My first impression of tonight’s episode “The Bends” was that it wasn’t going to be very satisfying. I’m mostly indifferent to Rudy so when the episode kicked off in media res with him fleeing a group of hostile presumed criminals and getting shot, I figured I wouldn’t care.
And I didn’t.
It all began twenty-four hours earlier with the death of one of John’s former friends, Detective Cooper who was killed while undercover to investigate the dealer of a new drug called The Bends (which reminds me too much of “the runs” really) that was making its way onto the street. After a bit of questioning whether or not Cooper was a dirty cop or not, the gang decided that they wanted to pick up where Cooper left off and nab head honcho The Bishop, on the hunt for a new cook.
Naturally this episode was one day going to arrive. It happens in all the genre shows. The goofy supporting character – usually a tech savvy nerd – gets tapped to head into danger while the qualified individuals watch from the sidelines with bated breath. It was inevitable that Almost Human would go this route, but why did it have to happen so soon?
Rudy Lom means nothing to me. In fact, no one outside of John and Dorian have received even a hint of three-dimensionality to their characterization. Stahl is pretty and smart and John has a crush on her, Paul is a jerk (despite the thin layers that were feebly added to him tonight), Maldonado is respectable and Rudy’s awkward and smart.
On Rudy’s end there hasn’t been enough time for me to connect to his well-meaning awkwardness enough to care about him going undercover and getting into a world of trouble. In earlier reviews I’ve avoided talking about him both because he hasn’t been that important in previous episodes and because I don’t care about him. Because there was no doubt that Rudy would end surviving “The Bends” even the fun of just watching it all go down was nonexistent. If this episode just had to exist, Almost Human should have taken the opportunity to add some characterization to Rudy because despite his hefty dose of screen time the episode closed with me knowing nothing new about Rudy.
Even this episode’s attempt at adding back story to John via Cooper fell flat. Instead of being fully integrated, their former friendship was just slapped into the story with a feeble explanation of John and Cooper training together before falling out of touch five or six years ago. This could have been improved by “The Bends” committing more to this relationship and giving it something close to the attention it thought it was. There was a moment at the episode’s beginning in which Cooper and John are being obviously compared by Maldonado. They’re similar in their dismissal of authority in pursuing what they believe to be the right thing, they act on hunches and have trouble letting go. And this apparently is what got Cooper killed. Is John headed the same route? Probably not because he’s co-lead, but still the seed’s been planted.
This would have been an opportune time to have someone – anyone – mention the giant plotline that opened up the season and show. The absence of the Syndicate was understandable after the jam-packed pilot which probably gave way more information than casual viewers needed, but we left that episode with a hint that the Syndicate was active once again. And now they’re…not? Perhaps I’m too hungry from some serialized mythology, but is the Syndicate still a thing? Is John still haunted by what happened? Is he going to find Anna?
If John can’t let go of things, how has he so easily let go of the Syndicate and Anna’s betrayal? Even his trouble with his synthetic leg is in the past. Now I doubt this is true, but when the Syndicate and Anna inevitably crop up again, it’s not going to matter. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if John’s flashbacks to the raid kick up again in the same episode that the Syndicate re-emerges as a threat. It makes sense that Almost Human would want to step back from the mythology and develop itself as a procedural, but now it looks as though it’s abandoned the mythology all together so its return is going to feel unimportant and lazy.
Since this episode bored me so much, I find I don’t have much more to say. Except one thing. The androids undergo much more violence than their human counterparts. Since the pilot with John’s missing leg, there hasn’t been as visceral a sighting of an injured human. The same isn’t true of the androids. One got a hole through his eye socket and the other was decapitated in a mess of sparks and wires. Now certainly Almost Human can’t show humans in various states of maiming. However, I wonder if the show is aware of the underlying message they’re sending. It fits so seamlessly into the show’s themes of humanity that I couldn’t imagine them not being aware, but you never know.
No one flinches at violence perpetuated on androids. The bad guy droid from tonight actually stood as a shield for one of the bad guys to be shot multiple times, and when the MX had a hole in his face everyone looked at him with a kind of curious disbelief that one has when marveling at a still functioning cell phone after it’s been through the washing machine. Because the MX and the bad guy droid are inhuman not only in their composition but in their personalities, the audience probably doesn’t care what happens to them either. The interlude with the MX was treated more as comedy, and does anyone care when the bad guys get hurt in procedurals anyway?
But imagine Dorian in that position and it looks differently. If Dorian had a hole where an eye should be, it’s safe to say the audience would be a little alarmed. Even if Dorian’s an android, we know him as something close to human, and we know he feels human so that kind of violence beings to feel well, violent. But no one in the Almost Human universe thinks it’s violent because androids aren’t people. Last week’s episode had Dorian in a bit of a tiff with some damage, but if the damage was more significant, what would the reaction be? Would anyone care? Assuming Dorian is the last DRN (which he may be since the rest were decommissioned), he probably couldn’t be replaced if he got destroyed, and I wonder what that possibility would mean for the show and the relationship between John and Dorian.
Fingers crossed next week’s “Blood Brothers” is an improvement.