“Blindspot” is a series that aims to hook viewers with curiosity. Yes, star Jaimie Alexander is alluring, and yes, the action that comes with the FBI“s cases of the week is thrilling. But it”s need to get answers in this odd mystery, the need to get more pieces of the puzzle that is Jane Doe that”ll likely do the lion”s share of the work in getting viewers to tune into the new series again each week.
The new thriller, which premiered on NBC tonight, begins with this compelling scene: a duffel bag tagged with instructions to call the FBI is found in Times Square. Soon New York”s iconic square is empty, and a bomb squad is surprised to find that the bag contains not a bomb, but a naked woman, covered in tattoos. One of these tattoos bears the name of FBI Agent Kurt Weller. This woman (Alexander) comes to be called Jane Doe, since she has no memories of how she got inside that bag or who she is.
Right off the bat, after the airing of tonight”s pilot episode, we have a host of questions. Series creator Martin Gero answered some of them.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FIRST EPISODE OF “BLINDSPOT.”
First things first: We talked to Gero about that surprising final flashback scene in the pilot that revealed Jane (apparently) knowingly and willingly let herself go on this amnesiac journey. The showrunner clarified, no, this flashback is not a memory that Jane herself has yet recalled, but he explained why he wanted the viewers to have this scoop about Jane so early in the game.
HitFix: What was the thinking behind whether or not include that reveal in the very first episode?
Martin Gero: It was a big discussion between Warner Brothers and NBC and us. What I like about that moment and what is great about how we”re doing Jane's flashbacks is that they are without context and extraordinarily vague. They sometimes counteract [other] things that we”re doing on the show, and they sometimes line up with stuff that we”re doing on the show. So it's a way for us to show you pieces that can go both ways. She willingly had herself injected – but was she under duress or was she not? Was this her only move in a bad situation? Or was this something she wanted to do from the beginning?
The theme of the second episode as far as Jane is concerned is she has some troubling flashbacks herself, and she really is struggling with, “Was I a good person before all of this?” That”s not something that she had considered yet. Who Jane is and what her morality is and what her morality was before this is a big part of the show, so why not start that conversation in the pilot?
That”s rather reminiscent of “The Bourne Identity” – did you take any cues from that film for the show?
“The Bourne Identity” is a great map for us of both what to do and what not to do. We don”t want to be exactly like the “Bourne Identity” obviously. They did the amnesia of it all really, really well. They grounded what can be a ridiculous premise in a real world. Paul Greengrass is someone we really look to as we put together the show.
In general, what is your approach to the pace of supplying answers and creating mystery? How long do viewers have to wait for more answers?
They”re not gonna have to wait very long. We”re gonna go fast. The backstory that we”ve come up with is extraordinarily complicated. And so to communicate it properly, we really do have to dole out a lot of information every episode just to get to where we need to go. By the second episode, Kurt will have formulated a pretty decent idea of who Jane is and why his name is on her back. We'll spend the better part of this season trying to prove or disprove that. And I think how quickly we get to that is gonna surprise a lot of people. It's tied very emotionally to [Kurt”s] past.
Are there any past TV shows you”ve taken lessons from as to how to or how not to pace the mystery?
I”m a voracious television watcher. You can learn from the past, but you also kind of have to get a sense of “What is the internal pace of audiences right now?” TV shows like this start to die if they feel like all middle. There needs to be ends. There needs to be finite information given. And when you give a massive clue, that doesn't mean that it destroys the mystery. In a lot of ways, it unlocks a lot more. So for us, we don”t want the audience ever feeling like, “Ugh, they never give us anything.” If anything, we want them like, “Oh my God, how can they be doing that now? Is that going to change everything?” The shape of the show really changes episode to episode based on how much we give away.
Are there any specific shows that guided you when you were working that out?
The one show – it”s not necessarily about the mythology – but the one show that is a surprising guidepost for me is “The Good Wife.” I was real slow to “The Good Wife” because I was not really shopping for another lawyer show. But every smart person I know was like, “It's the best show on television. You need to watch “The Good Wife.” And I finally watched it. What was so eye-opening to me was the procedural stuff, the case of the week – it never really interferes with the emotional stuff of what”s going on with the characters, and it balances it so well. “The Good Wife” is one of the best character dramas on television, but it is ostensibly a procedural. So for us, finding that balance, where the procedure augments what”s going on in the character's life and giving the proper space – page time and screen time – to just the emotional stories is like insanely important to me.
Several months after you shot the pilot, news broke that the Navy SEALs would be open to women. With Jane appearing to be a Navy SEAL, are you planning to have that real-world news affect the story of “Blindspot” at all?
Here”s the thing: Just because they announced that there are female Navy SEALs doesn't mean there aren't already female Navy SEALs. I feel like they're announcing stuff that is a few years old potentially. But that's just the conspiracy theorist in me.
I”m curious to learn more about Mayfair – her apprehension at how one of Jane”s tattoos could unearth something unsavory about her seems like a good sign she won”t be there just to give FBI agents orders or to deliver exposition. What can you tease for us about what we”ll see from Mayfair in future episodes?
That”s one of the big central mysteries of the show. It'll play out quickly over the first 10 episodes. You're really gonna get a sense of why Mayfair is very very concerned that Jane showed up. All I”ll say is you don”t get somebody like Marianne Jean-Baptiste without the promise that she”s not just gonna tell people where to go and say information about the bad guy. I pitched her the arc of where that character goes, and she just got real excited. As did everyone. Everyone”s got their own path to play on the show.
Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC