson, which Zapata recognizes and the two agents smirk at one another while the technician, in a state of what must be continual exasperation, explains what she means.

In fact, Patterson (Ashley Johnson) may just be the biggest grain of truth in the whole show. Her character is all about enthusiastically solving the riddles in front of her, whether it be the tattoos  she must decipher or tracking down a robber’s sister’s car. She is also a brilliant bit of comic relief.

Blindspot does not just have Patterson as its moments of truth, the performances also feel right.  The team, as Weller explains to Jane, has a way of doing things, a rhythm and the three performers work well enough together that this does not feel like an exaggeration.

Jaimie Alexander provides the biggest truth of all. Her character has shifted with each episode from the confused tattooed woman with a wiped memory to a more determined individual who wants to know who she really is and who did this to her.

As each episode concludes, we feel that another layer has been exposed, not peeled back, but left open just enough to tantalize both Jane and us, the audience. Blindspot airs Mondays on NBC.  This is a show that, despite its outlandish premise, works beautifully, miss this one and you will miss some quality television and performances.

Blindspot: A Stray Howl – Connections (Review)

Blindspot - Season 1

In the pilot of Blindspot, Jane Doe and the FBI found their first clue amid the myriad of tattoos on her body. Behind Jane’s ear was a Chinese tattoo with an address on it.  The residence revealed a connection between the ink and  a man named Chou who wanted to blow up the Statue of Liberty.  Jane has her first “triggered” memory; target practice in the woods.

At the start of A Stray Howl, Chou dies from a “stroke” after surgery (the man was shot  in the pilot episode) and later it is discovered that he was murdered. Patterson (Ashley Johnson) finds another tattoo that is connected to the first tattoo (that Jane translated).

The newest tattoo spotted by technician is deciphered using the vigenere cipher which is a poly-alphabetic substitution code. It spells out a name, USAF Major Arthur Gibson (Robert Eli). The Jane Doe team go to Gibson’s Brooklyn address. Gibson answers the door and refuses to speak to the group on his doorstep.

As the FBI and Jane leave,  the house explodes. There is no body and it turns out that Arthur is up to no good and has kidnapped a little girl in order to steal a government drone which he uses to kill those who turned against him.  As Gibson continues to target people, Weller rushes to find the child and Jane has more memories pop up in her mind.

Blindspot - Season 1

The drone pilot kills his former commander and tries to kill the colleague who turned him in to authorities.  As the FBI team rush to shut him down, they learn that Gibson plans to kill all the other domestic drone pilots along with thousands of other employees at the government facility.

Kurt Weller’s past is brought up via a discussion with his sister. Their father was accused of abducting and murdering a childhood friend of Kurt’s 25 years ago; Taylor Shaw. Although his dad was cleared of the crime, because the child was never found the stigma has hung over the man for years.

The missing  girl was Kurt’s best friend and he has been full of guilt about her disappearance for years. The issue of Shaw has also clouded his relationship with his father.   Weller sees the scans that Patterson did of all the tattoos on Jane’s body and he notices a scar which identical to one that the girl Taylor had.

A scar that the young Kurt inadvertently gave to his childhood friend. The presence of this identical wound, convinces the  FBI agent that Jane is Shaw. Later his boss orders  DNA tests done to see if he is correct.

Jane has another “triggered”  memory while shooting several weapons at the range. One, a silenced pistol,  prompts a flashback of shooting a nun. Jane is horrified by the memory and is concerned that she may be a terrible person. As the episode progresses, the flashback lengthens and she sees that the “nun” was a man disguised as a holy figure and in the memory she is receiving a flash drive from the body.

Weller and Jane team up to tackle the vengeful Air Force pilot. They track the man to a tall building, with the help of Patterson, and Kurt goes up to  face Gibson.  The Major is armed and the two men exchange gunfire.  Gibson escapes and uses the elevator to get away from Weller.

Once he reaches the ground floor, he fires an entire clip of ammo at Jane, who is in Weller’s car. The man drives off and Jane quickly follows.

Blindspot - Season 1

A Stray Howl, which could apply to Gibson as he was a would be whistle blower, reveals more about Jane Doe. She is proficient with many different weapons and can drive using advanced techniques. For example, when she is pursuing Major Gibson in Weller’s SUV she uses a pit maneuver (a police pursuit tactic) to stop his vehicle. Weller saves the girl that Gibson kidnapped after Jane crashes the SUV.

By the end of the episode Weller is convinced that Jane is his missing childhood friend. Agent Reed (Rob Brown) exhibits some major trust issues with Jane Doe. Jane sees the man from her flashback, played by Jimmy Whitworth, and later he shows up at her apartment. 

Jane recognizes that she and Weller have some connection and Kurt tells his sister that he believes the tattooed woman is Shaw.  Sarah (Jordana Spiro) tells her brother that their father is dying of lung cancer and he needs to see him before it is too late.

This is a taut and well constructed thriller which may boil down to a “tattoo a week” set up, but thus far it is working brilliantly.  Alexander’s character  is a giant cipher which appears to work as a crime prevention tool.  The chemistry between Sullivan and Jaimie is spot on.

Blindspot: A Stray Howl - Connections (Review)

On a sidenote, it seems that so far Jaimie Alexander is doomed to have her face covered with dirt in many of her scenes.  It should be pointed out at the “Lady Sif” actress may be one of the few female performers who still looks gorgeous covered with muck.

Blindspot airs Mondays on ABC. This is a well-crafted thriller that has a more than capable cast and an interesting premise. Tune in and see where this illustrated woman’s journey takes her.



Blindspot: Jaimie Kennedy & Sullivan Stapleton

Blindspot - Season Pilot

There cannot be many who would not appreciate finding a nude, tattooed, Jaimie Kennedy in a giant equipment bag in Times Square.  Blindspot, about an illustrated woman found nude and disoriented with no idea who she is, comes from Stargate Atlantis producer Martin Gero. This Bourne-like thriller with Aussie actor Sullivan Stapleton (another import from down-under a la Longmire star Robert Taylor) as the other half of this mystery double act, starts off brilliantly.

Directed by Mark Pellington, the pilot episode comes out of the gate at a swift trot.  Giving us Kennedy as victim; memory wiped clean, except for procedural memories. The example given that “Jane Doe” understands music but has no idea who The Beatles are.  As the episode moves into gear, it turns out that “Jane” also has some pretty spectacular muscle memory as well. 

Before the more “Jason (Jennifer?) Bourne” elements come about we meet FBI Special Agent Kurt Weller (Stapleton) who qualifies as an agent somewhat smarter than the average perp. A hostage situation is controlled when Weller proves he can think outside the box. After using door charges to capture the bad guy, by blowing the floor right out from under him, Weller is called to the office.

The Jane Doe found naked in Times Square has Weller’s name tatted on her back.

Kennedy’s character is scanned, printed and has DNA samples take and in every database on record, she does not exist.  As Jane gets more involved with trying to learn who she is, skills begin appearing. In a scene with Agent Patterson (Ashley Johnson) Jane sees Chinese lettering on a tattoo she has not noticed before.

Blindspot - Season Pilot
Jane Doe (Jaimie Kennedy) demands help.

Patterson tells her it is behind her ear and Jane Doe reads the tattoo revealing that she can read and speak Chinese.  The characters are a date and an address. The illustrated woman begins to actively help the FBI and as the episode progresses, her first memory is triggered.

The concept of the show is that Kennedy is a female SEAL;  she has a SEAL tattoo deliberately covered up by another tattoo. This seems to indicate that she was/is special ops which could well explain her absence on any databases.

Writing on this pilot episode is tight and comprehensive. There are a number of scenes which stand out. For instance the “coffee/tea” scene. Dr. Borden brings in a cup of coffee and of tea. Jane Doe tries each.

Taking a sip of first one cup and then the other, she holds up one and says, “I like this one.” Putting the other cup down she says, “This one tastes like grass trimmings.” Borden responds that woman now has learned two things. One, that she knows what grass trimmings taste like and two, she has figured out that she is is a coffee person.

The doctor gives Jane Doe a little pep talk and finishes by telling her “You can still find yourself.” This scene does many things, but overall what is does is show the care the writers took to set up the scenario of enforced memory loss and its aftereffects and the skill, not just of Kennedy, but of Ukweli Roach as performers. This piece feels real and convincing.

Blindspot - Season Pilot
Kurt Weller and Jane Doe

As exhibited by the hostage scene, Weller is a “think outside the box” type of guy who figures out that all the ink on Jane Doe is a series of messages. After the date and address reveal a bomb plot, which is done very nicely in the episode, the viewer now knows that this will be a “mystery of the week” scenario with Jane learning more about her abilities as the series progresses.

The pilot has plenty of action, a bomb on the subway and a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. It is all very exciting and quickly paced.  The bit where Weller pulls off some of the plastic explosive is a bit farfetched but this is fiction after all.

NBC have got a winner on their hands and one that does not require a cannibal serial killer. This may mean that Blindspot can continue until Jane Doe (who does have an identity we learn in the pilot) runs out of tattoos.

Blindspot airs Mondays on NBC. This is cracking television. Action, mystery, thrills and another Australian who can flawlessly speak American along with “Lady Sif.” What more could you want?

The Last of Us Sequel Confirmed?

Poster for The Last of Us
Nolan North, the actor whose voice seems to be in just about every video game made over the last 10 years, and who also worked on the Naughty Dog game The Last of Us, has apparently confirmed a sequel. North, best known perhaps for his work in the Uncharted franchise, another Naughty Dog game series, which (on a side note) will be back in Uncharted 4 with, Troy Baker (from The Last of Us) and Emily Rose is back as Elena Fisher, as well as Assassin’s Creed, from Ubisoft, as Desmond Miles.

In The Last of Us Troy Baker worked as Joel, along with the wonderful Ashley Johnson (aka @TheVulcanSalute) as Ellie and Nolan voiced crazy bad guy David who sounds completely unlike anyone else North has voiced. So it is a nice touch to see Baker “cross-over” as it were to Uncharted territory.

All fanboy gushing aside, North was at MetroCon where he was “caught” talking about The Last of Us 2. A question was posed about whether Nolan had any further Naughty Dog work lined up and he says, “I know they’ve got The Last of Us 2…” If following the link, and the reader does not want to watch the entire video, Nolan says this around 1:06, feel free to jump forward.

This is pretty exciting but also a bit concerning. In terms of games and almost perfect endings, Joel and Ellie’s journey stops where it should. There was no real place to spot an opportunity for sequel city to come in. For anyone who played the game it goes without saying that their world was not going to be a great place to be in by the end.

Still, the voice work of Johnson and Baker gave this “out-of-the-box” gaming experience a reality and empathy that propelled the gameplay into a different experience from most games on offer. The news that Naughty Dog want to return is a mixed blessing for fans of both the company and their games. With Nolan’s “slip” all that remains is for Neil Druckmann and company to provide a little more information for fans.

Until any official word is released, have a look at the remastering trailer for The Last of Us for the PS4:

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