Almost Human / Screen

Pretty Hurts: Almost Human ‘Beholder’ Review

After a Chrome was murdered, with no indication that he was killed aside from an itty-bitty pinprick at the back of his neck, John, Dorian and Valerie started investigating the case which circled around a killer (Michael Eklund) who was using their DNA to change his own physical traits and repair deformities from some experimental plastic surgery. Because of the victim being Chrome, Valerie took the lead on the Chrome-related matters.  It’s disappointing that Almost Human‘s made such strides in its worldbuilding and hasn’t been able to apply that same skill to its supporting characters who are just as stock as they were when the show began. Paul’s been AWOL for a few episodes now, Maldonado’s just there so John can play off of her from time to time, and Valerie’s character hasn’t been fleshed out much aside from developing a flimsy flirtation between her and John. “Perception” seemed like it was going to rectify that, but it missed its chance so tonight’s “Beholder” was Almost Human‘s opportunity to do things right this time around, and it mostly delivered. 

Considering the way “Perception”ended up, with two Chrome girls being murdered because they were Chromes (and the killer perceived their existence as being the cause for her daughter’s feelings of hopelessness and death), there’s an untapped well of potential for the social implications of being a Chrome in Almost Human‘s futuristic society. With a Chrome being murdered, Valerie returned to the world of Chromes, where she’s basically an outcast due to her chosen profession. Why Chromes are so unusual in law enforcement, and why other Chromes respond so badly to Valerie because of it, is a mystery that Almost Human wasn’t interested in solving though there was some vague indication that Chromes don’t look proudly on their own people taking on jobs that don’t live up to their genetically engineered potential. But after the minimal development of “Perception”, tonight’s episode did manage to give Valerie a little more context in her dealings with fellow Chromes. In a lot of ways, she resents them just as Naturals do until she had a decent conversation with Jake (Jesse Hutch) who she ended up going on a date with at the episode’s end.

Though Valerie had her own things going on, it was unevenly placed in the episode with Dorian and John taking their usual lead on the case in all matters not related to Chromes. Usually there’s nothing wrong with Dorian and John taking the lead, as that is, what the show’s about, but John’s character is growing increasingly frustrating when things should be going in the opposite direction. John’s just as gruff and rude, to Dorian in particular, that he was when we first met him which seems particularly strange given how much time the two have spent together and how their relationship has progressed which made John telling Dorian that he was just a compilation of random things and “at least [John] knew where he came from” seemed an uncharacteristic and insensitive to comment to make.

With the exception of Valerie finally being given a little more to do, the procedural part of the episode wasn’t as engaging as I would have liked up until the end when it was revealed that the killer, Eric Lathem, had begun this whole thing to prepare for a face-to-face meeting with a woman he’d met, and fallen in love with, online. What could have been a shallow and lame explanation for Lathem’s actions came together in a much smoother way than the episode’s earlier moments indicated.  With Lathem’s tender meeting with Judy (Rhonda Dent) and her tearful confession that she was blind and  hid it from Lathem because she wanted to make sure he’d like her, the episode was elevated considerably, reminiscent of Fringe and its procedural storylines which often took on a moral and emotional center that was often closely tied to love.

It was love that was at the center of the episode, though it took Almost Human a little while to make that clear. It was so plain as the episode ended that I suspected Anna to appear when John was solemnly considering life. That would have been a great ending if only because it would have felt like these past twelve episodes had been leading somewhere other than an awkward endpoint that may or may not be Almost Human‘s series finale.

Tidbits

  • Was it just me or was the print in the chat scene especially difficult to read?
  • With the brief mention of John’s disastrous dinner with a woman who kept taking her holographic phone calls and John’s subsequent complaints about technology getting in the way of human interactions, Lathem and Judy’s  love story was built entirely on their online correspondence.
  • “Do you want me to come to a bar with you and watch you drink?”

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