Having described last week’s episode as the best yet, this week’s was arguably as good, a refreshing sign for the second half of the season. It’s always great to have multiple contenders for ‘best episode’, if only due to the consistency it implies. That said, the episode certainly wasn’t perfect, but it did make up for its problems very well.
This week, the plot was swiped from the films Repo Men and In Time (or more accurately their source materials). That may sound a tad cynical, but it’s clear at this point that to expect the basic premise of each episode to be remotely unique is expecting too much. Regardless, the Almost Human plot, for those who have not seen those films and worked out the connection, concerned black market artificial hearts, with timers fitted so that if the user doesn’t pay the increasingly extortionate tax each month, their heart is stopped.
Yet beyond the core plot, what saved the episode in this department once again was the spin that was put on it. There was a significant storyline to the business behind the black market hearts here, including protagonist-turned-antagonists, and vice versa. In particular, the realisation by the doctor who had been implanting the hearts that he had been fitting ticking time bombs was well executed, and went some way to selling the premise as multi-dimensional, and not just a ‘problem to be resolved.’
Above all, this plot allowed for some really quite chilling moments as various users were shown, their time slowly running out, and the moral implications on both sides, for the black market organs and against, were explored: At the precinct, a woman whose operation had been interrupted by a police raid pleaded to Det. Stahl that she didn’t care what the cost of the hearts was – she just wanted more time with her family. In contrast there was a scene where a man, implied to have one of the hearts fitted, gets out his car and shakes his head, as his wife, in tears, tries to get him to get help. It’s these morally contentious and personal moments that this show has really always lacked, being too closed, in that most plots featured the police, the villains, and perhaps one ‘featured’ guest, such as last weeks Maya. Here though, the picture was far wider, and that scope really allowed the episode to flourish. Whilst the ending was a tad rushed, it didn’t take away from a very impressive bulk of the episode.
Away from the core plot, there was an amusing twist on the weekly rapport between Dorian and Kennex – a second Dorian. Well, not him specifically, but early on, the two meet another ‘DRM’ unit, who upon Dorian’s insistence becomes the ride-along passenger for the rest of the episode, causing much annoyance to Kennex, and havoc to the city. Honestly, there isn’t a lot that can be said about the chemistry between the two leads that hasn’t already been said, but Karl Urban portrayed his frustration at having two Dorian’s to deal with well, and Michael Ealy was even better, both as ‘our Dorian’, toying with Kennex as much as possible, and in interactions between him and the ‘other Dorian’.
The show frequently tries to show the humanity and personality of Dorian compared to the other androids, and while this plot device was perhaps a rather blunt way to show that difference, it did work, driving home the characterisation well. They also gave us a great comic scene, as the two androids gossiped about the new upgrades, culminating in Dorian’s eye ending up in Kennex’s tea.
So once again, Almost Human proves that it does have the capacity to be a very strong show, if it can keep this up, that is. This week provided genuinely thought-provoking elements and some pretty solid humour, culminating in one of the best episodes yet.