Almost Human surprised me with its quick sympathy, solid characterization, and intensity. I saw the pilot and “Skin” (they aired on a Sunday/Monday back-to-back), and in just two episodes Almost Human managed to grab hold of me which is something Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has yet to do and we’re already halfway through the first season.
This show has everything: a balanced, structured format, fantastic technology and dazzling effects, smooth yet raw writing, and most important of all, chemistry and soul in the main characters. John Kennex (played by the wonderful Karl Urban), the human partner of the pair, gains our empathy straightaway. He’s the victim of a vicious firefight, lost his partner and his leg, and is now chained to a cybernetic limb with a hatred for androids because of the death of his partner.
Dorian, his android partner (played by Michael Ealy in a gently humorous and sensitive way), isn’t like the other androids. His type were cast off after it was discovered that their “souls” (they are more prone to emotion or intuition than the newer androids) made them unpredictable.
Already we like the two main characters. They are underdogs. John Kennex isn’t completely human. Dorian isn’t completely android. They are both “almost human”. Do you feel that tug on your heartstrings? They’re misfits, not quite fitting into either society. But they have each other, and so begins a complex yet rewarding partnership.
The pilot set up some interesting points that will continue to pop up through the first season such as Kennex’s missing time gaps (he can’t quite reconstruct the firefight in his mind – who was behind it all?), Dorian’s potential to lose his mind and therefore his partnership and “life” since the rest of his kind were “retired,” and a friendship with Technician Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook), a man passionate about his work with the androids (I think it was his idea to pair Kennex with Dorian).
I’m intrigued by the implications of the technology used in the pilot as well as “Skins”. The pilot dealt with androids (do they belong to the police force? What does this mean in regards to property, slavery, and sentience?) while “Skins” dealt with DNA planting and sex robots (which is one angle on sex trafficking I hadn’t thought about before).
We also get a peek at what I assume is an arc for the first season (but could possibly continue on longer). There’s a missing file, some dirty cops on the inside, and not all is as it seems. Are there more dirty cops higher up? What are they hiding?
For a police procedural (which I almost always dislike) this is a fantastic show. The science fiction spin gives it new avenues to explore. Both the pilot and “Skin” showed that the writers already have a fantastic grip on who the characters are and what the show is about. Karl Urban’s gruff exterior pairs well with gentle, soft-spoken Dorian, but there are enough similarities between them to negate any dissonance.
Another thing I personally find interesting is that there are emotional layers (already!) for Kennex. He is already changing and growing as a character and this is astonishing to me because I haven’t seen a lot of that going around at such a good pace. It’s not uptempo by any means, but each episode there’s a little bit of progress made in Kennex’s journey. He begins to heal from his injuries, both physical and emotional, and it’s an encouraging thing to see.
I’m really curious about what they’ll do with Dorian, who is already exhibiting more human-like traits than the other androids. What if he doesn’t want to be a cop? Does he have to live with the other androids who don’t understand or look like him? What is his part to play in all of this?
I’m already in love with this show. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.