For weeks we’ve been building up to Leo and Max finding Mia. It’s been their most important objective since day one, but when it finally happens it isn’t the happy reunion everyone was hoping for. Leo is crushed when he realises his beloved Mia has been completely overridden, and it’s not much better for those of us watching. In fact, it serves as one of the most heartbreakingly hopeless scenes in the series yet. But is there really no part of Mia left?
Mattie’s change of heart when it comes to Anita turns out to be a perfectly timed godsend. She steals the Synth before her parents can return it and arranges a secret meeting with fugitives Leo and Max. The initial glee of having Mia back soon turns to despair as they fail to recover her consciousness from the depths of her coding. Though the scene might be an intensely gloomy one, it gives Colin Morgan more to do than stride about and talk the big talk. Filled with fresh desperation and grief, Leo stops being the stock mystery man and becomes a character we can identify with and even relate to.
Pain and frustration are recurring themes this week. Drummond is still blissfully ignorant of his partner’s android origins as he continues his Synth hate vendetta. He’s fuelled by his wife, Jill, whose devotion to her Synth carer has forced her to make a choice between the two. Her utter dependence on Simon is quietly devastating. She’d rather share the company of an android, someone she doesn’t need to worry about or try too hard with, than a human.Surfacing from all this is the worry that Synths are coming between humanity, that humans can’t, or don’t know how to, connect with each other any more. It’s a sentiment that echoes a growing concern in our own reality, where people text rather than talk, and some even prefer the company of computers to that of humans. It really doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to imagine humans forming stronger relationships with technology than other people.
From one crumbling relationship to another, Joe and Laura’s marriage hits rock bottom this week. The entire Hawkins family discover that Anita’s 18+ mode was activated and, after Toby takes the fall for his father, Joe eventually owns up to his wife. Laura is understandably destroyed by the revelation but it’s only when Joe tries to justify his actions by calling Anita a sex toy that Laura really explodes. She’s quick to point out that Anita lives in their house and cares for their children, a fact that Joe tries and fails to dispute.
With all these relationships disintegrating, it would be easy for Humans to become a horribly bleak and depressing series, but the grittiness and building tension keeps it grounded. There’s a sense of foreboding coming from both sides – Niska’s trail of vengeance and destruction, and Hobb’s mission to exterminate any trace of conscious Synths. I’d like to see Niska and Hobb come face to face; it would certainly make for a tense standoff.
For now Niska’s hiding out at George Millican’s house, having been sent there by Leo. Theirs is a fascinating dynamic. George is visibly curious about Niska but he’s also fearful. “You worry me, sure, but there’s no denying that you are a miracle”, he says to the curt Synth whose words drip with venom and fury. While Niska is a miracle, her rage turns her into the threat that people like Hobb and Drummond consider all Synths to be. If a Synth has only experienced bad things, does it have the capacity to be good? As Niska points out, it is our experiences that shape us, which doesn’t bode well for her.
Humans is one of the most engrossing shows on TV at present, partly down to stellar writing and partly down to the performances. Gemma Chan continues to be a captivating on-screen presence. The aforementioned scene where Leo delves into her system and she glitches, repeating nonsensical words and phrases, is Chan at her absolute best. It’s a testament to her acting that after just five episodes we already care for Anita as much as, if not more than, most of the human characters.
There’s a lot riding on next week’s episode: Joe and Laura’s marriage, Leo’s sanity, Odi’s future, George’s safety…it’s all balancing on a very, very thin tightrope.