TV Review: Almost Human Pilot

FOX has premiered the drama Almost Human from Executive Producer J.J. Abrams.

We find ourselves in Los Angeles in the future, year 2048.

The stage has been set, and as drugs and technology evolve quickly, crime also rises astronomically while cops race to try and control the situation.

In order to combat the rise in criminal organizations who are in charge of distributing these large quantities of contraband, the police have developed a new tactic - every human cop is paired with a "combat-model android".

This is the backdrop for the show. Right from the beginning, we're thrown into a sequence of scenes that defines the protagonist, LAPD Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban). During a raid in which his human partner is gravely injured and one of the androids, or "Mx's" refuses to help because of statistical probability, John is hit with (what we later found out is) a parabolic pulse charge in his leg, which he blows off, and in turn, kills his partner.

We catch a glimpse of the bad guys just before they toss a grenade at John's lap, which later kills the rest of the team. From there, we flash to a POV shot of a woman smiling, and then finally to the final shot of John in some kind of machine that resembled the animus from the Assassin's Creed video game series.

Aside from the explosion, the biggest takeaway from this sequence is that John and the Mx's do not get along.

From here on out, it is revealed that John recently woke up from a 17 month coma as a result of the explosion, and he has been using this machine to relive this memory over and over to fill in all the details he forgot. Oh, and he is also blackmailing some black market Asian doctor to do it.

This gives John nose bleeds, but he keeps taking the medication to do it. The newest detail John remembers is the vision of his ex-girlfriend.

During a sit down with Sandra, we learn a few things about John. First, his father was a cop and he didn't have a Mx for a partner - so John doesn't think he needs one (no matter what the new protocol says).

Second, John suffers from depression, mental atrophy, trauma onset OCD, PTSD as well as psychological rejection of his synthetic leg from the attack. Interestingly, John only agrees with the rejection of his leg prognosis.

There's an armored car robbery where research for a DNA Lab specializing in tissue regrowth (for potential organ harvesting) is taken. During their investigation, Minka Kelly's character Valerie (who is an Intelligence Analyst) believes it was a different criminal organization than the one they were looking at - The Syndicate.

As John investigates, he has a flashback to the Myklon Red he saw during the raid that blew off his leg.

As John is driving back, the Mx he's assigned with realizes John had a PTSD type of episode and threatens to report it.

John opens the Mx's door and shoves him out, where the Mx promptly gets crushed under the traffic behind John.

This opens the door for Michael Ealy's character Dorian. Once the Mx is destroyed by John, he goes to Rudy, who is in charge of distributing new ones. Rudy explains that he has no new Mx's to give John, so instead he will get a DRN - which was initially decommissioned in favor of the newer Mx models.

Rudy continues to explain that these DRN models were supposed to go to NASA, but they've been a bit buggy.

DRN androids were made to be almost human (see what I did there?!), meaning they are as close as you can get to having human emotion without actually being human themselves.

The plot thickens as one of the side character detectives is taken hostage and John and Dorian interrogate the man caught from the earlier robbery. Immediately we watch as John beats the man, and Dorian stands by and lets him. It helped to bring out the subtle differences between Dorian and the regular Mx's. Dorian voiced his displeasure and reminded John there were alternatives, but didn't stop him. The story takes some quick twists after that.

Dorian calculates that the man shot himself, which the man admits to and gives up the location of the detective. Later as Dorian and John learn it is a trap and the kidnapped detective dies, the arrested man from earlier turns out to be in on it and plants a device that helps the bad guys inject the police station with something that neutralizes the Mx androids. It provided for a nice explanation from Dorian as to why he was still standing: he runs off a different frequency - and that sometimes newer isn't always better.

A few gun shots & plasma blasts later the team catches the main culprit and prevents them from their goal: they wanted something in the evidence locker that they had the (now deceased) kidnapped detective place there for them.

However (hinted at in the beginning) the detective was locked out of his files so now John and the team have to search for it manually.

That's where we leave off in the story. Sandra meets with John who thanks her for pushing him to come back, and we learn that Sandra requested Dorian to be paired with him.

Because like she put it, "he's special." We end nicely with a mirroring of an earlier car ride in which John wanted Dorian to be quiet.

He tells Dorian instead this time he "doesn't necessarily" want that, and instead of "Detective" he can call him "John."

Now, I left some of the key scenes out of my recap. Why? Because they fit in the essential question I have to answer: does the show work? With any odd couple drama, it comes down to the relationship between the two characters in the "couple".

Minka Kelly is very pretty and her character proved to be quite useful in the investigation, but in the grand scheme of things her character has very little to do with the success of the show.

Does the hard-nosed tell it like it is cop John mold well with the DRN android Dorian?

From what I've seen, I'm going to say yes - John's slow warming up to Dorian wasn't unexpected, and that's okay. Because the performances sell it. When John insisted Dorian be quiet in the car for the first time, or snapped "When I want your help, I'll ask for it" at Dorian, you couldn't help but feel for Michael Ealy's character. Michael's performance was restrained, yet had enough of a glimpse of emotion in his face that made you believe Dorian felt things, unlike the Mx's. Yet when he spoke, he spoke with a soft innocent voice that gave him a childlike demeanor at times, where he was just trying to understand John and why he was so cold(the necklace around the mirror, being treated like a synthetic Mx when he's not, etc).

The turning point came when Dorian explained the difference between himself and the Mx's: "Mx units are logic based and rule oriented. They have no true free will and they are designed to feel nothing. Now I cannot say that I was born.

I cannot say I grew in a womb or had a childhood. But I was made to feel. And I do - as much as you."

From there on out, the tide started to shift and John saw him differently.

Between Dorian leading John past where the Mx's would go near the tripwires, to downloading the dead detective's blood data by injecting it into his neck, to later saving John's life and offering advice to help his synthetic leg, Dorian proved he's not only worth keeping as a partner, he's worth getting to know more.

This leads John to declare "you're not like them" and to have Dorian call John by his first name.

The real glue here is Almost Human establishes that John and Dorian need each other: John needed an android that he won't throw out of a car window, and Dorian needed a ticket onto the force.

They've found that in each other, and I am excited to see how deep their bond for each other can form. After all, that's why you watch odd couple shows, right?

The other solid open ended thread that Almost Human leaves is shown in the final flashback John goes through before Dorian saves him from bleeding to death. The fact that John's ex-girlfriend is potentially bad and not who she said she was is yet another layer of intrigue that will have viewers coming back for more.

Is there enough story there for a serialized part of the show to exist? I guess we will see. John deletes his video message from her at the end, so I guess the gloves are off.

Dorian's uniqueness from the other androids provides enough of a wrinkle for the show to work. I'm not the biggest science fiction expert, but I think it's safe to say besides that dynamic they don't break a whole lot of new ground here.

However with a sleek futuristic style, and most importantly winning performances from Karl Urban as John and Michael Ealy as Dorian, that doesn't matter.

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