Last night officers John Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) were on the beat again, this time tracking down an organ-legging ring that doubles as an extortion racket: miss a payment and that snazzy biomech heart of yours stops pumping. It’s the same concept behind both Darren Lynn Bousman’s 2008 horror/comedy/musical Repo! The Genetic Opera and 2010’s Repo Men, starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, but it’s still a compelling concept because it’s not hard to believe it could come to pass not too far into our future.
If you’ve been watching the show from the start, however, you may have noticed something odd. The banter between Kennex and Dorian is still flying fast and furious, but it’s got a sharper edge than we’ve seen in recent episodes. Kennex and Dorian don’t seem to be as accepting and genuinely fond of each other. Sure, that truth has still been buried under an pride-protecting layer of snark, but the pair of detectives don’t seem as far along their journey as they have been. Well, there’s a reason for that: Fox has been airing the early episodes of Almost Human out of order. Yes, it’s Firefly all over again, but let’s hope our favorite future buddy cops can dodge that show’s fate.
Showrunner J.H. Wyman has insisted that the episode shuffling isn’t a big deal, but knowing about it does draw attention to the feeling that we should have seen this bit of Kennex and Dorian’s story earlier. Specifically, “Arrhythmia” is episode 1.03, but it’s being aired sixth. “Skin,” which aired second, should have been 1.05, and “Are You Receiving?” which aired third, should have actually aired sixth, after “Skin.” According to Seriable.com, who first reported on the episode shuffling, we still haven’t seen what should have been the second and fourth episodes, so it should be interesting to see how they play after the show returns from holiday hiatus.
As for the episode overall, I thought this was one of their better outings. The humor, in particular, was crackling very well early in the episode, with Kennex’s disdain for androids facing a worst-case scenario after Dorian recruits a fellow DRN model — also a former cop — to come on a “ride-along.” Dorian’s amusement at the situation soon leaves him with egg on his face, however, after the new DRN attempts to make a well-intentioned arrest, only to set off a Rube Goldbergian sequence of events that winds up with a DRX model flattened into the side of a van by an out-of-control aerial drone. In keeping with the show’s ‘80s buddy-cop influences, this even gets us the classic “chief yells at them for being out of control” scene. Ah, nostalgia…
Thankfully, the episode does more than just relegate Dorian 2 to comedy relief. The script by Wyman and Alison Schapker (Fringe) uses the bio-organ plot and the spare Dorian to comment on notions of “accelerated decrepitude,” and how it must feel for Dorian to know that he was shut down because the world judged him to be inferior and replaced him with an upgraded model. We find out a little bit more about the decommisioning of the DRN models, including that there’s a test that’s used to judge whether a DRN is defective, but Dorian 2 doesn’t believe the test is reliable. And in the end, the powers that be decided it was cheaper and easier to just retire all of the DRNs rather than continue testing each of them. That’s gotta sting. As one of this week’s supporting characters says, “Just because something’s used doesn’t mean it has no value.”
That notion is central to the episode’s ethical quandaries. Within the world of Almost Human, we learn that biomech organs are cheaper than stem-cell-grown replacements, but there are strict rules about what to do with them after their user dies. The organs must be destroyed, rather than being refurbished for another patient. Naturally, this has given rise to a black-market trade where used organs are sold to people who can’t get a replacement through official channels. This system is exploited by an entrepreneurial and disreputable sort, but that still leaves the question of whether the idea itself — helping provide illegal organs to people whose lives are on the line — is inherently a bad thing. Any system you can think of, it’s inevitable that somebody will find a way to abuse it, but does that mean it shouldn’t exist in the first place?
The episode wraps up with a touching scene where Dorian 2.0 recalls saving a young child, something he regards as his proudest moment. Before returning Dorian 2.0 to his regular job as a janitor, Dorian has to wipe his memories of his case files and other cop-only info…but Dorian leaves him the memory of his heroic moment. It’ll get you right in the feels.
Next week’s episode introduces Night Court’s John Larroquette as Dorian’s creator, Nigel, which should be fun. Maybe they can bring in Brent Spiner as Dr. Noonian Soong so Nigel has somebody to talk business with. The show will return with new episodes on Monday, January 6.