Class of '09 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024  

Class of ‘09

FX, May 10, 2023

May 10, 2023 Photography by Richard Ducree/FX Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

Brian Tyree Henry peers through the scope, then squeezes the trigger. Steam rises off his assault rifle’s muzzle, just like his breath in the cold air. He runs past the bodies of henchmen he just mowed down, into a burning building.

The actor best known as a gruff, doughy rapper named Paper Boi on FX’s surreal but acclaimed dramedy Atlanta is now playing very much against type on that network’s new spy series, Class of ‘09. The premiere is solid, if unremarkable, but it sets the table for this alternating timeframe FBI series.

A scene in the superior second of four episodes sent to critics finds Henry’s character, special agent Tayo Miller, as a fully formed action hero in the present day. One of the numerous flashbacks in this series’ crisscrossing narrative shows how Tayo and his classmates began training for such dangerous encounters by enrolling in FBI bootcamp. Among his fellow trainees: Amy Poet (Kate Mara of House of Cards and A Teacher fame) and Hour (Sepideh Moafi, an underrated supporting player on The Deuce and The Killing of Two Lovers). The FBI recruited the class ’09, in part because of their aptitude in varying areas and their similarly eclectic personalities. Poet, a nurse with zero combat experience, joins and instantly becomes a mother hen to peers like Tayo, who is much less physically capable here compared to his gun wielding in the flash forward. He indeed struggles with the boot camp fitness requirements. More importantly — and tellingly — Tayo also contends with a racist classmate who is able to run much faster in scenes that showcase Henry’s considerable range and the series’ dramatic heft.

Title cards clarify the time differences, while the technological advances in the future-set episodes help the series take on a dystopic tone, much like Minority Report. The latter is especially true as Tayo uses a system masterminded by tech wizard Hour to proactively crack down on crime, and perhaps subvert the precious virtue of “innocent until proven guilty.” The series’ technical feats are on full display in the future set episodes, although, some special effects in the present-set arc falter. A prosthetic iris gives Poet the ability to scan anything in her field of knowledge and get background information on it. This certainly comes in handy as she begins investigating the corruption within her own supposedly upstanding organization. The show’s makeup department also convincingly etches subtle crow’s feet around her mouth. And while Henry’s aforementioned present-day shootout is executed with gripping realism reminiscent of a Michael Mann movie, a climactic disaster that levels an entire building is rendered with rinky-dink CGI.

Aside from that minor visual misstep, Class of ‘09’s overall look is as drab and dour as the series’ tone. But that’s not a bad thing, mostly. This characteristic, along with a slow burn pace, can make small stretches of the runtime dull. One upshot: admirable restraint, with big payoffs when plot twists reveal certain characters’ duplicitous or misguided decisions. The same can be said of the action sequences, which pop in part because of the simmering build ups. The plot’s gradual unfolding also gives viewers a chance to properly absorb the series’ compelling commentary about state surveillance, perilous AI, and other timely themes.

Few shows have such a unique combination of grounded action and performances with an Orwellian social conscience and special effects splashed flash forwards. If Class of ’09 balances those elements better going forward, it could be as well-rounded, lithe and lethal as the best trained FBI boot camp recruits it is depicting. (

Author rating: 7/10

Rate this show
Average reader rating: 2/10


Submit your comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

There are no comments for this entry yet.