Remember that time when I watched the first three episodes of the American remake of Being Human, in order to give it a chance and try my hardest not to vomit? No? Well it’s a thing I did. Now, in the effort of moving up and through the alphabet, I’m going to do the same with the new show from JJ Abrams and series creator J.H. Wyman, on FOX: Almost Human.
Why? Because, as I said elsewhere, I’m more than a little wary about this show, not least because of the title which is, in itself, indicative of network’s perception of the audience as unable and unwilling to attempt to understand the position, motivations, and desires of a non-human agent. We want our AI to either already be somewhat humanesque (see J.A.R.V.I.S.), or to seek to be human but maybe never achieve it (see Star Trek‘s Data, and below), but we really don’t do well with AI which have not only instances of, but even their own Types of goals and desires.
[ad#longpost]If you’re a writer on Almost Human, I’ll tell you this for free: As long as we keep looking at autonomous created intelligence through the lens of making it more human-like or appreciating the ways in which It’s Just Like Usâ„¢ shiny smile, happy moment, rather than respecting its alterity, its otherness, and anticipating the fact that It Will Be Different Than We, then we’re just recapitulating the same trope that makes people react to any robot or AI with a â€œKILL IT WITH MAGNETIZED FIREâ€ mentality, and thus increasing the likelihood that whenâ€”not if, Whenâ€” we do encounter those autonomous creative intelligences which will most likely have found their origin in military tech, it will respond to our fear with defensiveness. But it remains to be seen how this show deals with these issues.
So come with me now, as we journey into the world of 2048! Where all the latest robots abide by heartless utilitarian ethics, and where distrust, betrayal, and heartbreak lay just around every corner! Staring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy in the titular roles of a cop forced to take cyborg parts he resents and an outmoded android programmed with the ability to make symbolic associations and intuitive leaps. Together they are: The Title Of The Show.
Just a warning: This first one’s going to be a bit wordy, because I want to point out all the tropes and standards we’re going to be working with, so you can take them as read, as we go forward.
With its combination of type-scrolling text and voice-over, our into reads like a combination of Blade Runner, RoboCop, and Dredd–which, I mean Karl Urban’s already here, so why not, right? One of the first things we can say about this show is, way to instil the TECHNOFEAR in literally the opening lines, folks. Crime’s up 400% due to the “uncontrollable pace” of technology? Really? Apparently the generically/Cowboy Bebop-homage-ly named Syndicate* saying “Fuck The Police,” is getting far more done than the bureaucratic machine of the police force. We also learn that everyone gets a robo-buddy, because the only way to deal with a rising tide is to plunge under it, I guess? Anyway.
We open on a firefight in a series of alleyways, with Karl Urban and a bunch of guys whom we can assume are all cops, and a voice on the radio which Karl Urban’s character identifies as Pelham. He tells the guy next to him that he knows where Pelham is, now, because of course he does we all just heard that, but the guy protests, saying it doesn’t make sense to risk one life for just one other. Karl Urban’s character responds, “Shut up! Lead me in!” As they firefight progresses, we see one of the boys in dark blue take a hit to the face, and all of a sudden we realise that this is one o’ them andro-cops the voice-over intro done told us about! A reveal that would’ve been far more impactful had they not telegraphed so very clearly our need to expect it.
Please do note the number on that android’s vest.
As the co-ordinated strike continues, Karl Urban’s character–whose name we still don’t know, so I’m just going to call him Gruff McManpain, for now–is still searching for Pelham, and on turning the next corner and seeing an obviously human cop bleeding out against a squad car, we know that he’s found him. Gruff races to his partner, who tells him that “This doesn’t look good,” and Gruff replies, “it could always be worse,” which is, of course, the moment they run out of bullets or laser blaster cartridges or whatever. They’re being surrounded by the bad guys, and Pelham tells Gruff (whose name we now know is John, but that’s kind of pointless so we’re sticking with Gruff) that the Syndicate knew the cops were coming. Gruff’s not worried about that, right now, though: His partner’s been hit, and he and this remaining MX unit are gonna save him!
Except not so much, because this MX, just like Trip-Eights up there with the hole in his face, tells Gruff that he won’t stay, as this one human, whose celiac artery’s blown to bits does not have a high likelihood of survival relative to other currently endangered officers in this fight. Gruff insists that they’re getting him out of there and the MX unit says Pelham will bleed to death before they get out of there. Gruff insists the MX cover their escape, and the MX says that he “cannot do that; others have a better statistical chance of surviving; I need to protect them,” and asks Gruff if he plans to stay with his partner. When he says yes, the MX just straight up gets up and leaves, because, as mentioned above, MX’s are all “Utilitarian Ethics Only, Please!” But you gotta love that Terminator Vision:
Anyway, after the MX leaves, just as Gruff and Pelham are making their slow, bleedy, hobbling escape, a Syndicate goon gets one good shot into Gruff’s leg, with what appears to be an explosive-tipped round. Our two wounded heroes–actually Pelham might be dead– lay on the ground trying to figure out what happened, Gruff trying to figure out why he can’t feel anything below his left calf, and then, some idiot rolls a grenade their way! Just as Gruff is crawling away–possibly toward Pelham, to throw himself on top of him and save his life? Possibly just Away–the grenade explodes. And now we have the premise for the show, as told to us in all the preview commercials: A cop who hates Synthetic Humanoids almost as much as he hates Crime, because, “Those Cold, Heartless Technological Bastards Let Me And My Partner Get Blown All To Hell!”
Flare and fuzzy fade into a soft-focus lens flare paradise. A POV shot of a smiling woman and man’s hand running through her hair. POV switch to see that she’s smiling at Gruff, who looks happy, so she probably just calls him “John.” POV switches back and then we’re smashcut into some hellish nightmare of buzzers blaring and HUD screens flashing and now Gruff’s in some kind of pod with wires jammed into his brain, and by the tropes and standards of Science Fiction, we hereby know that everything we just watched was our protagonist’s memory of events past.
A little exposition and we learn that Gruff’s been working toward remembering the faces of all the people who killed his partner and also that he was in a coma for Seventeen Months and has only not been in a coma for seven months. Thatâ€¦that’s not a good ratio. The “Recollectionist” even says so. In fact, it’s so much not a good ratio that Detective McManpain should have been experiencing normal consciousness for a full year, before making some back alley street doc muck around in his headmeats. And said street doc doesn’t even really understand why he would want to remember all of that horrible stuff because, “Most people who come to a Recollectionist want to remember good things; why can’t you let this go?” And considering that he goes into a small monologue about how those people killed his team–his Friends–which segues into him having a portentous recollection of that memory of his smiling girlfriend (“Anna”), I think we’ll stick with Gruff McManpain until I’m given reason to call him otherwise. The recollectionist says he’ll “have to refine the triggering of that cluster, next time,” and hands Gruff a tissue for his bleeding nose.
Outside, in that sequence from Blade Runner where we met Deckard:
Gruff takes some Mysterious Pills, looks longingly at a St. Christopher’s Medal with the letter “A” engraved on the back, and gets accosted by an MX which wants to know where Gruff’s own MX is. Gruff responds that he’s off-duty and demands to know where this MX’s human is. The MX responds, in turn, that his human is currently talking to a witness because “Individuals came over The Wall, an hour ago.”
Like, can we just stop for a moment and appreciate that, three decades from now, crap’s just gotten so out of hand that humanity now lives in what is essentially a walled, Demolition Man-Esque state, surrounded by (I’m assuming) lawless wastes? And that it’s just kind of an offhand remark, here? Well, whatever.
As this MX is talking to Gruff, it’s also running a Brethalizer on him, checking for “Airborne Particles.” Gruff can tell because there are these little red lights that course down the sides of the MX’s faces when they’re Doing Computer.
When none are detected, he tells Gruff to “Drive Safely.” Gruff watches the rear view all suspicious-faced until the MX is gone, and the pulls off the curb. Pan up to a city skyline so much an homage to Ridley Scott’s 1982 vision that it even has a flying car. You expect to see flames shoot out of the top of the nearest sky scraper is what I’m saying, here.
Smash cut to a series of apertures, and the show’s title (see top of this page), and then back into an apartment, where Gruff uses the obligatory 3D holographic touch-screen interface to call up a video message he’s had saved for 738 Days. It’s Anna, on vacation in some European city which, apparently, John’s father (I’m gonna go with Kindly McManpain) “would’ve loved.” Anna says that she “has to wait a week,” before she can come back to John, and that she wishes he could be there with her. I’ll be interested to see if that week-long wait is something about the nature of travel and borders, in this time period, a piece of intrigue which will turn into something larger, or both. It could also just be a throwaway line about distance and missing each other. We’ll see.
When he turns off the answering machine, another call comes through. It’s a woman in a smart suit who asks if he’s coming in, to which John replies, “I know I said I was ready, but I need one more day.” She says that she’s already given him a bunch of “one more days” and that it’s time for him to come back. She pauses, making sure he’s looking her in the eye when she says, “i just got a report of a co-ordinated robbery in South Calvin” (is that a Susan Calvin reference?) “It looks like it was the Syndicate.” And thus, with a moment’s glower, Detective Gruff McManpain is back on the job!
He stands up and we see that his entire right leg is a kind of slate blueish grey. He removes a device from around said leg, which immediately starts beeping “Synthetic Calibration: Incomplete,” but we can tell from his face that he hates that leg and its calibrationâ€¦ Almost as much as he hates Androids and the Syndicate.
Pan over a Future City and down to a Future Police Station replete with what looks like a drone. Inside, two detectives–one male, one female–are discussing one’s inability to log into “the system.” I guess even 35 years from now, the wifi goes out sometimes? But no, it turns out that he’s locked out of his files, either through malicious prank, or his own stupidity. Apparently, he has a tendency to forget his password, which seems weird as she’s asking him about this While logging into her workstation via biometric analyses. Sure, more unique keys means more security or whatever, but come on: Finger- and voiceprint ID AND a separate password? That’s a lot.
Anyway, all conversation stops because in walks the legendary Detective McManpain, and everyone’s got something to say, or, in the case of our thus-far lone female detective, Significant Looksâ„¢ to give about his perceived fitness to return to duty. Detective Vogel (locked-out-of-files guy) says he doesn’t look bad for a guy who’s been asleep for two years, while another random detective dude, obviously vying for the role of Guy Who Resents And/Or Underestimates The Hero SO MUCH And Who Will Eventually Get Proven So Wrong That He Possibly Sacrifices His Life For Said Hero, says that Detective McManpain “looks weak.”
Our still-unnamed female detective tells this new guy whom she names as Richard that he shouldn’t be jealous of John Kennex–that’s Gruff McManpain’s full name, for those playing along at home–and Richard responds that he’s not jealous, it’s just that Kennex was in charge of the raid that got Kennex’s whole team minus Kennex himself killed and that he should have been discharged for it and that he just hates Kennex so much. Well, that last part was subtext, but it’s there. Kennex “won’t last,” he declares. “You just watch.” Cue another Significant Lookâ„¢ from the still-yet-to-be-named female detective, a look which seems to plead, “Prove Him Wrong, You Glorious Bastard,” and then cut to Kennex logging in, completing his registration.
On his way to his next stop, an MX unit tells him that his number is 785, and that it’s been assigned to him, and he ignores it and keeps walking. It keeps talking to him as he walks into a glass walled office, closes the door in its face, and declares to the person sitting at the desk that he’s “not driving with one of those things. A human partner was good enough for my father,” so make that Kindly Oldfashioned McManpain, “and it’s good enough for me.” He just hates them So Much.
Behind the desk sits the woman who called him in, earlier. Our station’s captain, it seems, and she’s looking at a number of data analyses: Finger prints, gun models, and what look like retina and iris scans. She tells him that in the past two years, since his coma and time off, MX partners are a mandatory requirement, and she won’t be having an argument with him about it. In fact, she says, it’s more mandatory for him than for any other cop, because his psychological evaluation reads like the DSM-IV cocktail mixer of post-traumatic stress-induced anxiety disorders, in addition to “psychological rejection of his synthetic body parts.” That one Kennex concedes. The as-yet-unnamed captain (seeing a trend I don’t like, here) tells him that they need to work together to figure out how the Syndicate managed to learn about that ill-fated raid, in advance, and that the new assignment and partner are both part of that. She shows him video footage interpolated with wireframe models generated from other data sources, all composited to show an armoured bio-research truck robbery. She tells him that if they can figure out what was taken, they can learn more about the Syndicate’s nature and plans.
She tells him that the Syndicate link is in the Parabolic Pulse Charge used to stop the truck, an attack type she hasn’t seen in two years. Not since the ambush. From the Significant Look given by Detective McManpain, we can tell he believes her. She tells him, though the inventory of the truck isn’t in yet, one of the thieves was shot and is being held and treated at the county hospital. No matter what, though, she wants the Syndicate connection kept quiet for now because Kennex is “the only guy I trust.” Hm. Put a flag in that. Kennex leaves and, on the way out, the Captain tells him to go easy on his partner. I don’t know if giving an MX commands like a dog counts as “going easy,” for most other people, but at least they’re talking, right?
Suddenly, at the crime scene, Leanne Adachi as beat cop is showing Gruff around, telling him that the robbed truck belonged to a private DNA research company, and was transporting some kind of of single-strand programmable synthetic DNA. As Kennex walks up, enter our Female Detective, who finally gets a name! Hooray! Detectives Valerie Stahl and John Kennex shake hands, exchange Significant Appraising Looks, and then the former looks away all bashful-like, because Gender, I guess.
Kennex, always quick on his feet with a subject change, asks the MX what programmable DNA could be used for and gets a list of about what you would expect: Everything from tailored vaccines, to gene therapy to replacement organs. Kennex asks what else was taken and the MX rattles off some generic-sounding chemicals, but when Kennex hears the words “Myklon Red,” it triggers a full-blown PTSD flashback and/or blackout to the day of the ambush, an event which we can probably assume is only made worse by the fact that he’s been screwing around with his own memories for the past several months.
Love Interest Stahl brings him back to himself, by asking if he’s okay a couple of times. She tells him that the thinking around is that Khmer Sect has retaken this territory and is trafficking in biotech, again, but she doesn’t buy it. She displays a thorough knowledge of both the internal politics of Khmer Sect–the current leader is seen as too Western–and the cultural traditions of the Cambodian people–that day is a day of Repentance, so no violence for adherents–all of which add up to “They wouldn’t try it, right now.” When Kennex looks surprised, she gives him her credentials and both barrels of sass: “I find behavioural tendencies in data and identify criminal patterns. Or didn’t intelligence analysts do that, before I got here?”
Back in the car, more Mysterious Pills, and the MX Unit demands to know what happened, back there, as he had what “seemed like a petite mal seizure,” which the MX will of course have to report. Kennex responds that he’s fine, and that the MX isn’t going to report anything, and the MX recounts that an MX saw him in the black market medical district, last night. Kennex retorts that there are also some great noodle shops over there, too, because still Blade Runner, and they ride in silence a while. Eventually, the MX references the surreptitious brethalizer Kennex was given, saying there weren’t any trace particles of food on the Detective’s breath, so that would seem to indicate that he wasn’t down there for “noodles,” and that’s when Gruff pushes the MX out of the car and under a speeding truck, with a flagrant disregard for any seeming of sentience.
In a workshop where a guy works on a synthetic butterfly while listening to Depeche Mode‘s “Personal Jesus” (I’m sure that’s not significant or anything, but if they’d used Cash’s cover, we’d’ve had a trifecta), Gruff walks in to the surprise of our engineer/mechanic, Rudy, who immediately wants to know how he can help. Gruff produces a requisition for a new synthetic, because his last one “fell” out of a moving car, due to some kind of “software issue.” Rudy tells him that there aren’t any MX’s available, and that there is only one instance of another model which has been cleared to pair with human cops; also it’s good Kennex got there when he did, as it was scheduled to be shipped off to NASA for scrap, soon. Gruff, bored and pressed for time, rolls his eyes and looks at his watch. Rudy swings the other bags aside and produces the one for DRN.
Kennex immediately protests that this is “one of the crazy ones,” and Rudy calls him on his rudeness, saying that, while this model had its problems, “Dorian” as he’s known is perfectly functionalâ€¦though there may be some “bugs” with the emotional routines. The DRN models were “designed to be as human as possible” and you know what, maybe @unknownbinaries is right and this is all just a bit too close, for me.
Because every line about the nature of the machines being human-like just underscores the predictable role-reversal that’s going to come about when they start working together and we learn that Dorian is more human in his trials and travails and understanding of human foibles than Kennex is of “synthetics”–a term which Dorian specifically asks Kennex not to use, even as Kennex demands that Dorian call him “Detective.” Then there’s the sequence of interactions where Gruff treats Dorian like an MX, even barking commands like “Synthetic Off” when he wants him to stop asking questions about John’s personal life. To which Dorian responds, “You can justâ€¦ ask.”
I’m just… Gah. So many tropes. But I do love the moment where Gruff’s leg pipes up again, saying that it needs to complete its calibration, and Dorian almost says something and then chooses not to. That was nicely done.
Anyway, we’ve seen some Syndicate goons say something like “He’s on the move” and rush off, and this was slightly after Dorian’s activation, so we may have a hint of foreshadowing, but no, it’s a head-fake. They’re talking about Vogel, from earlier, whom they ambush and kidnap at a coffee shop.
Back at the police station, Kennex and Dorian walk in, and Richard Eventual-Last-Name-Here makes some remark about “two cops from the scrap heap.” Dorian sees the MX’s around, and says they’re intimidating. As Dorian completes his registration, Detective
Douchnozzle Richard chimes in with “Don’t Snap on us, now,” which gives Dorian the opportunity to Meaningfully Stare Into The Middle Distance. Anthropocentric bigotry is a motherfucker.
Anyway, the hit comes in that Vogel’s been abducted and finally-named Captain Maldonado wants Kennex on it. They go in to interrogate the suspect who was shot and captured, in the course of the robbery, and what follows is pretty standard police procedural Good Cop/Bad Cop stuff, but with gadgets. Dorian tells Gruff that there are other ways than beating a suspect, and Gruff responds that this is his interrogation. At which point his leg finally gives out on him from lack of proper calibration.
Dorian steps smoothly into the gap and notes that, from the burn marks and the angle of entry, the suspect had to have shot himself; so why did he want to be taken in? The suspect tells them that they don’t understand how dangerous the people he was running with are; he just need to get away, and police custody seemed like a plausible way to do it. Detective Kennex tells him that they can exchange his protection for some information, that all they need to know is where his partners are holding Detective Vogel; and after a brief internal struggle, the suspect coughs up the address.
In the car on the way to the building, there’s an exchange about methods and civil rights, and Gruff tell Dorian that, if his programming makes him report what happened in the interrogation room, then he’ll share the same fate as his last partner. Dorian–who touched a button to turn the windows in the room opaque after the first time Kennex struck the suspect–tells him that if he reports anything, it’ll be a decision, not a program. And I guess we’re just going to uncritically leave that there, as though there weren’t an entire field of philosophical study based in discerning whether there is an actual difference between perceived volitional agency and programmed sub-routines. Okay. Sure.
BACK AT THE STATION: Suspect McShotshimself over here says he feels like he needs to puke. Here’s a tip for all TV cops, from today, to 35 years from now: When your suspect has a sudden need to go to the can, for whatever reasons, one of you needs to Go In The Stall. You’ll avoid more bombs that way.
Dorian and Gruff get to the building and the MX’s at the front spot what they believe is an explosive device, telling everyone else to keep back. Dorian doesn’t think so, because Vogel’s in danger dammit! So he moves forward and does a closer analysis of the structure of the thing, during which we see that Dorian’s facelights are Blue, and he declares that, “It’s not a bomb, but this trip wire lead somewhere. I’ll lead you in?” Which is a nice call back and turnaround on the opening of the episode. Very symmetrical. They follow the wire (which also seems to be electrified?) and they come to a room wherein Vogel is trapped in a bulletproof, blast proof box, with some kind of canister next to his face. Kennex looks up and sees that there’s a camera in the top corner of the room. We also see that whatever happens in the box can be triggered if the current from the wire is interrupted, either by a strong enough pull to misalign it or by clipping it, or any other means. As Kennex calls Leanne Adachi’s Officer Patel to warn her of the trap, said trap goes off. Patel’s car is fired upon just as the wire is pulled away from the canister, breaking the current, and triggering some aerosolized gas to be sprayed directly into Vogel’s face. His skin melts off, and he dies.
No, i’m not going to put a picture of that, here. You’re welcome.
In the aftermath, Kennex gets the details of the ambush, and Dorian shows what having a walking bio-computer can do for a team in the field, as he injects a sample of Vogel’s blood directly into himself, and transmits the raw data of it to Rudy for further analysis. Personally I hope that’s something they continue to do. In much the same way that the Doctor will occasionally lick things to get more information about them, I’d love to see Dorian ingest, inject, or otherwise use the senses and capabilities at his disposal which are otherwise unavailable to his human partner.
Back at the station, they find out that one of Vogel’s files–6663? Really? On the show that leads into Sleepy Hollow?–is missing, and suddenly Stahl remembers that Vogel was having file access issues, earlier that very day. Kennex sends everyone off to search for backups, and makes and enigmatic comment about how “They” knew exactly what They were doing. This piques Dorian’s interest, and what follows is a back-and-forth about trust and knowing oneself, and how Gruff needs to recognise that Dorian isn’t like the MX’s. Again with another uncritically clean distinction between Having Free Will and Not, rather than doing the work of investigating What Free Will Is, and whether anyone at all can be truly said to have it, but we’re going to mark that as Noted and move on. Dorian dresses Detective McManpain down for blaming all synthetics for deaths of his team, an event for which he shares blame because he led everyone in to save his partner, when it was already too late. Gruff walks away in a huff (heh), just as he gets a call from Rudy, who tells him that the Myklon Red and the synthetic DNA are being used to make a specific and horrifying pathogen which targets the broad-spectrum vaccinations cops get in order to be certified fit to work. The pathogen basically turns the vaccine into every virus it’s meant to prevent, and Vogel was a test case for it.
Kennex rushes off to the recollectionist to put aside his own manpain and demand to be put back in the tube. The lights are flashing and the buzzers are buzzing and Kennex’s nose is bleeding, and he starts having a seizure as he sees Anna’s as the face of the Syndicate member who tossed the grenade that put him in a coma.
In the here and now, we see Dorian jamming two needles into Kennex’s chest, and the recollectionist is shouting “I told him it was too dangerous!” Dorian brings him back and then, outside, a couple minutes after Gaff takes Deckard to see Bryant, Dorian and Detective Gruff McManpain finally connect over a bowl of noodles.
Dorian asks him what he saw when he was under and Gruff says, “Someone I never should’ve trustedâ€¦My ex-girlfriend. When I came out of my coma, she had disappeared. Now I know why.” The bonding is sealed when, as Gruff’s leg fails on him, again, Dorian reveals what he held back in the car: His trick for dealing with synthetic parts that bind up and get creaky, sometimes. “Olive oil,” he says. “Pour it right on the joint.” John thanks him for saving his life, and Dorian says Kennex should just be glad he wants to be a cop so bad, because Kennex is his one shot at that. They share a grin, and John acknowledges that DRN’s and MX’s are different.
Dorian begins talking about what distinguishes him from the MX units–including a really clumsy equation of intuition with the human soul–and Kennex seizes upon the implications of this ability to make intuitive leaps, and draw further conclusions from data. Vogel’s MX was destroyed, and none of the other MX’s could use the remaining data to put together and reason out why Vogel would have been targeted; but with Dorian’s combination of intuitive ability and processing speed, they can find a solution, in no time!
Back on a roof somewhere, we see our bad guys breaking locks on O2 tanks, and messing with the hoses inside.
Back to Dorian and Kennex, they go through the data and realise that one of Vogel’s old cases resulted in the precinct logging as evidence something the Syndicate desperately wants back. Everything that’s happened has been an elaborate set-up to take out the cops and get back what they lost. They use the previously planted bomb to create a field attuned to a frequency to take out all of the MX units. When Dorian walks through, and Kennex is confused as to why he isn’t shutting down, Dorian says, “They run on a different frequency than mine. Sometimes newer technology isn’t better.”
Oh my god, really? The implication wasn’t enough for you, you had to state it outright? Again? Gah!
Back on the roof that we now know is the roof of the police station (wait, so why do they have giant tanks of pure O2 jacked into the ventilators?), a firefight breaks out just as the bad guys are about to start pumping the cop-killer pathogen into the ventilation system. That’s right: A firefight. Near the aforementioned giant tanks of pure O2.
In the midst of the firefight, Lead Bad Guy takes a small canister and runs into the building. He sprays one cop in the face with the pathogen, turns the corner, and tries the same thing on Dorian. When that doesn’t work, he runs, encounters Detective Stahl, and just as he raises the hose to give her what for, he gets shot in the shoulder. Gruff to the rescue! Stahl cuffs Lead Bad Guy, and the next thing we see is him in an orange jumpsuit, with a shot of the tattoo on the back of his neck, identifying him as part of the same group that ambushed Kennex’s team, two years ago. Down in evidence, everything is being sorted by hand due to the thoroughness of the sabotage of the evidence files, but Dorian vows to keep trying, and Kennex says “Thanks, man.” As we let that touching moment sink in, a cataloged female MX (the first we’ve seen, thus far) comes back online when her face does the thing.
After this, we’re wrapping up as Rudy reactivates all the downed MX’s, and John finally damn deletes that message from his Ex. Captain Maldonado tells Kennex that he saved a lot of lives, today, people who would all be dead if he hadn’t come back to the force. Kennex tells her that he knows that she put in the Requisition for the DRN for him, and he wants to know why. We also find out that most of Dorian’s file is Redacted (?!). Maldonado merely responds that the DRN is “Special.” “Just like you.” So that’s not foreshadowing, or anything.
In the car, Kennex tells Dorian to call him John. Roll credits.
So, yeah, that was the first episode. As we move forward, I’ll be keeping an eye keeping an eye out for the following potentially problematic issues:
- Female Agency and Female Character Arcs:
-Thus far, the three main women in this show don’t generally get to do much, outside of the station and the memories of Gruff McManpain. I’d like to see Stahl out in the field for more than just a meet-and-greet.
-Also more Female MX’s, but we’ll talk about that, next time.
- Magical Negro Moments:
-Michael Ealy is playing the black android who teaches Gruff Whiteboy McManpain how to truuuust and to feeeeeel, again. It’s a great subversion of the expected white human cop teaching the black android how to be a real boy, but it could get really sour, really fast.
- Pinocchio Complexes:
-So far, Dorian has made it quite plain that he’s not human, and that he’s not an MX, but that he is wholly himself, and he seems to not only be satisfied with that, but to revel in it. I want this show to continue to avoid having an android protagonist which just wants to become human, because It’s Been Done.
- Frankenstein Syndrome:
-We’re unfortunately already here. We’ve got the whole technology accelerating at an uncontrollable pace, with the implication of people toying with things man was not meant to know.
-Additionally, the MX’s are played specifically to jack into the uncanny valley, and I can’t yet tell if we’re supposed to distrust them, or if they’re just messing with the audience’s expectations. I think the latter, in part, because of the shock moment of Kennex pushing 785 from the moving car.
–My suspicion is that the Syndicate is using some kind of roving backdoor into the MX memory network to monitor the police. Hence the raid, etc. We’ll see how that pays off.
I’ve already noted that there’s a very strange under-investigated current of consciousness- and identity-based assumptions, running throughout the show. Like the idea that humans have free will and MX’s don’t, as though there’s some clear-cut Thing that free will “is.” The same with the idea of the “soul.” No definitions are given for what those things are or mean, but everybody in this universe seems to have fully functional working definitions for them, in their heads. It remains to be seen whether this ever even gets a lampshade, let alone a full investigation.
One unequivocal good, here: Michael Ealy as DoRiaN is simply AMAZING.
Next Episode: “Skin”
[*UPDATE: Apparently, they’re saying “Insyndicate,” rather than just “Syndicate,” which, three episodes in, I am just not hearing, but the Official Tumblr has it in writing, so I guess we’re going to go with it.]
One detail I noticed is that the emotionally stunted MX androids are all in SWAT armor. I wonder if that is a comment on how the police have become more militarized and less human by hiding behind Kevlar, riot shields, and tear gas.
That’s an interesting thought, and I don’t know, yet. We’ll have to see how their specific engagement with that plays out in the future. As it stands, it seems more like there’s a bit of an Arms Race thing going, which would make their militarization “Justified.”
We’ll see if it is as ‘justified’ as they say it is now. We will also see how far they go in exploring how technology in the show changes the world.
Exactly. There’s a LOT of unreliable narrator/unverified back story still to be explored.