Series / Blindspot

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/blindspot_s1_show.jpg
Jane Doe and Kurt Weller.

Jane: What if I was a terrible person before all of this?
Weller: I don't think you were, Jane. Whoever you were then, that's not who you are now.
Jane: How do you know?
Weller: Your first instinct is to help people, Jane. Battered wife in Chinatown, Reade after the explosion today—you don't hesitate, you act, and you do the right thing. So, I don't know what it is you're remembering or what the context is, but I do think you're a good person.

Blindspot is an action-thriller starring Sullivan Stapleton and Jaimie Alexander. It began airing on NBC during the 2015-2016 TV season.

A duffel bag is left behind in Times Square, and inside is a naked woman (Alexander) whose body is almost completely covered with tattoos. She is quickly brought into custody and found to have amnesia, and her fingerprints, DNA, and photos are not in any database. One tattoo names FBI agent Kurt Weller (Stapleton), but upon meeting, he and the woman do not recognize each other. Weller and his team find that the tattoos form hidden messages, which when deciphered indicate dates and addresses for future crimes.

The woman, named Jane Doe until her true identity can be found, discovers that she has many skills she cannot remember how she got, including the ability to read and speak several foreign languages and advanced martial art and marksmanship skills. Weller reluctantly allows her to work with his team in solving these crimes until the mystery of her identity and who did this to her can be solved.

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Blindspot contains examples of:

  • Actually, I Am Him: The reveal of the mastermind behind Sandstorm goes like this.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: 'Zip' is actually a real drug with similar (though not identical) effects to those depicted. Here's a 2012 article about research into it.
  • Armies Are Evil: In "A Stray Howl" it is revealed the US military is operating and carrying out drone-strikes on civilian targets over U.S. soil without regard to casualties. They are also said to have directly recruited convicted felons into the SEALs, and nobody even blinks twice at the idea that a woman might be kidnapped, trained and then have her memory wiped for a black op.
    • In Season 2, Orion is revealed to be a very deep black-ops SEAL Team that's been running around the world carrying out terrorist attacks that have been blamed on others, including assassinating the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
  • Artistic License: Mayfair appears to have no trouble withdrawing nearly $50,000 cash from her bank account in "In the Comet of Us". In the real world, she would need to fill out an IRS form to explain the purpose of the withdrawal (to give to her presumed-dead girlfriend?), and no single bank branch carries so much cash on hand without advance notice. She's smart enough to know the right words to say to the IRS, and maybe she waited for the bank to get the cash, but it sure doesn't look that way as shown.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The scene of Mayfair's murder is cleaned down with bleach, yet Patterson is somehow able to swab a sample and run a DNA analysis on it. While it's not unrealistic that traces of blood remain behind, the bleach should have rendered it completely useless for any forensic analysis.
  • Artistic License – Law: The second season premier shows a CIA "black site" in Oregon, even though the CIA is forbidden by law from operating on U.S. soil. It also shows them using torture as an interrogation tactic, even though that is also now forbidden by law. It also would be impossible for the CIA to grab up a domestic terrorism suspect since counter-terrorism is the province of DHS and handled by the FBI. Traditionally, when the CIA needed to interrogate someone captured in the U.S. they would have to fly them outside the country first; this is the origin of the controversy over "rendition" flights. Of course, a Central Theme of Blindspot is that abuses just as grotesque as this are rampant in American government, but attempting to expose them usually leads to being made subject to them.
  • Artistic License – Military: The U.S. Navy SEALs do not directly recruit civilians into their program, much less convicted felons straight out of prison. Nor do their recruitment methods include targeting people with sociopathic tendencies. In point of fact, all Special Operations branches include extensive psychological testing to ensure that their recruits have maximum psychological stability, precisely for the reason that you don't turn likely criminals into lethal weapons.
  • Big Brother Instinct: A villainous example. One of the perps from "Eight Slim Grins", with the help of three others, tries to break his brother out of the hospital. The brother, a fellow criminal, was in police custody after getting shot during a robbery. Not only does his plan fail, it gets him killed and causes his brother to succumbs to his injuries.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good:
    • Mayfair's contact regarding Operation Daylight is a Deputy Director of the CIA, and advocates killing Jane to maintain the cover-up, then threatens Mayfair when she refuses to allow him to handle the situation himself.
    • Features heavily in "Split the Law": the CIA is found to be running an illegal domestic black ops site, prepares to gun down FBI agents in broad daylight, and cheerfully admits to doing things like leaving one of their sources to his fate when he becomes inconvenient, not assisting the FBI when they're trying to stop a terrorist attack with a dirty bomb, trying to assassinate Jane (though Mayfair keeps that one a secret from the rest of the team)...
    • We discover in the second season premier that after Jane was arrested by Weller she was grabbed up by the CIA and tortured for three months at a "black site" in Oregon.
  • Complexity Addiction: Whoever is responsible for Jane's mysterious appearance in Time Square appears to have a complicated long-term plot in mind. Lampshaded when Weller wonders out loud why someone would tattoo an FBI agent's name and information about a terrorist attack on Jane's body rather than simply call the FBI and tell them about the attack.
  • Cutting the Knot: Weller's team has to assault a rickety old house where a man is holding many women hostage. Worried about taking the stairs, Weller orders breaching charges be placed directly under the hostage taker. Cue the floor giving way and the man falling into the FBI's lap.
  • Dead All Along: The real Taylor Shaw.
  • Dirty Cop: NYPD officers Costello, Johnson and their captain, who were using stolen police bodycam footage to extort and blackmail various wealthy individuals for their own personal gain.
  • Disc One Final Boss: The first half of Season 1 sets up Carter as the main antagonist, due to his obsessive need to eliminate Jane in order to cover up Daylight. However, at the end of "Evil Handmade Instrument", he is unceremoniously gunned down by Jane's handler, Oscar.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The main plot of "Persecute Envoys" deals with two NYPD officers being executed in broad daylight presumably because they assisted another officer in shooting an unarmed black man who was running away from them.
  • Doing In the Wizard: At one point in "Persecute Envoys" Jane wonders aloud how it is remotely possible whoever tattooed her would be able to predict the murder of two cops weeks or months in advance, which would seem to indicate precognition or time travel. The tattoo didn't predict the murders: what looked like a gunsight was actually meant to be a camera lens, and the tattoo was leading them to an extortion racket using police bodycam footage.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sofia Varma, Mayfair and Carter's co-conspirator, took her own life when it appeared that Operation Daylight would be exposed.
    • Subverted as she's revealed to have faked her suicide.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Borden and Patterson agree to go on a date, though it takes a little while for them to actually manage it. At the opening of the very next episode, they're shown brushing their teeth together in an obvious "morning after" situation.
  • Fake-Out Opening: A memory of Jane's has her recalling cold-bloodedly assassinating a nun with a pistol shot to the back of her head and Jane spends most of the episode worried that she really was a horrible person for murdering an innocent. She later recalls more of the memory and the "nun" was a uniformed, armed soldier in disguise.
  • Far-East Asian Terrorists: "Pilot" has a Chinese national studying in New York with plans to bomb the Statue of Liberty because Washington didn't lift a finger to help his mom when she was held in a Chinese prison camp. But just before the bearded man kills him, it's revealed that he was actually blackmailed into playing out the scheme, including drawing in Jane Doe and the FBI, to save his sister.
  • Fictional Counterpart:
    • Douglas Winter for Edward Snowden. Notably, he's just a patsy; Sandstorm broke into his house, downloaded all those files onto his laptop, emailed them to the New York Times in his name, then told him he could either stick around and get executed for treason, or take a Briefcase Full of Money and run to whatever government would give him sanctuary. He ran, but he was wearing A/V glasses at the time, thus leaving a record on its built-in flash drive.
    • LaMont Green for Freddie Gray/Eric Garner/Walter Scott
  • Gas Leak Cover Up: The USAF covers the existence of the domestic anti-terror drone program by claiming that accidental explosions were the cause of the "accidents" that killed personnel involved in the operation.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: In "Bone May Rot", the CDC logo shows it is part of the fictitious 'Department of Health', instead of the real life longer 'Department of Health and Human Services'.
  • Government Conspiracy:
    • The cover-up around Operation Daylight is a small-scale one—apparently, only four people (including Mayfair) know what it is. We've met two of them, and a third is dead. In "Persecute Envoys" it's revealed who the others are: the President's chief of staff, and one of his political aides (who happens to be Mayfair's lesbian lover). The latter killed herself when it appeared Daylight would be exposed and she realized they'd crossed the Moral Event Horizon with the operation.
    • It's noted in "Split the Law" that, except for the planned terrorist attack in "Pilot" (which was staged specifically to demonstrate Jane's abilities and role), Jane's tattoos have thus far led them to cases of government corruption, illegal activity, or individuals using government resources to carry out their own crimes.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: The villain in the pilot rapidly fires multiple shots from a 3D printed plastic gun. While such designs can actually fire a bullet, they can only fire a single round due to the pressure and heat from the shot damaging and warping the plastic. This may be an example of And Some Other Stuff; the cops would probably like it if some moron ended up with a useless gun after one shot.
  • Gun Safety: In "A Stray Howl", Jane impresses Weller when she shows gun safety by handling a M4A1 with her right index trigger staying away from the trigger.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Government vs Sandstorm is starting to look like this.
    • The FBI is full of good-minded if flawed people who uphold the law to the best of their ability, but the investigations Jane leads them on expose unforgivable corruption which they often accept as business as usual... and upon exposure, they blithely accept orders from higher-up not to investigate further - one particularly intense case is Jane being held and tortured in a CIA "black site" in direct violation of both American laws against torture and the CIA's mandate against operating domestically. Kurt and Jane actually meet the man in charge of the site several months later, and Kurt basically makes Jane suck it up.
    • Sandstorm is a group of Western Terrorists who commit unspeakable acts and do lots of collateral damage, but they are fighting that corruption tooth and nail. It goes straight into Not So Different territory as both sides consider individual lives to be expendable. Jane even Lampshades this in ”Heave Fiery Knot";
    Jane: I've seen the laws this country's willing to violate, and all I've seen Sandstorm do is expose corruption and save lives. How can you be so sure we're on the right side of this?
  • Hanlon's Razor: Inverted. In the show every bad thing is the result of a malicious conspiracy on the part of agents of the government.
  • Identity Amnesia: The show's central concept. Drugs were used to try and completely wipe out Jane's narrative memory, leaving her with no idea who she is and where she comes from. Her procedural memory, on the other hand, is fully intact, meaning that she can function like most other adults while demonstrating new skills as the plot requires.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All episode titles to date are Significant Anagrams. Once decoded, the first ten form a non-rhyming poem regarding the plot of the series. On top of that, the anagrams form a coherent, intriguing paragraph; Who is Jane Doe? Taylor Shaw, the missing girl, or maybe not. The past will cloud our eyes. Suspect everyone. Lift the curtain, and unveil the mastermind. In case of emergency, follow these instructions; stay where you are. Find a secure line to contact your handler. Find what you need in almost the last place you look. To begin the sequence, focus on the time, then head first road west to your new safehouse. The final order will be revealed when it's filed away. The creators have stated that the episode names of future seasons will also have hidden messages, possibly encoded in other ways.
    1. "Woe Has Joined" (alternate title for the pilot): "Who is Jane Doe?"
    2. "A Stray Howl": "Taylor Shaw"
    3. "Eight Slim Grins": "The missing girl"
    4. "Bone May Rot": "Or maybe not"
    5. "Split the Law": "Will the past" or "The past will"
    6. "Cede Your Soul": "Cloud our eyes"
    7. "Sent on Tour": "Trust no one"
    8. "Persecute Envoys": "Suspect everyone"
    9. "Authentic Flirt": "Lift the curtain"
    10. "Evil Handmade Instrument": "And unveil the mastermind"
    11. "Cease Forcing Enemy": "In case of emergency"
    12. "Scientists Hollow Fortune": "Follow these instructions"
    13. "Erase Weary Youth": "Stay Where You Are"
    14. "Rules in Defiance": "Find a secure line"
    15. "Older Cutthroat Canyon": "To contact your handler"
    16. "Any Wounded Thief": "Find what you need"
    17. "Man's Telepathic Loyal Lookouts": "In Almost the Last Place You Look"
    18. "One Begets Technique": "To Begin The Sequence"
    19. "In the Comet of Us: "Focus On The Time"
    20. "Swift Hardhearted Stone "Then Wait For The Address"
    21. "Of Whose Uneasy Route "To Your New Safe House"
    22. "If Love a Rebel, Death Will Render "The Final Order Will Be Revealed"
    23. "Why Await Life's End "When It's Filed Away"
  • Season 2 continues the theme naming with;
    1. "In Night So Ransomed Rogue" "Nothing Is More Dangerous”
    2. "Heave Fiery Knot" "They Invoke Fear”
    3. "Hero Fears Imminent Rot" "For Their Moment is Near”
    4. ”If Beth" "The FBI”
    5. "Condone Untidiest Thefts" "Defends The Constitution”
    6. "Her Spy's Harmed" "Shepherd's Army”
    7. "Resolves Eleven Myths" "Only Serve Themselves”
    8. "We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters" "When The Soldiers Attack, We Fight On”
    9. "Why Let Cooler Pasture Deform "We Shall Protect Your Freedom"
    • The winter break upgraded them to palindromes. The center letter in the palindromes, read in episode order, appear to be spelling "Kurt Weller".
    1. "Nor I, Nigel, AKA Leg in Iron"
    2. "Droll Autumn, Unmutual Lord"
    3. "Devil Never Even Lived"
    4. "Name Not One Man"
    5. "Borrow or Rob"
  • Impersonating an Officer: In the Pilot, Chao is able to sneak into the Statue of Liberty by disguising himself as a US Park Ranger.
  • Invisible Writing: Jane Doe's body is already covered in tattoos that contain hidden meanings but in the "Bone May Rot" episode, it is discovered that she also has tattoos that are only appear under the exact frequency of UV light that is used for decontamination at the CDC.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Patterson always wears one at work, even though her main tools are computers.
  • Mexican Standoff: A heated one between the FBI and CIA at the end of "Split the Law", regarding who takes custody over a captured bombmaker.
  • The Mole: Zapata gives Carter all of the FBI's information on Jane in exchange for enough money to pay off her gambling debts. Afterwards, he's able to use her acceptance of said money in order to extort her into continuing to spy on Jane for him.
    • The season 2 premiere has Jane acting as one for Sandstorm. At the end, it's revealed they also have a mole in the FBI.
  • Monochrome Past:
    • Every time Jane recalls another memory fragment from her past, the flashback is in black & white.
    • Mayfield's flashbacks in "Persecute Envoys" have a heavy blue tint to them, almost to the point of washing out all other colors.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In regards to Jane, Carter repeatedly pushes this idea on Mayfair in order to prevent the secret of Operation Daylight from being exposed. Mayfair then repeatedly shoots down this plan because of the very high chance it will attract more attention, given the relatively high profile of Jane's case, not to mention that Jane remembers nothing herself and is likely a smaller piece of the tattoo mystery. The tattoos are fully scanned into the FBI's database and killing her would not prevent them from being used as clues.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Subverted in "A Stray Howl". When the issue is raised that Gibson was set off by the FBI's visit to him, Weller points out Gibson already had the drone control and override built, so while they might have unintentionally caused him to launch his plan early, it was one he was intending to carry out anyway.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Jane spends a good portion of the pilot nude, but she's positioned, lit, and framed very carefully to show as much skin as possible while keeping things broadcast safe.
  • Operation: [Blank]: The mysterious Operation Daylight, which elements of both the CIA and the FBI are interested in keeping secret. It is later revealed to be a Ripped from the Headlines operation where the NSA supplied illegally obtained information to government officials to blackmail opponents, the CIA for intelligence, and the FBI for criminal activity. Mayfair's part was to come up with fake sources for the information that was being provided to her to pass to law enforcement under the guise it had been obtained legally.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Mayfair's reason for not having Jane killed is not just to avoid a Revealing Cover-Up, but because allowing her to continue the investigation into who she is and who tattooed her may lead to the people who are aware of Operation Daylight.
  • Quest for Identity: Jane's motivation in helping Weller's team—every case related to her tattoos might contain another clue about her past.
  • Reality Ensues: Patterson's civilian boyfriend David gets so caught up in solving the clues that he trails someone connected with a cipher that he and Patterson discovered. The person he's trailing kills him.
  • Relocating the Explosion: In the pilot episode, a terrorist plants a plastic explosive on a subway train. Since Kurt Weller doesn't know how to disarm it, he instead scrapes as much of the plastic explosive off the detonator as he can, then throws the detonator down the tunnel as hard as he can. It works.
  • Repressed Memories: Reade's old friend indicates that Reade himself was a victim of his coach's sexual abuse but Reade has no memory of this. He later claims that his recollections of that period of his childhood are vague and incomplete.
  • The Reveal: A massive one in "Why Let Cooler Pasture Deform": Borden has been Sandstorm's mole the entire time. In fact, he and his wife were the ones who saved and helped a wounded Jane during her initial mission and when his wife was killed, was recruited to help Jane with her mission.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: One reason why Assistant Director Mayfair argues that Jane should not be killed. Whatever information about Operation Daylight that is on her has already been scanned and is in the database, so killing her serves no purpose and would draw even more attention to her case.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: The appearance of Jane Doe reopens an old case with a personal connection to Weller. Taylor Shaw was a childhood friend of Weller's and her disappearance wrecked his life. When Jane shows up, DNA evidence shows that she is a grown up Taylor Shaw which causes everyone to question what really happened when she disappeared all those years ago. The evidence was faked; Taylor Shaw was murdered at the time of her disappearance.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Employed fairly regularly. Daylight is revealed to be an operation utilising the data collected by the NSA on the US population, which was thrown into turmoil when the information was leaked and Mayfair having to fabricate evidence to cover the trail. In "Persecute Envoys", references are made to the Ferguson and Baltimore riots, as the episode focuses on presumed revenge killings of NYPD officers involved in the shooting of an unarmed black man. Other episodes focus around such topical themes as killer drones, ebola and other plagues, and paramilitary right-wing groups.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In "A Stray Howl", a ex-Air Force pilot named Gibson attempts to blow up all the military personnel connected to a top-secret drone program. Gibson used to be part of that program and hated it. When it was discovered that he planned to expose the drones flying over the United States, the high-ups kicked him out and ruined his life.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The antagonist of "A Stray Howl" is a former Air Force pilot who became unhinged after a mission gone wrong resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians. Or at least that's the cover story the Air Force uses to justify grounding, then discharging him. He was actually transferred to an illegal domestic drone program, then kicked out when he tried to blow the whistle on it.
  • Shown Their Work: Chinese viewers were pleasantly surprised to find that Jane Doe is fluent in a dialect of Mandarin Chinese called Wenzhouhua, which is infamously difficult to understand. Even other Mandarin Chinese speakers struggle with it.
  • SWAT Team: The Hostage Rescue Team gets mobilized to help the rest of the FBI whenever a situation is about to get worse.
  • Teen Genius: Deconstructed in "Cede Your Soul". The team encounters a brilliant 17 year old hacker named Anna. Because of her youth and naivety, she was easily manipulated into creating software that tracked government vehicles, resulting in several assassinations. She thought she was working for the government and is horrified to learn the truth.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The advertisements for the next half of season 1 give away the twist of Jane being the one behind giving herself the tattoos and wiping her memory.
  • Wait Here: Weller attempts to do this to Jane in the pilot, but she insists on coming along. And in the second episode. And in the third. They eventually give up and decide to just add her to the team.
  • Western Terrorists: The anti-government militiamen protecting an arms dealer/informant in "Sent on Tour".
  • Wham Episode:
    • Mayfair tells Weller about the existence of "Operation Daylight" at the end of "Sent on Tour", and in "Persecute Envoys", we learn the details of it.
    • "Evil Handmade Instrument" definitely lives up to its Significant Anagram ("And unveil the mastermind"). Turns out, the mastermind behind sending Jane to Kurt is Jane herself.
    • "Of Whose Uneasy Route" has many of the tasks that Oscar sent Jane on come together to implicate Mayfair in Tom Carter, Saul Guerrero and now her new girlfriend's death.
    • "If Love A Rebel Death Will Render": Mayfair discovers Jane set her up and is killed by Oscar, Weller is made head of the New York office and the Jane Doe project shut down, and Weller's father confesses on his death bed that he really did kill Taylor Shaw and where he buried her body.
    • "Why Let Cooler Pasture Deform": Shepherd and Roman use their knowledge of Jane's triple-agent status to lure the FBI into a trap. In the hospital, Reade confesses to Zapata that he didn't kill his abuser, but did let him die. Shepherd orders Roman to kill Jane...but he can't, turning against her. They shoot each other, but he can't bring himself to kill Shepherd either; after he and Jane escape and she treats his wound, she injects him with the drug that wiped her own memory, intending to give him a second chance. Doctor Borden is the traitor. Patterson figures it out, goes to arrest him, and one shoots the other.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of the pilot, we see that one of Jane's tattoos is of a heavily redacted case file number pertaining to Assistant Director Mayfair—and the file contains the words "murder" and "embezzlement" as the few words still exposed.
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