NOTE: You can watch the first two episodes of Almost Human until January 7th on the Fox website! So now is the absolute perfect time to catch up before the show returns on Monday!
If you’re looking for one of the season’s best new series then look no further than Fox’s Almost Human. I know, I know. The whole premise probably sounds a bit cheesy and possibly even cliche. Futuristic cop drama. Damaged, guarded detective partners up with an eccentric, personable android with a human personality and feelings. Hijinks ensue. And, to be fair, it is a little bit campy. Once you look past that, though, you’re treated to really one of the funnest shows currently on Fox.
Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, Almost Human is one of the few futuristic series on television now. In the future technology has developed to a point that the police and criminals are constantly in a struggle to one up each other and the government just can’t quite compete. Police have been supplemented with android models – some more effective than others. Our hero, John Kennex (Karl Urban), is returning to the force after an ambush kills everyone else on his team and leaves him in a coma for over a year. He’s grumpy, suffering from pretty serious PTSD, and failing to adapt to his high tech prosthetic leg. Dorian, on the other hand, is an android with a ‘synthetic soul’ designed to be a human-like liaison for the police. He’s reveling in the work and the partnership. It’s fun. It’s cute. You can watch it without things feeling too heavy or getting too bogged down. The show keeps itself light but it keeps you interested all the same.
Now, I may be a bit biased.
I was predisposed to like this show pretty much from the very beginning because this is a show that’s geared at science fiction nerds like me.
I grew up on classic 80s science fiction and Almost Human features a ton of fantastic homages to the classics. I mean, if you’re not getting something of a minor Blade Runner feel from the get go then you’re obviously doing something wrong. Karl Urban’s John Kennex has a thing for noodle shops in seedy, rundown parts of a futuristic Los Angeles. And his use of a back alley ‘recollectionist’ to try and rediscover his memories in the pilot screams Total Recall. Seriously, though. That memory machine is straight out of Total Recall. Throw in the obvious Robocop comparisons, the blatant Die Hard homage that is episode three, and the Alien Nation feel that comes from Kennex and Dorian’s relationship and old school science fiction fans should be pretty happy.
Granted, the show is almost too full of homages and it does bog down the series at times. Still, how can I love not a show that has John Kennex hanging up on his boss after faking communication interference and then saying, “Boring conversation anyway”? It’s these little moments that probably have me forgiving the rest of their little indiscretions.
Or it could just be the awesome cast.
From the very beginning the cast was a huge draw for me. My first exposure to Almost Human came from the signing panel at San Diego Comic Con this past summer. Therese had been smart enough to look up who was in Almost Human and, let’s be real, there was no way we were passing on a chance to meet Karl Urban. After Dredd and Star Trek? Not a chance. But while I like Karl Urban on his own he definitely shines when paired with Michael Ealy. The two of them have a chemistry that other cop drama pairs can only hope to find after a handful of episodes. They click on episode one and it’s quite a thing of beauty. Minka Kelly’s character, Detective Stahl, and Kennex’s are basically my OTP forever at this point. I’m pretty much just waiting for that to happen and when it does it’ll be beautiful. Of course, it might not happen at all considering John has a lot of emotional baggage what with his ex-girlfriend and the fact that because this is an awesome show on Fox means it’s probably going to be canceled.
Plus Lili Taylor’s Captain Maldanado is perfect. Just absolutely perfect. I love her to death. And Rudy is a lovable if awkward geek. His first meeting with John after he returns from his two year hiatus was absolutely perfect.
Now, not everything in this show is quite as perfect as Rudy’s wit.
As I said, it’s homage heavy at times. Sometimes it’s a bit too campy. I’m not a fan of jumping straight into sex bots with episode two or clones with episode five. That just seems a bit like jumping the shark. Also, there was a larger overarching plot teased in the pilot that just… hasn’t been expanded upon yet.
What I want to see from the rest of this season is the larger plot come together. I don’t need it to all come together. I just need a bit more than just this episodic week-to-week. I really don’t need much more from this show. It’s fun. I like watching it each week. Kennex and Dorian have a fantastic relationship and Valerie and Kennex will be adorable if they ever are allowed to happen.
I do fear for this show. I haven’t seen a whole lot about the second half of the season or the future of the series and that worries me. I love Karl Urban. He’s probably one of my favorite people ever and I love seeing him on my TV every week. I’d really like that to continue.
You don’t have to be a science fiction fan to enjoy this series. I came home to find that my parents both like it. My sister loves it. (Though Bailey is totally a nerd-in-training.) I mean, my mom is one of those people who hasn’t even watched Star Wars despite the fact that my dad has the Thrawn trilogy out on one of the main bookshelves in our living room for a good decade and I’ve been obsessed with the series since the the third grade. She doesn’t know anything about the vast majority of the stuff we post about on Nerdophiles but she watches Almost Human all the same. That’s because it’s not just about science fiction. It’s about characters and it’s about chemistry.
Seriously. That’s what makes this show. The chemistry between main characters and even the cast is fantastic and the potential is there. Fox just needs to seize it and make it happen.
So watch Almost Human. Start talking about it. Watch the first six episodes on Fox online ASAP! Or, if you miss that opportunity, read on to get the gist of the first six episodes (really the only one you have to see is the first one) and catch Almost Human when it returns on January 6th.
Synopsis: In our first look at the series we meet John Kennex, a police officer with the LAPD. Two years after losing his team, his partner, and his leg in an ambush he reawakens from a coma to find things very different. He gets saddled with an android partner he doesn’t want and takes a lot of risks to try and recover memories that ultimately show just what happened that day he and his team were ambushed. Together with Dorian, his new partner, he is able to use that information to save the police force from a potentially devastating assault and the two begin solidifying their relationship. But something more ominous looms in their future.
This was pretty much the perfect pilot.
It did everything it needed to do, introduced the characters, introduced the world, and introduced the basics of the plot. It threw you right into the action while at the same time easing you into the characters. We relive John’s worst moments as he relives them and we start to try and put his life back together with him. Honestly, I loved John from the minute we met him. He’s just the right kind of grizzle and charm and sadness and determination. It’s lovely. Karl Urban is lovely.
Our first meeting with Dorian almost turned me on to him because he seemed too happy, too perky. But I learned to love him quickly and to love the way he teased and played off John. The chemistry was instant, the moments priceless. Granted, we didn’t get to see a lot of the buddy cop back and forth in this particular episode. Instead we saw something deeper. The way Dorian ran to find John and pulled him out of the recollectionist’s machine as he started seizing and the way John just let him was a thing of beauty. It was touching and genuine.
Seriously, I was just super hooked after that.
The plot of this episode was spot on and I wish they had built on it immediately. John’s girlfriend betrayed him and the police force. The crime syndicate is still out there. There’s a lot of potential there. I just… wish we actually had built on that in any substantial way over the following five episodes. But hey! We’ve still got plenty of time.
Synopsis: In our first real case with John and Dorian we find our heroes looking into the wild world of robot prostitutes. A series of suspicious disappearances, murder, and disfigured androids brings us to a very dark realization that someone out there is using real women’s skin for sex bots. (Apparently clients can tell the difference between fake skin and real skin – gross.)
This is a great episode for character development if nothing else. I wasn’t exactly happy with how they sort of jumped the shark and went straight to sex bots in episode two – I felt like we could have built up to that. Putting them in the second episode seemed gimmicky, like they were trying to get an audience through some sort of shock factor. To their credit, though, the episode worked really well. They gave the story an amount of depth that most ‘sex bot’ stories never do. And the very end when Dorian went with the human skinned sex bot girl to her deactivation and destruction… it was very touching. Very touching. Almost tear worthy. As was John’s visit to his deceased partner’s family. It was good to see the guy trying to work through his issues and reach out to the people who had mattered most to him.
All in all, it was a solid episode that handled a sort of cliche plot choice pretty well.
Are You Receiving? (1×03)
Synopsis: John and Dorian defy orders and storm an office building to rescue hostages being held by criminals on an upper level. They rescue the hostages, save the day, and foil the bad guys’ plot to rob a nearby bank while everyone is distracted by the hostage situation.
Yup, so, this was pretty much my favorite episode. There are so many amazing moments beyond the fact that it’s a straight up Die Hard homage and Kennex quotes Han Solo. I mean, seriously. This episode made my life when I watched it. I was so happy. Yeah, so, Kennex and Dorian take forever to climb twenty-five flights of stairs in this freakin’ building to rescue the hostages but every moment they were together in that stairwell climbing upward was priceless. The teasing was adorable. Dorian intercepting all the distress calls. And then when Kennex patched Dorian up with chewing gum? I laughed so hard. It was just a great, fun episode. Definitely highlighted the boys’ relationship.
The Bends (1×04)
Synopsis: After one of John’s friends is killed during a drug deal and framed to look like a dirty cop he takes the fight directly to the manufacturers of the drug to prove his friend’s innocence. Unfortunately the only way to do that is to get someone on the inside and it’s not John or Dorian – it’s Rudy, the synthetic tech.
I really enjoyed this episode. It was fun, quirky, and it put Rudy in the spot light. I like Rudy. The actor isn’t the sort of attractive guy that Karl Urban is but he makes up for that so much in personality. Mackenzie Crook is great and Rudy was such a painfully awkward, relateable nerd when put into the spot light and given his moment to shine. It was great. He managed to handle it so well, too. I was just rooting for Rudy the whole time and even with Dorian there to watch after him I was still so worried. I loved how happy he was, too, when he managed to make this futuristic drug (which I just assume is a futuristic meth) and it came out like 98% pure. It was adorable.
Probably the best moment of the episode, though, was when Kennex volunteered to pose as the cook and Maldanado was like, “lol, no.” And he was just like, “Hey! I can cook. I can cook ramen. … I can order ramen.” Oh, John.
Blood Brothers (1×05)
Synopsis: John and Dorian are called in to protect a witness in a murder case after one of the other witnesses was murdered in turn. It turns out that the murder victim was killed by Ethan Avery, the accused defendant, to hide the fact that he had helped Avery create a series of clones of himself. Ultimately the clones kidnap Valerie and hold her hostage until they agree to trade her for Avery and after duping them John and Dorian are able to rescue Valerie and prove the case against Avery.
All right, so, this one is rated three stars mostly because of how it starts to solidify John and Valerie’s relationship. I almost rated it four starts just for that but, unfortunately, the rest of the episode was pretty lame. Clones and a murder case? Really? This is what we’re doing, Almost Human? Predictable. Also, psychics? I can buy the androids and the awesome prostheses. But psychics who can commune with the dead? Hmmm. I am totally cool with that but it definitely could have been introduced and utilized better. I will say, though, it was cute that Dorian went to find the evidence left over from the arson case that killed her parents so she could use the remnants of their possessions to contact their spirits. That was sweet. But I was with John the whole time. All kinds of skeptical about that plot.
But whatever. Can we talk about how cute Valerie and John were? Because they were super cute. I mean, super cute. I loved it. From the moment where he yells at her MX for spoiling the results of the soccer game he is recording to the moment John and Valerie share watching the match after her rescues her… it’s so adorable. I just love it. I love them. I ship it’s so hard. It’s ridiculous.
Synopsis: Kennex and Dorian uncover a sinister black market synthetic organ trade where remote detonators are concealed in the organs and buyers are threatened with death if they fail to pay increasing amounts of money. Coming along with them on this case is an old DRN unit Dorian found at a hospital working maintenance after their model was removed from the police force.
Honestly, this was the weakest episode in the first season so far and I’m sorry they ended the first part of the series this way. It probably would have been better if they had swapped this one with Blood Brothers or something. I just didn’t really care to be saddled with two Dorians this early in the show. They absolutely should have done this. The case was actually fairly interesting but it was just bogged down by two Michael Ealys running around. I will say, though, there was a really great moment where the janitor DRN went after some poor guy who had apparently been wanted on a warrant some years ago when he was still on the force and busted one of the fancy, expensive police drones in the process which did not go over well with Maldanado. But mostly it was jut a pretty lackluster episode.