Almost Human: Pilot

"You're lucky you have a partner with a bleeding heart."

I liked it a lot. Although I was getting flashes of my initial negative reaction to the Fringe pilot.

Along with the bits of Fringe and the whole noodles-in-the-rain Blade Runner vibe, the setting of this series reminded me even more strongly of Old Detroit -- the skyrocketing crime rate, automaton cops, edgy violence, dismemberment of the hero in the opening scenes, check and check. The DNA company was even called Omni (the evil corporation in RoboCop was OCP, Omni Consumer Products).


But even though this show is hard sci-fi, it's accessible. There wasn't any futuristic gadget or premise that made me roll my eyes with impatience. That may be because the emphasis was on the two lead characters.

I expected to love Karl Urban as the lead, Kennex, and I did. I initially offered to review this pilot because Karl Urban was the lead. But Michael Ealy as the android cop Dorian won me over almost immediately, and I didn't expect that. In fact, Dorian showed more emotion during this episode than Kennex did. Which leads to the obvious Blade Runner replicant questions. What is a human, and what is not? And how can you tell the difference?

Kennex lost his leg in the opening scenes and was in a coma for 17 months. There was a reference early on to his synthetic body partssss, not part -- so what else about Kennex is artificial? How human is Kennex, and how synthetic is Dorian? Kennex initially hated the MX's (the most fun scene in the episode was when he almost casually pushed the MX out of the car and it ended up under a futuristic semi) and he obviously hates his own artificial leg, which is rejecting him (let's go for the obvious symbolism). But by the end of the episode, he wasn't rejecting Dorian. They already feel like there could be slash fiction in their future.

So what's the verdict? Impossible to tell from just a pilot. This could be a terrific science fiction show centered on two complex characters who care about each other. Or it could turn out to be a buddy cop show procedural with a twist that I'll stop watching in a few weeks.

I'm hoping for the former, but braced for the latter. I've been disappointed way too many times in the past few years. And hard sci-fi doesn't tend to do well on network television; it tends to thrive in the corners of the tube. This is not a corner-of-the-tube venture; it is clearly an expensive show that could fail in a big, expensive way.

Bots and pieces (sorry about the pun):

-- The year is 2048, and there has been a 400% increase in the crime rate. From when? A percentage of increase has to be based on an original number, doesn't it?

-- The bad guys belonged to a group called "Insyndicate" who seemed pretty darned hard core.

-- Kennex was taking tiny red pills. Were they treatment for the artificial limb rejection thingy? Is he addicted to something?

-- Kennex finally remembered, with the help of the illegal Recollectionist, that his ex-girlfriend was responsible for taking out his entire team. I assume that's the big storyline we'll be getting in future episodes.

-- Maldonado, Kennex's sympathetic boss, was played by Lili Taylor, who also played a much disliked continuing character on Six Feet Under.

What did you all think? Lines are open,

Billie
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Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.

11 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

"Or it could turn out to be a buddy cop show procedural with a twist that I'll stop watching in a few weeks. I'm hoping for the former, but braced for the latter."

That's exactly how I feel.

Anonymous said...

Call me old fashioned, but I say anything that can be turned off and then turned back on isn't human!

Eldritch

tricksterson said...

Maybe not human but is it a person? If your answer is no Data would like a word with you.

On the slash fic, I'm pretty sure there's already been some written just based on the promos.

TheShadowKnows said...

It was pretty good. Definitely a mashup of Blade Runner and Robocop with a hint of Fringe, but there are worse things a TV show could be.

ChrisB said...

I agree. I wasn't completely won over by the pilot, but it left me interested enough to watch another couple of episodes. I do hope they explore the "what is human" angle as I think that could be amazing with these two characters.

Patrick said...

Not a slam-dunk of a pilot, but certainly entertaining, and good enough to keep me watching. Karl Urban has deserved a shot at leading a show for a while now, and a role like this suits him very well. In lesser hands the role of Kennex would be very one-dimensional, but Urban's natural screen presence makes him more compelling. And in the case of both Kennex and Dorian, I'm glad the writers were able to avoid them being a walking cliche, something both characters easily could've been. Kennex certainly had a few of the classic "grizzled cop" moments, but he wasn't dismissive of the pretty female newbie, and he wasn't overly hostile with his boss, that sort of thing. Michael Ealy's portrayal of Dorian wasn't simply his best Data impression, a very smart choice. He played him as different from the human cops, but also distinctly different from the MX-line androids. You could make the argument I guess that he's barely acting like a robot at all, so what's the point of making him one. But we've all seen that schtick before.

I understand the worry about this devolving into just another buddy-cop show. I like the hints they gave us about continuing plotlines, but I also wouldn't mind some standalone stories set in this world. Or at least, some storylines not tied to the Grand Conspiracy. There doesn't have to be only one Big Bad. If crime is as serious a problem as they say, there will be plenty of gangs, outfits, etc for them to tackle, and not all of them need to be part of some far-reaching conspiracy. Give me smartly-written shows with interesting cases and well-drawn characters, and you'll keep my attention.

sunbunny said...

Just looking at the pilot, it was definitely the strongest I've seen all season. That said, I share everyone's worries about it becoming a high concept police procedural.

The thing with the 400% increase bothered me too!

Freeman said...

Not really a fan of "AI becoming so advanced it's hard to tell the humans apart from the robots" stuff. That said, I still liked it. It really reminded me of a more slick version of Judge Dredd, which is funny considering Karl Urban played Judge Dredd in the fantastic movie Dredd. The slick tech also gave me a Mass Effect and Minority Report vibe.

I enjoyed the music and the effects. Though I really wonder how long they can keep a show like this going with all that fancy smancy tech floating around in the show. I like how the MX models have "giveaways" in their faces that show that they're not human.

The scene with Dorian approaching the terrorist fellow as the dude unloaded at him was cool. It was like Dorian had analyzed the situation and knew that in the guy's state there was no chance he was going to hit him. It was also refreshing that even though the baddies got the drop on the police, they were able to regroup and retaliate fairly quickly without a huge body count,

I'm assuming the 400% increase is in comparison to 2013/2014.

Patrick said...

After watching both episodes in the two-night premiere, I'm even more encouraged about this show. I won't get into the plot, so folks who haven't seen it yet can enjoy it fully. But it was a very solid standalone episode, with a cool story and some really fun character interactions. Plus, in addition to showing the influence of things like Fringe, Blade Runner, Alien Nation etc., the second episode also had moments that reminded me of Ghost In The Shell.

Something that I noticed while re-watching the first episode. When Kennex and Dorian are in the squad room, the MX's are just sitting their next to the desks of their human partners, getting up to follow them around like pets. It really showcases how different Dorian is, as he interacts with the other detectives as if he were another human cop, not an android. The other thing I've been asking myself, where does Dorian go when Kennex clocks out for the day? Does he have an alcove like 7of9 did to recharge? Is there a barracks of some kind for the androids to power down between shifts? I'd love to see that answered at some point.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks for the update, Patrick. It's still on my DVR and not because I don't want to watch it, but because I just had too much going on this week. I'll be catching it soon.

Jess Lynde said...

Finally got to see the first couple episodes of this show. I'm liking it so far. I definitely liked that they allowed Karl Urban to make use of his humorous side in the second episode.

Even though the show definitely has that procedural buddy cop feel to it at this point, the future setting allows them to tackle some rather different "cases of the week." I found the case in the second outing fairly engaging. And, I'm sort of hopeful that --- like on Fringe and Supernatural (and apparently Person of Interest) --- it will lean heavily on the "case of the week" structure at first, using those stories to explore character and setting, but then allow the arcing elements to become more prominent as the series develops. Time will tell.

Of course, the ratings have been dropping every week since it premiered, so long-term development may not be an issue.