Wisdom of the Crowd First Impressions
“Sophie is real-time crowd-sourced crime solving. It’s a hub where people can submit and dissect evidence.”
It can be exceedingly frustrating to see a piece of art boasting an interesting idea that lacks sufficient tact to actually pull it off. The best point of comparison when discussing Wisdom of the Crowd would likely be Person of Interest, but, whereas Person of Interest presented its idea of a predictive surveillance network as a moral tightrope of sorts, Wisdom of the Crowd seems to favor a self-aggrandizing approach to its premise. The show’s approach to its own questionable premise is hardly its only weakness though, as it has a tendency to throw a multitude interpersonal connections and characters at the audience in a considerably short amount of time. If this was purely a drama, then this approach may be acceptable, but because this is also a crime-solving procedural there are multiple instances where the drama and the mystery feel as if they’re stepping on each others toes. This is only further complicated when, in the last quarter of the episode, the primary mystery of the pilot is swapped out entirely. The ultimate come away from this pilot is that Wisdom of the Crowd is chocked full of ideas, but isn’t capable enough to do them justice, and this results in it feeling like a cluttered mess of an introduction.
The show is based around the premise that Jeremy Piven plays a disagreeable tech pioneer, Jeffrey Tanner, who launches a project to crowd-source crime solving in response to what he feels was a botched investigation of his daughter’s death. Piven isn’t terrible in this role, but the writing seemingly wants him to be all things at all times. He bounces between being a heartbroken father, a guru-like visionary, an arrogant egomaniac, and benevolent eccentric. Consequently, it can be hard to pin down the character, and some of his scenes can be rather cloying, like when he makes a positive comparison between himself and Steve Jobs. He is aided, somewhat reluctantly, by Detective Tommy Cavanaugh, played by Richard T. Jones. Cavanaugh is arguably the most likable and relatable member of the cast as he has the most well defined character and he is often the one to bring up obvious questions that are inherent in the core concept. Those complaints are often hand waved away with a line or two of technobabble, but it’s better than nothing. The rest of the cast is far less distinct, with the staff of Tanner’s Sophie project being largely interchangeable.
The mystery itself is… not particularly good. Much of the episode is focused around introducing the Sophie system, and presenting the basics of the case surrounding the death of Tanner’s daughter. As I mentioned before, this isn’t done particularly well since it competes with such drama as Cavanaugh arguing with his partner over whether they caught the right person, Tanner having a secret relationship with a member of his staff, a hacker targeting Sophie and then showing up for a job, and Tanner’s strained relationship with his ex-wife. Then, to complicate things further, they spend the last fifteen minutes solving an entirely different case. That’s right. If you thought it was odd that they’d solve the murder of Tanner’s daughter in the first episode since it feels like more of an extended “Red John” style case, then you won’t be that surprised to learn you were right. Honestly, this came about so abruptly that I was actually left confused as to what was happening for a bit as they just seem to stumble into this second case through sheer coincidence. This absence of focus leaves the pilot feeling like a mess with no proper story structure and an unwillingness to actually tackle any of the concepts that are central to its subject matter.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- What is it with people meeting up at park benches to talk? This happens twice in this episode and, in both instances, it feels more than a little contrived.
- There is a particularly idiotic foot chase towards the end of the episode that I feel deserves to be highlighted as it ends with the suspect being hit by a car and seemingly disappearing into thin air. I don’t know what to tell you. It is as stupid as it sounds. One second he’s being hit by a car in the middle of a park, and then literally seconds later the police can’t find him anywhere.
- The technobabble is certainly present in this episode, but it’s used sparingly. What actually annoyed me was it being used to defer what could have been interesting logistical and ethical discussions.
- During his press conference to announce the introduction of Sophie, Tanner makes a quip about not releasing his tax returns. Like I said, the writing for his character can be more than a little grating.
Wisdom of the Crowd is, unfortunately, not as smart as it thinks it is or as it needs to be. With an overstuffed pilot, the show is left with too little time to develop its characters, themes, concepts or mystery. Instead, we are left with a mess of half-measures don’t even form a cohesive narrative. I won’t discount the possibility that this could develop into something of quality, but there is nothing present in the pilot to encourage such optimism.