ALMOST HUMAN “Simon Says” Episode Recap
Disclaimer: It’s been a busy few weeks. New Year’s chewed me up and spat me out, with less enthusiasm for the year than what I started with. And you know what bucks weary spirits? Seeing J.H. Wyman contemplate the spirit of an android — a creature far less in touch with it’s ambitions, and yet more capable of achieve them despite it’s limitations, than myself. Or something similar, simply less cheesy-sounding.
Almost Human “Simon Says” episode opens with a brand new energy marshall spouting gibberish about energy losses in the precinct, and how this means certain androids will be charged on a “priority basis”. Kennex’s insubordination in this moment is interesting to see — given that he’s a lead character, it’s understandable that he’s required to banter with even the most significant of figures, though at points, the banter feels strung-out and ridiculous. Dorian, in comparison, gets away with slugging the energy marshall in the face, as per his emotional strength being drained along with his energy.
The episode jumps aside to the modern day version of a windscreen wash, by a sketchy looking figure in a gas mask. The gas mask proves to be a dead giveaway a moment later; while our surprisingly hospitable car driver’s comfortable enough with winding down the window to offer up the potential of change, he’s sprayed in the face with some kind of gasp and awakes once more with a bomb hooked around his neck and a synthetic female voice informing him they’re due to play a game. A quick cutaway to the villain-of-the-episode’s perspective dutifully informs us that we’re entering a new version of high-stakes, unauthorised reality television. It’s a darker recreation of the voyeuristic tendencies of Youtube watchers, with a number of commenters voicing their opinions on the nature of the stunt while they watch the banker’s desperate attempts to disarm the bomb by complying with the heist he’s ordered he to perform. Lo and behold, only metres out of the bank, Kennex and Dorian are on the guy’s tail. For the viewers, it’s pure gold; here’s a flesh-and-blood, or more pertinently, metal-and-android car chase for one to truly be a part of. Granted, it feels like there should be more at stake — especially when Dorian shakes his head ever so slightly to indicate that there’s no possibility of saving this man. What tenacity must one possess to simply seal a man in a bubble and leave him to die? For Dorian and Kennex, it appears like nothing more than routine.
There are cameras that pepper the car of the victim, Ramone — who, as it turns out to be, is a loan officer with a heart of a gold and the possibility of enemies in those who he’d turned down loans to. Valerie contacts Maldonado with the video of Ramone’s bomb-and-subsequent death on a hidden part of the net similar to our own, clumsily titled “darknet”. “This is about putting on a show and getting as many views as possible,” Valerie says, with the all-knowing graveness of a young adult who’s freshly stumbled onto pop culture commentary. Both ladies look suitably distressed, in comparison to the lack of care Kennex and Dorian have previously expressed; it’s in this that the show’s tonal conflicts is best expressed. Are the females only empathetic as per their genitalia? Dorian’s distraction from the human tragedy he’s most recently encountered is acceptable given his low charge, yet the heart of the show feels considerably diminished when it’s unorthodox moral compass is unable to properly and immediately respond. Perhaps it’s another reminder of human and android infallibility; that one’s day or intentions does not necessarily always go as planned, and that to judge one’s character by one set moment ?
(Or perhaps I’m overanalysing. But I think this comment will become pertinent later no.)
Rudy and Kennex uncover, through the data from Ramone’s car, the place wherein he was due to recover the code for his bomb. There, the bomber’s put up a screen wherein he taunts them with his next victim — Jeannie, a flower girl. I’ll admit myself to be a fan of the circus-like screen in which he corresponds with Kennex and Dorian. While Kennex and Dorian try and track the flower girl down — who’s doing her best to warn children and those nearby of her condition — Maldonado and Valerie open up the bomber’s feed once more, to unwittingly become part of the bomber’s audience as they monitor her. With the primary plot device being a dark imitation of Youtube, I’ll admit that I initially found the comments the camera settled upon disarming and representative of a cruder humanity Almost Human has always stumbled upon, but never properly dipped into; one that can’t be representative of even the hive mind of commenters today. A quick visit to some of Youtube’s odder videos, however, proved otherwise. While there’s a dichotomy to the commenters currently present on our videos, wherein political sensitivity and general white knight sensibilities ultimately reign supreme, it’s not too difficult to imagine how the more vitriolic of personas might multiply on a hidden video-sharing site. What could be said about the way like draws to like, or the public heat that a policeman may cop for their bungled effort in a rescue attempt, by comparison, is left lacking when the only viewers are one-note and lack for any trace of compassion.
Here’s where I’ll retract my statements on Kennex and Dorian showing little empathy to the bomb victims — though that’s not to say it’s without it’s flaws. While in Ramone’s case, there was little concern for what occurred or what came after, the glances Ealy and Urban share in their attempts to disarm the bomb are proof enough that they’re well aware of the stakes at play. That said, for their object of pity and concern to be another woman leaves yet another red mark in Almost Human‘s gradebook for female representation thus far. Granted, Jeannie’s instincts are praised by Kennex, but why is it that she’s a lonely single flower delivery girl targeted by your necessarily creepy, secluded psychopath? The clock keeps ticking. Kennex chips in. With literal seconds to spare, the tag-team unclips the collar. This brings us the highlight of Dorian’s low-charge moments: he throws himself into a hug with the surprised Kennex, before tugging a still-traumatised Jeannie into the embrace as well. (Let it be known that Urban, as the straight man to Dorian’s enthusiasm, delivers his reactions perfectly. Bless disgruntled teddybear Kennex. Bless ludicrously happy, unbelievably strong Dorian. Bless the impossible chemistry Ealy and Urban share.)
In contrast to the life reaffirmation Dorian’s found, the viewers of the stream burn up as quickly as they’ve arrived, leaving psychopath Simon enraged. Back in the precinct, Jeannie’s information proves useful; they locate Simon, determine he’s seeking revenge on those who’ve rejected him, and furthermore, determine that he’s previously been rejected from the military due to his psych profile being questionable. The team rock up to his address, only to watch the RV blow up. Meanwhile, Kennex, called away to investigate something up the road, finds himself face to face with their bomber/military reject/darknet video aficionado. To ensure Dorian knows his partner’s been taken, they upload a screenshot of Kennex from the previous flower girl feed to a nearby billboard.
(Think the Godfather, but with less panache.)
In all honesty, here, the stakes dry up. We’re well aware Kennex is the hero of this story — there’s no possibility of him dying. At best, he’ll suffer a wound or two, though his world-weariness reminds us he’s already been through an explosion — what are more scars? Or perhaps the bomb’ll take a number of innocent bystanders with it, though Almost Human‘s shown a certain unwillingness to present us with the collateral damage that occurs in police situations; the victims are always temporary, one-dimensional, or of such little interest that it often feels like we’re watching from the detached perspective of a similarly war-torn veteran. Simon reminds us, albeit in self-centred terms, that Kennex is granted a second, cathartic chance in this life-or-bomb situation: to relive the decisions he’s previously executed poorly in the pilot episode. Maldonado, who’s put a team into play, realises several things in rapid succession: 1) Simon, who’s spotted the police, is somewhere in the vicinity, 2) Simon is also using a trigger that’ll mean upon his death and his release of the trigger, the bomb’ll go off. She calls the sniper off.
QED: there’s no win situation here, save perhaps through Kennex’s sheer force of will. Dorian then suggests that he could scale the clock tower to get to Simon, despite his low charge level. It’s a classic case of hitting all the necessary stakes; the literal ticking bomb, the android’s likelihood of failing, the civilians simply waiting to become casualty statistics nearby, save with one fundamental difference I’ve previously mentioned. Despite the critical warning, in comparison to more ruthless shows such as Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, the writers seem disinclined to off their more sympathetic characters.
“Game over, Detective,” Simon says. And as if to prove my concern correct, Dorian takes him down just in time.
We close with Maldonado and Kennex, drinking to “winning the game”. If this is meant to be a metaphor for overcoming the odds; for Dorian’s ability to overcome the stereotype and do so very much more on a low charge as opposed to the M-X it’s a thin one. Similarly, much of the episode, like most of the season thus far, still feels on-the-nose and little to celebrate beyond familiar sci-fi hijinks. That said, it’s an enjoyable enough watch thanks mainly to Ealy’s impeccable comedy skills and the bromance that continues to swell between himself and Urban.
Hell, I’d pay good money to see the pair in their own, spin-off comedy.