Almost Human: Episode 4

“The Bends”

Almost Human gets back to it’s Dredd influence in this episode that has Detective Kennex investigating a violent gang that creates designer drugs from algae.

The episode begins with a man (wearing a wire) and a “cook” getting a meeting with a drug Kingpin, known as the Bishop. Turns out the man is wearing a wire. Undercover. The two infiltrators end up dead.

Dorian and John are having a meal at a Japanese restaurant. Well, John is. Dorian (who doesn’t eat) wants to leave. John shows off his knowledge of Japanese culture and says it’s rude to leave before finishing a meal and that they will leave when he is done. Dorian speaks to the chef in Japanese and orders John a LIVE snail. Eat up. Don’t be rude, huh? (John, to his credit, eats the slimy creature.)

Back at the precinct, it is discovered that the man killed was a cop… but that he had no current undercover cases. So what was he doing there? Was he dirty? If he was, why would he have been wearing a wire. The man’s name was Cooper, he was a friend of John’s (who he hadn’t seen in 5 years) and his trunk was full of drugs. Cooper’s boss comes in to speak to Maldonado and he tells her that recently Cooper had been going off the rails. 

John doesn’t buy it. After getting a tip from Coop’s wife, they head up to a remote cabin to search for clues, anything to give away Cooper’s motivation. And they find a receiver that Cooper’s wire was transmitting to. The show doesn’t dwell on it, but they listen to the meeting, Cooper trying to get the Bishop to say that he distributes “the Bends” and the hear him about to die on the recording.

John demands that Maldonado send him in undercover. Maldonado declines. Says he can’t pull it off. He doesn’t have the background in chemistry needed. But they know someone who does. Rudy! The man who refurbished Dorian! They prep him as best they can in such a short time… which is not well. But after some bumps (like introducing himself by his real name), Rudy get’s to create and proves himself valuable. He even gets to meet the real Bishop (Coops boss, Alex).

They figure out it’s an inside job when Rudy is forced to swallow the anti-serum to the liquid GPS that Rudy had choked down earlier. With no way to track Rudy, Kennex and Dorian start ummm… questionably legal investigative techniques.

Rudy pulls a daring escape when “the Bishop” gets concerned that his henchman isn’t answering his phone. He escapes with a bullet to the arm. Dorian saves him by decapitating an android. John catches Alex. And then later he begrudgingly takes them to a cop bar for celebratory beers.

But to go into more detail: When John and Dorian press the Henchman for info about Rudy’s whereabouts… they out and out torture him, shoving fingers into his bullet wounds (you can tell me they ‘had to’ I might agree). But Alex is blatantly unable to escape, flee or fight John. He is immobile could be easily detained… but he shouts at John and tells him that he’s a Captain and he’ll get away with it, says that no one will believe in John. And John shoots him dead. Just like that. The show seemed to brush it off, and no one from the department asked about the circumstances (even though investigation would have shown the Alex was sitting on the ground bleeding where John shot him in the chest), just ‘yay, it’s over’. Does John have less faith in the system he helps uphold? was he overcome with a need for revenge? I NEED TO KNOW. Because without knowing the internal motivation …and frankly, maybe even with it… that was MURDER. 

Minka Kelly’s detective Stahl is still largely relegated to the sidelines while John and Dorian do all the investigating. But next week’s sneak peeks make it seem that is changing.

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Dorian and John’s buddy cop awesomeness is awesome. That live snail thing was epic. Dorian, as a synthetic, is not viewed as a real cop (even though he does all the cop stuff John does), so John taking him to the cop bar (after Dorian’s all banged up and has exposed glowing purple wires protruding from his face, making it obvious that he is a synthetic) is pretty rad. Because they are friends. And they can count on each other. John has proved that he’ll risk himself for Dorian and that he values him… but John has also proved to be unstable and vengeful.

What do you think so far?

Almost Human: episodes 1 + 2

Pilot. 

So the plot of this show, taking place in 2048 is essentially the plot of Dredd, which also starred Karl Urban. Which is fine, I like Dredd, Drugs have taken over schools and streets and cops are given robot reinforcements to help fight drug lords and violent gangs.

Karl Urban is there, as detective John Kennex with his robot back-up who he is arguing with because his robot does not understand the value of human life, he only understands odds, statistics. He does everything he can to save his partner but in the end they are blown to bits by the criminals they were pursuing. 

He’s getting some controversial treatments after being through the trauma and then a 17 month coma.

John gets called in to investigate following an armed robbery. His leg got blown off and he has a mechanical leg. 785 has been assigned to him. He wants a human partner but he is told by Lisa from Six Feet Under that robot partners are mandatory. She shows him the robbery video and points out why she thinks it’s connected to Syndicate. 

Richard, a fellow officer, blames John for getting his partner killed in the raid. He disobeyed instructions… blah blah.

While at the crime scene he has a flashback to the day his partner was killed. The MX says he thinks John had a seizure and he’s going to report what he saw. John says there’s nothing to report (which there is and isn’t) and it goes on from there until John pushes the bot out of the speeding car.

Saying his MX bust have experienced a software malfunction, he goes to get a new one (one who isn’t accusing him of getting black market medical treatment) and they give him a robot that got scrapped, one that was closer to human.

Dorian was decommissioned 4 years ago. “I express most data conversationally, man.” 

Richard calls the new team 2 from the scrap heap. 

Criminals in the same masks as in the robbery kidnap an detective Vogel and destroy his MX and John questions a suspect who was injured in the robbery. He shot himself to get away from the Syndicate. John threatens to throw Dorian out of the car. 

The suspect makes himself vomit and pulls a small explosive out of his stomach and sticks it on the back of the toilet.

They go to find Vogel and Dorian disobeys the MX models. Finding an elaborate trip wire and set up John knows they’ve been tricked. The tries to call in to Patel who is transporting the suspect. 

They gas Vogel right in front of him.

the suspect escapes.

MX units are made to feel nothing, Dorian wasn’t created that way. He read the file where John blamed the MX for leaving his partner behind to save others. 

Vogel was a test, the gas is designed to target cops. John heads to his doctor to undergo more treatment to remember what he needs to know about Syndicate to stop them from targetting police. While in the chamber, he recovers a memory, his girlfriend who disappeared while he was comatose was there. She was a member of Syndicate. Dorian busts in and gives him a shock to the heart. Saves his life.

Over noodles in the rain Dorian says he really did it for himself. If John were dead, he would be back to the scrap heap. John’s just lucky that he wants to be a cop so badly.

They discuss the differences in programming between MXs and Dorian’s type. John decides that they should recover the memory from Vogel’s MX’s memory and give it to Dorian because he can make the connection. Which he does, and they find that Syndicate is planning to hit the police evidence locker TONIGHT. 

Syndicate drops the MXs but Dorian, who runs on a different frequency, stays up. Evidence files get destroyed but John and Dorian save the lives of the human officers and apprehend a man high up in Syndicate.

Thanks to John and his DRN bot, lives are saved and Richard (and other haters) have no choice but to acknowledge this.

Skin.

A “bang bot” or a female robot designed specifically for sexual purposes is having tests performed on her while she flirts with a man. They are being watched and someone becomes concerned when they see she is not being used for her intended purposes. After he cuts a piece of her hair, 2 Albanian men bust in and kill the man performing the tests then they explode a DNA bomb so that there will be no traces of evidence that are not tainted. 

The man killed was an inventor, Sebastian Johns. He invented the first “sex robot” (used some of the same tech from the DRN models to make them more empathetic to the need and wishes of their partners. 

John and Dorian are showing off how cool they are to kids. Dorian shows them his glowing electrical veins under his skin… John stabs himself in his synthetic leg… the kids freak. Shocker.

They investigate the murder. The men’s faces show up as flashes of light on the security cameras, the girl shows up, the test for DNA wherever she touches on the footage and she is leaving behind traces of DNA from a 25 year old woman who was abducted from a parking garage. There have been 3 other cases that follow this pattern. The latest one was witnessed by the woman’s young child. 

John decides to show off that he can be good with kids, he gives a miniature giraffe that moves like a real giraffe to the boy, Victor, and tells him that he trusts him to take care of it, but that he needs him to be brave and tell him what he remembers with his mom. He remembers a big silver car- they find the car on security cameras with stolen plates. But atleast now they have a lead.

Sebastian Johns was being sued by his former business partner. John and Dorian go to see him. The company went bankrupt because their largest investor- Albanian business men- backed out. They said they could “cut out the middle man” but he finds it hard to believe anyone could make a bot as realistic as theirs. Of the Albanians he says, “They were good clients and they always paid on time,” that’s all he’s willing to say. 

Dorian hacks in and they find the connection. Then they head to the club and test the bots for human DNA. John is approached and asked if they want a bot. Special rate for cops.

The others have tracked the sedan to a warehouse and Detective Kennex and Dorian are dispatched. 

Dorian, noticing that John is attracted to the female robots, creates a profile for John on a dating website (his testicles were at maximum capacity). John describes what he wants in a woman and pretty much describes detective Stahl. who, speaking of, calls to say they’ve found the suspect’s vehicle. They get on the scene and find Vanessa, a sex robot who tests positive for human DNA, a woman named Lorraine who was abducted from a parking garage. Dorian is visibly upset because he knows that Vanessa is illegal and that she also has emotions the way Dorian does.

They attempt to question her for information but that doesn’t work out, so they access her data and find she was first activated in Kingston Heights. They raid Kingston Heights and find 2 of the 3 recently abducted women (including Victor’s mom) alive.

Dorian learns that Vanessa has to be deactivated but chooses to go and comfort her as it happens. John confronts his past and goes to see his former partner’s widow and son. 

There’s a ton going on here in the first two episodes, I’m glad we got further away from the “war on drugs” plotline from the first episode. I like Dorian, he’s caring, brave, determined to be a cop… but also missing many social cues while being tuned in meticulously on other levels. The idea of robots with empathy isn’t totally unique, but I think it’s really interesting that the police force was largely more comfortable with the MX models as opposed to the DRN, more inclined to use the models that played the odds, those that they don’t have to care about or feel anything for. That distance between the “authority” and other humans. It’s also very telling that the DRN models were decommissioned because they “snapped.” As robots given agency and empathy they process complex emotions but are still treated as “things” and not as people, those they risked their lives for and connected with considered them “less than.” Dorian was very concerned about who will remember him when he is gone while still worrying that he will end up back in the heap again and then witnessing Vanessa, a robot programmed to form connections, meet a cruel fate.