I have a review of Death’s End coming, honest! But I have a LOT to say about it. In the interim, reading The Forever War and The Demolished Man have my mind turned to science fictional crime fighting. How well-timed, then, that I saw the commercials for APB during the Super Bowl, with the premiere scheduled to air the day before I needed to get a post up.
Police work isn’t rocket science. It’s harder. Inspired by true events, APB is a new police drama with a high-tech twist . . . . Sky-high crime, officer-involved shootings, cover-ups and corruption: the over-extended and under-funded Chicago Police Department is spiraling out of control. Enter billionaire engineer GIDEON REEVES . . . . After his best friend is murdered in a botched attempted robbery, and the killer remains at large, Gideon demands justice. Putting up millions of dollars of his own money, he makes an unprecedented deal to take over the troubled 13th District – and reboot it as a private police force: better, faster and smarter than anything seen before. With cutting-edge technology created by Gideon himself, this eccentric yet brilliant outsider challenges the city’s police force to rethink everything about the way they fight crime.
APB marries science fiction with one of the few things the networks are comfortable with—police procedurals. So how is it? Read and find out!
APB opens with Gideon Reeves doing his best poor man’s Tony Stark imitation. He’s much more interesting when he’s wearing his higher functioning Peter Thiel hat. On the way home from the opening demonstration to Arab oil sheiks, Reeves stops in the wrong part of town to grab a cigarette and his CTO and best friend dies in an armed robbery gone wrong (Chicago should really consider banning guns or something). A brush with a police force getting crushed under unfunded pension obligations gets him thinking big. A little political theater and Reeves just bought himself a precinct.
Oh God, privatization! The horror! It’s actually not quite that. More of a public-private partnership, with Reeves providing enormous resources (in particular tech), in return for control.
Reeves made his money selling military hardware, so it’s good stuff (more on that in a bit). But then, post 9/11, local police forces haven’t lacked for military hardware. This stuff seems a little more focused on, you know, what would be useful instead of just what the military needs to offload.
It gets off to a somewhat inauspicious start. The first person to use the new APB app is a kid just wanting to see if the police would really respond. But people have good reason to doubt police response time. And a person particularly concerned with police response time is liable to have a good reason for it.
The pilot makes for a nice introduction. We get to see the tech in action—although none of it is quite science fictional—and we get two conflicts that could carry through the season. One, the mayor threatens Reeves. Two, the pilot ends with the capture of the prime suspect in the felony-murder of Reeves’ friend. Can the infamous dilettante stay focused on policing? Less interesting is the promised conflict between the tech and good old-fashioned police work, although that could be interesting if done better than it has been thus far.
The good news about the tech is that they use it in ways that actually make sense for police work. The bad news is that it’s pretty uninteresting tech. They have a “million-dollar” drone that looks about like any other personal drone you would see. They get special bulletproof jackets that are, we’re told, really good, but armor isn’t exactly sexy (unless it’s full plate, amirite?). They have an app. Is there anything more prosaic than an app at this point? They have new cars…that are fast? And have computers in them? The creators said that all the tech would be existing or in development, but I’m expecting a bit more here, guys.
Pretty much the only thing they have that isn’t prosaic in a new sort of Taser. Other than looking like cool handguns, the trick is they’re useful at “long range” (well, across a room) because any prongs they shoot aren’t connected back to the Taser by conductive wire. They can also be fired multiple times. It’s pretty cool. Cool enough that I would have loved for them to example even the smallest thing about it. Which they didn’t. And Tasers are no panacea. They’re frequently more than you want when you need to use non-lethal force and not enough when you need to use lethal force (the show presents the Tasers as replacing the officers’ service weapons entirely). Hopefully the show will wrestle with due process and criminal procedure issues as well, maybe starting with that woman they casually Tased in the pilot.
My big concern is that they won’t do anything really interesting with the premise—much like Lone Survivor, which I almost immediately gave up on—instead sticking to making a by-the-numbers procedural. But I’ll give it a shot. It’s an interesting premise. I like Reeves a lot, and I like the main cop Murphy, although that’s a character we’ve seen dozens of times before. I’m most intrigued by Ernie Hudson as the precinct captain, who doesn’t have much to say in the pilot but shows the quiet dignity of a workaday cop who really cares that he’s trying to protect our most vulnerable.
(Description and all pics courtesy of Fox.)