[This is a review for Almost Human season 1, episode 7. It contains SPOILERS.]
Almost Human was one of the last new shows to premiere in the fall, so it's only fitting that it's one of the first back (for the next two weeks, at least). In its comeback episode, Dorian (Michael Ealy) finds a new home, and Kennex (Karl Urban) learns to keep his most important electronic device charged.
This week's episode, "Simon Says," written by series producer (and mid-season finale scribe) Alison Schapker, pits Kennex and Dorian against a faceless nemesis who uses live streaming remote explosives and a deadly game to systematically kill those who once wronged him. When a victim is saved and the killer's identity is revealed, Kennex is forced to stare death in the face, alone, while Dorian finally understands humanity's annoyance with "low battery” warnings.
'Simon Says' is not one of the missing episodes still yet to air, nor is it an explanation-filled adventure that helps us better understand the mysteriously missing storyline involving Kennex's ex-girlfriend, yet it's still an exciting return for one of Fox's strongest shows. Though this week’s episode is pointed more toward helping viewers discover and enjoy the show in the new year, those who pay close attention will notice a nod to the ex-girlfriend storyline - perhaps a hint at what's to come next week when Almost Human finally airs its second episode made, 'You are here,' which was replaced with the fifth episode, 'Skin,' during the two-night series premiere event.
Aside from the questions and/or qualms about the overall series story - which is understandable given television's comfort in mysteries that go nowhere - this week's episode builds up the already strong bond between Kennex and Dorian even more by allowing Ealy to step out from behind his robot character and combat Urban’s gruff demeanor with even more playfulness, which allows Kennex to lower his guard and befriend his synthetic partner even more in his time of "need".
Now 7 episodes in - 9, including the 2 missing episodes – and Almost Human is still keeping up its end of the bargain, as far as future-themed devices are concerned. Yet still, with all of the impressive technology, visual effects and witty banter presented to audiences, there’s one big thing that’s missing, and it’s beginning to show: its heart.
Each episode puts Kennex and Dorian front and center for whatever the case is on-hand, and the series masterfully wraps the tale – even its smallest parts – around the two, which allows them (or whoever the focus of the episode is) to fully inhabit the futuristic setting which has been painstakingly (in terms of time and money) established over and over again in each new episode; however, with Dorian’s lack of true emotion and Kennex’s inability to convey his, whatever exciting – thrilling, even – story that’s put before the viewer is more or less a twist on familiar video game tropes. The journey – including any “middle bosses” or “princess” saving – serves one purpose only: to get the “boss battle” at the end.
Now that’s not to say that other television series don’t do the same thing; they do – especially on basic cable. Almost Human is a different show, however, as it’s the partnership which has solely been used to sell the series. Action and excitement are two strong story elementals that can only go so far, and until Almost Humans steps out from behind its missing episodes and presents an earnest character tale for Kennex, it’s hard to disagree with viewers who feel that the series is much like Dorian’s frame of mind: mentally competent, yet emotionally stunted.
Next week, Almost Human will finally reveal its missing second episode, and Kennex’s girlfriend will likely be touched upon a great deal – if for no other reason than to help build excitement before the series takes a second hiatus, to allow The Following season 2 to premiere.
All-in-all, Almost Human has shown impressive range and depth in its short time on the air, and now that a number of obstacles will soon stand in its way of true week-to-week airings, it’ll be interesting to see if the series takes the next step and evolves, or if it simply falls away, never to be heard from again.
Almost Human returns next Monday with 'You Are Here' @8pm on Monday.