Almost Human this week continues to toe the line between entertaining television and entertaining lead characters: they need to learn how to merge the two so people’s interest doesn’t just rely on the main characters’ interplay. Like I’ve said about Elementary, there’s the definitive line that separates what makes a good procedural and what makes a good show period. Almost Human is still working towards the former, stuck in a muddled middle.
There’s an air about the show that makes it appear as if it doesn’t want to be a procedural show at all. It has little character moments that carry over from episode to episode (such as John taking Dorian’s advice about using olive oil on his synthetic leg), there’s the building momentum about Dorian’s unease over being an android and how his emotions may in the future complicate his ability to process his lack of human qualities. However, they’re seemingly being forced into the confines of weekly narratives focusing on the baddie of the week nonsense.
So that’s what we get this week—a heist and hostage storyline that I don’t care about juxtaposed with the Dorian and John dynamic that I care a lot about.
The episode begins in a format I’m assuming will become the norm in following episodes: we see Dorian and John engaging in banter in the cop car—this time about Dorian sticking his finger in John’s coffee, John annoyed by that and then Dorian offering to stick it in somewhere else for him.
Dorian is a fantastic gem of a character.
Alongside this character moment is the crime aspect of the episode being set up as a group of gunmen walk into a building and shoot a security officer dead, before setting up an explosive and holding a room of employees hostage.
John and Dorian are quickly called to the scene where they begin an evacuation protocol as more police officers arrive on the scene. John and Dorian continue their ascension due to Dorian’s ability to tell that the criminals are still above, on the 25th floor, and likely to cause some unwelcome causalities if no one is able to reach them in time.
An explosion goes off, causing more panic in the building and John tells his Captain that the structure is still sound and he and Dorian can still make the trip up without alerting the gunmen of their whereabouts.
Which is good because they have other plans up their sleeves which includes sending a message. In a tense scene the gunmen shoot a hostage and throw him out a window where he lands on the pavement at the feet of the police officers: their attention has been captured.
The leader of the gang calls the Captain and he tells her that he’s calling to negotiate with her and tells her that he wants no police involvement, no one to come after them and all of the hostages will remain safe—the Captain agrees with the knowledge that John and Dorian are still inside the building.
The two of them are making their way slowly but surely up the stairs when Dorian begins to go into overdrive as his interface begins to receive all of the emergency calls directed toward 911—he answers one using John’s voice and the woman on the phone is Paige, a woman hiding on the same floor as the hostage situation but in a room unnoticed by the gunmen.
Dorian passes the phone line on to John. This allows for some more nice character touches—like his interaction with the kid last week—that helps dissolve the bad ass, emotionless cop trope that we believed we were going to be forced to watch week in and week out. Instead we have John speaking calmly to Paige, trying to lower her fear as well as trying to gather information about her surroundings.
She’s scared because her sister Jenna is out with the hostages and she feels like she should be there with her but John tells her a story from his past about falling through the ice and the fear and loss he felt until his father rescued him. It didn’t rid the immediate danger but it made him feel less alone and that helped chase some of the fear away. John tells her that she isn’t alone, he’ll stay on the line and that he’ll be there to rescue her soon.
A very sweet scene for Karl Urban. Nice to see him go above and beyond the typical smirk or scowl he’s sporting in the role.
The two are quickly drawn out into a fight when they’re shot at by two of the gang’s men. They come out successful, one shot dead and once wounded and running away, but Dorian has also been clipped by a ricochet bullet in the head. Before he’s rendered useless he tells John that the hostage situation is a cover up for a heist for palladium a few buildings away. Dorian tells him that because of where he was hit his entire system will stop working in a matter of minutes.
So they get to work.
They learn that the shooters were using face simulators to mask who they really were and hiding under the guise of being member of a radical group. John sets out to finding little gizmos around the office to try and patch Dorian back together. This includes primarily of items found in the trash and John has to lie about their cleanliness.
Dorian tries to give John instructions to on how to put his head back together but John doesn’t necessarily have a medical steadiness to him and gets his wires mixed and ends up shutting Dorian off. He gets straight to trying to fix him as Paige calls him to tell him the updates on her situation—she tells him that the gunmen know about him and Dorian and that there are no men guarding the stairways.
John has to resort to a last case scenario when he sees tossed out chewing gum. In a great comedic bit from Urban he makes the decision—a hard decision, you can tell by his face—to chew the gum and turn it into an adhesive for Dorian. Dorian instantly wakes up, is subsequently disgusted but impressed as well. They get up and continue their way upstairs.
This was further proof that Dorian has managed to get himself under John’s skin. The premiere episode introduced us to a jaded man who felt nothing by disdain for androids and now he’s willing to take the time he needs to fix his partner up.
They’re making their way upstairs when Paige informs them that she can’t stay in her hiding place any longer and that she needs to go and be with her sister while there’s an opening. They try to warn her not to but she ignores them and tells them that if they’re going to die she’s going to do it sitting next to her sister and trying to protect her until the last moment because she’s all she has—a note that Dorian and John have a hard time resonating with. Paige gets one last act of quiet heroism as she places her phone on a nearby table so that John and Dorian can still tell what’s going on.
It’s soon after that the assailants decide it’s time to move out and set a bomb to detonate just as the cops put a stop to the heist taking place close by. Dorian and John fear they’re out of time until Dorian offers himself to climb up the empty elevator shaft and into an air duct to make it in time—he tells John he has to, it’s what he is made to do and he’s off.
It would be sweeter if it wasn’t the third episode in, so we know there zero chance any real damage is going to come by him. But still…yay Dorian.
He gets to the room just in time and just before any of the men can hurt one of the hostages he jumps in and takes out many of the men on his own before being gunned down by the man in charge who asks him his name and tells him he never kills a man without knowing who he is, followed with a dig at how he isn’t really a man anyway.
Just before he shoots, John shows up (someone managing to run up the staircase in time but hey…loopholes) having masked himself before his unveiling and manages to help save the day by ridding the room of the remaining gunmen. Dorian shuts down the bomb and all is well.
If I hadn’t written notes down I only would have remembered the endings—the plot really did drag.
However the ending works so well, so cohesively with the bits and bobs that we’ve learned so far about our two leads that it’s okay that for an hour I was waiting for the pace to pick up…well it didn’t erase the problem but it certainly made it easier to bear. The two of them are going for a celebratory ride later when Dorian tells John something that confounded him earlier. When the gun had been pointed at his head, he’d felt fear. He hadn’t wished to die and he knows it’s not the same for him but, as John notes, dead is dead, a universal notion for anyone with free thought. Dorian isn’t a mindless machine programmed to do the bidding of any police officer but, as each episode tells us, he’s someone who has a mind of his own, developing emotions and as we learn this week, is capable of even fear.
And this is enough to keep me watching for at least a while longer. A show with potential can take a viewer a long way.