Minority Report’s freshman season hasn’t fared well with critics or viewers. As part of an admittedly weak fall TV season, Fox’s futuristic crime procedural stands out as one of the worst. Instead of embracing the strengths of Philip K. Dick’s source novel or Steven Spielberg’s movie, it ignores them, by forcing its characters into a crime procedural format. There’s a place for CSI and Bones, don’t get me wrong, but a masterpiece sci-fi imprisoned by it? Makes no sense. It tries to twist its character’s motivations to suit the weekly agenda: see a crime, stop a crime. It’s a shame, because a handful of those characters outshine this fall flop.
While the 2002 movie seemingly adapted all the meat of Dick’s novel, Fox saw more miles to go with its precognitive trio, able to predict crimes before they happen. As a vehicle for exploring our fear of the future, crudely presented through harsh, jagged visions, they excel.
Released from their lifelong incarceration, Dash, Arthur, and Agatha’s freedom in a new, scary world allows for a triptych of layered responses to their circumstance. Which is grand. The problem is, their individual screen time is shrinking as the audience’s demand for their presence is going. Dash is a dull character. x Agatha has been relegated to the sidelines and carries the most interesting plot threads so far. Her milk bath days turned her into a bored savant whose idea of fun in the real world is messing with people’s heads. It’s awesome.
The episodes aired to date — with a couple of brief momentary exceptions — march to the beat of Detective Vega’s drum, a cop working in secret with Dash to prevent murders. Their routine death-of-the-week storylines dominate the 43 minutes. Cut aways to Agatha (or if she’s too busy being interesting, Arthur) work as narrative punctuation, little breathers when Dash and Vega are presumably in their car travelling to a crime scene. Why choose to segregate her from the action as opposed to Dash, 2015’s drippiest TV protagonist? Rick Grimes might be fucked up but at least his charisma reeks of blood, sweat, and tears. Dash’s past experiences only become interesting when he’s together with Arthur and Agatha. Then he’s palatable. Which the last two episodes saw fit to make right.
“Fiddler’s Neck” and “Honor Among Thieves” alerted me to what the previous episodes had squandered. A major opportunity for a killer serial. Flashbacks to the precogs’ release into the world; frail and impressionable, threw up some interesting avenues that were never explored. For example: the show is set ten years after PreCrime (you know, the service that stopped at the end of the movie), but developments like the HawkEye program try their best to steer the show back toward it. In the process, simpler storytelling possibilities are overlooked. Three blissfully ignorant people with the ability to predict the future wandering aimlessly across the U.S.? Think Supernatural but without the revolving-door villainy.
Not everyone needs the ability to see the future to predict where the show is headed. Its initial season order was sliced down by three episodes after poor ratings, and Fox’s new CEO just called the entire program ‘a disappointment’ — and no one even asked for his opinion. Cancellation can’t be far off, which is another shame, based on recent developments. Throwing together the three precogs for two episodes hinted at what could be a powerful show, unencumbered by procedural rules, running deeper into its mythology instead of away from it.