Martin Gero’s personal concoction hit our screens in 2015, with the elusive and intriguing premise of a hand-packaged delivery to the FBI in the form of a young amnesiac woman. Covered from neck to toe in curious and impressively alluring tattoos. For the protagonist character the creator Gero had half-built the role with Jaimie Alexander inhabiting the role of Jane Doe. It was offered to her without any form of an audition. It’s safe to say that even one episode in, the role went to the right actor. The suspense level that has been crafted in the pilot is through the roof. There are several increasingly interesting points within the first fifteen minutes. The unidentified woman is found in a bag, drugged, naked, without any memories and covered in mysterious tattoos.
The FBI bring her in, and we meet an agent Kurt Weller whose name happens to be tattooed on the girls back. She is temporarily named Jane Doe (the obvious name you give to any female-identifying person found who’s in any state of unaware). Quickly, they run a series of tests on her, blood, fingerprints, iris scans and other miscellaneous ones. We meet our resident doctor Borden who tells Kurt and the boss Deputy Director Mayfair what they’ve found so far. Jane’s tox screen revealed extraordinary levels of a drug called ZIP (Zeta Interacting Protein). Which is an experimental drug being tested with PTSD sufferers, rape victims, soldiers who seen combat etc. Borden tells that “Used sparingly it can erase selected memories. But they didn’t find small amounts or traces of this drug in Jane, her whole system is flooded with it. Creating a chemically-induced state of permanent amnesia.
Initially it seems as if one of the many intriguing parts of this series asides from the obvious mystery, action, police procedural, is the concept of amnesia and associated guilt is one to think about. We don’t know who this girl is, nor does she. The idea that if she’s done things in her past that aren’t legal or ethical. Is the same level of response or justice actually appropriate for someone who has no memory of their entire live, let alone remember committing a certain or several acts. Like the old Nazi soldier in the nursing home with complete and fully-formed dementia, not knowing who where or what he is but content in the near-delirium state that many afflicted with late stage dementia wind up in. Is it right or logical to hold him accountable? Not that Jane has given any indication yet who she may have been before this, but it seems like this could be a metaphorical path of interest that this series may take a stroll through.
As with a lot of series and films crafted in the past decade or so, exploring subject matters like mental health, PTSD, and any kind of trauma as well as being a highly interesting it’s also an important chasm of societal difiiculties to wade through, representation of these on screen, normalising attmepting to work through them and accepting your struggles instead of sweeping them under the carpet. Interestingly, the pilot also brought to light the differences between procedural and narrative memory – there is a potential interesting well of ideas that could be explored further throughout this series.“Her narrative memory has been obliterated but her procedural memory still seems to be intact. So she can walk talk and theoretically understand the world. Conceptually it all seems to be there, but the specifics are cloudy. For instance, she knows what music is but doesn’t remember the Beatles.“
The psychologist suggests taking Jane to see the work that Patterson’s (the resident analyst) work on her tattoos. Jane sees a small one behind her ear written in Chinese, an address and a date, today’s date. After a little fuss the team agree to take her out to search the property. They find the property and meet the roommate of the main occupant. Immediately smelling sulphur and seeing sawdust they ascertain that the man Chao has been busy building himself a plastic bomb. Finding an air-gapped computer with a single file set to auto upload in a few hours. Having left Jane in the car, they require her to talk to the roommate and translate both him along with the video file. She translates emails that Chao had been exchanging figuring out that he had been trying to get the US Government to help get his mother out of a Chinese prison camp. When she died there, he spun down a destructive path. Planning on bombing the Statue of Liberty, killing all attending a speech on the grounds. With Jane’s help they apprehend him, resulting in a flesh wound gunshot for Jane and a satisfied team after circumventing the explosives danger, saving all involved.
Granted this is the pilot, it may be finding its footing. But it feels a little rushed to immediately dive into a police procedural so soon. Twenty minutes into the pilot episode they’re taking her out into the field to chase a lead from a tattoo on her body. We see exactly what the series will be doing upfront but it could have spent the pilot building more suspense and intrigue, dive into the more harrowing emotions of Jane going through being processed and adapting to existing with no sense of who she is. Happily, we see a well-crafted fight scene take place when Jane steps in to protect a domestic victim, if the choreography and videography continue with this high bar of quality it will definitely be a plus throughout the series.
After the team find Chao and corner him at the top of the Statue of Liberty, Jane shoots Chao to save Kurt’s life. When she does it triggers a memory; black and white, Jane with much longer and straighter hair – running an outdoor shooting course with a bearded man. Giving us the first breadcrumb or jigsaw piece of the puzzle.
All in all, the pilot promises a new angle on a police procedural – elements of the movie memento – with the protagonist trying to piece her life and herself back together with each new clue. An amnesiac is definitely an interesting route to take, and I reckon it will rely heavily on the mystery and intrigue of Jane herself. So far I’m sold on the pilot – check back in next week for the second episodes review & breakdown!