Feb 12, 2020
Minority Report “Pilot”
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The Philip K. Dick short story “The Minority Report”, first published in 1956, explores a future where a governmental agency known as Precrime uses the precognitive talents of three mutants to stop murders before they happen. Much like one of Dick’s other short stories, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, which later became Total Recall, “The Minority Report” was a relatively brief tale that was significantly expanded into the 2002 feature film Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise. The movie was a huge hit for 20th Century Fox and is still fondly remembered by sci-fi fans, and it even went on to have significant real-world influence on the design of user interfaces (see: the Kinect). So as one would expect of any creative property older than a decade with this kind of name recognition, Fox is attempting to extend the brand with a TV series based on Minority Report, which premiered this Monday.
There’s no mention of Tom Cruise’s John Anderton so far in the series, but it’s more or less a direct sequel to the movie. Set 11 years after the events of the film, the show centers on Dashiell, AKA “Dash” (now played by Stark Sands), one of the three precogs who was set free after the abolishment of Precrime. However, Dash finds himself still having visions of future crimes, and so he teams up with a police detective (Meagan Good) to prevent murders before they happen.
In the original short story, the precogs were depicted as babbling idiots, described as “deformed and retarded”, and Anderton even referred to a precog as “it”. The film went in a much different direction, showing one of the precogs, Agatha (played by Samantha Morton) being set free by Anderton and showing signs of having normal intelligence and the ability to communicate. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that this show’s premise is a bit like doing a TV sequel to Flowers for Algernon where Charlie is played by a sexy 30-something male model-type who uses his newly heightened IQ to solve crimes. (Yeah, yeah, I know; don’t give them ideas.) In fairness, the pilot does attempt to show that Dash is emotionally stunted from his time as a precog, but for a guy who was supposedly kept drugged up and isolated for a decade, he comes off as pretty well-adjusted, and mostly just seems like he has a mild case of Asperger’s.
But still, despite this faintly ridiculous premise, the pilot isn’t terrible. I don’t foresee it becoming a huge hit, but it could turn out to be another Sleepy Hollow for Fox that quietly builds up a fanbase under the radar and lasts for several seasons. But then again, there’s just as much of a chance of it getting cancelled after two or three months. (And if that happens, I expect the usual flood of idiotic comments on social media saying the show was only cancelled because it’s on Fox.)
We begin with a voiceover from our main character Det. Lara Vega (Meagan Good) while three kids play in a meadow. She tells us that the girl, named Agatha, and the two boys, twins Arthur and Dash, were “children of drug addicts” and born brain-dead, until scientists gave them an “experimental therapy” that revived them. But it also gave them a “gift”: namely, precognitive abilities. Someone in a white lab coat appears at the edge of the meadow holding some sort of neural apparatus, and a caption informs us we’re at the Woodhaven Clinic (which was actually namedropped in the movie) and it’s 2040, 14 years before the film.
Cut to the three kids now in white gowns and sitting in white chairs as they work together to accurately predict the cards that scientists are about to draw from a deck. But then Agnes becomes panicked and starts screaming, and one of the twins yells, “Show me that pretty smile, bitch!”
The scientists say it’s happening “again” as they rush to sedate the kids, and it turns out they’re having visions of a woman tying up a man, saying the “pretty smile” line, and blowing his head off with a shotgun. And then we get a blatant swipe of dialogue from the movie as one of the boys says, “Can you see?” When a scientist responds, “See what?”, Agnes says, “Murder!”
Vega’s voiceover explains how the three children were found to have the ability to see “every murder within a hundred miles, days before they happened”, so they were put to work for the Precrime program, while we get stock footage from the movie of the precogs floating in their milk bath, intercut with close-ups of the actress who plays Agatha on this show (Samantha Morton reportedly declined the offer to reprise the role). Vega’s VO also talks about how the future murderers were locked up, and there’s stock footage of the detention cells from the movie, meaning this pilot actually features a cameo from the back of Tom Cruise’s head!
Vega’s VO says that eventually, Precrime was abolished, and the three siblings were sent to an “undisclosed location” to “hide them from the world”, and we get the final shot from the movie. But she adds, “They just couldn’t hide… forever.”
Cut to a bar, where a skinny white guy with a Washington Nationals cap (which bears a “World Series 2054” logo, heh) plays a holographic whack-a-mole game and wins easily. A bartender asks if he wants anything else, and he tells her she’s going to “need a mop” seconds before a waitress spills an entire tray of drinks in front of her.
The bartender gives him a stunned look and the guy just shrugs, but then he suddenly jerks back on his barstool and gets a vision of a woman being thrown from a window. As you can probably guess by now, this is our main precog Dash, and he’s seeing a future murder.
Dash runs out of the bar and also gets glimpses of a clock, letting him know the murder is going to happen in 40 minutes. He opens up a notebook and draws a sketch of the hooded assailant he sees in his vision. He also sees a sign that tells him the crime is going to take place in “Bartlet Plaza” (a shout-out to The West Wing, which shares a producer with this show).
Dash races to the subway, and as soon as he sits down, he gets hit with a video ad featuring an animated marijuana leaf telling him he looks “stressed” and that he should try “Hart’s Totally Baked Goods”, clearly presaging the eventual legalization of pot.
The levitating subway train takes him to his destination, which according to the caption is Washington DC in the year 2065. He runs out of the Metro station into what is, for lack of a better description, a very Minority Report-esque future, with video walls and advertising everywhere. He’s arrived at the scene of the future crime with three minutes to spare, but he can’t figure out which building the woman gets thrown from. He guesses the wrong one, and bursts in on people doing tai-chi in VR glasses, because why not?
By the time he figures out the right building, it’s too late. He can’t bring himself to watch, and he turns away just seconds before a woman comes flying out of a window and goes plummeting down to a tour bus below. Which is a pretty awesome shot, actually.
After the title of the show, we meet Lara Vega in person, and it seems she’s the police detective investigating the murder we just saw. She puts in a high-tech earpiece and sticks a high-tech contact lens in her eye, and flails her arms and spins around as she creates a computer-generated reenactment of the murder. This is clearly meant to be a callback to Tom Cruise doing all those crazy jujitsu moves on his computer screens in the movie, but it looks more like she’s training to become a mime. Also, it appears that in the year 2065, police detectives will be required to wear the tightest jeans possible, not that I’m complaining.
Her sidekick here is a police tech expert named Akeela Scott, who’s wearing face paint (which will apparently be all the rage in 2065), and the two share this totally natural dialogue.
Vega: Can you believe we used to stop this stuff before it happened?
Akeela: Unfortunately, Precrime was way before our time, girl!
Akeela: Unfortunately, Precrime was way before our time, girl!
That’s right, girl, Precrime was fierce! Vega eventually figures out the victim allowed herself to be killed because she was “protecting someone”, and she uses the infrared setting on her contact lens to find a little girl hiding in a kitchen cabinet. As she carries the girl out, Dash looks on from the crowd.
Dash decides to follow her, but first, he disguises himself by putting a silver device to his chin that makes his felt look all melted. You might recall, though probably not, that Tom Cruise briefly used the same disguise in the movie, and both here and in the film, it’s the result of a “paralytic agent” that relaxes the muscles in the face. And in fact, the show has a lot of these obscure callbacks to a film released 13 years ago that I doubt very many viewers will catch.
But Vega instantly senses that she’s being followed and gets the jump on Dash. So he gives her his drawing of the murderer, and then injects that same paralytic agent into her legs and runs off. Vega has been temporarily paralyzed, but it turns out that—oh, come on—Dash left his bag behind, containing his notebook full of drawings of murders he saw before they happened.
In the next scene, we meet Vega’s boss, Lt. Blake, who’s played by Wilmer Valderrama in a rare dramatic role, but that accent isn’t just something he put on to play Fez, so it’s bit hard to take him seriously. He says the murder victim was a nurse who worked in a clinic treating “halo burn”, a mental disorder “common to former Precrime prisoners”. Which means the suspect could be anybody, since the victim worked in a place full of “future killers”.
But Vega has that drawing from Dash, which she pretends she got from an “informant”. Blake puts it on a futuristic table which is somehow able to scan the drawing and match it to a real person, in this case, Sahm Adrangi, an “illegal bio-weapons dealer with priors for Clarity possession” before he was arrested by Precrime. And “Clarity” is the inhaled drug that Tom Cruise was addicted to in the film, in another rather unnecessary callback. It’s almost like the writers were determined to prove they actually saw the movie.
…And then come back to the Agony Booth next week for my recap of episode two. As of right now, I intend to recap every episode of Minority Report, but we’ll see what lasts longer: this show, or my ability to keep up the weekly schedule.