In my robust imaginary world, someone at NBC is a major SHADOWBANE fan, as evidenced by the recent premiere of a pretty neat show called BLINDSPOT (Monday nights on NBC, NBC.com, Tuesdays and after on Hulu Plus).
In this show, a heavily tattooed woman (Jaimie Alexander, of Lady Sif fame, who probably should have been Wonder Woman, but meh, comic books) is found naked in a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square, completely devoid of memory (because of some sort of experimental drug, obvs). The tattoos absolutely cover 90% of her body, holding all kinds of symbolism and secret messages. She is basically a shaved head and some psychosis away from being Jack from Mass Effect 2.
Her muscle/procedural memory is still intact, meaning she still has most of her skill points in non-INT based skills. One of her tats is the name of a scruffy/rough FBI Agent’s name positioned very prominently on her upper back (seems like a shame to waste that space). And it quickly turns out that not only can she do really cool things–like speak obscure Chinese dialects (more on that later), martial art with the best in the world (though her build looks unsurprisingly more like that of a model than a gymnast or MMA fighter), and shoot really good (thanks to another, even more scruffy mystery dude)–her tattoos are also instrumental clues in solving and preventing crimes/terrorist attacks. Her name? Jane Doe, at least for now.
For those of you who’ve read DOWNSHADOW and subsequent books, you might recall a certain blue-haired girl who appeared in an alley in Waterdeep, devoid of her memories (because of magic, obvs), whose spells manifest on her body in the form of arcane tattoos that glow blue when used, she can speak in exotic languages that no one else can understand (she’s speaking a lower planes dialect–a devil’s language, if you will–when she first appears, btw). And of course, getting involved with her leads to all sorts of adventures, many of them directly tied to her mysterious amnesia and tattoos.
So . . . this show is pretty much exactly what I want to watch.
A couple specific points:
1) Jaimie Alexander is awesome. Seriously, this is a tricky role, from the cultural taboos of that many tattoos to lacking memory of herself to trying to relate to people and to herself, and she plays it really well. Her performance seems to waver constantly between crushing anxiety and trying desperately to be helpful, because if she’s not doing anything, she has to think about her situation. The amnesia/tattoos thing does seem to be a bit of an excuse to get her naked/topless a lot, which is a bit of an eyeroll. But, meh, TV, I suppose. Hopefully there’ll be less as we go forward.
(I only get Myrin naked a couple times–when she’s first discovered in book 1, and once during book 2–which I think is about as many times as I get Kalen naked. But I digress.)
2) Was that Patriarchy for a second there? At one point they discover that Jane Doe has an old tattoo under her current ones, which appears to be some kind of Navy Seal tattoo. The female analyst who discovered this points it out to the female task force leader (whose name escapes me at the moment–I don’t usually know any character names until around 4 episodes in), saying “but we’ve never had a female SEAL,” and the leader says something to the effect of “if we did, do you think we’d broadcast it everywhere?” To which my response was, “well, yeah–I’d like to think the U.S. government would have sufficient self-awareness to realize its massive issues with gender disparity in the armed forces and would proudly highlight a successful female member of such a prestigious group.” It’s especially odd for two women to have that conversation, and not have any sort of reaction to it. Ah, patriarchy, you old subtle dog.
3) Just like in a Vin Diesel movie: From a narrative perspective, if you take a brick of C-4 off into the subway tunnels with 20-30 seconds left to go on the timer, you’re basically gonna die. And that’s what I was expecting–that character would suddenly die, making for a totally unexpected twist in the first episode. It seems extremely unlikely you’ll be able to stash it somewhere and get to cover and not be either killed immediately in the explosion or killed in the resulting cave-in. But ok, fine, I can suspend disbelief that far.
Then again, if you take the C-4 into the tunnel about a 10 second run away (which is probably only 30-50 yards or so), *tear off pieces* of the C-4 to *minimize the explosion* (O.o), narrate to your dubious buddy through your earpiece what you’re doing (you get good reception in the SUBWAY?), then *throw* the C-4 away with 2 seconds left on the timer (hitting what, 20 feet? 30 feet? that’s an awkward shotput), then it explodes, I’m sorry, you’re probably gonna die, from the explosion, shrapnel, cave-in, suffocation, etc. But ok, fine, I can suspend my disbelief even THAT far.
What I cannot suspend my disbelief for is to have the heroic agent then walk out of the dusty but otherwise undamaged subway system, about a minute later, not bruised or burned or covered in dust but still ruggedly handsome, and–when asked if he’s all right in a normal tone of voice–responds immediately and completely normally, like some sort of steely action hero. You’d think his hearing would have been AT LEAST TEMPORARILY impaired. But no.
My question is, if the FBI didn’t know Superman was on the team, why aren’t they a little more freaked out?
4) The Devil’s Language: So this sounds like a thing that was made up for the show. The FBI task force at some point receives a bunch of emails written in “an obscure Chinese dialect” that they’re “having trouble” decoding. They dub it the “devil’s language,” which smacks of mystic Orientalism. Fortunately, Jane Doe speaks that language fluently, in addition to comparatively simple Mandarin, making her a key element of the response plan.
The thing is, Wenzhounese is a real thing–a notoriously difficult dialect spoken in China, which was used as a code during WWII because it’s just that difficult to parse. And apparently, viewers in China are pretty pleased by its inclusion in the show. So . . . go NBC?
This show has some of the obvious flaws that NBC and other big time TV shows usually do: white action girl syndrome, an iffy grasp of physics, an overwhelmingly white cast (with a couple exceptions), and the sort of break-neck pacing you expect from a procedural thriller. Then again, Jaimie Alexander is awesome and performs this role quite well, the leads have good chemistry, the premise is intriguing, and tattooed ladies need more spotlight.
I’ll keep watching, and I think you should check it out too.