If every episode of Minority Report had been like this episode of Minority Report, the show would not be ending next week. The future-cop procedural approach, though practical in theory, was not this crew’s strong suit at all, in hindsight; maybe it was the narrative structure of the original story, or maybe it’s the fact that mainstream audiences are too sick of Dick Wolf to tolerate Law & Order: Precrime, but last week, and especially this week, it’s become obvious all too late that this team should’ve been working on one varied, complex, but consistent dramatic arc the whole time.
Because now we’ve zeroed in on a timelessly debatable theme, one of the key ingredients of dystopian science fiction. We finally come face to face with a Memento Mori operative, only to discover ... well, their motives are pretty noble, all things considered. The very contemporary yet ongoing dilemma: Should we open the Pandora’s box that is human genetic engineering? And if we do, what cost will we pay?
If Dr. Lionel Gray’s research is to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before legalizing germ-line gene therapy causes a global pandemic that will wipe out humanity, not because the science doesn’t work but because people are flawed and will make mistakes, even when using it for good. Gray, our murderer this week, is a supergenius geneticist who basically invented the DNA-tweaking technology/process that is now being put in front of the Senate for a legalization vote. It’s called Steven’s Law, named for the late young son of Ellen Midoshi, a D.C. senator now championing it in Congress; unfortunately, she’s also the future victim whom Dash sees covered in blood at her own rally.
His vision-spasm is doubly upsetting this week because it cuts short his brutally earnest rendition of “Sexual Healing,” his choice at a karaoke-video-game party Vega hosts for her colleagues. Blake is there, too, though he still has worrisome doubts about protecting the precogs. His naïveté in thinking Blomfeld and his DIA/Homeland Security crew aren’t merciless, exploitative pricks — all-in-one proxies for white supremacy, the patriarchy, and everything else that’s wrong with American exceptionalism — would be cute if it weren’t so dangerous. He’ll probably end up betraying someone next week, company man and lawful neutral that he is. For now, he just refuses Arthur’s request that he blackmail a senator into cutting Blomfeld’s precog-hunting funds short. Arthur gets it done anyway, of course, which sends Blomfeld to Mr. X from The X-Files! Just kidding, it’s still Steven Williams, but this time he’s playing an ex-general who went into the private sphere and will fund Blomfeld’s now-illicit pursuit of the precogs — because capitalism is evil, of course.
Personally, I had a huge problem with the way the protesters opposing Steven’s Law were portrayed, not only because religious zealots are far from the only people who would reject the “playing God” implications of such research, but also, if this show’s characters indicate our country’s diverse, more empowered future, most of the cast would be at risk with its legalization — the downside of germ-line gene therapy, after all, is that it essentially promotes eugenics, an ideology with deeply racist/ableist/classist roots.
Anyway, back to the plot: Knowing Blomfeld has a new milk bath, Arthur and Agatha stage another Dash intervention, and now Vega agrees with them and insists that he retire from police work, effectively breaking up with him. He of course will do nothing of the sort, but the look on his face when she says it all but ripped out my heart and stomped on it. Stark Sands, why are you so good at sad-boying? Later, the same sad-boy face successfully convinces Vega to let him help on just this one more case, even though she knows (per Blake) that to protect him she will eventually have to tell him to get the hell away from her, like Elijah Wood did in Flipper.
For now, though, Dash goes to Wally’s behind her back — unwisely, because this is the day Blomfeld decides to show up with his G-men, without a warrant, and attempt to confiscate his equipment (it’s 1984 again, I guess?). Dash hides, and Wally, whose real name is NORBERT!!, puts up a delightfully sassy fight, including using passwords on his files (if you recall, they’re retro now) and having door frames lined with anti-theft induction coils that short-circuit all the devices the second the G-men try to take them outside. Yeah, that’s right, screw you, Big Brother.
Vega and Dash track Gray to 8-VAT, a company that grows real meat synthetically in vats, where he got a delivery job specifically so he can do his after-hours work developing a genetic bioweapon for Memento Mori. They surprise him and he gets away, but with help from the FBI (Vega lets Blake tell Blomfeld about the Memento Mori stuff), they capture him later at Ellen Midoshi’s Steven’s Law rally, where, disguised as one of the decrepit patients she wheels onstage as poster children for the bill, he manages to splash some infected blood on her face — Dash’s exact vision, realized — which basically gives her rapidly accelerating skin cancer that eats pigment and turns her eyes black (“modifying her DNA in real time”) so voters will see how horrific germ-line gene therapy can be, thus preventing the bill from passing.
Back at the station, Dr. Gray explains himself convincingly. He pioneered this research, but when he realized that one wrong move — in his case, one flubbed base gene in one cancerous fly, which turned what should’ve been a cure into a flaw that made fly cancer genetic and wiped out all the flies at Harvard — could literally wipe out humanity, he went into hiding and joined Memento Mori. It’s indeed a secret cabal of scientists — terrorists, perhaps, but it’s all in the name of ensuring human beings don’t engineer themselves extinct, so the label is shaky. (It’s almost like they just got sick of watching dystopian thrillers and wanted to do something about it.)
Throughout the whole interview, Gray’s composure is terrifyingly sane, which I love because these scientists’ rationale and intentions do make perfect moral and logical sense, even if their methods are horrendous — not unlike Blomfeld and his crew, who at their core just want to save American lives but have decided they want to sacrifice three lives, as Blake puts it, in order to save millions. It’s the mark of a believable nemesis, especially in a universe that is by nature unbelievable: problematic as heck, sure, but not insane.
As if all this isn’t stressful enough, we end with Agatha showing up at Arthur’s house. Blomfeld and Mr. X’s people found her on Fiddler’s Neck through Charlie’s data-theft, and she somewhat incredibly got away just in time. Oh, and she had the vision of Vega and the milk bath again, so it’s time to run.
Odds and Ends
- Fun fact: Stark Sands got his start singing on Broadway with roles in American Idiot and Kinky Boots, which I’m sure his agent wants people to know now that he’s imminently available. Is a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cameo asking for too much?
- Not that it matters anymore, but dang, this week Meagan Good and Wilmer Valderrama have ten times the onscreen chemistry that Good has ever had with Sands. Dash, lest we forget, is, emotionally speaking, still a teenager; Blake and Vega fretting over beers held heavy Mom-and-Dad-are-talking vibes.
- The one-liners this week (Akeela and Dash’s “... or that” jokes, Gray’s line about getting a publicist, Wally’s anti-cop quips) made me extra sad we won’t see the show’s sense of humor evolve — we’ve come so far from Tinder references already. Sad face.
- I’m amazed that the precogs haven’t considered getting a publicist themselves, going celebrity so as to curry public adoration, and then opening a government-contracting firm? Wouldn’t that work a lot better at protecting them against exploitation than “hiding forever”?