Class of ’09, fighting crime with artificial intelligence

Kate Mara in Class of '09

Class of ’09 is set inside the crime fighting world of the FBI. But the implications of this cautionary tale apply beyond the FBI to all systems and institutions that use artificial intelligence (AI) as the answer to decision making.

Class of ’09 could not be more timely. In the last few months, AI hit a tipping point. It’s moving at lightning speed into every aspect of life, doing things that seem human but are not.

Brian Tyree Henry in Class of '09

The story focuses in on four FBI special agents. We see the story play out in three timelines covering 20+ years of their careers. Their training in 2009, their roles in the present, and their future in 2034.

Poet (Kate Mara) is a former nurse. She follows the rules all the time. No exceptions. Tayo (Brian Tyree Henry) previously sold insurance. He questions everything and eventually becomes director of the FBI.

Lennix (Brian J. Smith) has political ties in his family. Hour (Sepideh Moafi) wrote the code that created the database that the AI relies on.

These characters have lives and stories. Both Lennix and Hour are in love with Poet. She’s married to the FBI. They both give up and marry other people. Hour marries a man and later a woman. Tayo marries Vivienne (Rosalind Eleazar). None of these marriages can compete with the demands of the FBI.

The trainers at Quantico had significant roles. They were Gabriel (Jon Jon Briones) and Drew (Brooke Smith).

But this isn’t a character driven story. It’s an issue story. At issue is the question of what AI can do, what we are willing to let it do, and whether we can control the power we give it.

The poster for Class of '09
The cast “ages” through the years. Don’t understand why Sepideh Moafi and Brian J. Smith don’t get billing on the poster, do you?

By moving the story back and forth through 20 some years of changes, it very effectively shows how early decisions that seemed smart at the time turned out.

I hesitate to call it a thriller, although it’s labeled that. There were some action scenes, gun fights, car chases, hand to hand fighting. There were burning buildings and collapsing buildings. But most of the time it was slow and deliberate story telling meant to make sure you understood the nuances of how AI can take over everything.

The scariest scenes in the series for me weren’t the action scenes. They were the shots of the gigantic room full of servers in endless rows. They stretched on and on, like some expanding Warehouse 13 artifact collection. Silent, glowing machines analyzing everything about everyone. Reader, it gave me chills.

I thought the ending was too neat. I’m not sure the takeover by AI we face right now will be resolved in such a tidy way.

Tom Rob Smith created and wrote Class of ’09. Amanda Marsalis directed 2 episodes out of 8. The entire series is available now on Hulu.

2 thoughts on “Class of ’09, fighting crime with artificial intelligence”

  1. christopher swaby

    i am sure the problem presented in this series couldnt be resolved in real life as neatly as it is in the show. but i am not sure how the creators could have finished the series any other way without needing a second season. i enjoyed all of the characters. the choices they made were consistent with who they were, from start to finish. i will watch this series again.

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