ALMOST HUMAN Recap: “Pilot”

     November 17, 2013


Fox’s new sci-fi police drama Almost Human has two elements that might make it a hit.  The first is simply the show itself — a great cast, a compelling start, and a procedural bent that viewers (especially non committal ones) usually like.  The second is timing.  This premiere episode is an anomaly — the show will air its follow-up episode Monday night, which will actually be its regular time slot, feeding into Sleepy Hollow at 9 p.m.  It’s a great move for Fox.  The delay has allowed Almost Human to premiere after (and therefore not get lost in) the Fall TV glut, and the Monday night timeslot means it has no competition for its drama genre.  Remember, this schedule formula is what kept The Following on the air.  Luckily, Almost Human is already infinitely better than that.  Hit the jump for why.

almost-human-posterFor those who have read my many pilot reviews, you’ll know I always comment on how rote things usually are because they have to be.  Almost Human doesn’t break ground when it comes to genre, but it also proved — to its credit — that it doesn’t have to.  A sci-fi buddy cop show is a damned good concept, especially when led by Karl Urban as a surly John Kennex, along with Michael Ealy as his android partner Dorian.  The cast is all around a pretty exceptional one, with Lili Taylor as Kennex’s boss Sandra, Mackenzie Crook as a tech brain, and Minka Kelly as a smart and attractive analyst.

But the support teams never matter as much as the buddy cops themselves, and Almost Human did a great job of setting up Kennex and Dorian’s new relationship by giving Kennex a reason to mistrust androids.  As well he should.  Has there ever been a more anti-tech techy show?  Even Dorian says that not all new tech is good.

This human-android pairing, and a sense of both comfort and mistrust is a theme explored of course throughout the excellent series Battlestar Galactica, although in Almost Human, the androids are still on our side.  Almost Human also has shown in this first hour that it will be addressing questions of logic versus emotion, and synthetic feelings vs. “real” ones.  The lines are already easily blurred.  While the newer MX models are more of the cold androids that humans appear to prefer, Dorian represents a class of AI beings who could easily be mistaken for their flesh and blood counterparts.  Are they better than us?  What makes us different?  These are things the show looks to explore in upcoming hours.

almost-human-6For now, Kennex and Dorian seem to be getting along well enough to get Kennex back to kicking bad guy butt week to week, with a promising backstory of betrayal for Kennex (his ex-girlfriend’s involvement in the crime syndicate), as well as a classified backstory for Dorian.  But unlike other shows this year which have relied too heavily on the mystery of backstory (such as The Blacklist), Almost Human doesn’t really need it, though it does help enrich this world.

Speaking of which, we’re told that this is L.A. thirty years into the future.  Why not pick something a little further down the road?  I mean, the 1980s weren’t that drastically different from now.  I get that the premise is tech and science have exploded with possibilities (mostly used for nefarious things like weapons and drugs, allowing crime syndicates to run things — see! more anti-tech sentiment).  But still.  We’d better hurry up if we’re going to reach that kind of completely unrecognizable dystopian future in three decades …

That aside, a very nice Part One premiere for the show.  The premiere was so strong, in fact, it seems odd that Fox would risk running it first on a crowded Sunday before its regular Monday launch, and that they felt the need to put two episodes together to hook viewers.  We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.  At least, not yet!

Episode Rating: A-

almost-human-3Musings and Miscellanea:

— Kennex tossing his first android companion out of the car was pretty hilarious.

— I’m usually pretty anti-robot and always on the lookout for their revolution, but admittedly, having a walking lab is pretty useful for law enforcement.

— The delay for this premiere made me nervous, glad to see it has calmed my fears.

— The idea of a “Recollectionist” is pretty cool.

— “I was born to feel.” – Dorian.  He has feels, damnit!  Michael Ealy plays him as pretty darn human, but I do like how they are (so far) slipping little idiosyncrasies in there, like him saying “man” in his sentences to sound colloquial.

— Thirty years in the future, though?  Thirty?  To the show’s credit, they don’t really shove the changes at us.  The characters all seem comfortable with things as they are.  One thing that finally happened is a better umbrella design at least!  After 200 years without change!

— Olive oil is great for incompletely calibrated synthetic body parts.

— “Sometimes new technology isn’t better”  – Dorian.