Hulu and FX’s newest release in the sci-fi/thriller genre is a fresh take on a group of FBI trainees who grow up to move to separate paths in life, only to be brought back together because of a common problem. Created by Tom Rob Smith, who also authored the story Class of ’09, it centers around FBI graduates, each of whom has separate interests in life, but nobody is willing to lay down their cards, at least not this early in the series. The show stars Kate Mara, Brian Tyree Henry, Brian Smith, and Sepideh Moafi, among others, and although it’s too early to give a decisive verdict, some of the actors are doing justice to their roles. Here’s what happens in the first two episodes:
The Past (2009)
Ashley Poet (Kate Mara) arrives at Quantico for five months of training to become an FBI agent and is quickly introduced to the others who’ll become an important part of the story as the show progresses. Poet has a savior complex and offers to loan money to Iranian-born Hour (Sepideh Moafi) when she wants to quit because of being broke and agrees to train with Tayo Michaels (Brian Tyree Henry) when he fails his fitness test for being overweight. She also starts a relationship with Lennix (Brian Smith), although we don’t see much of them after their initial passionate lovemaking. Tayo is the only black trainee in the class of 2009 and is picked on by another guy named Simons, who’s the fastest runner on the team. Through exposition, we learn how Tayo had been a victim of racism at 15 years of age and, since then, can quickly catch on if a person is evil. There’s not much faith in Tayo to become an agent in the future, but given that we get repeated glimpses of what happens in 2023 and 2034, it’s clear that Tayo ascended to the position of Director of the FBI.
The Present (2023)
Poet acts undercover as a beat cop to seek entry into a gang of corrupt cops while working for the FBI and helps bust the biggest corrupt police team in the FBI’s history. When she’s ordered to be present for the arrest, she refuses because it’s threatening to her life, but she can’t deny the orders. She’s spat in the face by the head of the corrupt ring and learns just how powerless she is before the system. She meets Lennix, who asks her to meet with Hour, who’s the head of the world’s largest database for criminals, and the Iranian woman gladly accepts her friend as a part of her team. However, Poet later learns from Lennix that she’s to infiltrate Hour’s operations and act as a spy because the FBI wants its hands on her database system. This disgusts Poet, and she storms away from Lennix, who’s now her ex.
Meanwhile, Tayo and Agent Nunez are sent to the frozen area of Butte to meet a mysterious and dangerous man named Mark Tupirik (Mark Pellegrino) in his estate, where they meet Mark’s scared-looking wife, Jessa Mae. When Nunez asks to be shown to the washroom, Jessa is ordered to take the agent to the ladies’ room, but the wife leads her downstairs to show Nunez a basement with a boatload of incriminating evidence. From details on the lives of the two FBI agents to blueprints about something dangerous, the basement has everything that can help destroy Tupirik’s organization. Nunez and Tayo are leaving when Jessa comes out to hand the former a package but Jessa is shot in the chest, dying instantly. Nunez is also shot in the leg, but Tayo drags her body to the car, and they try escaping, but armed men destroy the engine.
As Nunez lays down cover fire, Tayo takes down all three men with an assault rifle and then runs into the house, but it’s in flames. He looks around at the burning treasure trove of evidence, but he’s unable to retrieve anything. Later, at the hospital, Tayo hugs his wife before meeting with Nunez, who survived. She asks if they helped stop something bad or if they started something worse, and Tayo says the bad guys have “revealed themselves” and are gearing up for an attack directed at the FBI. Elsewhere, Tupirik gets into a truck that drives away as several men carry guns and bombs. Inside, he keenly looks at a blueprint of something important.
The Future (2034)
Poet reunites with her ’09 classmate Murphy, and together they walk into the home of a known threat, Amos Garcia, but are unable to retrieve anything as a message from Tayo Michaels (now Director of the FBI) plays on several TVs. Tayo is called into the Senate and questioned about why he needs five more years as the director, and he says he needs to stay to ensure the progress he’s made continues. Poet feels that she’s being followed by someone, and when she goes home, Amos Garcia bursts into her place. As agents surround the building within a moment, Garcia questions Poet about what she’s doing in an organization that punishes people for their thoughts. As agents break in, Garcia throws Poet a keycard before being shot dead without any hesitation. Later, when questioned about what Garcia had told her, Poet says nothing and keeps the keycard hidden. Later, she speaks to Lennix, who wants to become a senator, and she shares her suspicions of being followed. Poet thinks she needs to speak to Hour, but it’s been nine years since they’ve spoken.
Why Is The FBI’s Surveillance Model A Threat?
A senator visits Tayo and says a young boy has been arrested and no proper cause has been specified, and Tayo tells the tale of a clay golem created by a Rabbi 500 years ago to protect the Jewish people. This golem is the AI that the FBI got its hands on from Hour’s system, and it is one that can detect someone’s intentions and have them arrested if it detects them planning something criminal. This is a threat to human rights and the law at the same time because it feels straight out of George Orwell’s “1984,” where the ‘Thought Police’ arrested anyone who thought of defying “Big Brother.’ Nobody can be called evil or arrested for wanting to punch someone in the face because the person hasn’t thrown the punch. Not only does this mean people’s thoughts are no longer safe, but nobody can guess when they’ll be taken away for an unknown time because the FBI doesn’t reveal the reason for the arrest. If this continues, people in 2034 will soon be up in arms against such a system that’s trying to mold people’s brains into walking the right path, thereby angering them further.
FX’s new sci-fi/thriller series does seem very interesting when you hear the plot, but the execution really suffers because of the presentation. The constant back-and-forth between the three timelines makes it very redundant because the element of surprise is lost. We also don’t get to see what events led to the people becoming who they are in 2034, and it’s just a series of expositions that’s provided to help us piece together the stories for ourselves. The sci-fi gadgets like bionic eyes and computers with strange code seem very minimalistic; there aren’t any massive robots that are being used as soldiers, nor are there flying cars. In a way, this makes the future seem realistic as opposed to a paradigm shift where humans can upload their conscience, or people can talk to animals. Only Mara and Henry shine in their roles in these two episodes, with Henry delivering heavy acting while describing his childhood trauma. For a show that relies heavily on connecting three different timelines, it’d have been best if we presented each timeline step-by-step to avoid being washed over with constantly changing periods, which can get a little overwhelming.