PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Television

Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 7 - "Sent on Tour"

Anthony Merino

Trying to find character among caricature; with so much time spent on the two leads, does the supporting cast matter?


Blindspot

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Jaimie Alexander, Sullivan Stapleton, Ashley Johnson
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 7 - "Sent on Tour"
Network: NBC
Air Date: 2015-11-02
Amazon

Early on in this week’s episode of Blindspot, "Sent on Tour" there was a bit of witty repartee between federal agent Edgar Reade (Rob Brown) and agent Tasha Zapata (Audrey Esparza). It involved his holding a record for receptions during his football-playing days at Michigan. The exchange stood out because it was one of the few moments where either Reade or Zapata did anything that did not either advance the plot or comment on one of the two leads: Jane Doe/Taylor Shaw (Jaimie Alexander) and Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton). Despite being based on a wild conceit (Jane Doe having clues to top-secret government crimes and cover-ups tattooed on her body), Blindspot is a fairly traditional espionage soap opera.

The series fits into another genre of television. The adventure series features a charismatic lead and a few subjects of varying degrees of loyalty. It's a cast structure that can pop up in a variety of different genres. It was the structure of other espionage soaps like M.I. 5 and 24. It was the set up for science fiction shows like the Star Trek franchise and Firefly. Indeed, Firefly’s creator, Joss Whedon, used it for both the supernatural drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its spin-off, Angel. It’s frequently used in crime dramas like Criminal Minds and C.S.I.; it’s even popped up in a few comedies like Taxi and M.A.S.H.. There are a whole series of characters that can be plugged into the formula. This includes but is not limited to: the loyal and far more intelligent lieutenant, the subordinate/romantic interest, the badass loose cannon, the wise-cracking clown, and the geeky chair pilot nerd.

The problem with Blindspot is that it has yet to establish which one of these characters Jane Doe/ Taylor Shaw is going to be. At times she acts like the love interest, and other times she’s the super badass. This creates two major problems. It muddies her character, and it sucks up all of the oxygen for the other characters. After seven weeks, everyone except Jane and Agent Weller are underdeveloped. The first ramification is the more obvious.

It’s a flaw that's encoded into the DNA of the show. Consider that the character has two names: Jane Doe and Taylor Shaw. In addition, her intellect is split at the very beginning. While all of her memories have been stripped away, all of her functional memory remains. So she does not remember her parents’ names, but she can write code and fly a helicopter. While this fits the internal logic of the show, it’s still frustrating.

Added to this, there are inconsistencies in how she is written. There are times where she is immediately proficient. One example occurs in the first episode, in which she translates an obscure Chinese dialect. In the latest episode, "Sent on Tour" there’s a moment where she’s required to pilot a helicopter. At that point, she wonders if she even knows how to operate a helicopter. Every other time in the series, she’s able to access her skills immediately and confidently. In this episode, she’s tentative, for seemingly no other reason except to increase narrative tension. It smacks of lazy writing; even a character with her memory erased should have some consistency.

Additionally, so much of the show is focused on Jane Doe that the other characters have remained pretty two-dimensional. Both Reade and Zapata act as Weller’s personal foot soldiers. Most of their dialogue is dedicated to defining the two lead characters. Zapata is given a backstory of being a compulsive gambler, but this seems like it was written in for the sole purpose of giving her a reason to betray her team. Seven episodes in, the audience is still waiting for the supporting cast to stop being caricatures and start becoming characters.

The one character that has developed outside of Weller or Doe is Patterson (Ashley Johnson). Patterson plays the quirky science nerd desk jockey who loyally serves her agents out in the field. It's the same character as Criminal Mind’s Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), and N.C.I.S.’s Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette). Patterson is slightly less quirky than either of them. Considering that Criminal Minds is entering its eleventh season and N.C.I.S. its thirteenth, you can hardly blame Martin Gero for stealing from them; it’s clearly a formula that works. You can, however, blame him for not developing his own show’s other characters.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.