In the past few years Greg Berlanti has really established himself as a television producer of note with the huge successes of Arrow and then ‘The Flash’, and while this season he’s adding another two D.C. shows to his list, he has also stepped out of the world of superheroes to produce this complex mystery.
A woman (Jaimie Alexander, ‘Thor’) is found in a bag in Times Square, she has no memory of anything at all but is covered from head to toe in intricate tattoos including the name of an FBI agent (Sullivan Stapleton) who is immediately called back to New York to lead the case.
The show has a really great opening, from finding a large bag in the middle of a packed Times Square to bomb disposal finding a woman in the bag in an empty Times Square, the striking visuals pair well with the heightened drama. At that point in the opening the show could really go anywhere and be anything, for a brief moment I wondered if it may have a Sci-Fi element (and it may yet have), then it quickly established itself as a mystery drama.
We have this puzzle with a woman right at the centre of it, her skin holds all the clues and raises the fascinating element of how you treat someone who is suspiciously found, yet has no memory, and is also physically your main evidence. Key to this working is the female lead Jaimie Alexander, who in this pilot episode was really excellent and I’m confident she will continue to be as her character, currently known as Jane Doe, can only become more complex. A memory-erasing drug is revealed to be the source of her amnesia, and I imagine that as the drug leaves her system over the course of the season certain memories will surface. As it’s such a human drama at the heart of the plot, I worry that the show needs to avoid cheese and schmaltz. From the little we learn in the pilot she’s not a ‘girly girl’, yet it would be all too easy to get stuck in over-sentimentality. While some personal aspects will definitely need to be explored such as where her family are, if it can avoid getting over emotional it will be for the best.
The FBI are central to the show too, and it will likely be a procedural series with her tattoos leading them to pursue different leads each week while also unravelling the mystery surrounding ‘Jane’. I quite like a good procedural, there are so many of them though, and this one needs to ensure that the main story arc is more than just a plot device for the episode arcs, I get the feeling it will be but sadly it’s too early to say.
Visually it looks great, employing lots of deliberate wobble-scope in many scenes, but maintaining a very slick and polished look overall with both the interior and exterior shots. The main visual as seen in the marketing and the pilot episode is Jane’s body, covered in detailed tattoos (think ‘Prison Break’) which are very artistic and on her as a canvas are incredibly striking.
I think I’m going to like this, but in recent years a few unfolding mystery style dramas that start with a fascinating premise have fallen flat and been cancelled by the end of their first season. I’m thinking for example of shows such as ‘Flashforward’, ‘The Event’ and my personal favourite ‘Journeyman’. One concern is that shows of this type start out with their great idea, but beyond the initial establishment they run out of steam very quickly, tie themselves up in knots and riddle themselves with plot holes, and have nothing left to give for a second season that could ever match the first. Is this another one of those shows? Will the audience be wanting answers, receive them in the season finale, and then have nothing left with which to hold their interest in further seasons? I hope not but the risk is definitely there.
Pacing will be vitally important, I’d have liked to see them holding back even more on reveals in the pilot although there aren’t many it still felt a bit too quick for my liking, I’d prefer to be left wondering and hypothesizing for much longer. For now I’m interested to see how this all develops, and even if it only lasts one season I reckon it will be an interesting one.