Class of ’09 Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
British writer Tom Rob Smith is no stranger to juggling multiple timelines. As the primary author of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, he deftly moved through various decades as he dramatized the internalized homophobia that fueled Andrew Cunanan’s 1997 killing spree. For his efforts, he took home the Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series, as well as a Golden Globe and Writers Guild of America Award.
The thoughtfulness of Versace makes the inelegance of his latest FX collaboration, Class of ’09, all the more surprising. Alternating among three years — 2009, 2023, and 2034 — the thriller follows a class of FBI agents as they confront a changing criminal justice system and the emergence of artificial intelligence as a crime-prevention tool. According to FX, these interweaving eras demonstrate how our choices “ultimately define our lives and legacy,” but mostly, they complicate the show.
Like other puzzle-box mysteries, Class of ’09 prefers to leave viewers in the dark as it leisurely reveals how the agents came to either embrace or reject the A.I., which was once considered a force for good, but transformed into a corrupt, Big Brother-like system over the course of their careers. In the future, FBI Director Tayo Michaels (Brian Tyree Henry) sings the A.I.’s praises, explaining that it’s made the United States one of the “safest” and “greatest countries on this Earth.” Agent Ashley Poet (Kate Mara, in a graying wig and heavy aging makeup) sports a bionic eye that gives her full access to the technology, but when she’s sent to arrest a supposed cyberterrorist, Amos Garcia (Raúl Castillo), she begins to question why the Bureau is so threatened by him in the first place.
Tayo and Poet’s hardened futuristic selves are a far cry from the idealistic trainees we meet in 2009. With the FBI focused on recruiting agents from outside law enforcement, Tayo, an insurance broker hoping to correct injustice from within the system, and Poet, a psychiatric nurse with a savior complex, jump at the chance to make a difference. They’re joined by Hour Nazari (Sepideh Moafi), a socially awkward trainee who goes on to create the A.I.; Daniel Lennix (Brian J. Smith), who joins the FBI to differentiate himself from his old-moneyed, well-connected family; and Murphy (Jake McDorman), a beat cop who makes the mistake of thinking a career as an agent will be more stable than his previous gig.
But despite inspiring the title of the show, the 2009 timeline is the least developed of the bunch. The five recruits immediately become a close-knit friend group, but we don’t see anything that explains or reinforces their friendship beyond physical proximity and the shared experience of being at the Academy. In the premiere, for instance, Poet and Tayo briefly discuss another recruit who asks the instructors (Jon Jon Briones and Brooke Smith) if he can bury a bird that flew into the classroom window and died. When they next see each other, Poet tells Tayo she’s “so glad they’re in the same class,” despite this only being their second-ever encounter. Tayo responds in kind, his voice full of sincerity, but it’s hardly earned, as their relationship thus far has been entirely about the bird-loving recruit, not their own personal histories or characteristics.
Smith, who wrote all eight episodes alone (save for one co-written with Jihan Crowther), gives Poet’s relationship with Hour a bit more room to grow. When they first meet, Poet offers to loan Hour money for her uniform, an act of kindness Hour outwardly bristles at, but clearly appreciates. Later, Hour is the first to acknowledge that Poet’s love of “lost causes” may be her undoing, deepening their friendship beyond the typical roommate bond.
However, when viewers are reunited with Poet and Hour in the present and future, both are in very different places: In 2023, Poet is tasked with investigating Hour’s data unit, while in 2034, the women are estranged, and Hour has left the Bureau. Here, the problem of checking in with these characters at distinct points in time, rather than following them throughout their careers, becomes most apparent. In order to bridge the gaps, the show relies on stilted expository dialogue that often feels disconnected from what we’ve seen elsewhere on screen. (Without spoiling anything, one such scene occurs in Episode 3, “Thank You For Not Driving,” when Hour reveals something incredibly intimate about their shared past that comes out of nowhere.) For a drama so committed to connecting the dots bit by bit, these over-explained moments prove incredibly jarring, and it’s frustrating to sift through this sudden information dump after long stretches of purposely inscrutable action.
The 2023 arc is by far the most successful, as Poet returns to Quantico after a lengthy undercover job and Tayo investigates a domestic terrorist threat. Smith ably unites these storylines, and Class of ’09 becomes a legitimately compelling thriller. Henry is particularly persuasive in the 2023 timeline: When Tayo finally comes face to face with the man he’s been hunting, Henry vibrates with pent-up rage. It’s a feeling he hints at throughout his performance, but only unleashes at the exact right moment.
With a few tweaks (and a title change), Class of ’09 could just as easily begin with these 2023 incidents and adopt a purely linear structure as it charts the agents’ path and the evolution of the Bureau’s A.I. That story is interesting enough to drive an eight-episode limited series on its own, and with law enforcement agencies currently adopting new machine-learning technology, the bells and whistles of multiple timelines aren’t needed to make these themes resonate.