Over the eleven preceding episodes, Almost Human had built up a fairly predictable formula: take a sci-fi or crime drama concept, alter it slightly, and then structure an episode around it. Episode twelve, Beholder, was no different, yet stylistically it felt like an entirely different show than what’s come before. This was ultimately for the better, but odd nonetheless.
The plot this week saw a serial killer motivated by his exploitation of his victim’s beauty, through a high-tech form of plastic surgery, to create what he saw as the perfect face, each feature taken from a different victim. This spliced two familiar elements together. First, the ‘serial killer’ trope – they’ve committed ‘x’ number of murders already, now the chase is on to rescue the last victim. And second, the basic concepts of the classic The Twilight Zone episode, “The Eye of The Beholder” (hence this episode’s name), and the Sam Raimi film Darkman. Twilight Zone for the idea that beauty is subjective depending on whose eyes it is seen through – and Darkman for the character trying to achieve ‘perfection’ only to be accepted for who they really are.
Despite the fact that it serviced the episode quite well, providing an interesting narrative, this plot also came with a number of problems. First and foremost, it gave us something new to the show – a villain that could genuinely be empathised with. By showing us that ‘Eric’ was driven by love, he became less of an ‘OCD-monster’, killing for perfection, and more of a sympathetic character who just wanted to please the woman he loved. Was this a good thing? It certainly gave the character more depth than we’re used to on the show, but unless this was a wholly exclusive interpretation, the show has gone a bit wrong if mass-murderers are intended to draw sympathy, whilst the clear protagonists are more compromised.
It also made the idea feel a bit elitist. All the victims came from the same wealthy district – as they were all remarked to be ‘very attractive’. Yes, that was why they were chosen, but it felt like the rich and beautiful were being implied as superior to the poor and ‘normal’ looking people.
The theme of accepting who you are made for some amusing dialogue between Kennex and Dorian, but what was most entertaining was the show trying to balance the gravity of its idea, which was pretty dark by the end, with the natural comedy of just about any scene where Michael Ealy and Karl Urban talk to each other. One second you have a guy killing people for love, the next you have Dorian ribbing Kennex for his unibrow. The ending was serious, but it didn’t quite gel as well as previous weeks.
Beholder was an above average episode of Almost Human – certainly a more complex one than usual – yet it didn’t quite manage to juggle the weightiness of its themes with a fully cohesive tone. It wasn’t a fatal flaw, but it still hurt the episode.