Flashbacks, flashfowards, and artificial intelligence are key to this uneven FX limited thriller series starring Brian Tyree Henry and Kate Mara.
Plot: Spanning multiple decades and told across interweaving timelines, the series examines the nature of justice, humanity and the choices we make that ultimately define our lives and legacy.
Review: Legal thrillers and series about law enforcement are staples of the small screen and rarely get the chance to play with the conventions of the genre. The new limited series, Class of ’09, tries to upend the expectations by using now familiar narrative devices such as flashbacks and forwards to give us a three-part series set in different eras. We can follow a group FBI agents from 2009 to 2023 and 2034 and see how they change and grow apart over four decades. Class of ’09 uses the controversial concept of artificial intelligence in order to tell a prescient tale that isn’t as exciting as it should be. Class Of ’09 is intriguing, but uneven. The first period is the one that gives the show its title. It follows a quartet of rookie Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents as they begin training in Quantico. The four main characters all have different reasons for joining the FBI. Each of the four episodes available for this review focuses on one member of the ensemble. Starting with Kate Mara’s Amy Poet and giving us some background about their journey. Amy was a nurse in psychiatry, while Tayo (Brian Tyree Henry), sold insurance. Hour (Sepideh Moafi), who is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, has personal reasons for wanting become an agent. Lennix’s parents have political ambitions for their son (Brian J. Smith). The first half of this eight-episode series gives each character their due, but their motivations change in the second half. The FBI is able to harness A.I. by using vaguely futuristic technologies that are both advanced and not beyond what things may be in a decade. In a way that is reminiscent of Minority report
and 1984. Unchecked, the frightening potential we see in things like Midjourney or ChatGPT can take a dangerous turn. Class Of ’09
gives us a glimpse of this future. It also allows twists for each of the main characters to enhance their stories in each timeline. It is a frightening and challenging experience to watch unfold. It is frightening and challenging to see unfold.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1E7f04O_5sThere are many things that work in Class of ’09 and several that do not. The acting, especially by Mara and Henry, is excellent. Brian Tyree Henry, who earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for
, has proven he can handle everything from comedy to drama and even superheroes. He is amazing as the same character in three different stages of life and career. They are all very different. Kate Mara is the anchor of the story and shares a lot of screen time with him. The constant shift in time through each chapter is the challenge. The mystery is less exciting because we can see how these characters have changed and the consequences of their past decisions. The creator of the series, Tom Rob Smith, is an expert at creating tension. He wrote the mystery novel Child, 44, and created The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Class Of ’09
features some outstanding action sequences that include chases and shootings, but the majority of the series relies heavily on dramatic dialogue between characters. A mystery involving Amos, played by Raul Castillo, has repercussions that span the eight-episode series, but it can feel bogged down with conversations about fidelity and honor, responsibility and the law. Even these moments are entertaining. I’m not complaining. Smith doesn’t strike the right balance between the interesting elements and those that are not. As a limited series Class Of ’09 could become an ongoing series. However, I only have seen the first four episodes. It remains to see if the second half can live up the potential of the first. However, there is a solid foundation here. Class Of ’09 is a success because of Brian Tyree Henry’s and Kate Mara’s outstanding performances, but the narrative tension could have been tightened. The series could have been a single season, but the constant switching from one decade to another makes it feel superficial. As far as police procedurals and thrillers go, this is better than a lot of what is on the air today.Class of ’09 premieres on
May 10th on Hulu.7