Did you know Karl Urban had a reoccurring role as Cupid on Hercules and Xena? Anyways. I’ve been an Urban fan for a long time and I’m hoping this project works out for him, as he’s been trying to break out that supporting character prison. I was a huge fan of Dredd (review here) and Doom. Is television more Urban’s thing? Will this be the big payoff?
Almost Human is an hour-long television show on FOX which stars Urban as Detective John Kennex. In this high-tech future, officers must always be paired by a synthetic partner, who serves to run CSI-like activities and can help interview criminals by reading their heart rates (and much more). In an operation gone wrong, Kennex is abandoned by his synthetic partner and loses a leg in the explosion. After two years of recovery (and a new synthetic leg), he returns to the force and is hesitant to team up with another android. The only android available is an older model, one that is flawed by feeling emotions and empathy, not ruled by logic.
In the “Pilot” episode, most of it is spent getting us to understand the world they’re in, but the second episode “Skin” really delves into this potential relationship between the two. Both are available on streaming here.
Urban doesn’t do anything new here, but he does what has always worked. He manages to be convincing both as the badass detective who guns down a room of thugs but also has quieter moments that give us hints at what’s happening behind the surface. He also brings a bit of humor, which is new, since most of his movie roles don’t really play into that (except maybe Star Trek). What makes Urban work though is his chemistry with Michael Ealy, who plays the android Dorian. Ealy is fantastic and it’s easy to forget that Dorian is an android. But he plays it perfect, balancing his lines with both the monotony of a robot with the charisma and charm of a person. Urban and Ealy together are great and are both hilarious when they need to be, but also touching in the quieter moments.
Almost Human doesn’t do anything too original here, but it does it well. We’ve seen great performances of androids before (most recently Michael Fassbender in Prometheus) but I feel like the television format might actually allow us to dig deeper into the mythology of androids. What’s it like to be a robot living among humans? Should androids have rights? What does having emotions do to an android? I’m intrigued and hopefully the writing team is bold enough to venture into these areas. “Skin” allowed for a little of that, as Dorian is confronted with androids who are tampered with and must make some hard decisions, so I have a feeling that the writers know what the audience wants in terms of content.
What doesn’t work?
The physical locations looked nice but I wasn’t quite sold on the large-scale CGI effects to showcase the world. When it zooms out to show you the city, it’s clearly computer-generated and took me out of the world. It looks a little cliche but I’m hoping the content of the episodes make me forget that little detail and they manage to go beyond what we’ve seen before.
These two episodes were pretty cool and the highlight is definitely the relationship between Kennex and Dorian. There is potential to either go down a very cliche and traditional storyline of “troubled cop” and “emotion-driven android” but I’m hoping the writing team turns this on its head and gives us something new. They’ve hinted at a new path and I’m onboard with it so far. The production value is great, though the computer-effects were a little lacking and the “world” we’ve seen so far was a little fake. If they continue to focus on the relationship and some new ideas about androids and what that means for the world… this show may be onto something great. Definitely give these two episodes a shot here and let me know what you think.