This episode’s premise actually had me flinch in uneasy apprehension—how on earth would this be made into a suitable, tasteful storyline? Androids used for sex? Some with hints of free will such as Dorian? Are these characters going to be used as a means to shock and titillate? Or will they be used to expose a troubling morality when it comes with the treatment and notions of the androids.
Surprisingly, it’s the latter and the episode manages to discuss the ideas of free will, human manipulation and developing emotions with more grace than I would have expected after the first episode. The show, despite its tight grasp on a procedural structure, is already managing to dig a little deeper which could promise an interesting future for the show.
As long as Fox decides to keep it around.
The episode this week, if you haven’t yet put it together, is about lovingly named “sex-bots” and the scientists/henchmen that are beginning to use human skin particles and DNA on the androids to create a greater and more diverse allure to their clients.
We re-introduce the world with a would-be client and a “sex-bot,” (I’m keeping the quotations because the name makes me uncomfortable) an arrestingly beautiful woman who is being tested by the supposed client. She tells him that she’s had all of her tests and is there to perform whatever he needs whether that be sexual, a comforting shoulder or just someone who will listen. It’s then we get a switched view to a control panel of sorts where some control personnel are catching on to what the client is doing—running tests.
Henchmen are sent in where they shoot the client, take away the bot and destroy the room.
John and Dorian are on the case the day afterwards where they have a run in with kids which does nothing but establish John’s awareness as a way to play out a scene later.
They learn that the man killed was Sebastian Jones and that the men responsible cleared the room with something called a DNA bomb which makes it so prints are undetectable and used a flash mask so that cameras couldn’t pick up their identities. It’s a nice touch to help build the world.
At the station, while looking at the surveillance footage that they do have, Dorian realizes that the woman who had been with the henchmen was in fact an android. All of Jones’s assets were taken, having been an inventor who had too many failures. They go to the storage lot where Jones’ things were placed and they find even more sex trade bots who have all been reworked in different ways.
They discover that the “sex-bot” who was seducing Jones had the DNA on her of a 25 year old woman who had gone missing a few weeks ago.
This quickly transpires to us seeing the henchmen from the beginning abducting another young woman, this time with a child left in the car.
Hello, the connection to the opening scene with kids—so that when John has an emotional connection with Victor (the kid whose mom was abducted) it’s all the more “resonant.”
I just wish it had been a little less apparent how they did it.
We watch the team at work as they try to piece the story together and Minka Kelly as Valerie is still unfortunately vacant in the role, although for now I’ll still chalk that up to being because of poor writing and characterization.
Despite Dorian’s hesitation John decides he should be the one who speaks with Victor to gather as much information as he can from the child. John takes a softer approach with him and because of a animatronic giraffe, Victor tells John all he knows. This is a good space for Karl Urban who despite being good as Judge Dredd, needs to be able to emote more than that character considering his face is obscured by a helmet in Dredd. As John, despite the go-to gruff exterior of a cop, he needs these moments of vulnerability and character interaction to make him anything better than a caricature.
In the car to the next clue location John and Dorian discuss how they go about telling someone, especially a child, that a loved one has passed? John gives the obvious response (that in two episodes seems like out of character) that you just say they’ve gone to a better place. This is some earlier foreshadowing to the end of the episode.
My premature worry about this episode was that they were going to do what many crime-procedural shows do and use female characters as needless victims and further sexualize and victimize them such as they are on shows such as Criminal Minds. Instead, despite the troubling image of a woman locked underground before being brought to testing, the question of sexualization was noted as problematic.
They visit Jones’s old partner and from him learn that the newest “sex-bots” have similar programs as Dorian-they can create emotional connections with their clients. All of this is working because it’s further exploration into this world. The most interesting thing to come out of this episode is when they finally meet more “sex-bots” that have pieces of synthetic souls just as Dorian does.
After trying to infiltrate a club to find more human DNA samples on the bots John and Dorian are led to an abandoned warehouse where they discover the mutilated form of the “Sex-bot” from the beginning of the episode but now, stripped of synthetic flesh, clothes or any features that would falsely identify her as “human.”
Yet why do we still feel distressed to see her in such a way?
As we watch Rudy look for evidence among the remains of the android it’s interesting how we sympathize with Dorian’s troubled look. It’s played for some humor as Dorian realizes what he’s made of but Michael Ealy allows some touching glances to sprinkle his performance. This is what the show should be focusing on, on top of the universe they’re establishing.
This, coupled with Dorian and John later running into their next human DNA-infused bot, is what drives the episode, creating meaningful moments under surprising circumstances. As the show tells us, these aren’t living, breathing human beings but, ones like Dorian, ones like the bot they picked up who remembered the girl from the beginning. They have souls and free will; they understand how people are, they’re creating connections, longing and loss, and it’s helping establish the line between what constitutes as human and non-human. Who do we relate with so far on this show? The human, cold and stand offish lead? Or the soulful eyed, empathetic robot?
If this show does anything I hope that they look at that gray area as much as they possibly can because if the show’s title is any indicator, it would be interesting if they bring up a larger conversation between flesh and blood versus spirit and compassion.
They use the new “sex-bot” to locate the lab in which the women have been kept and find one dead but the rest alive, including Victor’s mother.
The ends holds two sweet notes—one more obvious than the other.
The Captain tells Dorian that the bot they spoke with will have to be turned off since the human DNA is illegal and he says he’s okay, but he’d like to be there when it happens.
She asks Dorian as she is hooked up to a scary looking machine where she’s going, with no hint of fear yet a look of confusion and maybe even a little sadness. He tells her, lying in order to help, something not logical in the slightest, that she’s going to a better place. She asks if he’ll be there and he doesn’t answer but he tells her that he will remember her.
And I’m sure he will because the impression someone leaves is what accounts for their human status. As people say so very often, people are never gone but live in the minds and hearts of those left behind and as long as they’re remembered, they live on.
It’s interesting to think that she may have been more human the moment she turned off than the moment before when she was talking and smiling.
John has other business to attend to and (in another example of Almost Human getting to certain plot points with breakneck speed) he goes to the house of the wife and child of his deceased partner. He hasn’t seen either of them since waking up and has finally decided that it was time.
He hugs the wife and when she reintroduces him to her son John tells him that he wants to tell him about his father.
See? Nice John is so much more likeable than grumpy and mumbling John.
I liked this episode. I don’t think “Skin” did anything remarkably different that the pilot episode but it did introduce a few narrative setups that could be wonderful to watch play out in future episodes—enough so to stick around. I’m not completely sold and there are still more shortcomings than wild successes but it certainly isn’t a lost cause just yet.