What I'm Watching: Almost Human
This past season saw the end of one of the best science fiction tv shows of the 21st century when Fringe drew to a close. I wasn't immediately on board, but I saw the potential behind the series, and the show quickly grew on me, and eventually dealt with themes I love (Parallel timelines!) and got very deep with the symbolism, metaphor, and allegory.
My life has been lacking a decent scifi series in the same vein, but fortunately now we have Almost Human.
Now, Almost Human is NOT Fringe 2.0. I could see some stories being done on either show, and the creators are some of the same people, as well as there being those similar thematic links, but ultimately Almost Human is...well, nothing like Fringe.
But, the two shows do sit nicely next to each other, like brothers that went into similar but different careers. You know they're related, and yet they are SO different.
Almost Human is a story set in the near future, after science has begun to outpace our morality and our laws. Quite frankly, we're already starting to see this, and AH posits it is only going to get worse from here before it gets better. And I'm on board with that viewpoint.
The show picks up after detective John Kennex is involved in a failed raid where he lost his partner, and his leg, and slipped into a coma for 18 months. After a period of recovery, John returns to the force, and even in that brief period of time, things have changed; every officer is now partnered with an android. John is immediately frustrated with this restriction, and its not long before his MX unit has an 'accident' and falls out of the car and needs to be replaced.
John's new new partner is a DRN unit, or just Dorian, a run of androids that were too human, given a bit more free thinking, creativity, and emotions. And just like humans, this gave them a tendency to be unstable, so the line was scrapped. Dorian's ability to be more human, and less cold, as well as keep up with Kennex and his ways actually makes the two quite the pair.
With that setup, the show then delves into your usual cop show tropes, but with a scifi bent to them. Now, I'm not a fan of the police procedural. I have nothing against them, but in a day and age of three Law & Orders, three CSIs, and two NCISes...well, the market is kinda flooded with the same stories retold over and over, and this is just in recent years. We've been seeing these stories for ages. And me, well, it's obvious I like a little gimmickry, a little scifi, and this show delivers just the right added touches that keep me interested.
Yes, this show has the weird science that made Fringe come alive, and that is the biggest connective tissue between the two shows. The science isn't QUITE as mad as Fringe was, and mostly sticking to the realm of just advancing what we can do now with tech and drugs and such. Still plenty of time for gooey moments with chemicals and diseases and androids with their skin ripped off, but so far there's no sign that we'll delve into alternate realities here.
Still, the scifi elements definitely make this my kinda cop show, and boy am I grateful. I am enjoying the heck out of this. Not quite as much or as immediately as Sleepy Hollow, but there is a lot to love here. If you're a fan of cop shows, you have got to watch this. There is enough to keep those fans interested, and enough of its own take on things with the scifi that it is familiar and also unique on the modern landscape.
And I'm not gonna lie, I'm hoping the Bad Robot guys pull the same tricks they've pulled with Lost and Fringe before, where they start you off simply with character drama and not a lot of crazy science fiction and then...BAM hey! Your show has massive amounts of time travel! I love that method of keeping things basic and hooking the everyday viewers, and then opening up into something so SO much more.
Besides the stories, the clear attraction here is the cast. Karl Urban is perfect as Kennex, and yes, you can see a little Dredd around the edges, but he's softer, more human, and without the facscism. Michael Ealy as Dorian is also great, with just the right blend of android like calm, with slightly awkward stumbling towards humanity. It hits the notes it should absolutely perfectly. You know he's not human, but he's also not stiff and emotionless. But besides the two on their own, I absolutely LOVE the chemistry the pair has with each other. It's almost like watching two brothers at their worst, the way they bicker, but clearly like each other. The banter and jokes between Kennex and Dorian is enough alone to watch this show.
My biggest complaint with the show is the secondary cast. I'd like a little more balance to give them time to shine. Minka Kelly is an incredibly underrated actress who feels almost completely wasted here as the tech girl who gets three lines an episode. She's better than this, and I hope she gets a storyline soon. And one that doesn't make her be the damsel in distress. She's supposed to be a fellow detective, but they're not really selling me on that.
There is one character whom I think will end up being a breakout for the show, and that's Rudy, played by Mackenzie Crook. At times you can tell he is trying SO HARD to be this show's Walter Bishop, and in some ways he is, being the slightly off mad scientist in the basement, but he's nowhere near as literally crazy as Walter was. But he's a good actor, and a good character, with some good lines, and he provides some humour when it's needed. He'll easily be the fun character on this show.
So, there's a new scifi show on the air, and it's surprisingly really good, and definitely worth your time. There's a few flaws, to be sure, but since the show is only four episodes in, I am sure there is more than enough room for improvement!