Karl Urban on my TV screen every week? And Michael Ealy, too? Minka Kelly for the other team? And Lili Taylor taking charge? Plus the “false eye” guy from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies as our plucky comic relief? A near future world that’s all cool blues and grays that manages to look shiny and seedy at the same time? Okay, the visual portion of my entertainment requirements is fulfilled. But what about the show itself?
I honestly wasn’t sure what I’d think of this show, but after watching 5+ episodes, I have a verdict. Heck, I had a verdict after the pilot.
I like it. A lot.
Almost Human is a police procedural. In addition to the two hotties in the leading roles as damaged cop John Kennex (Urban) and reactivated android cop Dorian (Ealy), the show is set in the near future. Technology’s moved fast enough that criminals can come up with great ways to fool the police much faster than the police can deal with them. So, androids were built to partner with regular detectives.
No all androids are the same. Early models, the Dorian series, are very human — and they’re referred to as “the crazy ones”, though, so far, we haven’t seen why, unless it’s that they’re willing to take the same risks humans are. However, the entire line was deactivated. The newer models are far more logical in their thinking, and they won’t take risks a human or a Dorian would. This tends to sit badly with Kennex, since he lost his partner and most of one leg because the newer androids wouldn’t help him — too much risk, not enough likelihood of success.
His police chief, played really well by Lili Taylor, has given Kennex the reactivated Dorian in order for him to play nicely with his android partner. She’s great — a fully formed female in a major leadership role, and one of the episodes even deals with what she’s sacrificed to get where she is, but in a way that isn’t schmaltzy and also works well within the plot. Rudy, played by the actor I will always think of as False Eye Pirate, is the tech genius who is sweet, brilliant, funny, and heroic in his own way.
The tech in this show is really cool. We have Amazon’s drone delivery modules, bitcoins being used as currency, and a host of other techie ideas you’ve seen in a lot of movies, like Minority Report and Blade Runner. This probably makes the show sound derivative, and since it’s the however many times reiteration of the police procedural, it probably is. But I don’t care. The show is smart — brains, versus brawn, almost always are how Kennex and Dorian save the day. Because of the advanced tech, what would be a simple “oh, this typical crime scenario” is different because what the criminals have to utilize is so advanced that it makes the determination of the crime, and the solving of it as well, fresh and exciting.
Urban and Ealy have great chemistry together, and the rest of the cast gelled well in the pilot. There are a couple of overarching subplots — when will Kennex and Det. Stone (Kelly) get together, and what’s up with Kennex’s ex-girlfriend being part of the criminal team that killed his partner and maimed Kennex for life? The first is likely going to be answered much sooner than the second, which isn’t a spoiler since the attraction between Kennex and Stone has been being built from the pilot on.
I’m happy that they decided to not have Kennex be Mr. Bitter about his leg, nor be Mr. Asshole about having to work with an android. It seemed as though that was they way they’d planned to have his character be in the pilot, but wisely let him actually act like an adult in the series. Not to say that Kennex is Mr. Sunshine, but he’s not spending a lot of time telling Dorian “you’re not a REAL human” or whining about his massively cool prosthetic that clicks on and then looks and acts like a real limb. He’s more focused on being a good cop than being a bitter, nasty person, and that’s a lot more enjoyable to watch on a weekly basis.
The look is definitely inspired by Blade Runner, with a variety of modern twists, but where that movie was dark and brown, this show is on the cool side of the color spectrum. I really enjoy the visuals, both sets and props, that make this show seem truly like it’s a short jump away from where we are right now.
The scripts are well written, with just the right number of twists that can keep you guessing, while the banter between the stars is both entertaining and moves the plotting along. If you enjoy police procedurals, want something with a science fiction twist that utilizes the opportunities while keeping the stories firmly planted in reality, or just want to see some new tech ideas and how they fit in and alter one of TV’s perennial genres, this is a show you need to check out.
Almost Human makes a great lead in for Sleepy Hollow, and it’s a fun, entertaining, cool way to start the week’s TV viewing. And, um, Karl Urban is on the screen for an hour every week. Really, I can’t thank Almost Human enough for that.