Almost Human: “Simon Says”

I don’t know that this show would be as fun to watch without the trio of Karl Urban‘s Detective John Kennex, Android Dorian, and Technician Rudy Lom. Although the writing is tight, the cinematography stellar and the storylines intriguing, I watch specifically for how Dorian and Kennex interact, hoping that Rudy will join in somewhere during the episode. The second half of season one started today with “Simon Says,” and I couldn’t have asked for better.

Picture 1“Simon Says” begins with the Energy Marshal giving the police force bad news in the form of an electrical outage. Because of this, the androids are being given charge priority which of course means that Dorian will go last. His personality chip is affected by lack of energy and his circuits create mood swings that have Dorian laughing and excited or angry and violent. On top of this, Dorian finds having to live with the MXs to be humiliating and wants his own place. As property of the city, however, he cannot be unsupervised. He begs Kennex to let him move in and begins to snap as the day goes on.

This does not bode well for Kennex who is following the trail of a serial killer who is broadcasting his victims’ deaths. As the viewer count grows higher, the killer gets more and more excited at the delight the online watchers show at the deaths of supposed villains.

Of course, when Kennex and Dorian are successful in dismantling a bomb, the serial killer, Simon, sets his sights on Kennex as his next target as revenge after receiving a backlash from his viewers. With Dorian about to shut down from lack of charge, it looks like Kennex’s number is up. Simon taunts him, saying that there isn’t that much difference between them. Kennex, after all, is responsible for the deaths of the cops in his squad in the accident that cost him his leg. Simon then points out that they both had bad psychological evaluations but someone gave Kennex a second chance while Simon was kicked out of the police academy. They have black marks that have followed them around, altering their lives.

There is a difference between them, however. Something that makes all the difference. While Simon is bitter toward those who wouldn’t give him a second chance, resorting to gaining approval online by committing murder, Kennex takes responsibility for his actions and doesn’t care what others think about him. He does his job as well as he can, he looks out for Dorian, and he doesn’t let the past interfere much with his present.

These two outlooks truly make a difference. One is the outlook of a victim, easy to manipulate into the outlook of a criminal. Someone who will not take responsibility for their actions, who puts the blame elsewhere, and who hangs onto the past with a desperate, clinging bitterness cannot move on with his life. He will become warped and unable to heal.

The other outlook is one of healthy maturity. A person that can take responsibility for their choices and actions without having to seek approval from others can heal whatever is thrown their way. We’ve seen Kennex this season move away from being a bitter victim to a healthier individual.

So what about the online viewers in “Simon Says”? Are people that uncaring, cruel, and sadistic in real life? I was watching the show with a friend, and she found it hard to believe that something like this could happen in real life. It reminded me of a book called “Butter” about a boy who struggles with losing weight. He decides to end his life by killing himself via one huge last meal and chooses to broadcast it. Some people taunt him saying he won’t go through with it. Others encourage him by adding foods to his menu like it’s some kind of sick joke.

I don’t know what I think about this. On one hand, the people I spend the majority of my time with would be horrified by something like this. But we’ve all encountered tragedy in our lives. We’ve lost spouses, parents, and siblings. Some of us were abused while others were abandoned. Some of us have health problems and many of us live below the poverty line. We’ve all had some kind of personal tragedy that makes us wary of causing others harm or even standing by and watching it happen. Many of us have entered professions that directly help people. I worked at a school helping students with disabilities. One of my friends works at an animal shelter. Another volunteers at a women’s shelter.

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Maybe there are people who have either never encountered personal tragedy or who have let their tragedies consume their lives, becoming less human in their attempts to seal off the pain. Maybe in some corners of the internet there are people who would cheer on a bomber as they killed off people.

But there always have been. What about the French Revolution when crowds watched and cheered as the nobility lost their heads? What about when hanging was a popular punishment and it became a social event? What about those people who reacted with excitement and celebration when Osama Bin Laden was killed and watched it over and over again on the news?

“Simon Says” was a disturbing episode, more so because I understand how this isn’t a piece of science fiction. Some people would actually do this, and some people would actually watch it. After all, I watched the entire episode of “Simon Says.”

I think, aside from the personal outlook differences, the biggest difference is relationships. Simon was alone and shut off from the world. He was wrapped up in himself. He couldn’t empathize with others. He just wanted their admiration and approval. Kennex, on the other hand, has Dorian, Rudy, Captain Maldonado and Detective Stahl. He has people in his life who care about him.

Simon didn’t have anyone. Maybe his online audience didn’t feel like anyone cared about them either. Why care about some random stranger when you can’t imagine how you would feel if the person you loved most was in that situation?

Relationships make all the difference. Being able to talk through a hard time, to give a hug, to eat a meal together, all of this can change a person’s outlook. I know I would be very different without the people in my life who care about me. Knowing there are people who love me has helped me through some very dark times.

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone is a story nerd, particularly for the episodic stories told via the medium of television. When not parked in front of the TV, K.M. Cone can be found writing kooky urban fantasy on her personal site, attempting to learn German, or making a huge pot of soup for her friends, who are probably coming over to join her in her latest TV or animated film obsession.
K.M. Cone

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