While Almost Human isn’t nearly as frustratingly uneven as, say, NBC’s Revolution, it does seem to be one of those shows where a lot of people either really like it or really don’t. I think one of the deciding factors for where you fall on that spectrum is your tolerance for the show’s sense of humor. The show is very much a tribute to and riff on classic ‘80s mismatched partner/buddy cop flicks like 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon, and its sense of humor stems from those influences as well. Most of that comes in the back-and-forth banter between Kennex and Dorian, but frankly, the jokes can be a little cheesy at times (Kennex mispronouncing the name of a fellow attendee at an anger management seminar as “Anal,” for instance). That being the case, I still laugh at it more often than I don’t. Kennex petulantly destroying androids that are irritating him is becoming something of a running joke here, and it still makes me laugh. I don’t care that that sort of thing would logically get him suspended or fined or, at the very least, have his pay docked to fund a replacement. Instead we just get the classic “his chief yells at him but doesn’t actually penalize him” scene. It’s absolutely true to the exaggerated genre this show is riffing on, and I love it. I just wish they’d get Shane Black to write an episode.
However, Kennex’s anti-droid tendencies aren’t being played solely for laughs at this point. The first incident in the pilot was basically just a funny way to establish how much the guy dislikes and distrusts synthetics. After all, that’s the whole crux of the show, and the starting point for his evolving relationship with Dorian. The bit in last night’s episode where Kennex blows the head off a nagging android who won’t stop criticizing Dorian’s police work was viscerally satisfying — because we’ve all know that guy, haven’t we? But, as Dorian pointed out, this time it wasn’t about Kennex’s disdain for androids, it was about his respect for and protective nature toward his own synthetic partner. Even if he’d never admit it. Back at the beginning of the show, he still might have shot the droid, but for entirely different reasons.
Last night’s episode, “You Are Here,” also did a good job showcasing Almost Human’s second pillar of storytelling: extrapolating the crazy and dangerous directions near-future technology might take us. This time we get a story based in modern fears about our dwindling loss of privacy in a massively connected, post-Edward Snowden world. Kennex and Dorian find themselves investigating a shooting death of a man gunned down on a subway platform. They have what looks like three bullet trajectories, but only one bullet. “Magic bullet” theories soon give way to a far more disturbing reality: a high-tech bullet that targets you via your detectability within the global information grid — security cameras, social media, the GPS in your phone — and which will follow you, wherever you go, until it kills you. No need for a second shooter on the grassy knoll — you can fire this one comfortably from a hotel room a mile away, then head downstairs for a drink at the bar while the bullet pursues your target with shark-like agility and single-mindedness.
It’s a science fiction exaggeration of very real concerns about what little walls of privacy we still have being perpetually chipped away as technology advances. The notion of being hunted down by a bullet because you checked into your gym on FourSquare might seem far-fetched, but Almost Human’s metaphor still speaks to real-life pitfalls and quandaries our culture is facing right now. But if you ever are stalked by a bullet that can follow you around corners, hopefully there will be a soon-to-be-speaking-Korean android cop around to save you.
I also like how the bullet storyline tied back into a prescient bit of forecasting Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report hit upon back in 2002 — the idea of “targeted advertising” that recognizes you in public and barrages you with personalized pleas to buy this, that, or the other thing. In this case, it’s a flaw in that program that allows the magic bullet to do hunt down its target with such efficiency. That’s a good example of the “unintended consequences” new developments and technologies inevitably lead to, both good and bad. (For the record, I haven’t read the Philip K. Dick short story Minority Report was based on, so I’m not sure if he gets the credit for the targeted-ads thing or if it was a creation of the film.)
All in all, “You Are Here” was a solid episode with some good humor, some nice character work, and some fun future-tech prognosticating. We even get a brief tease about Kennex’s missing, presumed evil ladyfriend, as well as the storyline about the crooks trying to break into the police lock-up for something as yet unknown. Obviously these are tied into a season-long storyline, so it’ll be interesting to see where the threads lead us.
Annoyingly, the show is back on hiatus now, not returning until February 3. On the upside, that episode will introduce us to Dorian’s creator, played by John Larroquette.