Almost Human

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

You might say that Dorian is in a gray area—between life and death, man and machine, sensors and soul.

In Fox’s Almost Human, Dorian is a synthetic cop, and an old model at that. He’s been programmed with empathetic circuits that supposedly make him more easy to relate to, but the software in him can be a little buggy at times. He and his kind were mothballed thanks to that inconsistency, replaced by, well, more robotic-minded machines that do what they’re told and behave in predictable ways. But Dorian gets a second chance at “life” after Det. John Kennex angrily offs his latest advanced-model android partner.

If this all feels very Blade Runner-ish, that’s because it is, minus Rutger Hauer crying in the rain. But it also feels strangely familiar in our own time—a standard crime procedural with all the same tropes but better technology, or CSI with cyborgs.

John and Dorian walk the beat in 2048, an age when technology has transmogrified exponentially and Google Glass looks downright silly. It’s a fascinating future given to us by creator J.H. Wyman (and, given his experience running Fringe, you’d expect it to be). It’s not so much because the tech feels so outlandish, but because—given what we’ve seen develop in just the last decade—it feels so frighteningly realistic.

Sure, perhaps human-looking robots that can “feel” are a bit out of reach, and perhaps always will be. But some of the other gizmos on hand here—bionic legs, DNA “bombs” that wipe out any telltale human residue, special sprays that obscure your face from ubiquitous security cameras—feel like easily possible extensions of the sci-fi world we already inhabit. And the characters here—Dorian, John, Captain Sandra Maldonado and others—navigate their high-tech world with weary familiarity. And that can make this program strangely, geekily compelling. This doesn’t feel as much like science fiction as a cop show with gadgets.

Along the way, Almost Human wants audiences to think about what it means to be, well, almost human. Even though Dorian certainly has few if any legal rights, he’s clearly something more than an iPhone with feet and fingers. He feels. He’s programmed to in ways that Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data could only dream of (if he could dream).

All of this future-casting philosophizing can potentially rub against some tenets of faith in God, of course: We humans are fearfully and wonderfully made by a divine Creator, and no one but God can just manufacture a life out of a pile of parts. So shows like this, that play with life and consciousness to such a degree, tend to blur the line between Creator and created. Is Dorian almost human? Or are we biological computers and machines?

Alas, you don’t need to go nearly that deep to find problems here. Like most cop procedurals, this one can have all sorts of cover-the-kids’-eyes-for-pity’s-sake content, ranging from people getting killed in heinous ways, limbs getting blown off in bloody battles and androids getting gorily mangled beyond all recognition. Sexbots make appearances, baring quite a bit of “skin.” There’s even a “forensics expert” of sorts here—just like you’d find in  CSI and Criminal Minds. And the fact that he saws into synthetic bodies instead of human ones doesn’t do much in the way of limiting gore.

Episode Reviews

Almost-Human: 11-18-2013

“Skin”

John and Dorian discuss what people say to one another when someone close to them dies. John says that most say lost loved ones are “in a better place.” Dorian asks, “Why would you say that when there’s no way to know where living things go when they stop living?” John responds that we believe it because we need to believe it.

But it’s actually sexbots that are the subject du jour in this episode, not ethereal existence. They’re indistinguishable from human women (and men), and we see them strutting seductively in skimpy underwear throughout. To solve a case involving humans being milked of their skin cells to create a new breed of the synthetic prostitutes, John and Dorian make stops at a sexbot showroom and a virtual reality brothel.

Crass double entendres reference sex acts. Dorian tries to set John up with a woman (any woman) to alleviate the “backed up” state of his testicles (which they talk about at some length). One sexbot is shown seducing a man in a hotel room. (She’s wearing lingerie.) He ends up dead, shot three times, when her owners arrive and attack him.

A shootout leaves several people wounded or dead. A woman is kidnapped and rendered unconscious. She and others are shown drugged and unconscious, tightly wrapped black cloth covering their private parts. In some cases, patches of their skin is missing, revealing muscle and veins underneath. A sexbot is found stripped of “her” skin, and the camera studies her realistic musculature structure. Rudy grotesquely rips her head apart to get to internal circuitry.

John stabs himself in his fake leg to “impress” children. Characters say “h‑‑‑” once and misuse God’s name once.

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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