Almost Human: Mondays at 8 Eastern on FOX
When I was growing up throughout the 1990’s, one of the more prevalent themes seen throughout pop culture was a generally futuristic vibe, whether it was cyberpunk (The Matrix), 21st century what-ifs (the much mocked MLB “Turn ahead the clock” promotion), or a pretty large amount of sci-fi on your TV screens (Star Trek: TNG, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Seaquest). However, as the new millennium progressed, many of these things dropped like flies from pop culture consciousness. Fox is banking on the notion that what’s old pretending to be new will be new again by dipping back into that well with it’s newest big show which debuted Sunday and Monday night.
Almost Human takes a look forward into the alarmingly crime-riddled future of 2048. In this world, police work has gotten so incredibly dangerous that the police force is forced to use robotic partners in order to perform their duties. So when John Kennex (Karl Urban) is brought back onto the force two years after getting ambushed by a shadowy crime syndicate, he is forced to adjust and deal with the robots he has learned to loathe after their rationality killed his partner. After killing his first robot partner, he gets paired up with a Dorian model (played by Michael Ealy) who was deemed too human for police work, and the two go off to fight crime in the city.
Courtesy of FOX turning this premiere into a two-night event, I’m taking the opportunity to catch both episodes before putting out this review. More stock will be put into Monday’s episode if only because second episodes tend to be more representative of what the series will resemble episodically as opposed to pilots which tend to devote time to exposition and origin stories.
Almost Human has some bright spots Michael Ealy shines as Dorian, a difficult task considering he has to come off more human than the bland MX units that were later assigned to the cops and still just uncanny enough that it’s clear you’re aware he’s a robot. Continuing a subtle trend this year of comedic actors occupying the science labs of our new crime shows Mackenzie Crook (The Office UK) gets the privilege of being a perfect fit as the very socially-awkward Rudy, the resident’s lab technician. Unfortunately, many of the other peripheral characters seem to get short shrift in terms of story and could use some further development.
I also appreciated that in a TV landscape full of cop and detective shows, Almost Human sets itself apart by being closer to Die Hard and Lethal Weapon as opposed to functioning like yet another Law and Order or CSI clone. The action sequences themselves are pretty cool looking, using tight camera angles and wide open palate to maximum effect.
Where the second episode truly seems to benefit over the pilot is that the show added moments of levity to counterbalance the grimness that pervades much of the series. The show definitely borrows a lot from the Blade Runner universe, with it’s seedy city underbellies, pervasive crime, and generally dystopian balance of power.. The pilot did it’s job unloading the ton of exposition that is essential for world-building fantasy worlds, but got a little dull at points and definitely would have lost my attention had the same ultra-serious tone remained for the full series.
The Final Verdict: Once you get past the wall of exposition and stereotypical hero origin-story pilot, Almost Human turns the corner into a refreshing different take on the cop drama with it’s shoot first- ask questions later mentality. While there are some obvious tweaks the show could use (most notably in developing it’s side characters and making Kennex a little less one-dimensional), there’s enough good in the first two episodes to justify Fox’s hype. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an action fix on Mondays, a night where only Fox really has cop dramas on the broadcast dial.