It was all going so well. Two weeks in a row we saw stellar episodes of Almost Human, to the extent that one could be forgiven for thinking that this was an indication that the show was done ‘bedding in’, and was now hitting its stride. Yet, while Simon Says was not nearly as bad as the early episodes, it was equally not nearly as good as the heights of Blood Brothers and Arrhythmia.
This week’s plot saw the team race to try to stop a criminal whose ‘modus operandi’ was to strap a bomb to the neck of the victim, and leave them with a ticking timer, as a ‘darknet’ audience watched on bloodthirstily. With regard to the weekly game of working out what the plot is borrowed from, there are two obvious elements that spring to mind. First is The Hurt Locker in terms of the time bomb and, in particular, a moment where someone cannot be saved in time and is left to die. The second is Die Hard With A Vengeance, in terms of applying the game ‘Simon Says’, as in the title, to criminal proceedings. Yet the amalgamation of the two here felt refreshingly clever and cohesive, and most importantly, it felt appropriate to the established style of Almost Human. The crime was one that needed no real set-up or introduction, yet was also one that immediately required attention, and thus lent itself well to the series’ ‘crime of the week’ format.
Whilst the plot did lead to some thrilling moments, and some touching ones as well, much of the tension was removed by the presence of Kennex and Dorian when each bomb was ticking down. The first scene is a great example of this: there was the thrill of the car chase, especially the knowledge that the police were actually condemning the victim to death by preventing him from reaching his destination, before the sad moment, as it dawned upon them that there was simply not enough time to disarm the bomb, and this poor man was to die. But this was followed by the mother of all plot devices, ‘the shield’, a piece of tech that essentially creates a concentrated force field and encloses the blast of the detonation. This, and the fact that Kennex and Dorian won’t be killed off, meant that once the duo were there, it didn’t have the same impact.
Meanwhile, in terms of the characterisation, this was a surprisingly weak episode for the show. The central two seemed badly scripted, with the subplot of Dorian’s ‘low-power mood swings’ adding nothing of merit. This was the basis of many jokes, yet it seemed to be a moment where, while funny in principle, the reality didn’t provoke a smile. Perhaps the show thought it was being funnier than it was. The usually brilliant Michael Ealy appeared odd playing such a shallow character, with lots of faked laughter, odd comradeship and so forth to portray the ‘matey’ side of Dorian.
It was not much better with the guest stars, with this week’s villain played by David Dastmalchian. The problem with casting him in this role is that he’s been horribly typecast – a mentally unhinged antagonist, who has little dialogue and is heavy on emotive body language and non-verbal-communication. This was the role he played in The Dark Knight and Prisoners, and it’s more or less the role he plays here.
Simon Said was was an episode of highs and lows. Though if this is what one can deem not good enough now, then that’s surely a good sign. It wasn’t a bad episode, it just wasn’t a great one. Here’s hoping next week will return to last week’s glory.