Just three episodes in, the sci-fi/detective show Almost Human is already settling into a nice little groove. As human detective Kennex (Karl Urban) and his android partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) continue to work cases together, the chemistry between the actors promises to be one of the show’s strongest elements.
The last episode, “Are You Receiving?” finds the duo stuck in an office building with a group of terrorists and hostages. While the premise isn’t entirely original — it’s basically a derivation of Die Hard — the episode makes a surprisingly effective use of future tech.
While the chemistry between the actors is strong, and the interplay between the two main characters is always engaging, the use of “future tech” in the show has been a bit hit or miss. This episode, however, uses the setting (the year 2048) to its advantage, highlighting several uses of tech that were key to the plot.
About halfway through, the terrorists are revealed to be wearing “facemakers” — elaborate, high-masks, basically. It’s a cool touch, and an important part of the narrative. The detectives learn that the supposed “terrorists” are actually not politically motivated, but only out for money.
This episode also explores Dorian’s capabilities. He intercepts phone calls, mimics voices, and eventually gets hit in the head by a ricocheted bullet. The first two episodes focuses on Dorian’s differences from the newer artificial cops, but a lot of information about Dorian’s abilities had been left unexplained.
This episode addresses some of his capabilities and, more importantly, does it in an way that feels organic to the story.
The handling of a future world is always a delicate balance. The characters live in that world; for them, it’s not “the future” at all, and any attempt to explain everything about their world outright is going to risk sounding forced and heavy on exposition. But so far the show has managed to handle that challenge fairly deftly.
Additionally, there’s a question of what type of futuristic world the show wants to portray. Androids are one thing — they’re the central conceit of the show — but to what extent is the “futurization” of society going to seem realistic and not hokey?
In today’s society, technology can already seem straight out of science fiction, with self-driving cars, package-delivering drones, and apps that read your text messages out loud. The conundrum Almost Human faces in these early episodes is to depict the world of 2048 realistically, but not allow that world to overwhelm the core story. So far, there haven’t been too many “risks.”
Los Angeles is recognizable, and most of the tech has been limited to interesting gadgets, such as Kennex’s artificial leg and the “facemakers” on this episode’s villains. ”Are You Receiving?” uses little details to add lots of style to an otherwise fairly standard plot. Additionally, the chemistry between the two main characters continues to be a strong point. The overall quality of the show is yet to be determined (or realized), but each episode is getting stronger.
It’ll be interesting to see the direction this show takes moving forward.