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TV Review: ‘Almost Human’ – ‘Simon Says’

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What do DRN android Dorian (Michael Ealy), eccentric scientist Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook), Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and a serial killer have in common? That is the meaty question explored in this week’s episode of Almost Human, “Simon Says.” If you’ve not seen the series yet, and you are a fan of near-future science fiction, you might want to tune into FOX on Monday nights and have a look. It’s not quite Blade Runner sci-fi noir, but it has many interesting possibilities to offer, even within its crime-of-the week formula.

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Procedural drama is always at its best when it uses the case to comment on the series characters, and (I believe) for the first time, Almost Human genuinely goes there. I wish the writers had taken the parallels a little further, but I like that the series is beginning to go in this direction a bit more.

This week’s cyber-skilled perp is a geeky nerd of an online game player who finds acceptance of a sort he’s never experienced when he creates a complex and murderous game. Isolated, lonely, and quite clearly psychopathic, he seeks revenge on those he believes have wronged him in the past: a loan officer, a pretty girl, and, most significantly, the police establishment that refused him a position when he failed his pysch evaluation. Egged on by the live stream of this macabre game, the young man grows more and more bold, elated when cheered on to “kill him” or “do it!” and infuriated when his viewers tell him he’s a “nobody.”

The cops in pursuit this master game player are John and Dorian, each of whom are, in their own right, just as isolated from their societies. John, the lone survivor of an ambush two years earlier is still despised by many of his brother cops (not to mention that one of his legs is a “synthetic”). Dorian is also an outcast among android police officers: a DRN among MX cipher cyber-cops. Neither are as marginalized as we are to believe the perp to be. And then we have Rudy, our resident mad scientist. He is in fact, a man on the margins — wanting desperately (it seems) to fit in somehow, but clearly socially inept. You have to wonder if he is truly the opposite side of the coin to the killer.

He speaks of the loneliness of the loner. Yes, he can make as many android butterflies as he’d like, but the life is lonely. Mackenzie Crook does a great job of conveying Rudy’s feelings, not only in his line readings, but in his body language. Psychologically, he is as far from the killer as he is socially near him.

Dorian also is pushed out, and marginalized. During a power shortage, the MX droids are given preference at the charging stations, and ultimately, that puts Dorian, John and the entire case in jeopardy. But Dorian continues to fight to the bitter end of his (literal) energy, saving the day, and winning for him a sort of freedom. He no longer has to live with the dreadful MXs, a scary lot if ever there was one!

Things don’t quite end perfectly for him however, as John has a solution to allow Dorian some independence; it’s not quite the solution Dorian has in mind, however. From here on out the DRN will be bunking in Rudy’s laboratory/man cave. Rudy is elated to have the company of someone with whom he can feel comfortable. And I wonder if John’s idea was as much to retain his own isolation as it is to alleviate both Dorian’s and Rudy’s.

Personally, I like the idea of these two living together: a truly “odd” couple. It also opens up the possibility of using Mackenzie Crook’s talents a little more than they have thus far.

I also continue to enjoy the “bromantic” relationship that continues to develop between John and Dorian. That is the heart and soul of the series, after all.

My wish for Almost Human is to continue down a path of using the crime of the week to really delve into the characters, their back stories and their psychologies. The pilot episode had so much going for it and so many narrative threads to pluck, I also hope the series gets back to some of those open questions:

Just what is “the syndicate” that perpetrated the original ambush on Kennex and his task force? What are they up to and what Kennex doing (even behind the scenes on his own time) to ferret them out?

What about Kennex’s girlfriend? You know, the one who betrayed him to the syndicate? Where is she and why hasn’t she come up again?

The syndicate was seeking a particular item in the evidence locker. It must still be there, but what is it, and why haven’t they tried again? We’ve heard no mention of this intriguing bit of information. I’m guessing it has to do with that gas — the one that makes human cops vulnerable to bio-attack.

I’m also intrigued by the idea of human-android hybrids, which came up in the episode “Skins.” From that episode, we learn that it’s illegal for DNA to be found in the makeup of androids (there’s even an electronic detector to identify it). Why? What’s the backstory on this. I’d love to see this come up again sometime soon!

Almost Human airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.