ALMOST HUMAN “The Bends” Recap
First things first: I’m having real issues with this high-tech music blaring through any and every scene.
Look, I don’t mean to flog a dead horse, but that’s precisely what Almost Human is doing with their eerie-kooky techno beats. We’ve long past the point where instrumental stings and the low patter of drums ought to be used to remind us that there’s danger afoot. That said, there are some particularly stunning visual effects at play in tonight’s episode. While I was initially something of a skeptic at the visual treats Almost Human pulled out, seeing them as the writer’s buffet of ooh-look-we-can-screw-with-science, the camera’s lingering on a near-translucent, moving meal of Kennex’s and the glitter glow of lights below a man’s skin is a glorious thing. Necessary? Perhaps not. But the show’s never stopped to properly consider minimalism and it’s effects: Wyman’s after unreal shocks and sort-of silly fun.
As always, he delivers.
While Kennex and Dorian have always been at odds before, the discovery of a cop at the scene of a drug deal for a rare liquid narcotic could bring the two to a head. Cooper’s boss is convinced that he was running an undercover sting to discover who was making the narcotic. In a reminder of the off-paper, on-paper disjointedness of a life, Maldonado points out that there’s suspicious bank activity in Cooper’s account. Kennex, who often shows so little faith in his companions ’til the eleventh hour, is wholeheartedly invested in this cop, Cooper — and his old pal’s — innocence. Part of this feels contrived: much of the bog-standard dialogue centring around old cop friendships and ties of loyalty is rehashed tonight. In comparison, Dorian is only allowed the most base of character developments: while there’s plenty of calculations and concepts here the writers could have riffed off when it came to human nature versus the inevitable possibility of corruption, Dorian is disappointingly bland. (Blank slate bland? Too far?) To his credit, Ealy elevates the scenes with a certain quiet acknowledgment of this conflict.
Rather than idle about and wait for the facts to coalesce into a comprehensible image, Dorian and Kennex take off to the cabin Cooper’s wife mentioned. Thankfully, much of the writers’ fondness for in-car philosophical musings have disappeared this episode: I’ll take it as a sign that rather than struggling to establish their thematic concerns, Almost Human‘s feeling secure in it’s concept.
The two retrieve the recording Cooper was taking at the time of his death. While it doesn’t definitely prove Cooper’s innocence, the information is far more damning; the druglord Cooper was investigating intends to create a monopoly of the drug. The next few details are hazy. Our motley crew decide they want Rudy to pose as a drug cook for the druglord, Bishop. In the meantime, Dorian and Kennex track down a low-level drug dealer, Tony, who’ll help them on accounts of his ‘hating jail’. They coerce him into setting up a meeting between Bishop and the new drug cook he hopes to hire.
Speaking of Rudy. For a character who’s always been something of a thinly-sketched, basement-skulking stereotype, ‘The Bends’ does him little favours. His fedora confiscated along with any chance of asserting himself as a proactive player, even his demands to dress as a “suave European” feels like yet another notch in the quirky scientist belt. After a mock-inquisition, he tinkers about with a chemistry set that looks to be stripped straight from the set of a kindergarten show, to create the drug.
The meeting takes place on a pier. The police, separated from Rudy, are understandably apprehensive about their science friend’s ability under pressure. To his credit, he straddles the line between useless (he tells them his name) and fast-thinking (he obscures Dorian’s identity), and earns the two of them a pass into Bishop’s labs for a test run as drug cook. To pause here, briefly; it’s difficult to take the Bends seriously when the drug looks like regurgitated Play-Doh. While it’s all in the name of good fun, the techniques and gimmicks used here and it’s complete disregard of basic scientific concepts feels hokey.
Rudy’s offered yet another potion. He downs it. The GPS winks out. Understandably panicked, the police begin to move in. They find Cooper’s captain, Barros, in the lab too:. Maldanado calls him to get a signal. Regardless of whether or he’s not in the loop, the script calls for a speech by Rudy, who waxes poetic about the nature of creation. On a metaphorical level, it’s as if he speaks from a showrunner’s perspective; in truth, he’s simply commenting upon his own practice as a bot-maintainer and the complicated bond between creator and created. Thankfully, the show doesn’t linger on this — nor does it have reason to, given that this is the sparest flash of conceptual substance we see this episode.
Moments later, when a downed henchman fails to pick up his phone, the group of drugrunners turn on Rudy. Panicked, he runs.
Cue action sequence (and godforsaken music).
Kennex and Dorian storm the lab. Dorian’s caught in a particularly aggressive battle between drugrunner Bishop’s ‘bot while Kennex takes off down to the sewers and shoots Bishop/Barros. In a throwback to the muddled nature of bureaucracy, Barros very briefly gloats about being able to win in court. He throws in an ill-thought out jab at Cooper. With all the blunt force of a writer throwing down words to resolve an overarching plotline, Kennex executes Bishop/Barros.
We’re left with the regular warm fuzzies, wherein Dorian coaxes Kennex into taking himself and Rudy to a bar. There’s movement here, yes, but it’s of little importance. Almost Human’s focus is less internal than it was before, although the lack of a clear throughline and, for that matter, consistent baddies grates. Procedurals suffer many of these same issues too, granted; where Almost Human holds the upper hand is in it’s unlimited world of opportunities.
But Wyman? You have a full deck of cards here when it comes to actors and concepts. Deploy those cards. Build castles with them. Build castles with them then burn them down to reveal one precariously balanced ace, who can then spend the whole of season two trying to put layers up around themselves. I don’t care.
But don’t let them sit — there’s no guarantee that your viewers’ll be sitting here come next week if the fodder’s familiar.