Almost Human – Are You Receiving? Review: An Underwhelming Outing
It is astonishing how a futuristic show about robots (in which a pretty big subplot in this episode is an android injury being repaired with a wad of gum), can be so joyless and dull. I mean, there are a lot of creative, fun aspects to explore and introduce when a show establishes itself in the year 2048, but this week’s episode “Are You Receiving?” does absolutely nothing interesting with the show’s premise and plays out like any other average cop show.
The hostage crisis is dealt with in the most rudimentary and predictable way, you’d think that in a future where technology has evolved in such a way that law enforcement would develop more effective tactics to combat against such evildoers. If you are going to establish these android cops as ultra-cool ‘Inspector Gadgets’ (which they kind of are) who are fearless and strong, then go all out and use them to you advantage. The only android that we really see in the entire episode is Dorian, who is able to do some slight badassery, but where are the others? Why is this show so reluctant to embrace the over the top-ness of its premise? Make it fun; realism is already out the window.
This is my biggest gripe with Almost Human, it insists on being this intensely serious and dramatic high-stakes program and takes itself far too seriously. There are glimpses here and there of lightness and fun, generally in the banter between the two partners, but they are so fleeting they hardly make an impact in the overall show. Which is a shame, because those are the most entertaining scenes of the series.
It isn’t groundbreaking or incredibly unique to have this kind of dynamic between coworkers, but the snappy dialogue is good enough and the actors pull off the moments very well. The aforementioned bubble gum as band-aid scene is quite funny and possibly the best of the episode. Kennex taking a nail clipper to his partner’s head hole and the discussion on what shade of purple the wires inside Dorian’s head are work as successfully amusing beats. Apart from these nice character moments, there is nothing in the episode that transcends average procedural material.
In its insistence to be this intense, powerful and affecting show, it misses completely. There are no stakes whatsoever in this episode’s hostage situation, sure there are dozens of people stuck in a highly perilous situation, but we don’t know them. They are a bunch of strangers to us, whose deaths don’t bear any kind of real impact. The lame intro with the flirty coworkers does nothing to endear us to them and even Dorian and Kennex’s conversations with the hiding hostage falls flat. Her story is clichéd and eye-rollingly predictable.
Though I will admit that the execution of the first hostage and the subsequent disposal of his body are truly harrowing and disturbing. Still, it takes our heroes sooo long to get to the 25th floor and the obstacles they face in getting there aren’t particularly interesting, that you soon forget/lose the immediacy of the situation. The episode then devolves to just a lot of shoot em’ up moments. The action scenes are expertly executed, well made, good stunt work, but nothing mind blowing to forgive such flimsy situations.
The criminals are another annoyance, primarily the head bad dude. Now, there is menacingly villainous in which the bad guy is truly scary and threatening and then there is over the top villainous in which the bad guy is wild and crazy and a little campy. This guy is ridiculously laughable, in the attempts to come off as an intimidating, hard-core criminal he (and the writers) try so hard to generate fear that is just goes into inadvertent comedy.
His whole “what’s your name” shtick is incredibly stupid and his clichéd dialogue only highlights the lameness of it all. The conflict/story presented is hardly sturdy enough to support an hour-long episode, even the twist is uninteresting and uninspired, who cares about the palladium? It is all a huge maguffin in order to put the characters in extreme situations, which would be fine if the writers were able to make the characters interesting and engaging and/or make the action exceptional and actually entertain us.
The series certainly has a lot it needs to improve on, but seeing as it is just the third episode, some changes and enhancements are likely to come. While as it stands now, Almost Human is an average procedural drama, it is not taking advantage of its science fiction premise, therefore making it an underwhelming exercise.
Apart from the androids’ existence and all the cool things they can do there are no other indicators that this is a cool futuristic world worth exploring. There is a reason why science fiction writers/creators go back time and time again to this kind of idea and premise; it allows them to explore aspect of the human condition in interesting ways, here’s hoping for Almost Human to expand its world view.
- The supporting characters get almost nothing to do this episode, so they remain shells of human beings with no identifying characteristics. Poor Lili Taylor, I feel for her.