Almost Human / Screen

Heart to Heart: Almost Human ‘Arrhythmyia’ Review

It’s clear that Fox is attempting to put the show’s best foot forward, hence the episodes airing out of order.  Last night’s “Arrhythmia” was the third episode produced but ended up airing sixth.  With the exception of the yet-to-be aired (and apparently even scheduled) second episode, this marks the end of Almost Human‘s jumbled episodes.  From the show’s ability to mix up the episodes at all, one can conclude Almost Human‘s not meant to be as serialized as the pilot episode (and former productions from J.H. Wyman and co) would suggest, but the show could benefit from going that route as the procedural is the weakest aspect.  I hate to compare Almost Human to former Fox show Fringe, but that also started out with a procedural element before throwing it out the window and becoming super serialized.  The first season dipped its toes into the serialized element a lot quicker than Almost Human has, and when it abandoned the procedural format completely,  there was certainly a lapse in viewers though Fringe maintained a steady and devoted albeit small following.  Almost Human on the other hand gave us a giant info dump with its pilot and proceeded with five episodes pretending like the Syndicate, the show’s apparent Big Bad, never existed. 

This isn’t to say that Almost Human is a bad show.  It excels in the relationship between John and Dorian, and as it fleshes the two of them out, the show hits its stride.  But the procedurals, though interesting with the additions of 2048 technology (which gets a great showcase in “Arrhythmia” ), are otherwise uninspired and they unfold so predictably, and so slowly, that by the time Dorian and John have latched onto a conclusion, the audience already has which was the issue with last night’s “Arrhythmia”.

The episode kicked off with a man bursting into a hospital with a gun and demanding a surgeon to help him because he was about to have a heart attack and die.  Despite his attempt, the man died, but not before telling the surgeon, “They killed me”.   Eventually it became clear that Leonard had a biomech heart transplant a while ago, and in the heart was modified with a timer that counted down thirty days before it stopped working.  The owners were subsequently blackmailed into paying up or risk death.

The conclusion was clunky to say the least as it became apparent that well-meaning Henry, who cremated the dead and collected any biomech hearts, was part of the whole conspiracy.  John’s points about not discovering any bodies with stolen biomech hearts and how this must mean Henry’s involvement was valid, but made me question why they hadn’t considered that beforehand.  The addition of “Karen” was equally ridiculous as Almost Human tried to ease her, random assistant Jacinta, into the universe by having her step into the scene at Vastral and have John look at her for a pointed amount of time.  Procedurals are certainly predictable as they all follow the same formula (like horror movies and romantic comedies), but Almost Human had a sloppy handle on it in “Arrhythmia”.

But the show is kept afloat by John and Dorian, and especially Dorian.   Compared to him, there’s very little we know about John.  The big incident in his life was the Syndicate and Anna’s betrayal, but we’ve heard little about it.  All there is to John’s character now is a gruff voice, some lacking social skills and a tendency to bend the rules to solve a case.  He’s most interesting when interacting with Dorian.

And “Arrhythmia” gave him a larger focus when he came face-to-face with another DRN (now working as a janitor/repairman) and became intent on “waking him up” by bringing him on a ride along with him and John.   Though we knew about the decommission of the DRNS, we had never received any substantial information about it, and “Arrhythmia” filled in a couple of the blanks.  The malfunctioning DRNS were weeded out with the Luger test to be repaired, but eventually the higher-ups decided to cut their losses and decommissioned the entire line regardless of their test results.  Since its first mention, the “mental instability” the DRNS suffered from sounded a lot like their attempts at making them more human backfiring (and had some telling implications for the humans cops who may suffer from mental disorders).

Though 494 was initially excited about getting to try out police work again, he was afraid when Dorian suggested he take his gun and use it if necessary to keep any bad guys from fleeing.  As Dorian’s said multiple times, he was designed to be a cop, but he was also designed to feel human emotions so if his fear kept him from carrying out his job (which could also happen with a human), he’d no longer be serving the purpose and be sent elsewhere.  The emotions of the DRNS make them unpredictable (a bit like John).  Dorian’s adamant about following the rules now, but 494 was the same way until he was faced with a homicidal man attempting to kill his girlfriend’s son.  His emotional stakes in the scenario led him to kill the boyfriend and saved the son which allowed him his greatest human connection and proudest moment as a cop.

As mentioned previously, Almost Human‘s biggest strength is the relationship with John and Dorian.  Despite their barbed exchanges, there’s genuine respect and admiration between them, and John sees Dorian like less of a machine every day.  When Dorian explained his reasons for bringing 494 along, he expressed his desire to remind 494 about his life in law enforcement and “wake him up” the way John did for Dorian.  Despite John’s prickly demeanor and annoyance with the 494,  he gave in and allowed Dorian to pursue it, implying an obvious consideration for Dorian’s emotional stake in the situation.  They tease each other a lot, and Dorian’s not shy about pointing out his issues with John, but John’s more important to Dorian than just being his partner.  It was because of John that Dorian was reawakened and allowed to be a cop again.   Though this episode didn’t play around as much with the sexual chemistry between Ealy and Urban (will anything top last week’s penis commentary?),  the emotional connection between John and Dorian was there.  Even if the procedural element could use some tightening, I can overlook it in favor of Almost Human‘s focus on its two leads and their strengthening relationship.

Almost Human returns on January 6 with the appearance of Dorian’s creator, roboticist Nigel Vaughn and some kind of issue with a homicidal robot.

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