One week before the first anniversary of his daughter’s murder, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jeffery Tanner (Jeremy Piven) announces that he’s signing over ownership of Allsourcer, the app which made him his fortune – to plough his money into Sophe, a crowd-sourcing app he has developed to help find his daughter’s killer. Among the scores of people watching Tanner’s press conference is Alex (Monica Potter), a Congresswoman who we later learn is Tanner’s ex-wife – and the mother of murdered Mia (Abigail F. Cowen). But here’s the catch – Mia’s murder isn’t unsolved. Carlos Ochoa (Ramses Jimenez) has already been convicted of the crime. But Tanner thinks they’ve got the wrong guy, and he wants the public to help him prove it.
Tanner is running Sophe from a warehouse in Oakland, called The Hive. This is where he meets with Detective Cavanaugh (Richard T. Jones), one of the detectives who originally investigated Mia’s case – and who also isn’t convinced of Carlos’ guilt. Tanner introduces Cavanaugh to his team, including Sara (Natalia Tena) – who we later learn is also Tanner’s lover. Tanner plays Cavanaugh the first piece of evidence he has unearthed: a voicemail from an obviously distressed Mia that her friend received the night she died. Cavanaugh has never heard the message before, but his old partner Detective Ruiz (Ion Overman) has. As he questions her about it, he gets an alert – new evidence has been uploaded to Sophe: a video of a mystery man leaving Mia’s apartment the night of the murder. Cavanaugh and Tanner go to prison to show the video to Carlos; who can’t identify the guy on the tape, and is clearly already jaded by his time behind bars.
Meanwhile, it’s panic stations back at The Hive – Sophe has been hacked and an extended version of the video has been uploaded to the site. The extra footage shows a car waiting by Mia’s apartment, which users quickly identify as a Flipper (Wisdom of the Crowd‘s very own Uber). Within minutes the driver’s name is all over the internet. Then the hacker, Tariq (Jake Matthews) shows up at The Hive, apparently just to gloat about how easy it was to breech the site. But Tanner doesn’t berate him, instead he offers him a job.
The Flipper driver’s name ends up all over the internet, and the man becomes the victim of violent mob rule. When Cavanaugh and Ruiz check his records for the night of Mia’s death they see that he had a call that was cancelled; from the same bar where another young woman had been 4 months previously – on the night she was sexually assaulted and murdered. From this point Mia’s case takes a back seat and we’re onto our crime of the week for the rest of the episode. Several victims come forwards on the app and an algorithm identifies that one particular Bar Tender was working on the nights that each of the sexual assaults occurred.
This is where everything suddenly falls into place a little bit too conveniently: the Bar Tender goes to meet his Accomplice right after the police question him; there just happens to be a Sophe user in the park right by where the two men meet and openly discuss the crimes; the Accomplice manages to escape (despite being hit by a car in the process); and when his picture is put on Sophe he is quickly found by users of the app and promptly arrested. While this certainly gives the audience a nicely tied up case at the end of the episode, it was all a bit too easy for me.
Wisdom of the Crowd is a promising premise, which taps into the current fascination with true crime stories. You don’t have to look very far to find online communities of amateur sleuths who think they can do a better job than the professionals when it comes to solving various high-profile cases; and the show also takes on a particularly hot topic – did they get the right guy? Think Serial and Making a Murderer. Wisdom of the Crowd wants the audience to feel the same away about Carlos as we do about Adnan Syed or Steven Avery, but I’m not quite sure they manage to do this in the pilot. We don’t see enough of Carlos and we don’t learn enough about his relationship with Mia – who is painted as the ultimate tragic victim: kind and beautiful, with her whole life ahead of her.
Tanner is an interesting protagonist, and Piven does a solid job in his portrayal of him. This is a guy who clearly has a lot of demons, which will no doubt be unearthed in upcoming episodes. But he is the only character that I felt I got a real grasp of in the pilot. His ex-wife, Alex is disappointingly underused. We see just enough of her to establish that there is possibly still something between her and Tanner, which is sure to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to his relationship with Sara – who we also know next to nothing about by the time the credits roll.
And then there’s Cavanaugh, whose main purpose is to be the skeptic. From the get-go he is very vocal about Tanner’s attempt to take law enforcement out of the hands of the authorities and put it into the hands of the people. He raises all the obvious questions: what about privacy? What about the possibility of trial by public opinion? What about the admissibility factor of all the evidence collected by the app? They’re the same questions any viewer is going to ask, and I’m not quite sure the answers Cavanaugh gets are good enough. But of course, when he has the honor of closing the case of the week we can already see that his opinion is starting to sway. Is he fully on board? No. But when he receives a new evidence alert on Mia’s case at the end of the episode we can tell that he thinks Tanner really might be onto something.
Early in the pilot Tanner tells Cavanaugh that “people want to be a part of something meaningful.” It’s a fair point. But will that something be Wisdom of the Crowd? Guess we’ll have to keep watching to find out.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Wisdom of the Crowd airs Sundays at 8PM on CBS
Lauren Neill | Contributor