After an extra long wait, FOX’s robot police force show finally debuts in a two night special event. So how does the new show from JJ Abrams and the creators of Fringe fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
The ‘Pilot’ of Almost Human feels especially pilot-y, although I’m inclined to say that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All stories require conflict to drive the plot, so although we know that John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his new DRN partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) are going to trust and begrudgingly respect one another by the end of the episode, the pilot still needs to address this to confirm why both men are “special.” It’s the definition of textbook, which can be used in a positive or negative sense to describe any number of other familiar elements from the episode. Which side you end up falling on depends on how you respond to these familiar science-fiction / cop / JJ Abrams plot devices:
- The tortured cop: He plays by his own rules, but gets away with shit because he’s the best. Kennex also hates Synthetics (aka robot partners) because of course he does – it’s a show set in the future with robots! (Let’s hope that Urban will eventually get to crack a smile…this isn’t Dredd)
- The unique robot partner: He alone will break down Kennex’s resistance because he alone has a “soul”. (Dorian clearly gets a pass because Ealy makes him the most enjoyable character on the show by a mile)
- The A-hole Detective: Richard Paul (Michael Irby) is literally introduced by his scowl at Kennex. He’s got a bone to pick with John and will inevitably get in the way later for no other reason than the need for a plot device (PS. I hate this character type)
- The dangerous conspiracy/organization: Here it’s a semi-Anonymous-esque group known as the Syndicate that’s seeking a mysterious package (This is a JJ Abrams show, so there must be a mystery box)
- The more important than initially anticipated ex-girlfriend: Anna (Mekia Cox) naturally ends up being a member of the Syndicate and, like Detective Paul, will clearly be a plot device at the least convenient time in a future episode (Anna could be interesting if she returns for more than a single episode – ie: a case of the week)
Basically we’re treading in very some familiar waters here. And yet the show more or less works. Perhaps I’m more willing to give the series some leeway for daring to be something more than so many of the other humdrum pilots this season? Perhaps I’m hopeful that the series will end up being as enjoyable as its future Monday night Fox show, Sleepy Hollow? Or perhaps I’m comfortable allowing a show with this pedigree of talent a few episodes to prove it’s more than a buddy cop action series set in 2048?
Whatever the reason, I’m quite looking forward to a second dose of Almost Human tomorrow and seeing if the cases that the series investigates amounts to something more than the generic sum of its science fiction and cop elements. For now it’s worth sticking around to see how things shape up and to see what else it pays homage to.
- The programmable DNA, face-melting effects of Myklon Red is appropriately disgusting, but feels like a leftover effect from Fringe. Almost Human will have to be mindful of its spiritual FOX predecessor or else it will run the risk of appearing to ape the earlier Abrams effort at every junction
- The world building environment of the future feels appropriate…and yet it is disappointing how much it owes to other generic texts set in the near-future (including Fringe). Alan Sepinwall suggests Almost Human appropriates Blade Runner and Total Recall, which rings true to me. Here’s hoping that moving forward we get a better sense of how 2048 is different than our present beyond simple laser light tricks, robots, and the same futuristic car we’ve seen for the last thirty years in every other sci-fi show/film
- SPOILER I’m surprised at how quickly the “reveal” of the Syndicate’s goal is revealed…and just as quickly bypassed. That’s the head of Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) in the box, is it not? It’s a fair bet to assume that she’s a female DRN, perhaps a prototype that was put into limited production without anyone being the wiser? (This portion of the review has been edited after learning this scene was cut out of the broadcast episode)
- STILL SPOILERS Side Note: Clearly the series is setting up a supremely awkward relationship between Stahl and Kennex, but what if she and Dorian got together? Do you think if they had a child it would look like Chuckesme?
- I have a love/hate relationship with Lili Taylor because I really disliked her character on Six Feet Under (no, I’m not over it!). On the plus side, her Captain Maldonado is a surprisingly interesting character. Traditionally the police captain is a) male and b) an A-hole. Making the character a woman, who’s clearly in charge, but not abrasively so, is incredibly refreshing. More of her, please
- There’s very little surprise, however, in the character of Mackenzie Crook’s Rudy. Crook has been playing these quirky oddball characters for many years now, so it’s hardly shocking to see him playing with robots in a dark lab. Let’s just hope he gets to get out into the open sometime soon
- FYI: Olive oil will help you connect with your synthetic leg in the future
- Also in the future: cops ride segways
- Random aside: I have written the name of this show Almost Famous soooo many times!
- Dorian (after John beats up a suspect): “Not that I need to tell you, but you just violated the crap out of that suspect’s civil rights”
Your turn: What did you think of this first episode? Do you like the sci-fi meets buddy cop genre mash-up? Is the show distinctive enough? Did you anticipate that Minka Kelly would play a robot? And will you watch again? Comment away below
Almost Human debuts in its regular Monday timeslot tomorrow at 8pm EST on FOX. See you in 24 hrs when we discuss SEX BOTS!