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Photo: Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Should You Check Blindspot Before Changing Lanes?

Or is this Prison Break/Alias/John Doe cocktail best left in the rearview?

What is this thing?

When an NYPD foot patrolman finds a large duffel bag with a tag reading "CALL THE FBI" in Times Square, he does just that -- and the FBI finds a woman (Jaimie Alexander) inside, naked except for a Memento-saic of tattoos. She has PTSD-experimental-drug-induced amnesia and doesn't know who she is, whether she likes coffee or tea, how she got there, or why FBI agent Kurt Weller's (Sullivan Stapleton) name is etched onto her back. She does know Chinese and how to fight a slumlord wife-beater into submission. What do her tattoos mean? Who put them -- and her -- there? Is she a former special-ops agent or a mole -- or both?

When is it on?

Mondays at 10 PM on NBC.

Why now?

John Doe, starring Dominic Purcell as a guy who woke up on an island and didn't know how he got there, got cancelled; Prison Break, featuring a guy covered in tattoos that hid escape instructions so said guy could break his half-bro (played by Dominic Purcell) out of the joint, didn't make as clever use of the tats as it could have; why not combine both ideas, subtract Dominic Purcell (probably? no reason he couldn't show up as a guest star at some point), and take another run at amnesiac puzzle body art?

...I don't know. Creator Martin Gero also created Dark Matter, in which a crew awakens in deep space with no clue who they are or how they got there, so we can safely conclude that he's very convincing indeed at selling this particular narrative preoccupation.

What's its pedigree?

The Swiss-born Gero has also written on various Stargate properties, and Bored To Death. Greg "Damn You" Berlanti exec-produces, and on the one hand, Everwood, but on the other hand, The Mysteries Of Laura...but on the OTHER other hand, The Flash.

On-camera talent includes Alexander (the Thors), Stapleton (Animal Kingdom; the 300 sequel), Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Rob Brown (Treme), and Audrey Esparza, who I like in this role so far so I will try to forget that she was on Shit Black Box.

...And?

It gets off to a ripping start, Blindspot; from the opening scene, when Jane emerges from the bag, all the way to her kung-fu brawl with the abusive landlord is very tense and moves right along. Fisticuffs, subway bombs, all edited expertly to create apprehension and interest.

The acting is good -- just right for the job, if that makes any sense. The plot's the thing, so nobody's too showy, though Stapleton's continuing struggle to elbow his Australian accent out of the way ends up in a Bale-Batman place that could use some work.

And that plot is a good place to start from, allowing for a lot of story and leads in a lot of different directions; the pilot doesn't dawdle, getting us right into a few of Jane's skills, putting the FBI on the trail of one of her tattoo clues ("cloos"? "clattues"?), and giving us Jane's first flashback. Alexander is well cast and likable, and the first ep has nods to enough other effective properties (Speed, Alias) that it got me on its side quickly.

...But?

I loved Animal Kingdom; I have zero memory of Stapleton in it, I'm afraid, and while the writing isn't helping him a whole lot, he's a bit generic.

And about that writing...the episode-specific markdown has to do with the last ten minutes, where there's a downshift of sorts that finds Stapleton gruttering FBI Profil-R-Tron 4300 blank-tile dialogue like "somebody likes to play games." When he's not gazing opaquely at Jane, that is. The first 80 percent of the pilot is taut enough that, even though it's not credible that FBI agents wouldn't hear drunk yelling, followed by an out-and-out brawl, a mere one floor below them, or that nobody could scratch loose a vehicle besides a ferry to take the team to Liberty Island, you choose not to care because it's exciting and info is flying at you at a fun pace. It just runs out of gas at the end.

Also at the end, the show chooses to bring in the sensei from Jane's shooting-range flashback to exchange ambiguous dialogue with the witness, then bump him off, as the audience gets another flashback to Jane willingly undergoing the brain wipe, and I just don't love the choice to give us information about Jane that Jane herself doesn't have. First of all, it's more fun from a puzzle-solving angle to go at the same speed as the characters (provided they aren't written as exposition-dependent dumbasses). Second of all, it signals a reliance on flashbacks that, whether it's Prison Break or Lost or whatever other show, seldom works as well -- or hides laziness/retconning as effectively -- as writers who use it believe it does. We'll see how it unfolds; I'm not optimistic.

And while I'm up: you couldn't make one of these handlers/revenge trainers a lady? Nobody called Jennifer Ehle?

...So?

I don't have a great feeling, guys. She recognizes Chinese characters and reads them aloud, but doesn't remember whether she likes coffee or tea? I'm not a neurologist ("Yeah, no shit." ...Well, fine.) but I don't get a sense that the amnesia got thought all the way through, and Stapleton is fine, but I'd rather have seen any of the other FBI-ers we've met teamed with Jane instead. I'll give it another couple weeks, but if a DVR conflict crops up, bye Wellicia.

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