Mar 072014

I’ve always enjoyed near-future shows and movies, so I was excited when Almost Human was announced. I grew up watching buddy cop tv shows so a futuristic buddy cop show with one human partner and one robotic one was something I figured I would enjoy. The final ingredient was the show’s star, Karl Urban. I’m a huge fan of his and have always enjoyed him in a movie, even if that movie was terrible (Doom). (On a side note, his Dredd movie is incredible.)

The plot of Almost Human is that law enforcement cannot keep up with the rising tide of crime and technology, so they turned to using robots as policemen. The initial robots (labeled DRN) had problems dealing with their emotions, so they were scrapped and replaced by the non-feeling MX units. Each human cop is assigned a robotic partner. Karl Urban plays Detective John Kennex, who unwittingly leads his team of officers into a deadly ambush and they are all killed except for Kennex, who loses a leg. A year-and-a-half later, Kennex comes out of a coma and receives an artificial leg. He returns to the force and is given a DRN unit that was going to be scrapped. The unit, DRN-0167, is nicknamed “Dorian” and becomes a foil to Kennex as they deal with many different types of crimes.

First, I think the show does a great job merging the buddy cop format with a near-futuristic format. Almost Human goes a little heavy with the effects in the first episode or two, but that’s to be expected as they want to start the series off with a bang. There are a lot of nice little touches, such as the holographic crime scene tape to the drones flying around the city. There’s enough technological touches to let the viewer know that the show isn’t taking place now.

The highlight of the show is the partnership of Karl Urban as Kennex and Michael Ealy as Dorian. They have a tremendous chemistry that really crackles onscreen. They bicker, joke, argue, and poke fun at one another. Urban gives a solid performance, as usual, but Ealy is a delight. He imbues Dorian with a sly wit that gives the viewer a chuckle or two every episode. The argument that erupts when Dorian scans Kennex’s testicles is a hoot.

As strong as the chemistry is between Urban and Ealy, the same cannot be said for the supporting cast. You have the stereotypical English nerd as the tech guru, along with the hard-nosed captain, a rival detective that does not like Kennex, and a female detective that could be a romantic interest for Kennex down the road. Out of all the characters, the tech guru gets the most screen time, but most of it dwells on how pathetic his life truly is. The other characters get very little to do, especially the rival detective and the love interest. This is probably the greatest weakness of the show. I would hope that their roles will be boosted in season two (if the show gets one).

As for the episodes, the first half of the season was good, but not spectacular. The second half of the season got stronger with each episode as the writers and crew seemed to be hitting their stride. I was amused by the “You Are Here” episode that featured bullets that could track you down. I immediately thought of the movie Runaway starring Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons that had tracking bullets as well. The best two episodes were “Unbound” and “Disrupt”. In the former episode, a combat android is put together and goes on a killing rampage, and John Larroquette is introduced as a sinister doctor of robotics. The latter episode featured a hacker overriding the home security systems of people’s houses and using them to kill the occupants.

Overall, the first season of Almost Human was a little uneven. The second half of the season was stronger than the first. I would be happier if they would more fully explain the world that they have created as they show and talk about “The Wall”, which seems to separate the city itself from a lawless area. However, they never fully explain that as far as I can remember. Kennex and Dorian have a great chemistry and the show really focuses on them as their partnership is the strongest element of the show. The secondary characters are not fully fleshed out and are really just window dressing. Overall, I give the show between a B- and a B as I find it entertaining and enjoy the interaction between Karl Urban and Michael Ealy despite the other flaws on the show. I hope the show gets another season and that they continue to improve.

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