This week in observations from Almost Human‘s way too long intro: our disembodied voice tells us that evolving technologies could no longer be regulated, and that cops didn’t stand a chance. So, naturally, society’s reaction is to rely on these very same risky technologies we can’t regulate to fight them in the form of androids.
It reminds me of Pacific Rim‘s tagline: “to fight monsters, we created monsters.” Naturally, it didn’t go super smoothly.
But it did give us Dorian (Michael Ealy), still one of the most pleasurable characters to watch on TV, despite his presence in this unremarkable sci-fi procedural. In “Arrhythmia,” we get one of the more enjoyable episodes of the season, thanks to a double dose of Dorian. Not many shows can literally give you more of one actor, but Michael Ealy gets to perform opposite himself for much of this one, and it’s as much a treat as you’d expect. If the show throws enough Dorians at us, maybe we’d forget all of the flaws.
In a bustling hospital, a desperate man yearns for a diagnosis for what’s wrong with him, and the holographic woman “helping” him short circuits and fizzles before she can reveal what’s up. Before we can dwell on how unfortunate that is, a desperate Chinese man waves a gun around, demanding a doctor and treatment, because he’s about to have a heart attack. He’s reading off these instructions from a yellow pad, as if he’s receiving orders (he’s not)… but it’s all in vain, as the heart attack happens before the doctors can save him.
Kennex better get to expense his gas mileage, as we get another several scenes in his car, an early (and welcome) staple of Almost Human thus far. Kennex attempts to drown out Dorian’s droning with the radio, but it, like the hologram, is crapping out, and doesn’t work. Immediately, I think there’s some sort of connection, and that with the “Arrhythmia” title, hints that our heart attack victim had some sort of pacemaker that was also faulty.
The latter was true, but the finicky equipment was dropped altogether, except that it gave us an excuse for another Dorian model. A decommissioned cop turned janitor is hard at work on the hologram machine at the hospital when Dorian and Kennex arrive. We learn that the man had a biomech heart, but wasn’t on the transplant list. Apparently, before he died, he said his time of death in Cantonese, and his dying words were that “they killed me.” Rudy checks out the poor man’s heart, and finds a device that essentially functions as a ticking time bomb toward cardiac arrest.
Kennex and Dorian go driving again… but with a passenger: the aforementioned DRN model. Predictably, the pair of them get on Kennex’s nerves, and there’s nothing more fun than watching Karl Urban get annoyed, as he’s stuck in “ride along hell.” It’s even better when Dorian makes Kennex eat crow, which happens a lot. Honestly, a sitcom where Kennex and Dorian drive around and bicker all day would be better than Almost Human is in its current incarnation. I’m imagining some bizarre CASH CAB-like game show, with hidden camera Taxicab Confessions interspersed.
The pair succeed in getting under Kennex’s skin, and Kennex kicks the alt-DRN model out… and he proceeds to tackle an innocent man on the streets. This sets off a ridiculously unnecessary chain reaction akin to Happy Gilmore’s final putt, that leads to another MX model getting destroyed in accidental, shoulder shrugging fashion. Count another disturbing act of wanton violence to the straitlaced model. You’d think Dorian would get upset with pointless android murder… but he’s more concerned with Other-Dorian. He gave OD his outdated case files… so he was about to arrest a man for a crime he already went to prison for. Oops.
Kennex is about to lose it, but Dorian explains why he reactivated the cop side of OD, and brought him along: right before OUR Dorian was decommissioned and put down, he longed to be turned on again, and to be a cop, the thing he cares about most. Kennex turned Dorian back on… and Dorian wanted to do that for his comrade. It’s surprisingly touching stuff, and it only gets more effective as the episode progresses.
At the precinct, other cops are actually doing work: Valerie learns that the heart attack victim got his heart in an abandoned building, thanks to a Google Translate/Siri hybrid (the man’s wife only speaks Chinese). The Captain is amazed that he survived a procedure under such conditions…like the outside of a building damns all that’s inside of it. None of this is important in the slightest, except to reinforce a point I haven’t made yet…and to make clear that everything the Captain says pisses me off.
In case it wasn’t clear, this was Almost Human‘s “repo” episode, with a group of people recycling used organs and giving it to those in need. It’d be noble…if they weren’t charging these people obscene amounts of cash and dooming them to death if they didn’t pay up. Kennex and the Dorian duo arrive to Vastrel, the organization that fashioned the mech hearts that are supposedly disposed of upon a patient’s death. Then, they saunter to the morgue, where future cremation looks awesome. They ask Henry, the mortician, about the missing hearts, and he could not be MORE forthcoming, revealing that he’s sold over 100 hearts to a good cause. He even says “just because it’s used, doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.” There’s no subtext there.
Henry calls his organ courier, Oscar, to help sink the nefarious repo operation. His bend over backward helpful manner would be ridiculous, if it wasn’t revealed later that he was actually involved on a deeper level, and in charge of resetting the hearts when receiving funds, along with an assistant at Vastrel. Because the cops are onto them, they decide to put the brakes on resetting timers. So if you think about it, Kennex and Dorian’s investigation is actually killing people. I was hoping that Doppel-Dorian was behind the whole thing, as we did discover him at the scene of the crime, but he’s only around for emotional development. Lame.
Kennex and Dorian do capture Henry, forget about the other woman mastermind (we see her for all of two seconds BEFORE we know her as anything more than a faceless assistant at Vastrel), and I suppose, save the day. But none of that is as interesting as when the two Dorian’s talk about police work, or when Dorian 2.0 reveals the moment that made him feel the most human (which fittingly, involved killing someone, albeit a murderous person). Almost Human needs to tackle these existential crises, the plight of the android, how they work, and their place in society, far more often, because the procedural cases of the week, while featuring clever tech, don’t do much for me.
We do get some scraps of information about why the DRN was decommissioned, but it’s mostly retread knowledge. The DRN was emotionally unstable, or “crazy,” and the government gave up on fixing the flaws rather than instituting the Luger Test, which I doubt involves a semi-automatic pistol. We still don’t really know why Dorian was brought back into the fold, other than Kennex’s extreme prejudice toward full-on android’s, but if this show ever decides to delve into the world and its characters, we might start to learn.
I can’t remember a show with a more useless supporting cast than Almost Human. The Captain gets to be exasperated once or twice an episode because of Kennex’s rule breaking swagger, but doesn’t do anything about it. In fact, Kennex has carte blanche to do whatever he wants, and is the only cop in the entire precinct who does ANYTHING. There’s an unintentionally hilarious bit at the end of the episode, when Maldonado yells at Kennex for bringing the second Dorian into the station… after SEVERAL scenes with Dorian II at Kennex’s desk. Be a little more aware?
Valerie has the unenviable job of talking to every grieving family member of a deceased victim in a case (twice in this episode), without doing any actual police work. But when she does stumble upon a lead… she immediately calls Kennex, so he can take care of it, as she does this week. It’s fairly insulting, especially when you consider Minka Kelly and Karl Urban field interview questions discussing their burgeoning “romance,” which has as much sizzle as an episode of Talk Sex. Detective Paul is around to join a stake out, but we literally see him asleep on-screen, as bored as we are in watching him. Rudy could and should be a bigger part of the puzzle, and he’s one of the few that I care to know more about, but aside from “The Bends,” he’s been little more than a bit player there to figure out the tricky technology dead-ends once or twice an episode.
For now, Almost Human can get away with all its flaws, since Dorian and Kennex are so good together, and are consistently funny and engaging, but I’m not sure how long the buddy cop hijinx can carry the weight of all the other baggage.