Friday, March 29, 2024

Sight Unseen, on CW

Just because a detective might be blind doesn’t mean they aren’t observant. Indeed, there is a long tradition of vision-impaired crime-fighters, including Daredevil, Longstreet, Clive Owen in Second Sight, and Andy Lau in Blind Detective. Tess Avery is the latest. Her hereditary Leber’s Neuropathy came on quickly but decisively, forcing her to resign from the police force. Yet, we all know she can never walk away from solving crimes in creators Karen & Nikolijne Troubetzkoy’s Sight Unseen, which premieres Wednesday on the CW.

Avery was so good at her job, she used to make all the other detectives look bad, even including her partner Jake Campbell, who maybe also carried an ambiguously romantic torch for her. However, she abruptly resigns when she is unable to shoot a suspect fleeing with an abduction victim. Even though he nearly died during the incident, Campbell assumes it is a one-time choke, but she knows she finally inherited her late mother’s Leber’s.

She does not deal with it well. Refusing to confide in Campbell, she constantly dodges Mia Moss, her new adaptation “coach,” who is also legally blind. Instead, she relies on Sunny Patel, her video chat guide, much like the one featured in Randall Okita’s horror-thriller,
See for Me. Rather conveniently, Patel is an agoraphobe, so she is pretty much always available. She is also a true crime junkie, so she is also willing.

Unfortunately, Campbell’s new partner Leo Li is one of those cops who cares more about his “numbers” than justice, so Avery must constantly supply Campbell with the motivation and ammunition to do the right thing. In the premiere episode, “Tess,” she starts by searching for the still-missing woman. For a change of pace this time, Avery believes the husband is innocent. Given the limited number of supporting characters, that leaves very few alternate suspects.

Of the first three episodes provided for review, the second, “Sunny,” probably serves up the best crime story. Since hit-and-runs are notoriously difficult to solve, Avery returns to one of the final cases she worked before losing her vision. Soon, she suspects it involves the disappearance of a disgraced tech-lifestyle guru, which is definitely the sort of case Det. Li would like to solve. Avery still has trouble leveling with Campbell, even though their on-screen chemistry starts to take on greater definition.

Again, the mystery of the third episode, “Jake,” has a very Quinn Martin-esque lack of mystery, because there are literally only one or maybe two suspects it could be. However, writer Russ Cochrane does a nice job using the search for a John Doe’s identity to tease out elements of Avery’s character. It also introduces her deadbeat brother Lucas, who will obviously get into serious trouble later. We learn more about Patel’s issues, but so far, they do not land as compellingly as Avery’s.

Thus far, every case Avery investigates is rather straightforward. You’d think we all could be detectives in Canada. However, there has been a complete absence of political and ideological content. It has a multi-ethnic cast and it directly addresses the challenges of vision impairment, but it never feels like it is trying to tick representation boxes. It is far more interested in character development, which is refreshing.

Dolly Lewis is also excellent as Avery, who has some real dramatic challenges that she portrays with sensitivity and conviction. Her hard-to-pin-down relationship dynamic with Daniel Gillies, as Campbell is also nicely done. As a solid bonus, vision impaired thesp Alice Christina-Corrigan brings a lot of fresh energy to the series as Moss (as well as authenticity).

Sight Unseen
is not mind-blowing television, but it works perfectly fine as a safe, easily digestible weekly procedural. Plus, Lewis is a major discovery, who ought to really make a name for herself based on impressive work as Avery. Recommended for viewers of throwback cop shows, Sight Unseen premieres this Wednesday (4/3) on the CW.