ALMOST HUMAN “Beholder” Recap
If it happens I’m late to a review — as has often been the case, as of late — I’ll find myself in the bad habit of typing “Almost Human” into Google, and hitting search. It’s not healthy, and I’ll confess that I can’t quite rationalise this; for it’s not even other reviews that I’m searching for, but simply, news on the progress of the show. And by extension, the likelihood of its future.
(Does this colour me as quite a morbid TV viewer?)
As a consequence of this search, I stumbled across Screen Rant’s article, detailing the likelihood of Almost Human‘s cancellation. In short: it’s slim.
Which is quite odd, given that regardless of Fox’s rejuggling of the episodes, and my gripes with the show’s inability to cycle through a familiar plot without pandering to the expected tropes, tonight’s episode might be one of its strongest ever. The episode opens with a man — think your favourite member of the elite class — playing a simulation of golf. (Anyone else briefly reminded of Her, or am I just nostalgic for that film?) Partway through, he’s electrocuted by a waxy-faced intruder, who then takes something from his inert form.
Cut to: Dorian and Kennex at the station. I lack the words to quite describe it, but there’s a certain lilt to the way Michael Ealy performs the initial few lines of this scene that’s like an alarm for me; there will be banter. And there is — copious amounts of it — which I won’t transcribe line for line, so as to save you some pleasure. Stahl comes in partway through to drag the pair out to investigate the death of Golf Guy. He’s a chrome, and should therefore not be dead just yet.
There’s a puncture wound where the man — Brian Barrow — has been injected; Dorian pulls the DNA of seven attractive people from it. This leads to Kennex and Dorian tracking down a plastic-surgery practice; the same one, as might be expected, at which we see the killer receiving facial procedures. Stahl throws herself into the episode tonight, what with her suspicions having already been raised, though the lead she follows has little weight on the end result of the case.
No doubt my disdain for Minka Kelly as the token pretty, smart operative hasn’t gone unnoticed in the past; and what a clever situation it is then, for my original opinion to be subverted in the fact that that’s precisely what she’s been designated as, from birth. All her other interactions that we’ve previously noted; her brief flirtations with John, and warmth towards him, are accentuated in light of the fact that human connections may not necessarily have to be such a tenuous and messy situation in which she finds herself, after all. (She’s superior, remember; she’s every right to be above such things.) Beyond this, fleshing Stahl out as a figure that occupies a strata in between Kennex, who is our caustic-tongued everyman, and Dorian, who is the image of the subjugated classes; who lacks and longs for the humanity the other two struggle with, creates a veritable tableau of the society in 2048, which we’ve so often been denied proper contact with. Contrary to that opinion, Kelly plays Stahl’s shades of guilt and discomfort and normality in contrast to the exclusive values paraded around the club, with a level of subtlety that’s required for this premise.
Meanwhile, we’re treated to a quick lesson on another level of society we’ve previously not heard on; bodily modifications. It makes sense, given the presence of chromes alone, that plastic surgery is a far more viable, and radical possibility. Nanobots are being implanted in a person, so that they may modify their appearance from the outside; unfortunately, too many suffer cardiac arrest under this treatment — and dear old killer is one of the few who’ve been negatively affected, as would be indicated by his face, in a clinical study to change this statistic. Stahl initially suggests he suffers body dysmorphic disorder, though this is not the killer’s incentive alone; there’s a clock ticking down the time until he meets his online crush in person, and to prepare for their meeting, he’s been on a killing spree to acquire the DNA from those whose faces he admires. And requires: as per his avatar, his crush is under the impression his looks are killer.
(Pun intended, pun not quite intended, pun entirely unnecessary?)
The object of his affections, Judy, is blind.
It’s a sucker punch of a twist, and relatively trite, but it resonates. We’re well aware of the difficulties of internet-dating — and it’s still the twenty-first century here — and the growing trend of catfishing, whether for shock or for entertainment value; by comparison, the innocence Judy represents, and the naivety with which she willingly goes to her killer-lover, feels unprecedented. But despite the Romeo and Juliet esque possibilities the pair make a play for, the show’s message on plastic surgery still feels muddled; the issues that the rearrangement of one’s face might raise, are only ever hinted at, or grotesquely represented upon the canvas of a psychopath. That aside, little more than this brief nod in the direction of real-world issues should be expected from a show that makes a spectacle out of this; the killer’s suicide, following a brief exchange with Kennex on the nature of love.
It’s difficult to get involved in Almost Human‘s plays at politics. It’s less difficult to get involved in it’s cast, no thanks to the notable efforts each of the key players put in. Admittedly, I would have preferred to see more substance from the characters in their reactions to the events that unfold — as is always my request — rather than the show placing it’s emphasis solely upon the procedural elements of the night; given the questions raised by Dorian’s AI-status, and the various subdivisions that have begun to emerge within society, it’s a shame to see a pertinent field of social figures fail to better discuss, or respond to, the use of tech.
Perhaps the finale’ll give me my kicks in this field. Fingers crossed.