Class of ‘09 boasts a wonderful cast led by Kate Mara and Bryan Tyree Henry, which should make it one of the biggest new shows of the spring. Unfortunately, despite a concept that very much feels of the moment, it feels like a show that would have aired on primetime television a decade ago — for better or for worse.
The series follows a group of FBI agents who are faced with difficult decisions as the criminal justice system changes around them. It’s a show that feels like it has all the elements of an “it” show: timely themes, an entertaining genre, and the right people in front of and behind the camera. While it’s more than passable, it feels like something is missing.
What sets this show apart from pretty much any other procedural drama on television is that it takes place in three time periods: the present, the past (as the characters train at Quantico), and the future. Unfortunately — at least in the first half of the series — the show does seem to struggle to balance all of its moving parts.
Furthermore, the show fails to give us a particularly interesting mystery in any of the three timelines. The present-day storyline is a pretty run-of-the-mill conspiracy, the future storyline is little more than Minority Report lite, and the past storyline (so far) is effectively all melodrama. There’s enough tension and intrigue to keep viewers’ interest — but just barely.
It’s perhaps most disappointing that Class of ’09 fumbles its potential to explore a theme that is more timely now than ever. Of course, the show entered into development years ago, but the discussion of AI is ramping up to an intensity that is much greater than before. Perhaps the back half of the series does a better job, but the show has posed more frustrating questions about the ethics of AI in law enforcement than genuine engagement with that theme.
That being said, the show makes the wise choice of giving us a central group of four characters to trace throughout all of the storylines. This is the emotional through-line that is much-needed, especially considering how cold and stoic much of the procedural storyline can be. Although they are somewhat archetypal, it’s hard not to root for them as underdogs trying to fix a broken system.
Class of ’09 also benefits from having an exceptional cast. Bryan Tyree Henry is an absolute powerhouse of an actor, and he shows yet again that he is consistently able to elevate any project he touches. He radiates emotion in this role — particularly during the sequences of the film in which he is training at Quantico. Kate Mara isn’t half bad either, also shining best in the past portion of the show.
Class of ‘09 isn’t bad, and it will likely satisfy fans of procedural drama who are looking for a well-acted, competently-shot, and mostly suspenseful entry in the genre. However, one can’t help but feel like this had the potential to be something more, and it simply didn’t take advantage of its timely premise.
Class of ‘09 streams on Hulu beginning May 10, with new episodes streaming subsequent Wednesdays. Four out of eight episodes reviewed.