Review: Almost Human

Last night I caught the debut episode of Almost Human, which is a new sci-fi drama on the Fox network.  I don’t watch much television and when I do it’s generally something on the Discovery Channel or History channel.  I decided to give Almost Human a chance because it’s not often you see the sci-fi genre represented on basic cable tv, and I’m a sucker for futuristic speculative action/dramas.

The synopsis of the series is that it takes place in the year 2048 where the crime rate has quadrupled and police officers have been assigned android partners to aide them on the dangerous streets.   Detective Kennex, the protagonist of the series, is a human detective that was suffered serious injuries and dismemberment during a police raid gone bad.  During the raid against the criminal organization known as The Syndicate,  his human partner was killed, and the detective blames the android for his death because the android wouldn’t aid him in rescuing his partner.  17 months later he’s suffering from memory loss and other mental/emotional maladies.  Kennex also has been given a synethic leg to replace the one he lost in the raid.  At the start of show he’s just returning to the police force to pick up where he left off with tracking down the Syndicate.

Detective Kennex is given an android partner, the common type of android the police use are cold calculating machine-like androids, but he doesn’t last long.  For some reason he’s given an older model to replace his destroyed partner.  This model was created to be ‘almost human’ meaning it has a ‘free will’ and sense of empathy and possibly emotions.  The model’s been known to snap emotionally, and is looked upon as being defective.  I’m not totally clear as to why he was given this type of android and not another unemotional one.

What I liked about the show so far is that it’s setting up the potential for a lot character development and internal conflict not just with Kennex but with his partner Dorian as well.  Kennex has plenty of baggage to work itself out, his memory problem isn’t over I believe and the truth about his ex-girl friend can’t simply be dismissed even if he did delete her old message.  It’ll also be interesting to see  how they develop the relationship between Kennex, who’s not keen on technology, and his android partner.  There’s also been some foreshadowing that Kennex’s return is not looked upon favorably by some of his colleagues, who blame him for the failed raid.

I also liked how they managed to incorporate speculative technology into standard police work without using info dumps or long winded pseudo tech talks.  They kept the plot moving while seamlessly incorporating the tech.  I think that they paced the action sequences very well.

The idea of Kennex’s android partner being ‘almost human’ is a little cliché, however.  It’s a concept writers and film makers have been dealing with since day one.  I don’t know if the writers here can break away from the whole clichés of the past when it comes to androids.

Overall, I enjoyed the debut episode of Almost Human.  But if this show is to succeed it will have to continue to develop and build upon the characters, not the trappings of the genre.  It’s through that that the show will hold my interest and not simply with flying cars or big guns.  Sci-fi has  a poor track record on television, especially on Fox.  Hopefully they have some quality writers and the network gives this show some support rather then canceling it too soon in order to spew out more singing contests that we never needed in the first place.

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