in Television

TV Review: “Almost Human” Is Almost Great

almost-human

Oh man, did our sci-fi/cyborg/robot loving heart need for this show to be amazing. It needed it badly.

It’s a good thing, then, that what we’ve seen so far of Almost Human was a decent enough watch – if not quite as good as we wanted it to be.

Set in the future where technology has advanced to the point where cops are partnered up with androids, called synthetics, Karl Urban plays an embittered and PTSD-ridden detective named John Kennex who lost his leg and his colleagues after an Insyndicate ambush in a raid gone very, very wrong. After getting outfitted with a synthetic leg, Kennex returns to work at Captain Sandra Maldonado’s (Lili Taylor) urging. He isn’t exactly fond of synthetics, and ends up shoving his rule-oriented new partner out the car door and into moving traffic not long after his return. That’s where Dorian (Michael Ealy), an older DRN model programmed with a soul, comes in.

Up until the moment Michael Ealy’s character is introduced, most of the first episode is quite grim and humorless. Kennex is such a generic TV cop – he’s gruff, he’s dealing with an injury, he’s addicted to pills, he resorts to violence in the interrogation room, he’s mooning over an ex-girlfriend, and he’s only just returned to the job after a very long absence. It’s all the usual stuff you’d get in a typical “gritty” police procedural.

Michael Ealy’s Dorian steals the show as, ironically, one of the more layered and human characters. He even brings out a softer side of Urban’s character, and from what we’ve so far, Dorian is definitely the heart of the show.

The world-building and aesthetic of this show are excellent. Since Almost Human is set in the near future, a lot of things are just different enough to differentiate from our everyday, while still being easily recognizable – like how pills are super tiny and come in slim metal canisters and black market doctors dabble in memory recollection.

Episode two is much more lighthearted than the pilot. It also delves into some philosophical territory, regarding synthetics – whether or not they have souls and should be treated as such. By the third episode, the show really sells the Kennex-Dorian partnership when the duo have to deal with a hostage crisis. Unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., airing on ABC, Almost Human doesn’t rely too much on fancy gadgets or futuristic technology to save the day, but – at the same time – the science fiction aspect doesn’t get ignored. It’s built into the world in such a way that the sci-fi elements are presented in a very grounded way.

Thus far, the show hasn’t spent too much time developing the supporting players, none of whom are too out-of-the-ordinary for a typical cop show. The precinct’s captain is notably a woman, which is a little unusual for a police procedural. And the show has hinted at Minka Kelly’s character being interested in Kennex beyond the friendship zone, as well. But neither of the two female characters have been developed beyond a few superficial traits.

Almost Human‘s greatest strength comes from the world building, and the show looks absolutely fantastic. It’ll be interesting to see what the show runners come up with episode by episode.