Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

Blindspot: Tattoos lead viewer on fast and furious ride

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Calum Henderson reviews new Sunday night crime drama Blindspot that features just as many tattoos as the mid-00s NZ's metal scene.
Jaimie Alexander plays Jane Doe who surfaces in Time Square covered in tattoos and with no memory. Photo / Supplied
Jaimie Alexander plays Jane Doe who surfaces in Time Square covered in tattoos and with no memory. Photo / Supplied

When I first saw the listing for a new show called Blindspot I thought all my Christmases had come at once.

Had they really made a TV show about the tumultuous career of New Zealand nu-metal band Blindspott, of which heavily-tattooed X Factor NZ host Shelton Woolright was once the drummer?

Alas, and in hindsight quite obviously, no. While One's mysterious new Sunday night crime drama might feature just as many tattoos as the mid-00s New Zealand metal scene, that's about where the similarities end.

Instead, Blindspot joins an ever-growing list of deceptively-titled shows, from One's Castle (not the cult Australian movie The Castle) to TAB Trackside's Dogzone (not a niche market show produced by and for dogs), that are destined to trick me every time I flick through the programme guide.

But although its title may be misleading, the show's urgent opening few minutes quickly pull you in with a kind of dumb yet instantly intriguing central premise, wherein a dazed and naked young woman climbs out of an unattended duffel bag in the middle of Times Square.

What separates this from a bog standard piece of performance art is the fact her memory is completely blank, wiped clean by huge quantities of an experimental drug being tested on PTSD sufferers. What's more, her body is completely blanketed in fresh tattoos.

"It's a treasure map," declares gravelly FBI Special Agent Kurt Weller with complete self-assurance all of two seconds after laying eyes on her scans. He's your classic rogue crimefighter, a maverick. He has an overtly gruff manner and a deeply unlikeable face, but it looks like we're stuck with him.

He continues: "It's a puzzle - and the first piece couldn't be clearer."

The first piece of this puzzle is that his name and workplace are tattooed in bold lettering across Jane Doe's back: "KURT WELLER FBI." Whoever is behind this intricate ink has requested him by name.

Sullivan Stapleton as Special Agent Kurt Weller and Jaimie Alexander as "Jane." Photo / Supplied
Sullivan Stapleton as Special Agent Kurt Weller and Jaimie Alexander as "Jane." Photo / Supplied

Jane, meanwhile, is sent to see kind and handsome British FBI psychologist Dr Borden who is tasked with coaxing any kind of memory out of her brain. He starts by getting her to try tea and coffee, gently urging her to "keep trying new things, see what your body remembers".

He may be the best character in the whole show, and hopefully plays a greater role as the series progresses.

Jane's backstory begins to unravel surprisingly quickly - the show certainly bucks the recent crime drama trend towards slow-moving, highly nuanced storytelling.

Less than halfway into the first episode she's already riding shotgun with Special Agent Weller on their first tattoo-inspired case, seemingly by virtue of the fact that she was the only person in the FBI building who could speak Chinese.

There's a meth lab bust, a chase through the New York subway, and a grand scale cinematic explosion. We learn that Jane is highly-skilled in hand-to-hand combat when she hands it to a lowlife domestic abuser in Chinatown.

The show's urgent opening few minutes shows a dazed and naked young woman climbing out of an unattended duffel bag in the middle of Times Square. Photo / Supplied
The show's urgent opening few minutes shows a dazed and naked young woman climbing out of an unattended duffel bag in the middle of Times Square. Photo / Supplied

Most shows would call it a day there. But Weller has other thoughts. He squints his eyes and growls: "Chao's going to blow up the Statue of Liberty."

The writing's not subtle but Blindspot's relentless action and the ongoing intrigue as to why and how its main character came to be a tattoo-covered amnesiac make that easy enough to look past, for now.

The sheer number of tattoos on Jane Doe's body - each one a clue to a different crime that needs solving - suggests that this show could go on for season after season.

But if it continues at the breakneck speed of the first episode, the mystery might not last quite that long.

* What do you think of Blindspot? Post your comments below ...

- NZ Herald

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