Blindspot airs its midseason finale tonight, after ten episodes and becoming NBC’s biggest new series debut in two years. So has the show lived up to the huge anticipation and even bigger marketing campaign? Strike Back Examiner looks back at the first half of season one to discuss where the series scored so far – and where it might still have room to improve.
It’s safe to say Blindspot had one of the two best ensembles on TV this fall, alongside its network sibling The Player. Jaimie Alexander has justly risen to sensation status with her all-encompassing performance as Jane Doe, one part action heroine and one part leading lady. Sullivan Stapleton has been equally outstanding playing tough-as-nails FBI agent Kurt Weller; he’s brought the same strength and intensity he carried as Damien Scott on Strike Back, but created an entirely separate character.
The bigger surprises have actually come from Blindspot‘s supporting cast, specifically the three actors who make up the rest of the FBI team: Rob Brown, Audrey Esparza and Ashley Johnson. Each has filled their respective functions in the group well, but also added something unique that separates them from the characters we see on the usual law enforcement procedurals. They’re what make Blindspot a true ensemble show instead of just Jane’s story. Add in Academy Award nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and this cast is close to perfect.
Blindspot‘s writers have done a generally wonderful job at supporting their actors with great material, and keeping the fans on that thin line between getting answers but also always wanting to know more. Revealing Jane’s potential identity in the show’s third episode, and having it be someone not only with a connection to Weller but to how he became who is, was a bold move that elevated her arc from a missing-person story to something much more personal and compelling.
The only major missteps in the season have come when the scripts are aimed toward what someone else wants. Perhaps picking up on the chemistry between Alexander and Stapleton, or just cognizant of a vocal subset of fans who want to see their characters start dating, the two weakest episodes have been when Blindspot veers into the sexual tension between the duo. Those scripts have been painfully on the nose and also the least resonant. If the series has chosen to make that a romantic pairing, that’s one thing, but the writers have to not let that overshadow everything else that they’ve built.
As mentioned above, Blindspot was gutsy when it chose to answer its primary question, “Who is Jane Doe?” in the show’s third episode. While we don’t have one hundred percent confirmation that she is Taylor Shaw (what was with that isotope test we haven’t addressed for awhile now?), that answer could’ve cut the knees out from under the series. But the writers have kept it going by exploring ‘who’ in another sense: what makes her who she is, and who she’s going to be. We still need to know more about her mysterious ex-fiancee (Francois Arnaud) and why he’s chosen to come back into her life, and who really kidnapped her if it wasn’t Weller’s father (Jay O. Sanders).
The biggest mystery thread has been the uncovering of the massive, cross-agency Operation Daylight, which has set the FBI on a collision course with the CIA and ruthless bureaucrat Tom Carter (Michael Gaston). Blindspot has gotten a ton of mileage out of this so far, and it’s great that it’s been not just about Carter’s obsession with Jane, but his history with Mayfair and how that drives a wedge in her professional relationship with Weller. So far, so well done – but the writers should wrap all this up by episode 23 this spring before it turns the show into a spy thriller or something else that it was never meant to be.
Blindspot hasn’t been as action-packed as The Player, but that’s because it isn’t an action-first show. Despite that, it’s still delivered plenty of good setpieces over the first nine episodes. Jane seems to get into a fistfight every episode, while audiences have also been treated to multiple bombs, car chases, shootouts and one flying container of nerve gas. Especially with two athletic actors at the heart of its ensemble, this series has given us more action than any of its Monday night competition.
There are, however, two small areas in which it can improve. More than one episode has involved Jane having to come to the FBI’s rescue by having to flying-tackle a suspect; the series doesn’t want to get into a rut where she always saves the day and the other, equally capable, characters are left looking dependent as a result. Stapleton has gotten some solid action scenes so far, but considering that he’s one of the best actors on TV in that department (and otherwise), we’d love to see him handed even more in the second half. And another thing: maybe the series can slow down on the destroying of SUVs, because there’s no way the FBI has the budget for a new car every week.
Overall, Blindspot has been just as strong as the show’s pilot promised that it would be. It has tremendous acting supported by equally enviable writing, and has been able to sustain its ongoing plotlines in a satisfying way with no signs of fatigue. If it tweaks just a handful of aspects when it returns in January, it’s not going to just be fall’s number one new show – it’s going to be one of the best shows of the year, period.
Blindspot airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.