Sunday

Thinking about "Almost Human"

"Almost Human" recently wrapped up its first season. Possibly its only season, as the ratings were not particularly impressive. When I watched the pilot months ago, I had mixed feelings towards the show and after thirteen episodes, my feelings haven’t changed much. It’s interesting but still I hesitate to describe it as good.

The show has a good cast and in fact the cast has been the best part of the show. In particular, Michael Ealy who plays the android Dorian is the best thing about the show. He’s managed to give a performance that is filled with life and curiosity, color and humor and yet, he also manages to convey that he’s not human. It’s a striking performance. He’s a good actor as anyone who’s seen him in other roles can attest but this performance is incredible in a way that will likely not get the degree of recognition and acclaim that he deserves.

The rest of the cast is good, but the bigger problem is that they don’t have a lot to do to move beyond the stereotypical/archetypal character types that they’re playing.

That relates to the show’s bigger problem which is that it suggests and has underlying the cases each week some interesting or potentially interesting ideas, but then the show never explores them in depth.

Creator and showrunner J.H. Wyman is best known for his work as Executive Producer and showrunner of “Fringe” which was produced by Bad Robot and ran on Fox for five years. It’s dangerous to compare very different shows and different projects but it’s hard not to think of the two, particularly the first season of “Fringe.”

The first season of “Fringe” was a mixed bag, but it’s best remembered for being a procedural with a larger mythology in the background. This would change in later seasons as the procedural aspect was largely abandoned. At the end of the first season, in its final seconds in fact, “Fringe” made its big reveal which would define the show for the rest of its run–the existence of a parallel universe and the ability of people to move between them.

Perhaps because of this, I expected something similar in the final episode of “Almost Human.” The fact that the episode was just okay made me think that something would happen to end the season on something of a cliffhanger, but no, it was just an okay episode that ended the season with a “meh.”

This is more frustrating considering everything that has gone on this season. For example Kennex’s ex-girlfriend and the terrorist organization she belonged to. We haven’t heard much of them for a while since Kennex discovered that there was a listening device that she planted in his apartment. It’s the kind of thing most viewers assumed would be followed up on. There’s the episode where we met John Larroquette who created Dorian and many other androids and has a larger plot at work. There’s “The Wall.” There’s the fact that many of the plots involve the ways that the wealthy have protected and insulated themselves and inequality. There’s the fact that the cops seems to regularly operate as though there is no Bill of Rights, functioning in something more like a fascist state than the contemporary United States.

Admittedly many shows on television right now–Hawaii 5-0 among others–operate as though they’re taking place in a fascist country where there is no Bill of Rights, so it’s hard to say to what degree it’s just being lazy about police work and to what degree this is intentional. The fact that Karl Urban is coming off “Dredd” though does add something to the reading that it operates in a very different country.

What’s most frustrating is the fact that so many of these sub plots and threads are so much more interesting than the cases they investigate. Just as Fringe suddenly made a great deal more sense and had a greater cohesion for those of us watching the show after the reveal of the parallel universe, it feels as though there are facts about the world of Almost Human which would help us to understand what’s happening more which are being kept from the audience. It’s frustrating.

A few suggestions for second two (assuming that the show gets renewed):

Explain what the hell the freaking wall is! Seriously, there’s a large wall in the city. What is it, why is it there, what hellscape exists on the other side. Seriously, you need to explain significantly more than has thusfar been explained.

Kennex’s girlfriend and her terrorist comrades. So his girlfriend was a terrorist and then she disappeared and so did the group. Who is she, what’s this group, what are their goals.

Give Lili Taylor, Minka Kelly and Michael Irby something to do. Seriously.

There are plenty of other mysteries, but really, it would be nice if the show made an effort to address the issues it’s raised. It’s one thing to have dangling plot threads, but it’s another thing to have frustrating writing which refuses to explain anything in the hopes of paying it off years down the road.

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