Almost Human / Screen

Almost Human‘s “Straw Man” Goes Out With a Whimper

A man lured homeless girls with a kindly disabled man routine, and her murder was picked up by Dorian and John. Once John recognized it as the work of the Straw Man, he and Dorian dove into the old case which had been investigated by John’s father. Most notably this was not a season finale or meant to be one. It would have worked well as a midseason finale perhaps, but no one could mistake “Straw Man” for a season-ender with no trace of any of the serialized plots the season sometimes chose to pick up on. This isn’t necessarily a fault of planning since Almost Human wasn’t supposed to have this small of an episode order (and there’s still no confirmation for a second season), and Almost Human‘s ratings struggles have left it in the lurch. Instead the episode was largely a standalone (as most episodes have been), and the case-of-the-week was a weak conclusion to an already troubled season. 

Part of the issue with “Strawman” was the lack of originality as John tried to finish his father’s work. That would have been fine had it gone a more streamlined route and actually made some sense. Once the man convicted of being the Strawman asserted his innocence and claimed John’s father had believed him, John went to work to figure out who killed his father to keep him from revealing the truth about corrupt cops. The look into John’s family history isn’t a bad one, it’s just that the episode never really committed to telling the story. The emotional resonance of John’s father being killed because of his desire to do the right thing and correct his mistake, was lost for most of the episode as John avoided saying anything about his father or their relationship.

It’s become an unfortunate habit of the show that elements are picked up and left hanging when convenient without very little consistency, and this wasn’t a habit it was looking to break in this final episode. Bringing up John’s father could have worked better with more skill on the part of the writers as it certainly wouldn’t be the first show to bring a parental angst storyline out of nowhere. When John finally opened up about his dad, it worked, though there was nothing particularly original in John’s father inspiring him to become a cop and John wanting to clear his father’s name after he’d been accused of being corrupt. 

The corruption angle was the episode’s weakest element, and “Strawman” could have done without it. A lot of benefit could have been drawn from John trying to free Costa and find the real Strawman because that was what Edward would have wanted rather than trying to include some angle about corruption in the department that was never fleshed out.  By the end of the episode the corrupt cop had died years ago, and the whole thing was explained away with a few sentences exchanged between John and Maldonado.

Just to complicate things further the killer was a cyborg looking to rebuild his body. Usually I don’t mind Almost Human’s little injections of futuristic technology into otherwise run-of-the-mill cases, but there was already so much going on with the killing and the cloning and John’s dad and stolen robot tech that the killer being a cyborg was just another something to add to the pile so it didn’t quite land.

There was one small season-ender element to the episode, and that was Dorian’s review. It wasn’t given much attention outside from the usual beginning-of-the-episode scenes  that introduced it (and there was never any doubt that Dorian would still be with the department), but it was still nice to see if only because of its results. After a “glowing” review from John, Dorian’s term with the force was renewed.

Though the case-of-the-week was clumsy in execution, Almost Human went out with a bang with the friendship between the two leads.The natural chemistry between Karl Urban and Michael Ealy was a big draw for the show, one that seemed to have fallen to the wayside in recent episodes, but John’s admission that being partnered with Dorian was part of the reason he wanted to remain on the force was pleasantly unexpected for both Dorian and the audience. When Dorian and John reunited at the Chinese restaurant, and Dorian gave John a new and better leg to thank him for his review it reminded me what I’d liked so much about the show when it began. Shaky procedural aside, the heart of the show lies in John and Dorian, and there’s a chance it could coast along on that if it could just find a way to figure out its other elements.

Tidbits

  • Detective Paul came back with something of an attitude adjustment though he and John’s back-and-forth was a lot lighter than it had been in previous episodes.
  • Speaking of Paul, his run-in with the homeless guy while he was undercover was very funny and very sweet. It was nice to see Paul’s got more going for him than being an angry ass.
  • I’d predict that Almost Human won’t be coming back, but who knows?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Almost Human‘s “Straw Man” Goes Out With a Whimper

  1. In my opinion it feels like everything was set up for more episodes or a possible second season. The producers of the show ‘wanted’ an arc story, but they also wanted character focus. And after reading various interviews featuring Wyman, it can be said that Abrams and FOX had a hand in hindering this shows first season.

    The episode shuffle hurt character growth and caused spontaneous arc builds when there were not suppose to be. The whole John wondering about Anna, ended in episode 10 (which was actually 4), if aired properly this would have ended the ‘need to know about the ex’ storyline.

    The show has potential and has been through the ringer with schedule and ratings. I think a second season will put it on track.

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    • Yeah I think so too. This season’s been really rough for it, and if it did get a second one I think it could figure out some focus, but who knows if they’ll get one. I know the Fox president said he was really interested in the show, and he’s kept some of his preferred shows around despite bad ratings, and Almost Human has been mostly steady and with Fox dropping a lot of shows for next year, maybe they’ll try to keep Almost Human just to avoid having to produce a lot of expensive pilots. It could go either way. If they do get a second one, I really hope they get it together because when this show started there was a lot going for it that they just…didn’t know what to do with.

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