Almost Human has definitely improved since it found some direction and remembered that it was trying to be serialized at one point, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect now. It has a rich world to explore and seems to be struggling with doing that while also exploring its characters, and getting back into the swing with the Insyndicate and John’s traitorous girlfriend. If the show had been smarter it would have used those early episodes to establish its characters, including Valerie, who got some cursory characterization in “Perception” when two genetically-engineered children (aka Chome)s died of drug overdoses, and Valerie was revealed to be one, too.
The Chromes are immediately interesting since they’re essentially designer children who are able to ascend to levels of intelligence and creativity that others, called Naturals, can’t aspire to. At Mendel Academy, where the girls, Scarlet and Eleanor, were students, there are mostly Chromes with a few Naturals, like Lyla (who drowned several months prior) thrown in for variety. Though Maldonado suggested that Valerie take the lead with talking to the Chromes and their parents, because she would fit into their world better, very little time was spent actually watching that happen.
Unfortunately, Valerie continues to be on the weaker elements of the show (as do all characters who aren’t John or Dorian). All opportunities that come up to develop her are ignored, and in an episode that dealt with the murders of teenage Chromes (who ended up being killed by Lyla’s grieving mother), this was Almost Human‘s chance to give Valerie something to do aside from exchange some lukewarm flirtations with John. Aside from a passing mention of Chromes joining the police force being unusual and an emotional reaction to Lyla’s mother when she professed Lyla to have been just as good as any Chrome, Valerie was left neglected.
The Chromes could have been a promising showcase in this episode, seen through Valerie’s lens even, if Almost Human had gone that route. These are beings whose genetic defects are so straightened out before birth that they can’t get addicted to drugs. The social ramifications, like Lyla’s feelings of inadequacy about not being able to compete with Chromes, are incredibly promising. Valerie was certainly sympathetic to that, as well as to the other Natural she encountered at Mendel, but of course, this wasn’t touched.
Though I’m glad the show’s picked up things with the Insyndicate again, some of the time spent watching John recall Anna and the ambush could have been allotted to developing Valerie. Instead we got a few of the same images over and over, of Anna at the raid dressed all in black and tossing a canister at John. One time was enough. Very little was established either way besides John blacking out (and costing Dorian a piece of his ear in a car accident) and being questioned by Internal Affairs after he revealed to Maldonado that he was beginning to remember things. The news of a listening device inside a gift from Anna wasn’t exactly shocking either because of course she, or someone in the Insyndicate, have been listening to John. But what exactly have they been listening to? It’s not like he’s got anyone there to talk to, and we haven’t seen him doing much there that would be incredibly interesting to a terrorist organization anyway.
The case-of-the-week was mighty convoluted with John and Dorian running all over the place. Procedurals don’t demand to be streamlined by any means. Some twists and turns are necessary with a formula that’s been so well-trod before, but the investigation was unnecessarily all over the place, to the point where any interest in learning who was responsible waned significantly until it all came together in the end which, in some ways, made up for the annoying road we had to take to get there. Even cutting, or reworking, some of these things, like the interlude with Scarlet’s father, could have allowed some time for Almost Human to devote some time to one of its regulars.
Overall, “Perception” was boring. It shouldn’t have been, and it certainly didn’t start out that way, with the opening sequence of Scarlet exploring the woods and marveling at a bee hive intercut with shots of Eleanor’s direction of a solo concert before both collapsed and died, was certainly intriguing. Even though Almost Human has gotten a lot better, I can feel a lot of my interest for the show beginning to wane. After all this time not talking about the Insyndicate, taking it slow now only feels…well, slow. In theory, a sci-fi procedural seems like a cool idea, but it’s not working well here so the show could use some ramping up and hopefully it’ll get there before the season finale.
- The pilot definitely referred to Insyndicate as The Syndicate, but last week, and this week, the name has changed. What’s the deal?
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