If you’ve been watching Fox’s futuristic police drama Almost Human, and you really should be, you may have noticed something strange. The episodes have been airing out of sequential order. The series began with the pilot, as most television shows usually do. Then when it came time to air the second episode, the network showed the fifth episode, numbered 1.05. Almost Human then showed episodes six, seven, and eight, all in a row, before bouncing back to number three. Showrunner and co-creator J.H. Wyman (Fringe) has chimed in on the subject, hoping to assuage viewer’s fears and concerns.
Using everyone’s favorite short-attention span social media, Twitter, Wyman said, “it’s okay that they are out of order for the first 7 or so.” He added, from that point on, “they should really be in order.”
That’s all well and good, but in reality, this says more about the kind of show that Almost Human is, at least at this point, than anything else. Coming off a series like Fringe, and considering that co-creator J.J. Abrams was also behind Lost, it’s easy to assume that Almost Human follows the same style of serialized storytelling. In this style of show, the entire landscape of the series can shift week to week, based on what each episode reveals, and there is an overarching narrative that continues through multiple episodes, entire seasons, and beyond. With these series, showing installments out of order could be a disaster.
While Almost Human shows signs that it might eventually become this kind of show, right now, it follows a more straightforward, police procedural path. In shows like these, each episode, each case-of-the-week, functions as a more self-contained entity, where little of the overall architecture ever changes. Think cop dramas like NCIS and Law & Order, and you know what we’re talking about.
The two sides are not mutually exclusive. Fringe, and even X-Files, didn’t immediately throw fans into crazy conspiracies that go all the way to the top and hold the fate of multiple universes in their hands. They dealt with weird stuff, like monsters and unexplained phenomena, but at the core they were standard procedural fare. Over time they evolved to deliver more complex, far reaching plots that unfurled across the space of multiple episodes.
Almost Human show signs of eventually becoming a more serialized narrative, but as it stands right now, the episodes mostly standalone. Fans have noticed that between the pilot and the following episodes, the relationship between Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his android partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) went from combative to an easier back and forth banter, tinged with a mutual respect. They went from having no rapport to an established dynamic, and there are a few similar instances.
This is the sort of thing that usually develops over time, but it manifested literally overnight (the first two episodes premiered on back-to-back nights). Even with the more procedural shows, at this early stage in the game there are bound to be a few bumps. And if Wyman is to be believed, things should be pretty sequential from here on out. This should come as welcome news to fans. Most of us are more interested in plot arcs that grow and change over time, ands stories that can’t always be told in a single hour. Almost Human has enough potential that it seems destined to become something bigger, more grand than your routine procedural. Still, they need to set the stage, and now that most of the framework is set, it should be fun to watch what they do moving forward.