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ALMOST HUMAN “Disrupt” Recap

I’ve been rereading over my reviews as of late, and wondering one thing: why do I dedicate so many words to a show that fails to captivate me? For there’s the rub: Almost Human is, at best, fun nineties AI-cop fare, that fails to leave a lasting impact or rationale for my to continue watching in week in, week out, apart for my employ here. In light of that proclamation, however, I’ll confess myself particularly intrigued by tonight’s conceit; wherein our own security systems pose the biggest threat to our mortality. Given the dozen balls FOX’s currently piffed into the air — to recap, there’s the matter of Dorian’s creator; the InSyndicate, still lurking about in the shadows somewhere — I’d be pleased to see the show return to the slick procedural format it previously employed for a night or two, if only to ensure that the that the overcrowding and vague texturing of certain story arcs are left untouched.

 

It appears to start well enough. While we’ve treated to a brief glimpse of Dorian, memories unspooling across one of the monitor’s Rudy’s got hooked up to him, this intrusion is swiftly dealt away with; for we’ve got a crime to consider. (As a side note, this is the first time, as far as I can recall, that we’ve opened with the focus being on the police precinct, as opposed to the regular techno-and-guns schtick.) Michael and Linda Bennett, as we swiftly learn, are the accosted owner s of a property, the security system of which killed a teenager last year. As opposed to the jarring immediate doom the show tends to present us with — which on level, is an assault to the writer’s understanding of the audience’s ability to sit and wait — there’s a slow burn that leads up towards the Bennetts eventual murders here. Coupled with the flickering CGI of their security system interface, there’s plenty of potential for things to get extra camp here. Post assurance from her husband that they’re not killers, Linda’s locked underneath the glass of their swimming pool cover. He, in turn, is gunned down by a turret assuming he’s attacking the woman he’s attempting to save. Right on cue, Kennex and Dorian are called in to determine who’s to blame. As ought to be expected, multiple ties lead back to the teenage boy previously killed on the Bennetts property: Aaron. While the show draws parallels between Aaron’s shooting and America’s growing glut of fire-before-fight cases,the ethical issues of tonight’s episode fall primarily to the legal-work and ensuing debate of rights that follows hard after. For example, the security’s firm claim that Aaron was trespassing, with the intent of robbing the Bennetts; in turn, his grieving mother attempts, and fails, to both sue the firm and stop further production of the security systems.

Here, the tone shifts sharply. What ethical questions could have been brought up by the matter of class-divide, a dystopian area that the series has so far only glanced at, are ignored in favour of the hacker group currently organising protests in honour of the anniversary of Aaron’s death. Given that my focus is primarily upon stories, as opposed to the technobabble or the logic of science the show sometimes spouts, I can’t critically comment upon the set-up of this group; that said, they’re framed as something campy and overblown. I don’t mind, much; I’ve long since learnt to expect entertainment alone from Almost Human, as opposed to serious discussion on the matter of private systems versus the public want for control. The hacker group’s the one responsible for the blackout on the anniversary on Aaron’s death — they want for the public to be aware that the technology implemented in homes was prematurely launched, without proper testing. Kennex points out a sentiment that’s growing ever-more valid in our world, and thankfully doesn’t feel a dated concept in their far more tech-savvy world: that hackers and those behind keyboards, lack a level of integrity for not openly facing what they oppose. That said, Almost Human‘s ongoing spats with internet commenters and it’s disregard for the faceless nature of growing social movements online has outstayed its welcome: following the episode in which a bunch of internet commenters watched the murder of several innocents, via webcam for kicks, all critique that then followed on from this episode feels pedantic and pontificated.

Kennex and Dorian arrest the hacker directly connected to the blackouts, and offer him a deal: should he point them towards who’s behind a photo found at two linked murder scenes, he’ll be saf(er). He points them towards one of Aaron’s friends, Emily. She’s the girl that Aaron was sneaking off to see when he trespassed on the Bennetts. I’d hesitate to call her the star of the final act — for in truth, Almost Human‘s third acts have always been springy, acrobatic things with very little weight behind them, or need for them to extend past a handful of minutes — though this is clearly not the direction the show builds up to tonight. Rather, we’re treated to a horror movie-esque recreation wherein Emily infiltrates the building of the security firm’s headquarters to spook them as she enacts her plan, only to admit her guilt in the proceedings of Aaron’s death. Now. I don’t particularly mind this. I’m not a fan of the way women are constantly shunted into these roles of victim or perpetrator, and I’m certainly ambivalent about the way they’re rescued. To date, the only female character that’s been particularly striking has been Emily Rios. But this; our antagonist-not-so-much-antagonist-as-anti-hero, breaking down into the arms of a dashing robot out of her understandable guilt?

Let’s just say, True Detective this ain’t. I don’t harbour any ill will towards the writers for portraying Emily this way: she’s surely naive, and unsettled towards her goals. Still, the plot feels lifted out of procedural fare, as opposed to any other carefully-conceived premise.

On the other hand, the aforementioned invasion of Dorian’s discoveries and the realisation that there are organic memories embedded in him is of enough interest that there’s rationale to continue watching the show; beyond that, Dorian’s growing protests to the way he’s treated and the near-unacknowledged matter of his privacy and rights, though these are never spelled out, could prove to be interesting commentary upon the issues panning out in AH’s 2048. More importantly, while the show’s subplots are now mostly tenuous things and the addition of yet another concern should unsteady the lot altogether, I’ll confess myself curious as to why precisely Dorian’s got these memories locked up in his mind.

Is this the equivalent of Russian sleeper agent training, save for AIs? If so, it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected. Almost Human‘s got a certain knack for the camp, after all.

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The Author

Viv Mah

Viv Mah

Viv Mah's quite likely far too invested in theatre, film and TV. Currently she studies Journalism at RMIT and has also written for Signal Express, Australian Stage Online, Buzzcuts and Battle Royale with Cheese. She also has a terrible penchant for overanalysis and waxing poetic about cool one-liners.