It’s the calm before the storm as the Hawkins household acts as a microcosm for human/sentient Synth relations before a shocking cliffhanger destroys everything.
Let’s bitch it out…
‘Episode 7′ is a great penultimate episode because it coalesces everything about the season into a single episode before smashing the norm in anticipation of the finale. For the first time this season all of our main players wind up in a single location as Niska (Emily Berrington) and Fred (Sope Dirisu) arrive at the Hawkins’ after two separate tragedies.
The first is the most repairable. As we discussed last week, there’s no way that Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) was gone for good, so it’s no surprise when Leo (Colin Morgan) and Fred find him on the riverbank. The rescue mission is the first test of Synth/human relations as everyone works together to save Max before he powers down. Even then, however, it’s touch and go; when Leo boots Max up, he’s glitchy and his mind begins to break down. Leo decides that they’ll need to use his father’s formula to save him, though it’s unclear how they can do so when Max contains part of the equation.
The other tragedy occurs at Millican’s (William Hurt) home. In the wake of her aborted attempt to woo Pete (Neil Maskell), Karen Voss (Ruth Bradley) tracks down Niska. Via a combination of flashback, Pete’s investigation and Karen’s confession, we learn that the most human of the Synths was modeled on Beatrice, Leo’s mom. When Leo rejected her, David Elster took her into the woods but was unable to kill her. She’s been on her own ever since, adopting the identity of a girl who died at boarding school and passing as human. It’s a lot to digest in a single episode, particularly when Karen suddenly decides that the Synths were a mistake and they need to be destroyed. The accidental murder of George is genuinely upsetting (though not surprising – someone was going to die), but Karen’s decision to partner with Hobb (Danny Webb) and betray the others doesn’t quite work*. It all happens too quickly; we’ve only just learned what’s driving Karen and suddenly she’s moving against her fellow Synths. This has the unfortunate effect of making it seem as though her minor heartache with Pete has made her suicidal/murderous, which makes Karen significantly less interesting, possibly even stupid. It’s a disappointing turn for the character.
*Also: it’s completely unclear how Karen knows where to find them. When did she learn about the Hawkins family?
George’s death means Niska needs a new hiding spot, which brings everyone together at the Hawkins house. With Joe (Tim Goodman-Hill) forcing his way back into the dynamic, the stage is set for all kinds of awkward interactions, but also opportunities to explore how a new world order could work. The match-ups produce some interesting insight as the Synths and humans get some bonding time, including Fred playing footie with Joe and Toby (Theo Stevenson) and adorable Sophie (Pixie Davies) forcing Niska to play dollies. What we’re seeing is the bonding of a family, the definition of which has usurped the original thematic preoccupation of the show to become Humans‘ dominant interest. The coming together and pulling apart is reinforced in Mia’s (Gemma Chan) conversations with Laura (Katherine Parkinson) about the state of her marriage and extends to the discussions that occur when Niska’s Smash club rampage is revealed on the news. The Synths talk about their options upstairs while Joe and Laura fret downstairs; they may be separated but they doing the exact same thing, the visual and oral cues tying them together as a single unit.
The gradual, reluctant acceptance of the ‘other’ makes the cliffhanger that much more powerful. We start to see the potential of this new makeshift family coming together despite their differences, and then it’s all ripped away in a single instant when Karen and the SWAT team break in. In its wake, we’re left with nothing but uncertainty of what’s to come in the finale.
- Mattie and Leo have a little bonding time when they attempt to recover Max’s facilities and there is clearly some kind of connection between them. I’m not crazy because you can see Joe’s concern about their proximity from his seat on the couch
- Niska playing dolls with Sophie is easily my favourite part of the episode. I love how the blonde Synth resists the playtime until Sophie chastises her and gives her a “Synth dollie” persona to play instead. As Michael Noble notes in his review on Den of Geek, there’s a meta level of awareness in the Synth dollie playing with dolls…
- So much about this episode reinforces what an ass Joe is. His protest over Fred’s footie abilities is based on ignorance and prejudice (no surprise) and his part in Max’s predicament is revealed in front of everyone when the police follow-up about his phone call. I will admit that I found a perverse joy in his discomfort, even though he still refuses to take responsibility for his actions.
- Kudos to Colin Morgan for conveying how enticing and emotionally destructive it would be to meet Karen / Beatrice again after all of this time. The use of slow-motion certainly helps, but the anguish is written all over his face – Leo is torn between his desire to accept Karen and simultaneously reject her based on the alarm of his family.
- RIP George. I didn’t realize how attached I was to Millican until I audibly gasped when he is shot. Niska’s pained apology and Odi’s (Will Tudor) sad recount of a vacation experience with George’s deceased wife are both very affecting (I’m not ashamed to admit that I may have shed a tear or two).
- Oh yeah, Vera (Rebecca Front) was also killed. Meh 🙂
- Despite never really having met David Elster, it’s become clear that he was a rotten man. He may have made great technological advances, but he was a bad father, a sexual abuser and now we know that he abandoned his creations as quickly as he made them.
- Finally, Fred begins showing signs of glitching as well. Is this a sign that he’s coming to the end of his lifespan?
- Odi (holding George’s arm): “You’ve died, George.” Heartbreaking
- Niska (when Mia tells her to be nice after she insults Sophie): “Why does everyone keep saying that?”
- Sophie (when Niska protests that she’s not a doll): “I know! You just have the same hair.”
Your Turn: what did you think of Karen’s backstory? Do you agree that her betrayal felt too sudden? Did you enjoy the human/Synth bonding at the Hawkins house? Do you think Max will be recovered? Is Fred about to break down? And what will happen in next week’s finale? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers if you watched the UK broadcasts.
Humans airs its first season finale next Sunday at 9pm EST on AMC