After an off episode, Humans rebounds with a strong outing that lets Mia (Gemma Chan) out of the box.
Let’s bitch it out…
First off: NOOOOOO, not Max (Ivanno Jeremiah)! My notes throughout the episode repeatedly compliment Jeremiah for his nuanced and humourous portrayal of the most childlike Synth, followed by a lot of wailing when Max sacrifices himself in a suicidal plunge into the river in order to prevent Hobb (Danny Webb) from capturing him. It’s a strong episode for Jeremiah, who is given more to do here than ever before, including an amusing prayer to God and an attempt to play mediator with Leo (Colin Morgan) and Mattie (Lucy Carless) when they try to free Mia (Gemma Chan) a second time.
In all likelihood, I shouldn’t be worried about Max’s future. Considering how Humans handled the fall-out of the last episode’s “supposed” cliffhanger – when Hobb appeared to burn Fred (Sope Dirisu) – it seems obvious that Max will live another day. The ruse from ‘Episode 5’ doesn’t even last beyond tonight’s opening scene which reveals that Fred is alive and well and living in Hobb’s guarded safe house. Their conversation is the first real opportunity for Dirisu to imbue Fred with some personality (although physically present, he’s spent the majority of the show powered down). As we learn over the course of the hour, including during Leo’s self-powered projector trip down memory lane, each of the Synths has an unique personality. Fred is clearly the pragmatic leader and he demonstrates a lot of ingenuity and intellect in his escape from Hobb’s stronghold (set to a pulsing electronica soundtrack, of course).
Fred’s safe return suggests that a similar arc may be in store for Max, despite more troubling odds involving a heavy robot and a river with a strong current. Humans loves to trade in parallel story lines, though, so Max is likely to turn up in the near future.
Another unlikely parallel are ‘Episode 6’s sex scenes. Initially I was put off when Jill’s (Jill Halfpenny) story line takes a bit of a dark turn when Simon (Jack Derges) interprets her resistance to his modified Adults Only behaviour as “hard to get”. I found it disappointing that Humans basically confirms Peter’s (Neil Maskett) mistrust of Synths and doubles down on the idea of dangerous robots. Thankfully those ideas are problematized when Karen (Ruth Bradley) tries to take her relationship with Peter to the next level. After Peter provides her with important information about Millican (William Hurt), Karen puts the moves on Pete, but he can’t perform. Afterwards, she reveals her true identity to him and, naturally, he freaks out and leaves.
The line between Synth and robot is amusingly blurred when the two scenes are contrasted. Karen asks Peter to say something nice and he lamely compliments her figure, which is equivalent to Simon’s inability to say something unexpected to Jill (apart from a rundown of her body-fat index). The fact that in one scenario it is a human who initiates sex and a Synth in the other is fascinating. Karen Voss continues to be the most mysterious character in the series. How is she so much more advanced than the sentient Synths that we’ve seen? One clue: an observant commenter on Den Of Geek‘s review believes that they saw Karen working in David Elster’s lab during Leo’s flashback. If that’s true then she may be the oldest Synth in existence. Very interesting…
- The episode description suggests that the Hawkins are at their lowest in this episode, but I would argue that it’s just Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill), who remains on the outs with Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and Toby (Theo Stevenson). Mattie’s emotional manipulation of her mother is a little juvenile, but the resulting confession about Tom’s true identity forges a deeper bond between mother and daughter that brings them closer than ever before. Progress!
- This episode contains another powerhouse performance by Gemma Chan. The scene in the car between Laura and Mattie as the camera slowly pushes in on Anita is tension-building at its best. Also: am I the only one who never noticed that Mia speaks differently than Anita?
- Unfortunately Joe’s vengeance drives him into the role of antagonist. It’s his jealousy that prompts him to report Leo & Max and as a result we’re back to square one in getting the sentient Synths back together.
- Mattie asks Max what it’s like to be him and he has a clearly defined and well-articulated response. In doing so, he immediately distinguishes himself from Niska, who struggled to answer the same question when Millican asked her last episode. This provides further evidence that each of the sentient Synths is unique.
- Millican (William Hurt) continues to chip away at Niska’s (Emily Berrington) insolence, gaining leaps and bounds as a result of his kind treatment of poor Odi (Will Tudor). It’s a bit of a short-cut route to get Niska’s guard down – showing her that he’s kind to Synths is a simplistic way for the writers to have him win her over. Still, Hurt is so damn good in these scenes, it’s hard to fault him. Also Berrington is doing a really great job of peeling away the levels of Niska’s pain, particularly when she reveals how David Elster treated her like family but also used her as a sexbot for years. Suddenly her actions back in the brothel carry a great deal more weight.
- Millican (to Niska): “When did you learn to so ominous?”
- Jill (after Simon inquires if the sex was enjoyable): “It was fine Simon. Very…efficient.”
- George (when Niska confesses she’s 9 years old): “You’re still a child.” Niska (turning away): “He didn’t always treat me like one.”
- Max (when Mattie asks if he can contact Leo): “I’m not a telephone.”
- Simon (when Peter tries to turn him off): “Peter please, if you power me down now, I’ll be unable to penetrate your wife.”
- Anita (passing by in the background as Joe and Laura hash out their issues): “Hello Joe”
- Max (after Laura asks for help): “Thank you. Please forgive Theo, he’s never had much faith in humanity.”
Your turn: was this a stand-out episode for Max? Is Fred growing on you? Are you surprised that Karen confessed her identity to Peter? Is Joe now officially a villain? Are you glad that Mia has displaced Anita (seemingly for good)? And has Millican won over Niska? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers if you watched the UK episodes.
Humans airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC