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Almost Human – The Bends Review: More of the Same

“Now that all the fun’s gone, I guess that’s all there is.” Truer words have never been spoken, Rudy. Sure he is referring to the douche-y stick in the mud, Richard and his too-serious approach to things, but I can’t help but ascribe this statement with a referential, meta meaning. Almost Human continues to be a show with all the fun sucked out of it, leaving behind a dour joyless, uninspired exercise. I voiced my concerns on the show’s inexplicable stuffiness in the previous review and unfortunately not much has changed with this latest episode. So, I will try to refrain from repetitive criticism and hey, there were some improvements in this hour. Lets get into it, shall we? The main story opens with a drug deal gone badly, an undercover (perhaps shady) cop gets killed and investigation ensues. Yes, I choose to ignore the lame in media res opening because it is such an overused technique in television and adds nothing to the episode. I don’t slight the show in particular for utilizing it, since it is such a criminally overused trope that everyone employs, it isn’t specific to Almost Human, but its use is always irritating. This story is so boring and derivative that it is difficult to stay compelled, but I have to say that it is a much more successful narrative than last week’s for the mere fact that it adequately incorporated the ensemble cast and highlighted Mackenzie Crook, one of the more engaging performers. Almost Human - Episode 1.04 - The Bends - Promotional Photos (3)_FULL However, I cannot get over how time and time again the series seems to disregard its fantastic setting. Why bother setting a show in a futuristic crime-heavy world when you are just going to write mediocre stories that could be told in any contemporary drama? This story could be lifted from many a police procedural, turn the channel to USA and you will probably find a show with the same ‘corrupt police chief/drug lord’ narrative, only they aren’t wasting thousands of dollars on android/sci-fi special effects. Take advantage of your premise, writers, come up with something bonkers and fun, not something we can see on any other procedural on television. The most they do with their premise is inject the action with some, semi-entertaining robot fighting and a bit of nonsense science. Surely they could come up with more interesting material. The science fiction element isn’t used to draw parallels to our current world or to establish fun metaphors (as it generally is with the genre); instead the story is painfully straightforward void of any nuance or subtlety. It adds nothing to the story being told. Since the conflict presented is so familiar, there are, again, no surprises. The eventual revelation of the Bishop’s identity falls flat, because, really, he is the only choice that would make sense and be impactful, in a way. Though, I have to say that of all the terribly wooden villain performances that have graced this show, he is probably the most engaging one. He isn’t amazing, but the character is more interesting than previous antagonists. Speaking on the story’s derivative nature, maybe it is because the series is currently saturating the cultural zeitgeist, but I can’t help but think of Breaking Bad with all the cookery talk and the overall drug story. To this I just have to say, don’t remind your viewers of Breaking Bad, it just calls attention to all your shortcomings. I don’t think that the show is trying to compare itself to the AMC drama, or anything, but the subject matter almost immediately creates the parallel. As I said before, “The Bends” benefits from the use of the ensemble. All the characters have a specific part to play in this mission and the episode Almost Human - Episode 1.04 - The Bends - Promotional Photos (4)_FULLdoesn’t just rely on the dynamic between Kennex and Dorian (which awkwardly shifts from contemptuous to friendly banter). Rudy plays a significant part in the operation and Mackenzie Crook is able to employ his crazy eyes and skittish/nerdy performance. He pulls it off well. Minka Kelly continues to be beautifully wooden and lifeless and I await the moment that reveals her true nature as an android. Poor Lili Taylor is stuck playing the no-nonsense chief with her impeccably pulled back hair and tight mouth, lighten up, lady. Why so serious? I know your job is stressful and whatnot, but it makes me uncomfortable to see her sooo stern and severe. Almost Human continues to be a capable, well-done procedural, superficially stylistic but not much else.   Random Thoughts:
  • The mythology introduced in the pilot has not been explored further. While it could be an advantage to not have heavy serialization and keep the episodes self-contained, an intriguing running story could elevate the show’s average cop drama status.
  • Some of the special effects seem a bit hokey and cheap this episode. The slug Kennex has to eat looks crazy fake and gimmicky and the android beheading, while a fun, cool way to kill a robot, ultimately ends up looking comedic, rather than badass.
  • The tonal shift from Kennex killing the Bishop to the celebration at the station was unnerving and weird. It felt like they rushed an important character moment, or the writers didn’t want to linger on a potentially problematic action. I wonder if the show will follow up on that issue. Will Kennex have to go to trial? Something tells me this will be a dropped story, but it could be interesting.
  • “Can I wear a disguise,” was endearingly funny.
  • Better use of the ensemble
  • Mackenzie Crook does a good job with an expanded storyline
  • Derivative and familiar plot
  • Still too serious
  • Where is the fun?


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