By this point in the series, it’s pretty clear that the writers are deliberately trying to play with the “legal” consequences of the premise. And you know what? Good for them. Of course, it would have been better if they’d asked someone who knew something about the legal system before they went with it, because things aren’t getting any better on that front.
I. Miracle Day and Employment
Early on the episode, there’s a TV spot about a man who is suing his former employer for letting him go as a result of his heart attack. “I can still work! It’s not like I’m going to die or anything!” True enough. But that’s not really the point. It’s already illegal to fire people for health conditions, at least those that substantially limit major life activities or major bodily functions (e.g. the circulatory system). So if it was legal to fire this guy before Miracle Day, i.e. if his heart attack interfered with his job to such an extent that reasonable accommodation was not possible, then it’s still legal afterward. And if it was illegal before (i.e., if he could still do his job with reasonable accommodation), then it would be illegal after.
II. Dead is Dead
Then there’s the introduction of a new social/political phenomenon: the “Dead is Dead” movement. This is spearheaded by a female mayor of a small Midwestern town who is explicitly identified as a Tea Partier. The show is nothing if not heavy-handed. The idea here is that because no one is dying, people who “should have died” are now consuming vast amounts of resources that would otherwise have been available for the living. Which is true, as far as it goes. The proposal is to basically round up everyone who “should have died” and put them in camps, with an explicit reference to segregation. Because we didn’t already know that the writers disapprove.
Approve or not, there’s absolutely no way this could work in practice. The reason is obvious: How do we know if someone was going to die? Sure, there are obvious trauma cases, but even some of those aren’t quite so obvious. People make amazing recoveries every day, and someone can be touch and go for weeks before turning a corner and getting better. And this is to say nothing of people with chronic diseases, many of whom can hang on for years, decades even, before finally dying. How are we supposed to know whether these people “should have died”?
We can’t. Which is the whole problem. And as a result, the proposal is a massive violation of Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to Due Process and Equal Protection. One gets the impression that the writers were vaguely aware that this would be problematic, because they have the Tea Party mouthpiece say something about needing to change the law, but they conveniently drown her out with conversation when she starts making proposals. Probably because they don’t have any idea how to make it work, but it fits with their political hobbyhorse, so they’re going to go with it.
III. PhiCorp and Corporate Ownership
Lastly, Oswald Danes has started to suspect that his corporate masters are up to no good. It’s not clear whether or not he cares, but he at least wants to know. Fair enough. So he does some digging online, which he can apparently do because he has learned how to “hide his tracks” online due to not being allowed to access the internet since his conviction. None of which makes any kind of sense, but whatever. He discovers that when he tries to find out who owns PhiCorp, the trail goes cold. And he concludes that someone was trying to hide PhiCorp’s corporate parentage just like he had hidden himself.
This doesn’t make any sense either. PhiCorp is a corporation, presumably, or at least some kind of business entity. Probably in Delaware, maybe Nevada. That means it is registered somewhere, as it had to file articles of incorporation or some similar document depending on the kind of entity we’re talking about. For what he’s saying to be even remotely plausible, PhiCorp can’t be publicly traded, because if it were, figuring out who owns stock isn’t all that hard. It’d probably be beyond Danes’ ability to do in an afternoon with no special tools, but it’s not that hard to get this information. Hell, if any of the directors own stock, that has to be publicly declared to the SEC as part of the company’s annual filings. These documents are boring, but they’re matters of public record.
So say PhiCorp is privately held. Even privately held companies can’t completely hide their ownership information. They don’t have to make SEC filings if they aren’t publicly traded, but a company that big is going to have attracted journalistic attention. We basically know who owns most of the largest privately held companies in the world. For example, Koch Industries is owned by the Koch family. Mars, Inc. is owned by the Mars family. Ernst & Young is owned by its partnership. Bechtel Corp. is owned by the Bechtel family. Sure, we don’t know precisely who owns what, but we know the list of people who own the majority of the stock. If PhiCorp is even half as big as it’s made out to be, the idea that the ownership of the company is completely unknown is pretty implausible.
Legally speaking, things really aren’t getting any better. Maybe this is because the writers are Brits and are only dealing with half-understood stereotypes of the American legal system. Maybe it’s because they don’t think these details are important. But if your show deliberately sets out to explore the legal implications of a speculative event, these details are important. Maybe Davies should stick to blowing up universes.