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Class of 09

FX Productions, 2023

45 minutes

Director/Writer/Creator:

Tom Rob Smith

Reading Time:

5 minutes

📷 : Pixabay

Class of 09Over the Grey Skies (N2UZAAFOZQGQNCER)
00:00 / 05:56
Class of 09

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Class of ’09 centers five FBI agents who become friends during their training together at Quantico in 2009. All go on to become skilled agents who realize career advancement, with one even ascending to director of the agency.


The burning question in the 8-part series concerns the degree to which artificial intelligence (AI) should be relied upon in investigative work. Presented through sub-stories labeled as “The Past,” “The Present,” and “The Future,” the show provides a glimpse of what can happen if a computer program developed to support criminal investigations is modified to predict crime and criminality. The series presents a world where AI becomes so advanced, it operates autonomously, automatically dispatching authorities and drones to arrest and/or neutralize people for even talking about issues that can lead to committal of a crime.


The cast is led by Brian Tyree Henry (Bullet Train, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Tayo Michaels, and Kate Mara (Fantastic Four, Chappaquiddick) as Ashley “Poet” Poet. The series feels futuristic with respect to the cinematography, set design, and even the characters. Poet, for example, becomes romantically involved with Lennix, a fellow trainee at Quantico played by Brian J. Smith (Stargate Universe, Sense8). However, she often appears unemotionally invested in the relationship. This becomes especially clear when Lennix breaks up with her, and she simply responds with only an “okay,” leaving him stunned.


Not quite as extreme of an example is Tayo, who presents as stern, clear, and direct, such as when he tells his training officer (TO) he will only participate in what he considers to be an unreasonable exercise if he admits the truth about its purpose. The lack of empathy and emotion in the characters sells the series as a futuristic drama not far removed from The Terminator.


Doubling down on the futuristic feel of the series is its set design. While the characters’ homes and apartments have open layouts, the furniture contains a lot of metal and is constructed with sharp corners. Kitchen countertops appear to be solid black granite and are always clear of the foods, appliances, and dishes that usually make the area feel like home. The floors are seemingly of black concrete or the tile found in offices, and the doors appear to be a mix of wood and metal that when shut, leave the feel and muting sound of an audiometric booth. In short, the residences lack any hint of the owners’ aesthetic taste or personality. Considering home design and decor are extensions of the people who live in them, the absence of these in the series give the added feel of the characters as automatons – flat, two-dimensional, and void of human qualities.

 

Reinforcing the idea of futurism and the prospect AI holds for robbing humans of their potential is likely what the filmmakers intended to convey with Class of ’09. The not-so-subtle hint is that AI holds the potential to void people of their humanity should it be allowed to take on the mental work that contributes to people understanding themselves and others, thereby developing a perspective on the world. Being largely shot in bluish-gray hues doubles down on the sense of foreboding that hangs over each episode in the series like a nimbus cloud, making everpresent the sense that something terrible is coming.


Class of ‘09 is nothing if not pointed about demonstrating the characters’ high level of competence at hand-to-hand combat, sharpshooting, and the ability to extricate themselves from dangerous situations. Ironically, these are the moments that provide space for the audience to appreciate the characters as living and breathing human beings. They not only show their skills but also reveal their fear and pain. Even these revelations, though, are short-lived, as the characters almost immediately revert to their robot-like stances, such as when Poet fends off a murder suspect in close quarters but returns to her normal sedate state seconds after. It is as if we are being told that our bandwidth for feeling human as we experience it today will be significantly diminished in the future. This characterization contrasts with the depictions of some of the characters in “The Past,” such as Lennix’s emotional reaction to his break-up with Poet, or Tayo convincing his TO to delay their return to campus from a training field trip so he can ask a woman for a date.


Class of ‘09 is quite similar to the 2002 film, Minority Report, where Tom Cruise plays Chief John Anderton, a police officer assigned to a task force that arrests and/or neutralizes what their computer program predicts to be future offenders. Like Class of ‘09, citizens resented and resisted such overreach. A strong distinction between the two stories, however, is the 3-dimensionality of Anderton and other characters in Minority Report, and the intentional lack of such depth in the characters of Class of ‘09.


The cinematic style of the series is impressive, as it gives off a bleak feel for what the future holds should AI be allowed to expand and strengthen without legal constraints and oversight. Given that AI has arrived, Class of ‘09 is worth watching, and conducive to a post-viewing discussion with people you are emotionally invested in – at least while you still can.

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