Monday, September 21, 2015

REVIEW: 'Minority Report' - Dash Teams Up with Detective Vega to Stop an Attack on a Political Rally 'Pilot'

FOX's Minority Report - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Dash, a quiet, idealistic precog secretly living among society, tries to use his ability to see future murders to save lives by teaming up with the brash, but shrewd, Detective Lara Vega.

The Minority Report premiere sets out to dazzle the audience with speculative pieces of technology and pop culture of the future. This show is set in 2065. That means technology controls the citizens' lives even more than it does today. The show seems very proud of the effects it is able to render - especially when it comes to the police investigation. Vega and the rest of the detectives are able to recreate the actions of the victim and murderer with relative ease based on very little evidence. They are able to comb through a thousand video cameras in seconds in order to find a facial recognition. They have the technology to deal with criminals - including guns without bullets and zip lines to corner a suspect quickly. Vega has contact lenses that are able to record everything she sees and that also link to every piece of technology at her disposal. This is a show with a lot of spectacle. It even has something called a selfie drone. That's what this future is being imagined as.

Despite all of this, Detective Vega and Dash the precog are just broadly described characters. Vega idolized the PreCrime program when it was operational and hates having to mop up the aftermath of murder instead of stopping it before it happens. Dash left his relatively peaceful live in order to do something from the visions he saw. And yet, neither one of them was able to accomplish much of anything on their own. They are largely just the next odd couple pairing trapped within a procedural format. But there's no reason to care about anything they are doing.

So much of this premiere is focused on plot. It dazzles the audience with its technology but it never creates a meaningful story. Vega and Dash come together after he slips her a tip on who the killer on her case was. She speculates with her fellow detectives for a little bit that Dash is a sociopath who likes to watch crime scenes. That's a horrible waste of time. Fortunately, Vega does learn the truth shortly after that. But then, she becomes so enamored with his gift. She loves being able to do something she has always dreamed of doing. For some reason, she is able to completely ignore the legality of it. She even goes so far as to say that Dash and his siblings were right to use their gifts to lock people up all those years ago. Even when she learns the truth about the siblings not all seeing the same thing, she is still determined to use Dash in order to save people's lives.

Technology and Dash's gift allow the show to make some pretty incredulous narrative leaps. Vega never really comes across as a great detective. The technology does all the work for her. When she is interacting with people, she is much better at picking up social cues than Dash. But she is also very brash and direct with almost no explanation for her rationalizations. She connected the dots to one of the convicted would be killers being a part of the present-day plot to attack at a Mayoral campaign rally. But it's never abundantly clear why she zeroes in on this guy while ignoring all the other possible suspects. She is right but that's almost besides the point. The premiere wants to tell an entertaining story - no matter what logic dictates.

Dash and Vega are able to stop the attack before the birds drop the disease on the crowd at the rally. But it's again all about the technology while completely ignoring the morality of their actions. Dash inadvertently kills the would-be killer. The audience is suppose to think that's okay because they also see the glimpse of Vega dying because of the previously unseen knife. Vega is grateful for what Dash did and that's suppose to be the end of that. She notes that there will be an ongoing investigation into her actions - given that she was allegedly there alone to handle this threat. But that's treated as a throwaway line not something that will give the narrative a story with substance.

Dash and Vega succeed with something they've always wanted. Their partnership will continue for the next murder. But will that one end in death too so that Vega doesn't have to tell her superiors what Dash is? It's a needlessly complicated narrative that doesn't really know what it's doing yet. Vega is perfectly fine having her lieutenant take credit for her work. It's a good thing she and Dash are staying under the radar. But there's nothing to suggest any of these characters will create a whole worth caring about. That's a major problem that will need more clarity early in the next episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pilot" was written by Max Borenstein and directed by Mark Mylod.
  • It's probably important that the containment unit that used to house the people arrested for committing a crime in the future had their brains fried as a result. It's just not something Dash or Vega take all that seriously.
  • The bits about The Simpsons heading into Season 75 and the Washington Redskins being renamed to the Washington Red Clouds were the most enjoyable parts of the speculative future. The worst was Dash calling "Trouble" by Iggy Azalea an oldie.
  • Agatha gets the bigger picture, Arthur gets names and addresses while Dash picks up the little details. So of course, the drama is centered around the precog who was the weakest connection to the future.
  • Both Arthur and Blake are introduced in the most swarmy and smug way possible. Both are positioned as being interested in Vega and nothing more than that. At least Arthur has some potential given his abilities and a dark edge.
  • The less time spent on Vega's family drama the better. 
  • Wally the former caretaker of the precogs could be a fun character or he could just be a routine pitstop for Dash and Vega at the midpoint of every episode. He's also the only character from the movie to appear on the series. He'll probably be the only one too.