Review: Almost Human (TV Series)
Almost Human is a futuristic crime drama from J. H. Wyman and J. J. Abrams starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy. If you’re not familiar with Karl Urban, he has recently played in some “modest” movies by the names of Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness as well as headlining the reboot of Judge Dredd.
[SPOILERS!] The pilot episode aired on Sunday, November 17, 2013 on Fox. Immediately going into the pilot, I thought I was watching Urban’s Judge Dredd again. The action takes place 35 years in the future in Los Angeles where crime is running rampant and it seems the smartest thing that the cops have figured out how to do is create robots and assign one to each human officer for extra protection.
Urban’s John Kennex is in charge of a mission to take down some bad guys, but apparently they knew he was coming and he loses his entire team as well as one of his legs. To add fuel to the fire, his robot partner, being the unfeeling logical constructs that they are, decides that the chance of survival of one of John’s team members is much lower than other team members and he leaves to protect them. This sets up the animosity that John feels toward androids in the series. Attempting to drag his team member to safety, John is injured when part of his leg is blown off and his team member ultimately dies.
We join John two years later after he has come out of a coma that lasted 17 months. He’s equipped with a synthetic leg and he has trouble remembering details of what happened when his entire team was killed, which leads him to seek out a doctor that will help him remember, but using rather unorthodox (i.e. not really legal) means.
John is recalled to active duty, even though he feels he isn’t quite ready. The captain, played by Lili Taylor, tells him that he is the only one she really trusts in the precinct. She soon tells him the real reason she wanted him back. The same criminal organization that was responsible for killing John’s team and taking his leg is at it again, but she wants him to keep the connection quiet.
He is assigned an android partner, but that lasts about ten minutes in the show until John shoves the annoying metal-head out of the car while traveling down the freeway. As I said earlier, he hates androids.
Having an android partner is mandatory, so John goes to the basement (I’m not really sure what you would call it, but it seems like it) and is partnered with an older model android that was earmarked to work on the space station – the DRN series. The idea behind the DRN series was based on androids having emotions and feelings so they could connect with their partners better. This seems a bit odd to me for the simple fact that you would think the DRN models would be the ones to strive for. However, in this instance, they were rejected because they went “crazy” and were eventually replaced with the non-feeling but highly logical models that John tossed out into the freeway.
John soon realizes that Dorian (DRN) isn’t like the other androids. He acts very human and is even offended when John refers to him as a synthetic. As you can imagine, as with many science fiction themes dealing with androids/robots and humans, this sets up the typical second class citizen scenario. Furthermore, I have to wonder if Ealy’s casting had a dual purpose. I mean no disrespect, but the cultural themes of slavery and oppression are very clear to me in regards to the way the androids are treated in this show. If this is a theme that Wyman and Abrams were going after, would a white actor cast as Dorian have worked? Probably not.
The show follows a predictable, but enjoyable formula of John trying to adjust to his new android partner. First treating him like he’s nothing but a machine, but eventually coming around to viewing Dorian as a valuable asset and possibly, maybe eventually, as a friend. Thankfully the producers and writers didn’t decide to drag that part out through several episodes. By the second episode, you can certainly see the relationship developing between the partners.
I like Almost Human, partly because I like Karl Urban in pretty much everything he’s been in and partly because I love science fiction. The show seems to have the right mix of action, humor and societal themes to keep it entertaining. Granted, this is my impression after two episodes, so we’ll have to wait and see how well it holds up after a few more. Since pretty much everything (well, almost) that J. J. Abrams touches turns to gold, we probably will have a few seasons to watch the relationship between John and Dorian evolve. And, unless I’m mistaken, there is possibly some underlying mystery, aka Lost style, that was hinted at in the second episode. There is probably more than meets the eye with this series.
Born and raised in South Central Georgia, Donovan Adkisson is father to three fantastically smart children and husband to an awesome wife. When he's not trying to save the world by focusing on distributing information he feels that everyone should know via blogs and podcasts, he writes books, reads a lot and tries to learn everything he can on just about every subject. He's a former cable television and broadband industry technologist and executive. What more could you want?
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