This week’s episode of Minority Report, the third-to-last episode it will ever air, was a prime example of the fraught show’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses — of why the show was nixed so early on, and why it’s such a shame that it wasn’t able to get its act together in time to live. Our “monster of the week” plot, in case it wasn’t beaten over your head hard enough, dealt with immigration, a major national issue when the script was conceived, and of course an even more pointed one now, in light of different recent events. Blake (Wilmer Valderrama) is at the center of it all, as a former undocumented non-citizen and child of relative poverty and domestic abuse; still, his story would have been more compelling had the “message” of the episode not come off like an unsubtle after-school special. We do now officially have a secret global bioterrorist network of super-smart scientists to wish in vain for more of (one of them rips a page out of a first-edition copy of On the Origin of Species?!?) but when every week manages to feel like a hastily compiled imitation of that post-9/11 West Wing episode, how much more can a “mythology” plot really add?
We begin with a flashback to 2050, two years after the institution of Precrime, in which the precogs predict the murder of a teenage Blake’s mother by his abusive stepfather, Dante Blake. (Now his super-English last name makes sense. Dante also insisted on Blake and his mother speaking in English despite their preferred Spanish.) Dante is arrested and Blake is tasked with “taking care” of his mom (despite her being a grown woman) by the Precrime arresting officers, who clearly inspires him to become a cop. (We learn later that, had the Precrime cops not burst in at that moment, Blake might have instead stabbed and killed Dante himself with a knife for abusing his mom.) Something else seemed important in this cold-open (feel free to weigh in below): It looked like the precogs, Dash especially, were still trying to wake up from drug-induced unconsciousness in between visions at this point, as though two years hadn’t been enough time to fully break them down into continually horror-struck vegetables. Wally soothes them back to sleep with a handful of well-intentioned lies, in any case.
Dash’s still-oddly-singular murder-vision this week involves a guy wearing a trucker hat with a logo on it, a drawing of an octopus, and a Statue of Liberty–shaped firework. The firework points to the celebration of Amnesty Day, a holiday commemorating the day in 2025 on which the American government — wait for it — granted immediate citizenship to 10 million undocumented U.S. residents, permanently closed its borders to all new immigrants and repealed the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born on American soil. While not the craziest idea this show has proposed (that would still be that weird bio-matching dating thing from the nice-guy episode), repealing the amendment that enfranchised American slaves is still a rather bizarre approach to talking about modern-day immigration reform.
Anyway, the trucker hat’s logo belongs to a sketchy café in the Sprawl owned by a suspected gang affiliate, Martin Epe, that has recently been subject to stringent Hawkeye surveillance because lots of ex-cons hang out there (probably because it’s a front for all sorts of black-market crime, but more on that in a minute). Vega and Dash want to stop by Wally’s to download Dash’s vision before hitting the café, but Blake insists on tagging along, supposedly to take notes for the department (and the DIA) on exactly how Vega gets such great arrest numbers.
Sooooo the trio goes straight to the café ,where they meet Felix, Epe’s terrified, hat-wearing delivery boy. He’s scared into silence by a menacing patron with an octopus tattoo, forcing the cops to bring him in for questioning. At HQ, they discover Felix is “a 14,” a colloquial term for people who were born on U.S. soil after Amnesty, which means they have no rights as American citizens whatsoever and have an even harder time finding work and getting by than even 2015’s undocumented population. We find out Blake grew up as a 14 in the same neighborhood, until his mother remarried Dante (after Blake’s real father died) for his American citizenship. He gains Felix’s trust by chatting in Spanish, but when Vega confronts Felix with the octopus drawing, Blake blanches with recognition of the symbol and immediately lets the kid go, much to Vega’s dismay. Commenceth a pot-and-kettle bicker-battle about policing bias: Vega, who knows Felix will kill someone but can’t tell him why, seems to be profiling Felix, while Blake’s precious Hawkeye is literally profiling in its purest, automated form. He calls b.s. on her, especially since the octopus drawing indicates she’s still working with her “informant” behind his back, but … tells her to do what she needs to do anyway.
A weird reaction, but not if you knew he secretly slapped a tracking device … sticker? … onto the octopus drawing. Vega and Dash unwittingly lead him to Arthur, who has just given them the name of scary octopus-tattooed guy from the café — he’s Tendo Guinta, a.k.a. El Pulpo, a gang boss who runs drugs and guns, among other things, via drone hijacking — and who is NOT HAPPY to suddenly find himself exposed to Vega’s DIA-affiliated boss. Blake takes him for Vega’s “informant” and attempts to convince him to send his tips to him instead, but of course Arthur is not moved. Actually, he’s pissed, as we find out at the end of the episode, when Dash admits that Blake now knows about the precogs and Arthur punches him in the face, hissing, “This changes everything,” into his brother’s ear before storming out.
And yes, Blake does find out about the precogs after following Vega and Dash back to the café where the three have an El Pulpo–themed chat … before Dash suddenly announces that the woman who told them the café was closed is actually one of several robbers sent to steal from Epe (and then saving Blake from one of the shots they fired as they were getting away), thus outing himself to Blake and getting himself locked in an interrogation room while Mommy and Daddy fight some more. This time, of course, it’s about whether Blake will report them, thus ending Vega’s career and destroying Dash’s life by reinstituting him as a “weapon” rather than a person. Vega, however, is surprisingly self-righteous for a cop whose superior just caught her doing something super-illegal, and points out that his turning Dash in will either make him look like he deliberately hid it from the department and the DIA or like he’s an incompetent leader who unknowingly hired a precog. Harsh, but effective: Blake returns to the interrogation room — which Akeela unlocked for Dash a few minutes earlier, hoping he’d escape, except he’s a compulsive do-gooder who doesn’t know the meaning of self-preservation, and stayed anyway — where Dash and Vega brief him on everything they know about Felix’s future murder of two of El Pulpo’s men. He adds his own gangland expertise, and they set off to stop some crime.
In the end, it seems Felix was there not to rage-kill, but to retrieve a package El Pulpo stole from his boss, Epe, the latter of whom threatened to kill him if he didn’t get it back. Before they can convince him to walk away, they’re surrounded by thugs who take them into their operations base, where they’ve been hijacking small (government?) drones, filling them with drugs and other contraband and delivering them all over the city. El Pulpo is there playing the dramatic, scary drug-kingpin part; he might have killed them all, had two things not happened: One, Blake distracts him for a few minutes with a weak “deal” to give his crew a head start on leaving town; and two, Dash predicts a drone is on its way back into the building and leads one of the armed thugs to the window just in time for his face to get diced by the propeller blades (it’s gnarly, his blood spatters all over Dash’s face) and Dash to kick his gun toward Blake. Like in seemingly every episode, a light scuffle then ensues, Blake kills El Pulpo when Dash gives him a heads-up, and the day is quickly saved — and Blake, after assuring Felix he’ll be locking up his boss and looking out for him, decides to chalk the success up to Hawkeye’s amazing abilities, if asked by his superiors.
BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART. It’s basically a lurking, recurring footnote at this point, given the limited time we still have together, but I wish we spent more time exploring it because it’s so much more insane and goofy and imaginative than any of the monster-of-the-week plots we’ve had thus far: So, earlier, Blake was officially enlisted by the DIA to help them catch the Memento Mori terror group, which Blumfeld says has been sending secret messages to renowned scientists worldwide, who then suddenly went missing, perhaps being recruited to this organization.
By the end, we find out the package Felix was to retrieve under threat of death contained a stolen first-edition copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Buuuuut it’s not just a book (as Vega so rudely dismisses it)! When the (supposed) original owner retrieves the 200-year-old tome, he brings it home and reveals under a special light … the same Memento Mori message those 16 scientists received before they went missing! He opens the book, tears out a page, oh God, please, no, and puts it against a desk light … thus revealing some of its letters are illuminated — and it looks like they’re all nitrogenous base pairs, a.k.a. the building blocks of DNA. Anyone up for a little biological warfare madness?
Odds and Ends
- Why is the explanatory title sequence suddenly being narrated by Stark Sands/Dash, after seven episodes of Meagan Good doing just fine with it?
- Um, how did Andromeda suddenly become terrifying? My notes just read, in all caps, “GIANT HUMAN VULTURE LADY JUST ARRIVED FROM HELL.” How many men do we think she’s killed? I hope it’s a lot, and I still hope she’ll get more than five (silent) seconds of screen time at a time before the end of this show.
- Fun detail: On their way to the café for the first time, the gang passes a billboard advertising “Mile 62 cruises” with the slogan, “What happens at Mile 62, stays at Mile 62.” Apparently Elon Musk gets his wish by 2065 to send civilians to space — or at least to the border between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
- Anyone else considering getting that El Pulpo tattoo now?