“Mr. Nice Guy” was weird. I really want to love this show, and for that I need it to succeed, but last night’s episode was a big step backwards when the show desperately needs to improve upon its shaky start.
The show almost lost me with an early scene of people playing at a park with some kind of clear glass-looking ball thing. Then the camera swoops around and there’s a baby with a big touch screen on the front of its stroller. And some other ridiculous stuff that is less “cool and futuristic” and more “boring and impractical.” And can we talk about how literally every near-future sci-fi seems to really think all the phones and tablets and computers of the future are going to be made of clear glass and what a terrible idea it is? And even if it’s not the worst idea ever, I know for a fact that this has been a sci-fi standard for at least my entire lifetime, and it’s still not nearly as cool as prop makers seem to think it is.
Also, can we talk about the perennial sci-fi insistence that technology is going to drive people apart and diminish human interactions? The singles club that Vega and Dash go to in this episode, where people just touch armbands to calculate their compatibility (I guess, since it’s never really explained exactly what the % on the bands represents) is absurd, and the show takes itself a little too seriously for it to be funny. The biggest problem here, though, is that this matchmaking tech completely undermines the big idea of the episode, which is ostensibly concerned with toxic masculinity and pickup artistry and male entitlement. In a world where people can connect (or not) by just touching their armbands at a club, how is there still room for either pick-up artistry or the type of Nice Guy™ mentality that leads to the explosion of violence that Dash and Vega spend the whole episode trying to prevent?
It’s not that I don’t think these things will still exist in forty years–pick-up has been going strong since the 70s, and Nice Guys™ are probably eternal–but you can’t imagine a future in which these things logically shouldn’t exist (or at least shouldn’t exist the same way they do today) and then still use them as a major part of your television show. Unfortunately, this means that this week’s case of the week just didn’t work at all, and in this sort of procedural show that’s a very bad thing.
The other thing that didn’t work in this episode was the dynamic between Dash (Stark Sands) and Vega (Meagan Good). I still stand by my initial statement last week that our two leads have a nice chemistry, and the actors certainly work well together, but the relationship between their characters is starting to get, well, weird. In an episode that deals so heavily with male entitlement, the most striking display of it comes from Dash, whose drive to stop the murders that he sees is feeling increasingly self-centered as he continuously pushes Vega to bend rules and work outside the boundaries of her role as a police officer.
These characters are supposed to be partners, but I’m not buying it yet, and I don’t think that can truly happen until they are working together in a legitimate fashion. I don’t see what the benefit is to Vega in the current situation. She’s relying on an informant whose information is spotty and possibly inaccurate. They have to keep Dash’s existence and identity secret, which means that they don’t have the support and resources of the police department. Vega is already taking actions that could jeopardize her career–turning off her body cam, giving a police-issue weapon to a civilian, selling police reports–and her other relationships–especially with Blake (Wilmer Valderrama) and Akeela (Li Jun Li), who both seem to sincerely care about Vega. It just seems to be all very one-sided, with Dash getting to do work that helps him feel better about his visions and Vega taking on all the risk and responsibility. We’re two episodes into the show, and it’s already obvious that Vega’s apprehension of criminals in this way is raising a ton of questions from higher up in the police organization.
It’s a problem, and the simple way to solve it is to bring Dash in to the police force through legitimate channels as a consultant or something. This would allow Vega and Dash to work more closely together, create more opportunities for interactions with the show’s truly excellent supporting cast, and it would cut straight to the meat of the story, which pretty much has to be “what happens when people find out about Dash?”
The show is doing some great set-up for that eventuality, and the best scenes in this episode were in service of that bigger plot, but the episode was dragged down with a nonsensical case of the week that felt more like an advertisement for awful future technology that no one in their right mind wants than an actual story with real human people in it. I want more of Arthur, Agatha, Wally, Akeela, and Blake. And I want less silly future technology. They can keep Vega’s lenses, though. Those are actually pretty cool.