Just the name of this series, Class of ’09, makes me feel old. How could grown-ass adults even exist graduating anywhere in 2009? Which, of course, is an asinine question on my part. Even if these folks graduated from college in ’09, that would make them around 35 in 2023. But the characters in this show are mostly early or mid-career professionals who are recruited into the FBI and finish out their Quantico training in 2009 at a range of ages and experience. So, older than 35. This sets up the 3.5 different time frames we’re going to focus on throughout the series: 2009, 2023/2025 and 2034. The show constantly flashes back and forth in time, which entails giving the actors different haircuts, a couple extra wrinkles and, in the case of Kate Mara, some scars and a dead eye. Certainly a difficult thing to pull off, and a lot to ask of your audience in terms of looking for a little gray in the sideburns or by dint of crow’s feet around the eyes. Subtlety in a show that flies around in time constantly — and, frankly, didn’t hold my attention 100% of the time — can make for a confusing experience, for sure.
The main actors in this series are all around 40 IRL. So when they are playing cadets in the FBI, they are all technically too old to be FBI cadets. The max age is 37. They don’t use de-aging tech for any of them, so it’s a little bit of a weird watch seeing Brian Tyree Henry play a young-ish person in 2009 and then his actual age-ish in 2023. I don’t know, the math all seems a little screwy. And you know I’m all about chronological math anomalies on this site. Seriously. And, yes, Tyree Henry’s character, Tayo Michaels, is supposed to be out of shape when starting FBI training, but one wonders if that was just something they stuck in there because Tyree Henry is who he is, or if they asked him to just keep up the cheeseburger and milkshake diet he was rockin’ coming in because it legitimately jibed with the character. The point is, the actors’ current reality playing these roles that span decades didn’t do us any favors in being able to follow the jumps. Though I suppose Mara looks younger than she is, so at least she seemed reasonably believable as a younger person in the 2009 timeframe.
Ok, I’ll stop with the whole time jump thing — though it’s an important part of the plot. But, essentially, there is this new group of FBI recruits who are atypical for the bureau. Tayo is an insurance adjuster, Poet (Mara) is a nurse, Hour is an Iranian MIT grad and Lennix is a lawyer. Though I suppose the last two aren’t that unusual. We are meant to focus on Poet and Tayo, anyway, who are recruited not because of their backgrounds per se, but who they are as people. I guess? Anyhow, Mara’s character is indeed named Poet. Which is absurd. And our other character is named Hour (Sepideh Moafi). Also stupid. What either of those names have anything to do with anything — other than distracting us — is beyond me. But, again, not the point. In short, the 2009 timeframe shows us the cadets managing their training, relationships and struggles with identity and whatnot. The 2023/205 timeframe shows us this group as agents, where they’ve progressed since graduation and the dangerous world and personal events that will have a large impact on the future timeframe. Finally, the 2034 era shows us what the events of 2023/2025 have wrought. Which is an AI state that completely rips off Minority Report, but without the weird bald people floating in a tank. It’s all computers and shite.
And there you have it. In between characters occasionally talk like they’re in the horrendous movie, Crash, and act like they binged some of the lesser seasons of Homeland. While some of the series’ beats were cribbed directly from Homeland — including a large scene where the J. Edgar Hoover building is blown up by terrorists with our people inside of it. The whole thing also felt unusually not American. Despite ostensibly being about the fragility of the American system of liberty, freedom and all that happy stuff. Which two seconds of Googling explained to me is because this series is the product of a dude named Tom Rob Smith. He of London Spy (a decent show) and The Assassination of Gianni Versace (a less fun experience). The thing is, he’s a Brit. And Class of ’09 feels like a European writing a show about America in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. The Crash of it all. The earnestness that is unearned and, frankly, unappreciated. After all, Crash, too, was written by a non-American, Paul Haggis, about America’s race and class struggles (I think). And it also felt like an outsider trying to get at what ails us. In other words the show suffers from a lack of heart or deeper understanding of the specific push and pull Americans struggle with in their want and need to balance freedom with security. Which, at its heart, is what this series is about.
That all said, I won’t delve into the many plot holes and unrealism of many of the narrative points. Other than to say that if the US were to take data and employ it in a very pre-cog/pre-crime kind of way that basically drives both our law enforcement and judicial system, I highly doubt one dude — in this case a dude who looks like Tyree-Henry — could completely overhaul and implement that system in what comes across as a pretty solo manner over the span of less than a decade. Just to get the dollars apportioned by congress for a test would take a decade, let alone a complete change to way we police in this country. Also the ridiculous goth uniforms these people wear as law enforcement in 2034. I mean, I get the costume designer is excited to create “future” looking stuff, but why everyone needs to look like they walked off the set of a 90s David Bowie music video is beyond me. But what else would I expect, I suppose? I think what it comes down to is that the least interesting portion of this show is the future. Which I imagine is what the creators thought would be the most interesting. It’s entirely too insular and unrealistic in how few hands power sits. It feels more like a Star Wars film where we don’t really have an idea of the scope of things and are therefore asked to focus on a small city or town or even a sparsely populated planet where one dude can kind of say “make it so” and everything just happens. But we know the US is a large, slow-moving nation with about 330 million opinionated people and politicians who would never centralize policing control in the way it’s portrayed in the show. Never. So I bumped on that portion of the series and especially bumped on the conclusion it drew at the end of the day as it just fizzled toward the finish line. It was fine, I suppose, but certainly not something that’ll break through in an overcrowded sci-fi or police drama field.