The somber, chin-scratching tone is established right away with the opening scene set in the clearly troubled Philadelphia of 2025. Through a shattered skyscraper window, Mickle's camera gazes down on the smoke-filled aftermath of a terrorist attack as sirens blare, fires rage, and a torn flag flutters through the air. Even if it's not quite a post-Skynet hellscape or a total Mad Max-style meltdown, the vibes are bad. Clearly, the near-future is not so bright.
From there, the film makes its first of many chronological jumps back to the Philly of 1988, where a bus driver, a concert pianist, and a cheesesteak-concocting line cook all suffer from a mysterious medical freak-out that causes them to bleed out through the nose and die in increasingly grisly manners. (Later, we discover they all experienced a not-fun-sounding ailment referred to as "brain disintegration.") In the midst of these three brutal deaths, a hooded figure sprints away through the shadow-filled streets, implying that she's responsible for the seemingly disconnected carnage.
Luckily, dogged rookie cop Thomas Lockhart (Holdbrook), first seen struggling to make pancakes for his pregnant wife, is on the case. Though he's not a detective, Lockhart has ambitions to be one and likes to pester his higher-up-in-the-department brother-in-law Holt, played by Michael C. Hall with typical know-it-all bluster. Along with his "too old for this shit" partner Maddox (Fargo Season 2 breakout Bokeem Woodbine), Lockhart attempts to make the connections between the gruesome killings, which also allows Mickle to remain in a noir-inflected procedural comfort zone. The regional touches can feel a little broad -- do we really need the Sixers game on the radio and shot of a Sixers mug on a desk? -- but the decision to place this in a specific city, instead of a vague metro area, is admirable, at least.