There must be some kind of clause that in every future-set television show, at least one episode will explore some kind of dangerously-addictive drug. For Almost Human that’s this week’s episode, ‘The Bends’.
Let’s bitch it out…Four episodes in and it’s becoming pretty clear what kind of show Almost Human is. I’m getting a very strong Person Of Interest S1 vibe: a case of the week procedural format mixed with a dash of science-fiction, held together with easy-going character chemistry and the occasional mythology episode.
So far we’re still waiting for that final component, but everything else is here in spades. The show is clearly interested in being a light-hearted cop romp with just enough futuristic elements to distinguish itself from other “cop” shows. But if you subtract the robots from ‘The Bends’, we’re essentially left with a routine “undercover cop in a drug ring” episode. There’s even a corrupt cop to boot (who is so obviously the bad guy from the get go that it simply feels redundant when the reveal comes later in the episode).
What saves ‘The Bends’ is – as usual – the characters. In the first three episodes, Almost Human coasted primarily on Michael Ealy’s charm and the goodwill Karl Urban has built up from other projects. Dorian and Kennex have great chemistry and when they gently mock each other, it’s fun to follow them around, even when the case of the week isn’t super innovative. ‘The Bends’ introduces Mackenzie Crook’s Rudy into the mix, finally allowing the character to escape from the lab and get in on the action. Beginning in medias res – a tried and true JJ Abrams narrative technique that was honed and perfected on Alias – we then flash back 24 hours, but overall the action is a bit subpar.
Neither climactic fight scene really stands out, which leaves the “before” and “after” of the engagement to carry the load. It works because of Mackenzie Crook, whose Rudy teeters on the grey line between “oddball” and “relentless weird”, particularly in the early scene when Rudy works with Detectives Paul (Michael Irby) and Stahl (Minka Kelly) on his cover. His desire to wear a “costume” and adopt a person are immediately disregarded when he mistakenly provides the wrong name, but Paul’s advice to stick to the truth ultimately saves Rudy during his rambling soliloquy about loving your work. It’s a great piece for the character in an otherwise forgettable middle section, which ends with a cute and clever coda when Rudy crashes the post-case celebration to pick up chicks with Dorian and Kennex at the bar. Aside from Rudy’s moments, though, ‘The Bends’ is a little too paint by numbers to stand out. As a 42 minute diversion, it’s perfectly serviceable; I just hope that at some point the series aims a little higher as right now the writers seem perfectly content to stick at this level, which is watchable, but hardly appointment television.
- Once again Captain Maldonado (Lili Taylor) is relegated to hanging out in the command room, talking to people via comms. Sure she gets to make the phone that enables the SWAT team to trace Rudy’s location, but you’ve got to imagine that the woman is capable of more. I previously rooted for Rudy to get out of the lab and now I want the same for the Captain. Free Maldonado!
- I’m surprised at how nonchalantly the presence of another DRN robot is treated, much less the fact that Dorian kills it (robot murder?). Since I heard about this series, I’ve wondered how the writers will address the fact that robots in this futuristic world will obviously be used to commit crimes as often as they police them. Unfortunately this is never explored. Perhaps we’ll see the fall-out from Dorian’s actions in the future?
- P.S. I will completely admit that I’ve been spoiled by decades of Terminator robot fights, but that DRN battle was seriously weak. This show needs a new stunt coordinator.
- Tech of the week: a liquid that, once drunk, turns a whole body into a GPS signal. I can only imagine the implications for overprotective parents and their teenage children!
- In order to broker the deal to get Rudy in undercover, Kennex and Dorian agree to wipe the slate clean for an informant’s girlfriend. If Almost Human is smart (ie: well-plotted) we’ll see/hear more about Tony and his girlfriend, Mona Davis, in the future.
- Finally, does anyone else think that Cooper, the murdered “dealer”/undercover cop with the ~80% “pure” product, looks suspiciously like Aaron Paul (Jesse from Breaking Bad)? Either someone is having a joke in casting or this is a humorous coincidence…
- Dorian (when John suggests Cooper was the only one who could outrun him): “So there were only two people in your class?”
What’s your take: is Almost Human giving off a Person of Interest S1 vibe to you? Is the show’s charm entirely dependent on its characters? Do you want to see more from Maldonado? Did you expect more from Dorian’s first encounter with another DRN? Sound off below
Almost Human airs Mondays at 8pm EST on FOX