ADVISORY: This Minority Report review contains spoilers.
Minority Report: season 1 episode 2.
I’ll give Minority Report the benefit of the doubt that it wants to be more than just another procedural cop drama. Behind the crime of the week, there’s the danger of discovery. Vega’s dishonesty with her law enforcement colleagues and her illegal use of precognitives threaten to damage her career despite its helpfulness. Meanwhile, Dash risks the loss of his anonymity and the freedom of his siblings as well as himself. Is this tension enough to sustain a series that relies heavily on flashy effects, humorous references to the past, and glimpses of future tech?
Those last items are definitely fun and impressive, I’ll admit. Whether it’s Vega’s night vision, references to Beyonce music as “oldies,” or just a toddler in a stroller with an interactive screen surrounding him, Minority Report does a great job creating atmosphere. Li Jun Li’s facial tattoos, the “sick stick” Vega lets Dash use, and the bar scenes with compatibility bracelets: it all makes for a nice high-tech playground-style future. Vega humorously recalls the more romantic days of “texting and swiping,” but for the most part, society in 2065 looks fairly ideal.
Does it matter that the original source material for this story was more of a future dystopia where pre-crime enforcement robbed people of their sense of free will? Perhaps not. A flashback in this episode depicts Wally in the final days of pre-crime, when the precogs were still in their milk baths being used to predict crime before it happened. Now, Lieutenant Blake mentions that the city’s police department is about to pilot a new computerized predictive model a la Person of Interest. Is that something viewers should be afraid of? A return to being arrested before a crime has been committed?
These background elements would have more power if the episodic content were less generic. The pick-up artist as red-herring suspect has been done many times before, and the bartender stalker had about as much impact as telling viewers, “The butler did it!” In fact, the visual details Wally gleaned from Dash’s visions are almost an excuse for lazy police work. Despite the fact that the incriminating tattoo was moving in the future image, Vega was blind to all other suspects besides the author with the symbol on his arm.
Not to mention the fact that Vega gives in to Arthur’s request for an old case file as soon as her investigation meets even the most minor obstacle. Yes, there’s a deadline on solving murders before they happen, but these shortcuts don’t make me think Vega is the superior detective whom Blake bypassed for promotion. It just makes her look like a mediocre cop looking for an unfair advantage to solve crime.
The case file Vega obtains dishonestly from her supposed friend, Akeela, does end up being fairly innocuous on the surface. Arthur apparently wants details on the death of his and Dash’s mother, which may lead to some interesting back story. Arthur and Agatha create a nice undercurrent of mythology for the show, and I especially enjoy the deflating Agatha at the end of each virtual phone call. I’ve been fooled by that device twice now!
As a show in its first season, I’ll hold out hope that the mysteries will deepen, and I don’t mean with regard to the crimes being solved, although that would be nice as well. The backbone of this series appears to be the ability to see the future and those who would exploit those with this skill, and a conspiracy may soon reveal itself which will theoretically entice those who are looking for more than another cop show. But how long could such intrigue last? Sooner or later, the pre-cogs will be discovered, and once that happens, where else can the show go?
Minority Report is an enjoyable show with an enticing premise, but so far the characters have failed to draw me in and the wow factor of the effects can only distract from weak plots for so long. The actors are delivering lines rather than performances, and that might not be entirely their fault. Hopefully, once the exposition has been laid down, the darker themes and character dimensions can grow and thrive. Until then, I’ll check my geek devotion at the door.