So what did the Ink Master season 12 premiere on the Paramount Network bring you Tuesday night? Think, first and foremost, in terms of a lot of battle-related commentary. The Battle of the Sexes is the theme for this go-around, and the judges and the contestants absolutely made sure that you didn’t forget it.
This isn’t the first time that the show has overemphasized the theme to a great degree, and as any longtime fan knows, really most of that tends to fade away once you get a little ways away from the season actually airing. For this season, though, the men vs, women aspect of it may have a little bit more staying power — even if you forget about some of the talk of Vikings, valkyries, and showdowns. The majority of the premiere was focused almost entirely around seeing these two different teams go head-to-head, so the battle lines are now almost certainly drawn.
One thing that we did like about the premier right away is that we didn’t really spend a lot of time on contestants who aren’t going to be a part of the competition at large. There was no proving ground or huge elimination of people right off the bat, which we’ve seen on recent seasons. We had our two teams and from there, everyone just got a chance to tattoo for their spot in the next episode.
The effectiveness of some of these people is one thing, and the likeability of many of them is another — we respect all of them for getting there, but we may not be rooting for many of them by the end of this. That’s one of the things we’re kind of interested in charting however long that this team element is going to be a part of the show, given that this will expose who to root for vs. who to run away from more than any other. It was really hard to get to know a lot of the individual personalities within the span of the premiere, but we at least have a sense of a couple of people. Alexis Kovacs, for example, seems to be a pretty strong candidate to be the leader of the women’s team. She’s got everything you would want — she’s been a part of the tattoo industry for a long time, she comes across as pretty no-nonsense, and she seems to be fairly good at what she does.
The women’s team, in general, did their best to hold firm to a good strategy in their first challenge, which was all about doing three different tattoos on the same canvas with artists switching in and out. While you can argue that their subject matter, various women’s faces, was not exactly the most original from one tattoo to the other, at least the designs shined through. Sometimes, Ink Master contestants tend to overcomplicate things early on, not understanding the time constraints of the competition. For the women, they smartly chose designs that they could pull off, and also ones that were clearly legible. The illustrations and the concept were enough for them to be able to mask some mistakes that are inevitably going to come from being in this environment for the first time.
For the guys, however, their results were a little more mixed. By mixed, we mean that some of them really screwed up with this. It was a cool idea to have all three of the tattoos be very different and represent different techniques. However, not all of them were legible, and none of them were really even consistent within themselves in terms of concept. It was fairly obvious, just on looking at the men’s tattoos versus the women’s, that the women were going to pull this off. It just felt like they had a whole lot more of a plan and a lot more of a cohesive theme.
(It was also around this point that we first realized that one of the Ink Master villains of the season is going to be Pon, who seem to be more interested in making annoying and stereotypical remarks about the women then he seemed to be anything else. Apparently, he’s that guy who seemed to think that degrading the other team was somehow going to make his team better or make himself feel better when really, the women smoked him and he shouldn’t have been so judgmental at all.)
Where do we go from here?
In the aftermath of what happened in the first challenge, the thing we were the most surprised about was that Pon didn’t end up going into the bottom! The guys had to vote on their three weakest links, and it seems as though he monopolized a lot of the time in the challenge and a lot of people had friction with him. Seems like a good reason to put him up, no? Yet, apparently, some of these artists seem to think that he’s got a lot of experience or he brings something more to the table — in other words, they still thought he had value.
This is where things get interesting. Creepy Jason, who has quite possibly the most memorable name in Ink Master history, was put in the bottom alongside Timothy Lease and Julian Zambrano. Of the three, we were the saddest to see Tim there, which of course makes sense since Tim was the one who ended up going home. Why does this have to be our luck!? With his weird and offbeat style, his sense of humor, and apparently his six cats, Timothy brought the entertainment and it is sad already that we’re not going to be getting to see any more of him. It seemed like there wasn’t a great reason to put him in the bottom either, other than that he clashed a little bit with Pon.
We actually thought that Tim’s idea for the final challenge, which was themed around pin-ups and also American traditional design, was pretty cool. The problem was that he’s basically the poster child at this point for trying to do way too much too early on in the competition. There was no reason for him to try to throw as many elements in there as he did when he couldn’t quite make them as cohesive or as finished as he needed to. Maybe he was just not right for this competition since not everybody is. It’s such a weird, pressure cooker environment where the stress can get to you and it feels a lot of the time like you’re in shark-infested waters.
Overall, this was a very good start to Ink Master season 12. While it’s still super early and we are still getting to know everyone, at least we have a lot of interesting personalities on the surface and potential for conflict down the road. It seems as though like the teams are trying to keep things together as of right now for the sake of unity, but we all know that’s going to completely crumble to ash by the time we get four or five episodes into this season.
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This article was written by Jessica Carter and you can follow her on Twitter here.