Debuting this week on FX/Hulu and Disney + in Canada is a new science fiction/thriller series from American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace scribe Tom Rob Smith, Class of ’09. Centered around a class of Quantico graduates, from 2009 of course, the series takes place over the course of 25 years of their careers. The show constantly flips between 3 “jumping-off” time periods, the past of 2009 while they are at the academy, the present of 2024, a turning point in all their careers, and the future of 2034. As intriguing as the premise and the casting may be, upon watching the series (the first 4 episodes were provided to us for previewing) there’s also an underlying tone that feels familiar.
Starting off at Quantico in 2009 as part of the same class of recruits, from all different backgrounds and fields, a group of friends with vastly different backgrounds begin their training. Ashley Poet (Kate Mara), simply referred to as Poet, is a former nurse with an underlying need to help all those around her, complimented with a keen observation that serves her well in assessing situations. Lennix (Brian J. Smith), is a former lawyer who sees the bureau as a possible way into the family business, politics.
Hour (Sepideh Moafi), the daughter of Iranian refugees, is also a computer savant that graduated from MIT. Last but not least, Tayo (Brian Tyree Henry) left a high-paying job as an insurance executive to eventually become the director of the FBI, as we see in the future-based segments. Guiding through their paces are Drew (Brooke Smith) and Gabriel (Jon Jon Briones), 2 relatively hard-nosed instructors whose job it is to weed out the recruits who they feel can’t cut it.
In the present setting, we see how the group progresses, rising through the ranks of the FBI. Poet has become one of the FBI’s most trusted undercover operatives, receiving her newest assignment from Lennix himself. Hour has used her considerable talent in the bureau’s computer science department, developing an information-compiling system that is revolutionary but has frightened some higher-ups with its precision and capabilities. And Tayo is a division head who becomes the first to use this new technology. In the future, we see that the higher-ups may have been right to be scared as the four deal with the consequences of a system that has become so effective it’s now enforcing issues based on predictive behavior, that is, arresting people before they commit crimes.
Class of ’09 takes a familiar FBI procedural outline but infuses it with SciFi elements in an attempt to give the series a fresh spin. But again, the underlying notes are still very much the same. Audiences can feel the influence of such thriller series as 24 (minus the ‘real-time’ gimmick) throughout the series, but the writers are also heavily inspired by the classic Tom Cruise vehicle Minority Report. In fact, the pacing and development of this series also feels very familair with the short lived Minority Report television spin off from the movie from a few years back.
Where Class of ’09 does excel is in its casting. Despite these actors playing the same charcters through three distinct time periods with 25 years total in time gaps, the actors somehow manage to convince us that their performances are valid. There is some instant chemistry between Mara’s Poet, the defacto lead, and each of the other main characters on screen.
The real fireworks explode on screen between Poet and Hour, as Mara and Moafi’s off screen close relationship, as they have discussed in interviews leading up to this series release, is palpable on screen as well. And while Brian Tyree Henry’s Tayo may end up being a more solitary character through many stretches, his performance is excellent. Of the other performances, it’s nice to see the always dependable Brooke Smith with a meatier role, even if she’s playing a supporting character.
The first four episiodes of Class of ’09 focus a lot on world building and setting the characters and their motivations in place within their timelines as they head towards an inciting incident that occurs towards the end of episode 4, which is likely why we were only provided screening copies of episodes up to that point. And while alot of this may ultimately fell familiar, there’s more than enough here between the solid performances and the end of episode four to keep me intriguied and waiting for the rest of the season.
- Rated: TV-MA
- Genre: SciFi, Suspense, Thriller
- Release Date: 5/10/2023
- Directed by: Amanda Marsalis, Joe Robert Cole, Steven Canals, Sunu Gonera
- Starring: Brian J. Smith, Brian Tyree Henry, Briar Boggs, Brooke Smith, Jake McDorman, Jon Jon Briones, Kate Mara, Mark Pellegrino, Nick Hagelin, Rosalind Eleazar, Sepideh Moafi
- Produced by: Albert T. Dickerson III, Brad Simpson, Jessica Lavin, Joe Robert Cole, Nellie Reed, Tom Rob Smith
- Written by: Bayan Wolcott, Lauren Wilkinson, Tom Rob Smith
- Studio: Disney, FX, Hulu