Archie Panjabi signed on as a recurring character for Blindspot season 2. The series stars Jaimie Alexander as a woman completely covered with tattoos who arrives in Times Square in a duffle bag addressed to the FBI.
A brain dump is a series of short thoughts on a variety of subjects. Today’s topic is the women of the new TV series for fall 2015.
I’m happy to see a short hair cut on Chyler Leigh in Supergirl. The trend toward super long hair like Melissa Benoist is wearing in the show has gone on too long. Let’s cut that hair, ladies. I know, this has nothing to do with the show, but I’m sick of long hair.
First, Melissa Benoist is fabulous as our newest super hero. She’s fresh and enthusiastic and naive and so damn cute. Super heroes are not supposed to be cute, but I’m voting to let this one be cute while she’s growing into her powers. She can be serious and adult later.
Secondly, Laura Benanti who is playing both Kara’s kind mother and evil aunt is killing it!
Finally, I was fearful from the previews that Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) would be a horrible, overwrought caricature. Refreshingly, Flockhart is playing her as a close to normal human.
Jaimie Alexander is starring in Blindspot and doing a fantastic job at it. However Ashley Johnson as the geeky Patterson has stolen my attention because of her relationship with her boyfriend David (Joe Dinicol). Patterson took home photos of all of Jane Doe’s tattoos and worked to decode the meaning of them with David’s help. It’s a huge security violation for her to do this and implies she might not be as smart as she should be when it comes to real life. I also worry that David is just with her because he’s a spy who is only there to see the tattoos.
This week her security lapse was discovered by the boss, Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Patterson wasn’t fired, but she broke up with David. We’ll see how that works out in future episodes.
Who needs another medical show, right? Code Black turns out to be pulse pounding, crisis mode emergency room medicine. Everything is urgent and frantic. Amid all this chaos is Marcia Gay Harden as Dr. Leanne Rorish who is calm and kind and dedicated to teaching her charges how to save lives. She’s the eye of a hurricane. She’s grieving the loss of her family while guiding the life savers she’s training.
Dr. Rorish is one of the most powerful and vulnerable characters to come along in a while. And she is flanked by several other interesting female characters. I’m digging Code Black.
At first it looked like Quantico was mainly a vehicle for Priyanka Chopra, but it’s turned out to be a true ensemble show with moments for many female characters including those played by Johanna Braddy, Yasmine Al Massri (who plays twins Orphan Black style), and Aunjanue Ellis. The male characters on the show are equally well done. The plot of this series is as complicated as How to Get Away with Murder. There are plenty of twists and turns and surprises to egg you along.
What are your thoughts about the women of the new fall TV shows?
I love the badass characters. I enjoy the badass female leads in Quantico and Blindspot, to name a couple of examples from this fall’s TV season.
But I wish the badass qualities I love didn’t have to involve guns and violence. Is the standard audition practice these days to ask a woman to draw a weapon from a holster on her belt as quickly as she can?
I know we live in a violent world. I know we need FBI agents and other sentinels like them to protect us all.
But is gun-wielding female the only badass female character?
I want someone to write more badass characters like Erin Brockovich or Texas Senator Wendy Davis. (Oh, hey, someone is doing that! Yes!) I want more lifesavers like Dr. Leanne Rorish on Code Black or adventurers like Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or tractor-driving farmers like Gillian from Last Tango in Halifax or system-fighting women like Laurel Hester from Freeheld.
We define badass as something like Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road when we should be thinking that badass is Lily Tomlin in Grandma. I think we glorify the violent. We create drama around guns, killing, revenge, retribution. Then we uplift those characters to represent the best in the culture.
In reality, violence is the worst part of our culture. There is plenty of drama to be had in ordinary existence. Just living provides ample struggle. We can redefine badass to be something that represents the good in us, can we not? We are using pop culture to redefine the attitude toward LGBT individuals, toward all kinds of inclusion. Why not redefine the attitude toward badass?
I plan to start mentioning it on social media and here on the blog when I find a character that I can define as badass who is also uplifting and nonviolent in her greatness.
I hope you’ll join me in mentioning such characters when you find examples.
Quantico and Blindspot are two new dramas for fall. Both feature leading women who are smart and capable. Both are connected to the FBI. Quantico is on ABC. Blindspot is on NBC. Here’s a mini review of both based on the early episodes.
Quantico is about new FBI recruits. Priyanka Chopra is at the center of the story so far, but Johanna Braddy and Yasmine Al Massri and also in place as new FBI recruits. Aunjanue Ellis as an FBI trainer also has a prominent part. That’s a gift box full of women to work story arcs around, and I’m looking forward to seeing them all.
In interviews about her role in Quantico, Priyanka Chopra compared her character to Jason Borne. We learn why early on. As Alex Parrish, the new FBI trainee, she is found in the rubble of a terrorist bombing. For some reason the FBI agents who find her there are convinced that the act was committed by one of the recruits from her class at Quantico. In particular, they think it was her.
Alex gets away from the FBI team holding her after the bombing. My assumption is that she spends the next few episodes trying to prove her innocence from outside the system. That means she will be smart, creative, and resilient – all qualities to admire in a lead character. I’m happy to watch her doing this and am looking forward to seeing where the story goes.
Jaimie Alexander plays “Jane Doe” in Blindspot. She’s found in Times Square in a duffle bag, covered with tattoos and with no idea of who she is. Because of a gigantic tattoo of the name Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) on her back, she is taken to the FBI. There she works with Weller to unravel her own story.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste is the another woman prominent in the show. She plays FBI agent in charge Mayfair. Two other potentially interesting women characters who haven’t had as much to do yet are Ashley Johnson as a lab geek named Patterson and Audrey Esparza as Agent Zapata.
There have been two episodes of Blindspot now. Jane Doe has no clue about who she is, but her personality and training quickly assert themselves. She’s prone to physical violence and is trained in fighting, she’s smart and speaks several languages, she knows her way around weapons and technology. And she’s the best resource the FBI has to figure out what all the tattoos mean. In the first two episodes, her tattoos have pointed to crimes about to happen.
Weller thinks she is a person he knew as a child who disappeared and who is part of the reason he went into the FBI. Her disappearance has haunted him. Because of a scar on the back of her neck, her age, and her eye color, he decides he knows who she is. We should know by the next episode if he is right, because they were running DNA tests in episode 2.
Series creator Martin Gero told Variety that the puzzle represented by the tattoos could be figured out in the first episode – it was all there to decode. Let’s just say I haven’t solved the puzzle yet, but I’m willing to hang on for the ride.
There are a number of TV shows being announced now. Some star women in leading roles, some have more than one woman out in front, and some even boast women of a color other than white. Let’s have a look at them.
Supergirl begins this fall on CBS. We’ve been given a rather lengthy first look at the series. We may be able to skip ahead to the second episode, this trailer tells so much. As a bonus, if we start the season with episode 2, the whole wardrobe problem will be solved.
Melissa Benoist is Supergirl. Chyler Leigh plays her sister Alex. Mehcad Brooks is Jimmy (sorry, James) Olsen. Calista Flockhart plays Supergirl’s boss. The boss is some kind of horrible parody on every bitchy boss ever imagined by a male writer since the beginning of the Planet Krypton. (Really, fellas, can’t anyone do better than that?)
So here she is, the female superhero we’ve long awaited. If I were inclined to mangle famous poems, I might say,
so much depends
a red skirt
glazed with pop
beside the endless
Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers are behind The Catch, which was created by Jennifer Schuur. This is a thriller centered on the brilliant Alice Martin (Mireille Enos). She’s a fraud investigator who’s about to be the victim of fraud herself. It sounds like a season long hunt for the bad guy, mixed in with other cases.
The Catch also stars Alimi Ballard as Evan, Damon Dayoub, Jay Hayden, Jacky Ido, Bethany Joy Lenz, Rose Rollins and Elvy Yost. Props to The Catch – although the star is white, there is ample diversity in the rest of the cast.
Although Mareille Enos is capable of super intense acting, I’m most looking forward to seeing Rose Rollins on my TV again.
I think Quantico is going to take the lead on diversity. The main character is played by Priyanka Chopra, an award winning veteran of a number of Indian films. Aunjanue Ellis also has top billing on this FBI story. The plot centers around a number of recruits at the FBI training center in Quantico. Jake McLaughlin plays Ryan Booth.
Of all the previews shown in this post, I like this one the best simply because of the diversity issue. But why is there only one show like this? (I’ll mention Proof later, it helps.)
Blindspot is going to be one of those season long searches for the truth like Blacklist or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It’s about a woman who “wakes up” with no memory of her past life. She’s completely covered with fresh tattoos.
Jaimie Alexander stars as Jane Doe, with Ashley Johnson and Sullivan Stapleton backing her up in this tale about a vast international conspiracy.
Heartbreaker is a medical drama starring Melissa George. Other doctors surrounding the brilliant heart surgeon are played by Dave Annable, Don Hany, Shelley Conn and D.L. Hughley.
Jill Gordon and Amy Brenneman are among the producers for Heartbreaker.
Angel from Hell
Angel from Hell starts on CBS this fall. Jane Lynch looks happy about it, judging from her Twitter feed.
The show will be on Thursday evenings, a tough slot for any show of interest to women, especially a half hour comedy. It stars Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson, Kevin Pollak and Kyle Bornheimer. Other information is a little skimpy at this point, but the only names I can find for writers and directors are male names.
Angel from Hell doesn’t premier until November, so there will be plenty of time to fill in the details.
I love that wild hair on Jane Lynch. Perfect.
Elsewhere on Old Ain’t Dead
There are other female-led series I’ve talked about before on the blog. If you missed those posts, here they are.
I’ve mentioned Proof several times: here, here, and here. The star of that show is biracial.
I don’t think this is a complete list of the new shows with female leads, but it gives you some female-led shows to consider for your next few months of TV watching.
The Diversity Countdown
Looking just at the starring role in these women’s series, how do we stack up on diversity?
Dark Matter names the men first, so I’m not listing anyone from it
I’d say that is a less than outstanding rundown if you’re counting diversity points.
It’s not that I don’t want Melissa Benoist or Jaimie Alexander or the other white women on the list to have great parts. I do. Lots of great parts.I also want lots of great parts for the rest of the female human race.