01 “Pilot” (Minority Report season 1) [SPOILERS]

minority report tv series
Funny story: I first watched Minority Report on a plane to — or possibly from — Australia. I fell asleep in a quiet bit, to wake up to Samantha Morton’s Agatha screaming “RUN!”, to the annoyance of my fellow passengers.

I actually quite liked the film. It differed drastically from the Philip K. Dick short story on which it was based, and I do find Tom Cruise rather irritating, but it managed to mix a fairly prescient (Geddit? -Ed) futurology with some interesting themes of free will and predestination — along with some ideas about authoritarianism.

I’m not, therefore, convinced that it really needs a sequel, whether in the form of a film or the TV series that has been made. I don’t doubt that it has the potential to make a good TV series, but to longevity of the film was in large part based on its somewhat alarming continuing relevance. On the one hand that’s an argument for pushing ahead with the series. On the other, it’s some big shoes to fill.

Ten years on from the Minority Report film, precognitive Dash (Stark Sands) leaves the island that the trio were hidden away on and secretly returns to Washington D.C., where he tries to find a purpose for his visions. Tormented by visions of murders, he tries without success to prevent them, until he makes contact with a police detective, Lara Vega (Meagan Good).

Okay, where to start? Well, I like the premise. Where to go from an “after Minority Report” perspective was an interesting question, and I think the return of one of the precogs from exile is a good shout. The crime-solving mode also fits an episodic format.

And from the beginning the future world that we see fits well with what fans of the film would expect. We have the tech interfaces that look like Steve Jobs’ wet dream, along with the implausible but fun gadget which lets Vega map out all of a murder victim’s movements — delivered through very believable . And the Big Brother-esque surveillance is back, presenting an interesting challenge for Dash, given that he doesn’t officially exist.

Now, I did see the initial pilot for this series a little while ago, and wasn’t wonderfully impressed. The actual first episode, though, has made a few improvements.

The first time around it felt a bit too episodic, a bit too isolated from a grander story scope. Now it feels somehow different, like there is a longer, grander story to play out. Which will be a relief to many, given that there is at least one season to come.

So Dash is back from the isolated island, and trying to stop the murders he’s seeing. Except he hasn’t managed to yet, so he gives a tip on one of them to the detective investigating it, who tracks him down and figures out with surprising ease who he is. And because she misses the days when they used to stop crimes before they happen, when Dash’s next vision rolls around — of the public assassination of a politician’s wife — they work together to try and stop it.

One of the best decisions I think the new series makes is that the whole society is under the long shadow of the precrime programme. Vega joined the police because of it, the bloke running for mayor is the former deputy leader of it, and in pursuit of the would-be killer they stop by a care facility home to large numbers of those pre-killers held in suspended animation as part of the precrime programme. This, for me, was one of the most sinister aspects of the original film, and I do like the idea to explore the consequences. The fact that being held in suspended animation resulted in brain damage makes it all the more sinister, and if the series resolves to explore issues like this then it will do very well for itself.

And this continues through the fact that the episode’s central storyline is a pair of former precrime prisoners — and one’s daughter — taking revenge on the programme’s deputy leader, which ties it in nicely. The assassination-by-pigeon aspect is a bit on the daft side, but that doesn’t hurt the tension of the climax, especially when Dash is forced to throw an old man out of a window to his death, in order to save Vega.

The other point that’s worth touching on from this episode is the relationship between the three precogs. Agatha as the isolationist force makes sense; it fits with her personality in the film, and provides a force anchoring Dash with a reluctance to continue his quest. The addition of Arthur as a character is a change from the unaired pilot, and I can’t decide if I like the addition. I mean, as the opposite of Dash in using his gift to make money, he’s quite interesting, but I’m not sure.

The one change I did like was the element which will clearly underlie the plot: Agatha has been having visions of the trio being forced back into the “milk bath”, and both she and Arthur are worried that it is Dash’s current exploits which will bring these events about.

As a first episode of a new series, I thought this did a good job. It wasn’t perfect, but every series should get a few episodes to find its pace and streamline it’s approach. And it took a number of the most interesting aspects from the series and marked them out to explore. I’m not quite onboard with the character of Dash yet, but part of that is that he just seems so haplessly clueless, so a bit of experience ought to perk him up. Perhaps the realities of having actually killed someone will be that catalyst.

But the inclusion of future technology not inconceivable, and the surveillance culture simmering away in the background, give it a distinctive edge, and there are a number of avenues for exploration that make Minority Report a TV series that I’m happy to give a chance and to see how it develops.

Closing thoughts:

  • Dash not being able to see his own future feels like a cop out. I mean, I understand why it’s necessary, but it’s still a cop out.
  • Weird product placement is weird. I get slipping Iggy Azaelia’s “Trouble” in there, but how much do you have to pay to name the producer?
  • I still don’t get why the precogs only see murders.
  • Wally’s back! Yay, Wally!
  • I’m curious about Adrangi’s death. His line “You have no idea what’s coming, and you never will,” seems to refer to more than just the assassination, and his suicide felt…prescient.
  • Anyone else notice that Dash and Arthur look quite dissimilar, for twins?

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