Almost Human – Series Premiere Review: Is This Show the Real Deal or Simply Synthetic?
Almost Human began its two-part series premiere tonight, introducing us to an expansive futuristic world where technology grows exponentially more dangerous, yet still can’t compare to heart.
Episode 1 of Season 1 of Almost Human, the pilot premiere, introduced us to Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and MX Dorian (Michael Ealy). We’ve seen this concept before. A rugged cop is paired with a seemingly squeaky clean android. The two begin at odds yet bond by the close of the story. Almost Human is different, though, in that this is television, not film. In a cinematic film form, things might have appeared stale or uninventive, but we know this show is only going to continue to expand further as the episodes progress. The roles are well-acted and the characters are compelling. By the close of the first part of this series premiere, John and Dorian had become buddies, learning to rely on each other in the face of grave danger and dire circumstances. Meaning, we got the inevitable out of the way already. Almost Human doesn’t need to waste time dragging out the build-up of a prospective friendship when the bonding process made perfect sense over the course of a single hour’s worth of T.V. We can now explore this world of 2048 with two unique perspectives, and as previously put, this place is perpetually changing. There can and will always be something new to explore. Tonight, I’m going to stick more of a review format, recapping the necessary but mainly highlighting what totally worked and what might need tweaking. Here is the Recap and Review of Season 1 Episode 1 of Almost Human, the pilot premiere!
We first meet Detective John Kennex in a flashback sequence. The man leads his team, including their cyborg MX partners, into the fray of an ambush. The memories are foggy and vague, but we witness the death of John’s human partner and the discord between the men and the bots for the first time. In a snap, we’re transported two years into the future, where John was undergoing a controversial black market medical treatment to revive his lost memories. An explosion had not only taken his leg but the visions of the events that had transpired as well.
John begins the premiere as a broken man, lost following the death of his team and disappearance of his girlfriend. Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor) convinces Kennex to rejoin the force. His talents are special and his passion is unmatched, yet the fear of striking out had been keeping him from getting back in the game prior. This time, however, a very specific case, a new attack tied back to the events that had devastated John’s world and landed him in a coma, had popped up, and Sandra wasted no time beginning to remind Kennex of who he is and what he does.
Kennex is initially paired with a mandatory MX partner, but the two never quite connect. John isn’t a fan of “synthetics,” even mentally rejecting his body’s own synthetic leg and causing it to repeatedly malfunction. The robots are heartless and programmed without any free will or intuition. Their technology is mainly made to mirror their environments, and protocol is all they know. For example, while in the field investigating the latest attack with Valerie Stahl (Mika Kelly), John experienced a bit of a seizure triggered by the panic of being back in the field. His teammate Valerie lends a compassionate shoulder to lean on, recognizing the process of regaining confidence and the pressure to succeed once again. The MX, however, refused to cut Kennex any slack. Immediately threatening to report John’s less than stellar performance, the MX subsequently found himself to be transformed into a pile of metal road kill thanks to Kennex, who has no patience whatsoever when it comes to robotic partners in the police force.
The “death” of his original partner inevitably ended up being a blessing in disguise. The events led to the introduction of Almost Human’s core relationship, the budding friendship between John and Dorian, a faulty DRN MX model that had been previously deemed unacceptable for continued work in the field. Dorian was built with a synthetic soul of sorts, like all DRNs. He’s engineered to feel emotions and to work on gut instincts. Basically, Dorian has all of the features of the current MX partners, yet the coldness is replaced with complete warmth. Just as things had begun with his previous partner, John was initially hesitant to even give Dorian the benefit of the doubt. He’d treat Dorian like a distraction and a nuisance, only to end up showcasing how the two are actually very similar. This isn’t necessarily a case that’s purely based on yin and yang. There are differences, but their hearts, synthetic or otherwise, define them. More so, I think their friendship represents what is best described as human vs. android social relations. In our real world of the present, 2013 Earth, we struggle with racism, homophobia, religious understanding, etc. This is a representation of what we might end up facing a human beings in the future grounded in technology.
On one of their first jobs, John witnessed firsthand what Dorian is capable of, as he was quick to defy orders from new MX models in favor of using his brain to deduce that which had transpired in this crime scene. For example, what is initially viewed to be a bomb that requires distance in its handling is eventually revealed to be some sort of a different trigger device, but only because Dorian risks exposing himself to it against orders. John, following his partner’s lead, eventually begins the true conflict of the pilot, which is battling the same organization that had stolen his life away from him two years prior. The organization had collected a strange chemical, Myclon Red, a gas that when triggered along with stolen “programmable DNA,” reverses an inoculation process all police officers are required to go through in joining the force. Meaning, it has the capability of exposing an officer to countless diseases with a mere huff of the chemical, killing them in mere moments. This is sadly demonstrated on a kidnapped detective before the eyes of both John and Dorian.
Dorian proved to be even more useful following, as the destroyed MX partner of this dead detective had “memories” of his own; however, memories of the heartless android models might only be interpreted in one specific way, the way of perfect protocol. Dorian, though, has the ability to tap into these memories and rework the vision as a DRN with heart. Eventually, the team realized that a file within their system had gone missing, basically cluing them in to the fact that their security had been compromised.
Most of the action would go down in the final scenes of the premiere. A pulse from another technological device rendered the entire force of current MX officers useless. With their greatest weapons powered down, the force would need to head into battle with the criminals, a group looking for something specific within the police headquarters, alone and vulnerable. Dorian, however, is out of date! Thus, the frequency blast left him perfectly intact. In the end, the infiltration was thwarted, and the entire team had bore witness to the incredible potential of these two new partners, John and Dorian.
As I stated previously, I intended to keep this as more of a review. Here’s what worked well. John and Dorian have a ton of chemistry. Karl Urban and Michael Ealy are great actors, and the writers have given them plenty to work with. The world is massive, and because it’s the future, the possibilities are endless. This works both in Almost Human’s favor and against it. One episode down, things are a bit overwhelming and the terminology and history is still sinking in. There were plenty of moments watching the pilot where I had to rewind or simply have faith that things would be better explained going forward. Having said that, what I’d take away most from the pilot is that the show is truly based, at this point, in comparing and contrasting Kennex’s lost will to live and fight with Dorian’s desire to be as human as possible. Dorian values the gift of life and the power of heart. Kennex, who’d lost something years prior, has now begun the process of rejuvenation. He’s getting his mojo back. Oddly enough, he’s been emotionally resurrected, in a way, by a “synthetic.” It should be noted, though, that Dorian takes extreme offense to that term. How could something fake be so passionate?
John continued to put his life at risk over the course of the premiere, carrying on with the harmful and controversial medical treatment in order to continue to conjure old memories. It was Dorian, though, who intervened and prevented John from killing himself in the process. In all of John’s recklessness, however, he’d discover that it was none other than his girlfriend, the woman who’d disappeared after his coma situation, who had been the one to lead the attack on his team two years prior. Following this discovery, our leading duo subsequently shared a moment that marked the true beginning of their friendship. John, whose synthetic leg had proved to be a bit creaky throughout the hour, simply needed a little olive oil to loosen things up. Way to go, Dorian. In my opinion, that was the perfect moment to highlight the DRN’s humanity. In truth, it was John’s new connection with his partner that launched his path to self-acceptance. John, in the end, confided in his partner what heartbreaking betrayal he’d discovered during the treatment.
In some closing remarks, I also enjoyed the relationship between John and Sandra, who’d specifically suggested Dorian as his partner knowing very well what her friend needs to succeed in fighting crime once again. Both John and Dorian are a special breed. Chemistry was also displayed in John’s new relationship with Valerie, and this is certain to grow into the series’ leading romantic arc. Prior to discovering that his ex was a criminal of some kind, John had viewed her as purely innocent, replaying a video message she’d left him while they were still an item countless times. Valerie, who is still feminine and warmly inviting, is introduced to us and to John as a warrior in her own right, fighting alongside the man and Dorian in their final efforts to thwart the onslaught in their offices. She’s a new kind of a romantic interest for John, and she should prove to be another reason to watch. Overall, an incredible cast, a boundless futuristic dystopian society, and some seriously endless potential storylines anchor Almost Human very well.
Did you catch the Series Premiere of Almost Human? What did you think of the Episode 1 (the pilot)? Will you be tuning in to Part 2 tomorrow night? Did you enjoy the chemistry between the cast? Is the concept too stale to catch your interest (Can’t get I, Robot out of your head?) or does the fact that the medium of television offers this series plenty of time and room to grow entice you to keep watching?
Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of the Series Premiere, Episode 1, of Almost Human!