Pilot Season: Minority Report and Quantico

Minority Report

Borrowed from movieweb.com

Genre: Sci-fi/crime-solving

Synopsis: A decade ago, the Precrime Unit was dismantled. It had been an agency using three precogs–children–to foresee crimes before they happened, enabling the arrest and incarceration of criminals before they’d ever committed their crimes. But the flaws of the program were revealed, and it was put to an end.

Now, one of the precogs has grow into an adult. And he isn’t satisfied with the idea that he could stop crimes before they happen, but isn’t. He seeks out a detective, Lara Vega, and together they attempt to use his power to save people, all the while trying to keep his involvement secret. For his own safety.

Series: First season just beginning to air.

I’ve Watched: First episode.

Verdict: Underwealming.

This show is based off of a movie with overarching themes like determination versus fate. Bold choice, especially as they could have easily just created their own world if they wanted to have a precog going around, solving crime. I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I saw the movie, but I remember the main ideas that went into it.

Choosing to follow-up on Minority Report the movie specifically means that just making a procedural with a precog isn’t going to cut it. It also doesn’t help that the setting here reminds me of Psycho-Pass, another dystopia dealing with preventing crimes though imperfect mechanisms of identifying criminals. And as the movie and Psycho-Pass are now foremost in my mind, I know going in that I’ve set the bar’s way too high. This made me reluctant to watch the pilot, because I wanted it to be good, but there was no way it could measure up.

The show does try to address some of the consequences of using precognition to lock up criminals. But so far, it’s kinda clunky. And it doesn’t feel like it’s treading any new ground. The big threat that’s looming is the potential for things to go back the way they were in the movie. That could have been interesting, if they chose to follow the difficulty of change and getting people to accept change. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here. It’s more like, ‘hey, here’s a personal threat to the protagonist, who wants to stay free.’

I don’t get the impression that the narrative fully understands the ideas it’s working with. Either that, or the execution isn’t displaying that understanding.

Sure, they go to see the people who’d been imprisoned because of the precogs in the past. Dash is horrified that he was responsible for their treatment, while Lara just views all of these people as criminals. But that mostly felt like a token effort to appeal to the ideas in the movie. In the end, a former prisoner and one of his relatives are the bad guys and that’s that. The show never uses the opportunity to explore what could drive a person to murder, though that could have been an interesting place to go. Instead, it’s all about closing the case and solving the crime.

And there’s something disturbing, psychologically, about Dash still doing the thing he was practically programmed to do. It’s not like there aren’t other ways to utilize precognition to save people. Predicting natural disasters, for one–doing that just once could probably save more lives than solving crimes for the rest of his life. There’s finding people who’ll need immediate emergency medical attention before they know they will. There’s foreseeing accidents in hazardous workplaces before they occur. Hell, there’s even therapy. Dash can obviously see plenty of things other than violent deaths, given his remarks. But for some reason, this is the only thing he ends up looking for.

The show doesn’t seem aware of the potential problems of having a character go back to the subject of his previous incarceration and even abuse. Sure, they can have him do something out of compassion, but they have to be aware that his physical freedom is not the only thing on the line. The way that the show is going about addressing some of the larger moral and psychological themes here in general just seem…oversimplified.

Ignoring the themes, the storytelling is still problematic. The first line spoken by our precog protagonist isn’t promising: “You’re gonna need a mop.” He says this right before a bunch of drinks are spilled on the floor. Way to be discrete, buddy. To me, this signifies right from the start that the show is going for gimmicks over a coherent story. And there are other details which are off.

The cops close in on their suspect, he commits suicide before they can apprehend him, and their response is…to crack one-liners? Or there’s a scene where a cop just starts accusing a mentally unstable suspect on a rooftop. No arrest, no thought-out interrogation. I just…what? Are you or are you not a professional? Details sometimes don’t make sense–like how does a some random guy manage to hit a trained cop with a paralytic, after she’d already restrained him?

There’s also a weird amount of telling versus showing, especially given that this is a visual medium. We’re told everything about the bad guys’ lives and motives, as opposed to having them revealed through their character.

It’s such a shame, because I see some good acting here, and there is story potential–well, it’s based on Minority Report the movie, so of course there is. The actors just aren’t being given good dialogue to work with. The character reactions aren’t always appropriate, which is jarring. And the show has trouble with allowing actions and acting inform character, instead just telling us the facts in a too-sterile fashion.

I really can’t bring myself to watch any more of this.

Weird sciency stuff:

They ran facial recognition off of a drawing, and got only one match. How are there not many, many false positives? How is this not nigh useless?

Messenger pigeons…remote controlled by something implanted into their brains. So that’s essentially taking a bunch of animals and mind-controlling them. Okay, seriously creepy. Hard to imagine it getting past an ethics review board. Creating machines with the same function would probably not only be more ethical (which is no small thing on its own), but actually easier, too.

Quantico

Borrowed from thetvaddict.com

Genre: Thriller

Synopsis: A group of new recruits for the FBI become suspects for a terrorist attack. Alex–the one who ends up being framed for the crime–must figure out which of her fellows was responsible, while remaining free enough to do it.

Series: Pilot just aired.

I’ve Watched: First episode.

Verdict: Looks good so far.

Good, compelling start. This show is following a recently established formula of two timelines, but that’s a formula that depends heavily on characterization, so I’m actually partial to it. Most of the characters are well portrayed and promising. The show itself manages to be both fun and serious at different times, whatever the situation warrants. 

One thing I’m not entirely sure of yet is the sheer amount of secrets dumped on us so far. We don’t know everything about all of them yet, but I’m wondering how much sense they’ll end up making. I really hope they do work, because I’m enjoying this so far. (Btw, my suspicions are falling on O’Connor. Something is not right about that guy.)

I’m fond of the cast. Alex is confident and charismatic. Ryan just has this goodness and surety about him. Shelby manages to be both bubbly and girly, and aware of her competence. Simon is nicely contradictory, being either able and awkward in different situations, both coming naturally to him. Caleb does a great job of feigning attitude while totally not believing he belongs. It should be fun to watch them all interact.

I’m also happy that a diverse cast (with a non-white female lead) is featured in a show that’s actually promising. That said, there are still a few sensitivity things that stood out to me. Like, don’t call a human being damaged goods in any situation. Ever. And don’t out their sexual exploits in public without their consent–yes, this applies to men as well as women. Also, I noted that pretty much all of the major male characters were white. Not sure what that means, but I noted it. I’m sure I’ve missed things, given the potentially racially charged premise. However, the show seems to be doing better thus far than most others, as far as I can tell. 

Overall, I’m intrigued, and enjoying this. Going to keep watching for now.

 

 

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