ALMOST HUMAN “Online Arrhythmia” Recap
Post sex-doll episode, the appearance of marginalised groups in Almost Human has been minor to nil. Yet tonight’s episode places us squarely at the heart of one of America’s greatest crises; medical aid. With doctors now replaced by holograms, either to prevent themselves from being infected by the dull-eyed patients shuffling up the waiting line in the cubicle-sized office or merely out of effectiveness, the staff are every it as disaffected as the android. While this is dauntingly understandable even in our present times, given the need to process each case as an individual set of statistics and matters, the desperation of the key figure in Online Arrhytmia’s cold open is even more familiar — and pitiable for it.
Upping the stakes into the man’s holding up another figure’s operation with a gun, so to get the necessary surgery for his heart attack, however, turns what could’ve been an emotion-riddled open into something of an unaffected farce.
Hence, my apathy towards the necessary in-car banter between Kennex and Dorian.
The pair of them confront the downed man from the cold open, though they discover that he had a top of the line “biomech” heart — an expensive organ that’s been transplanted to him with no official record. Given his cryptic last words; “they killed me”, in addition to his garbling his specific time of death out in Cantonese prior to his death, both cops are sufficiently alarmed. In contrast to Kennex and Dorian’s previous duo teamwork, Dorian’s chosen tonight to kidnap another DRN; one who’s somehow been demoted to hospital janitor. With Kennex reluctant to bring the third team member along, Dorian performs some appropriately robotic strong-arming so that we’re left with Michael Ealy times two plus a “malcontent” Kennex in “ridealong hell”. Whoever dreamed up this sequence is a goddamn genius; Dorian’s twin isn’t here to emphasise the fact that Dorian might be replicated in other similar models, but rather, the fact he’s grown to possess his own verve in comparison to his poorly functioning counterpart. This, of course, all goes against Dorian’s hope that similar models to him might not be redundant — an understandable fear, given that this fate is a constant possibility for him, too.
He chooses to spell it out for Kennex in a moment that’s dismissed just as swiftly as it arises — neither Kennex nor Almost Human bear much mind to sentimentality, after all — though there’s much to be said here about the ephemerality of a robot’s existence, and his own budding grasp of the possibilities he’s granted in his existence, outside of being merely “a cop”.
Back at the station, a pouting Stahl’s concerned for the victim’s widow. She clues them in to her husband’s transplant surgeon — Dr Rivera — and in the meantime, Dorian guilts Kennex into donating funds.
Face to face with Robert Lee’s surgeon, Kennex questions her on the operation and the extra piece Rudy found within the biomech heart. There’s a jibe here at the flimsiness of bureaucracy, though the facts that come out are the same: the additional part of the heart doesn’t belong.
Cut to: the doctor from the cold open approaching a pale lady, wherein he suggests he might be able to find her a heart. His (supposed) accomplice meanwhile disposes of the body he’s just taken the biomech heart out of, moments before Dorian and Kennex pull up to ask him about the biomech heart the episode’s victim died with. Do note: it’s not Robert Lee’s original heart, but one that’s been sold to him, by the cremator currently on screen. Confused yet? It’s admittedly a simple conceit and one that looks like a logical sequence on paper, but the episode’s tendency to jump between plot and subplot, then clutter other scenes with clunky dialogue or ill-used secondary characters, means that the basic thread of the story’s often buried.
Our cremator cracks too easily, and confesses to selling “over a hundred” biomech hearts to a contact of his. “Just because something’s used, doesn’t mean it’s got no value,” he adds casually. Dorian, to his credit, does not turn to Kennex — even he’s aware that the word of a criminal won’t back up his sentiment. Rudy calls to let Kennex know that the biomech heart was effectively set on a timer so that it would shut down after thirty days, though in Mr Lee’s case, the timer was not reset.
And there are another hundred other people out there with similarly limited time left on their tickers.
Meanwhile, Dorian’s left to explain to his duplicate why the DRN line’s been decommissioned. Ealy’s granted a chance here to tap into a colder side of his android persona; calculating, precise, detached, in his recollecting the facts and later, his cheery flaunting of the new technology he’s been updated with.
With their cremator contact acting as bait for Kennex and Dorian’s rooting out the hart of this sting operation, the team are forced into the precarious position of waiting for the key surgeon to reveal himself. In the realisation that another heart’s due to be put in, Kennex and team burst in on said surgery. Curiously — and understandably enough — it’s not the surgeons who’re alarmed at the police’s presence, but the woman to be operated on, instead. Not even Stahl’s later explanation of how the sting would’ve worked to her settles the grudge she now holds against the police; with this, Stahl sympathises.
An ominous chord rings out. Each of the three different figures we’ve already seen involved in the sting; the courier, doctor, and cremator, face their own form of interrogation — for the first two, it’s at the hands of the police, with both ill-inclined to cooperating with the police. For the cremator, it’s a form of self-interrogation; his boss informs him that he’s not to reset the hearts of any other patient.
What’s most quietly heartbreaking about tonight’s episode isn’t Dorian’s concern about his counterpart, but the way the (unnamed) doctor falters as he realises his idealistic tendencies have not — and never have been — rewarded by his black market surgeries. There’s no string-based score to punctuate his realisation, no glimpse of a tear; the same heavy drumbeat pulse runs through his unwanted understanding that he’s done nothing to aid the world, just as it does the scenes of figures realising that their time is up. While perhaps a little heavy-handed with the imagery, it’s nonetheless effective.
The sting’s been shut down, so as to ensure the police can’t find their way back to it’s key runner. Not even the payments they offer up matters.
Stahl, examining one of the corpses, notes one similar detail among them all; each of the transplant victims have been on the same list of people denied heart transplants. Out of the pair who have access to the list of the rejected, it’s the original transplant surgeon (Dr Rivera’s) assistant, Jacinta Lee, who’s the keyrunner of the sting.
She’s not at home.
She’s neatly sealed up, thanks to the cremator figure in her sting. With the pair of them en route to the cremator’s workplace, Dorian attempts a last minute reconfiguration of the other DRN’s confidence with the police system — to no avail. The traditional chase of the bad guy, however, is cut short pretty quickly, with no need for this unenforced backup; all it takes is is Dorian’s bursting through a wall to stop the slimy figure. Not content with merely being put away for his racketeering, the cremator aims a jibe at Dorian for the mind-numbing endlessness of his existence.
It’s a theme that’s recurred over and over; the concept of the mores both races cleave to — for the DRNs, a deeper humanity, and for humans, the sophistication and endless existence the androids might be afforded. For robots though, there’s a greater weight to their existence than the mere banality of serving the force or being of more use than one singular purpose; again, we’re informed that they’re far more tempered creations in their desire to live simply, but significantly, with all the weight of their actions and connections far more considered than those of the M-Xs, or the humans that strive to do more than get by.
It’s the closing scene that ensures this note registers with us, wherein Dorian wipes the memories and informations of the second DRN, though upon questioning whether he remembers his “proudest moment” — that of saving a young boy, despite breaking police protocol in doing so — the second DRN still recalls it. Whether Dorian’s left the memory intact isn’t made clear; the point is that it remains.
It’s human connections that ought to be part of the fundamental makeup of our time here, the show suggests– not the desire for more, not the desire for them to be longer. Perhaps it’s selfish for Wyman to end on a comparison between his humans and robots then, given our mortality by contrast.
But it’s a significant one nonetheless.