Minority Report fixes some problems but then introduces a few more

I said last week that Minority Report wasn’t going to work until they managed to get Dash onto the police force in some kind of official capacity, and that was the first order of business in “Hawk-Eye.” The D.C. police are rolling out their new high tech super surveillance program, and Dash is going to be the civilian consultant partnered with Detective Vega. The good news is that they now have a legit reason to be hanging out together, but there’s some bad news wrapped up in here as well. Namely that none of this makes a lick of sense.

First, Vega and Dash have to bring Akeela in on the secret of Dash’s identity–apparently Akeela is the one who will be interviewing, selecting, and assigning the civilians who will be involved in the Hawk-Eye project. That’s an awful lot of responsibility for one individual in an enormous police force, especially for one individual who is low enough on the totem pole that she’s as terrified of losing her job as Akeela is. It just seems like this sort of very high stakes experimental program would have a little more oversight than this, but okay.

Second, they have to tell Arthur about it because Dash needs an identity. That makes sense, since no one is supposed to know who Dash is, but it doesn’t make sense that the government just released all of the precogs out into the world with no identities of their own. I mean, it just seems like there would need to be some way for the government to keep tabs on them. Also, we can already see in 2015 how increasingly difficult it’s becoming for people to just exist in the world without extensively documenting their lives–IDs, credit cards, mobile devices, social media, shopping and so on. We are all pretty incredibly connected. Already, almost everything we do requires a login. Minority Report is showing us a world where this is even more true–one major plot point in this very episode depends upon the obsolescence of cash, for example–so how has Dash been surviving without an identity?

Which all kind of leads into the biggest issue that I’m having with this show, which is the cognitive dissonance of it all. There are just too many contradictions, and they’re starting to be glaringly obvious enough that they are getting in the way of the story and garbling whatever message the show is trying to get across.

For example, this episode’s theme was, ostensibly, that everyone has a dark side. That’s a little obvious, especially for this kind of show, but it’s not the worst idea. It could have been a solid concept to build the story around, and there were some parts of the episode that worked perfectly in service of this theme, specifically the scenes with Agatha, who got really interesting this week. However, much of the episode was taken up with trying to deal with issues that I’m just not sure this sort of show is well-equipped to handle.

One major contradiction in this episode was Vega’s apparent (and entirely out of nowhere) distaste for pre-crime and her exaggerated skepticism of the Hawk-Eye program. In previous episodes, Vega seemed to be generally nostalgic for the pre-crime days. Although she recognizes some of the problems with the program, she also longs for the ability to prevent crime instead of just reacting to it. In fact, this is sort of her whole thing, and it’s the reason why she’s willing to risk her career (and her friend’s career!) in order to utilize Dash’s precognitive abilities. So why is she so disdainful about this new program that offers exactly the opportunity that she claims to want? Oh, because she’s some kind of loose cannon who doesn’t like to follow the rules? Enough that Blake asks Dash to keep an eye on her and tattle on her? Oh, okay.

Here’s the thing. Vega is a dirty cop. She has, so far, consistently engaged in behavior that is ethically questionable at best and downright frightening at times. In three episodes, we’ve seen a pattern of irresponsible use of an unapproved (and admittedly inaccurate!) information source, excessive force and brutality, misappropriation of and misuse of police resources, giving police-issue weapons to a civilian, and covering up crimes (both her own and others’). But, as in many (if not all) police shows, we’re supposed to see her as the hero because her intentions are pure.

This episode even calls that into question, though, with the (actual, not subtextual) suggestion that both Vega and Dash are less good-hearted and principled fighters for justice and more unethically abusing Vega’s station as a police officer to exorcise personal demons as a way of dealing with undiagnosed mental illnesses as a result of childhood trauma. Because that’s healthy and safe for society.

I don’t know about this show right now. There are still a ton of good ideas about policing, surveillance, civil liberties, and the justice system that I think Minority Report is trying to handle in a nuanced fashion. But I’m not sure this show, or maybe any show, is up to the task. There’s a real conversation to be had here, about the trade offs that we make in order to be safe, about the relative values of security and freedom, about the ethics and efficacy of predictive policing and surveillance, but whatever message the show is trying to have just gets garbled when it’s trying to talk out both sides of its mouth on every aspect of the issue.

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