The Crossing, the new show from ABC streaming on Amazon Prime Video, has an offbeat premise that speaks to contemporary concerns: a group of refugees lands via the sea route in a small Oregon town. Many of them have died while making the arduous journey but the few that have survived seek asylum from the genocide they are trying to escape. The twist: the people claim that the genocide is in America 180 years from now.
Sheriff Jude Ellis (Steve Zahn) is at a loss understanding the claims of the 47 people who have washed up in his laidback town. But he is equally chary when the Department of Homeland Security takes over the case because he knows from past experience that federal government is the last thing a local police officer can trust. It does not help that he and the DHS incharge, Emma Ren (Sandrine Holt) get off to a rough start.
In due course, we learn that the society of future has engineered a supreme being called the Apex with heightened powers of cognition and physical strength. The class divide so engendered is not just the cause of the genocide but also provides the other major theme of the show. During the escape, Reece (Natalie Martinez), an Apex, lost touch with her non-Apex adopted daughter Leah (Bailey Skodje) and must immediately find her. Lean, as a non-Apex, has a condition for which she requires frequent blood transfusions from her mother.
All of these strands merge on the surprising note that there has been an earlier migration, some of whose members now populate the top echelons of American society. How far should the current lot speak about this is a question that is tied up in both bureaucracy and intrigue. Those running away from the war hoped to find succor in what the show calls “The Long Peace” (America in the 21st century) but the future looks to be in danger of reshaping the past.
Science fiction has long tackled political and social themes by using the avenues opened by scientific discovery to comment on the schisms that continue to rip society. The class divide between an advanced being and the lay person – a common feature of sci-fi dramas such the recent The 100 and 3% – is an upgrade of the current political reality, where hundreds of refugees from war-riven West Asia poured into Europe beginning 2015.
The Crossing dovetails individual storylines of the refugees with the pulls and minor miracles of law enforcement to craft a compelling drama that offers a worm’s eye view of any migration crisis that is lost amidst the headlines. While food is plentiful, freedom is not – and not everyone among the harried group of newcomers is a victim. Drawing too many parallels between reality and fiction may be self-defeating but the trope, being timely, is deeply engaging.