The first thing you need to know about “Almost Human” is that it’s helmed by J.J. Abrams (executive producer) and J.H. Wyman (writer, executive producer), the creative team behind “Fringe,” one of my favorite shows ever. Whether “Almost Human” will achieve the same rabid fanbase as “Fringe” is anyone’s guess, but it certainly has a lot going for it.
I just hope that Fox gives the show enough time to establish a foothold. “Fringe” was on the bubble for at least the first and possibly second season, and look where that ended up. Five seasons for one of the best shows in TV history.
In “Almost Human,” the year is 2048 and Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), a veteran cop with a ton of mental, emotional and physical baggage, returns to the force in Los Angeles. He’s skeptical about this new mandate that requires human officers to be paired with robots.
The show opens with a flashback. John is in the midst of a gun battle, in which he is knocked out and his team killed. John is in a coma for 17 months, but two years after the attack, he’s back on the force, still nursing his new synthetic leg.
John also seeks treatment from a black market medical clinic. He needs the treatment in order to remember details about the attack that killed his team. But he also has memories of his ex-girlfriend. He’s kept a video message of hers for 700+ days.
His first synthetic partner is a robot called 785. “A human partner was good enough for my father. It’s good enough for me,” he tells his boss, Maldonado (Lili Taylor – love her!). But it’s the rules, she says, so John reluctantly goes to work with this robot, because he wants to see the “syndicate” – the people who knew about the raid where he lost his team – come to justice.
But that doesn’t last long. When his new robot partner starts talking about reporting John because of a small blackout he experiences, John pushes the ‘bot out of the car as it’s speeding down the highway. That made me laugh.
John visits the guy who issues robots, Rudy (Mackenzie Crook – love him too!) and gets a new synthetic named Dorian (Michael Ealy – ditto!). This one, who’s been out of commission for four years and three months, is different. Whereas the newer MX models are logic based and rule-oriented, Dorian has “human” responses, a.k.a. feelings. I guess that’s where the “Almost Human” title comes from. Or maybe it refers to John. Or both.
At any rate, Dorian doesn’t like being referred to as a “synthetic,” but by the end of the episode, John’s come to terms with working with him. This will be a fun buddy-cop show.
Dorian is also super-handy. When one of the cops ends up in a setup and dies from something that turns him all red and rashy (basically a blast of viruses and diseases), Dorian takes some blood from the body, injects it into himself, and downloads the info to Rudy.
John ends up going back to his black market doctor and demands to do whatever is needed to get more of his memories back, despite the risks. When he does, he sees the leader of the team who took out his team. It’s his ex-girlfriend! It all makes sense now. When he came out of his coma, she’d disappeared, he tells Dorian. “Now I know why.”
John figures out that if they transfer whatever’s left of the dead cop’s MX ‘bot to Dorian, he could make the necessary connections. They figure out that the syndicate is after something in the evidence room, so John calls Maldonado and tells her to go into lockdown.
The MXs all go down, but Dorian runs on a different frequency. “Sometimes newer technology isn’t better,” he tells John. There’s a big shoot-out, and John ends up saving the day.
Ok, tell me if you think I’m off-base, but I have a feeling the girl in John’s memory is NOT the girl in the video message. Maybe she’s a synthetic made in her likeness. I don’t know, but the video message sounded so sincere…
Anyway, I do love this show and hope it gets a good run. We don’t get that many great sci-fi shows on TV anymore, and this one has all the futuristic elements (love the airborne computer screen), the robots, fun characters, and some comical moments mixed in with the crime drama.
And it’s neat to see Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights”) as one of the cops. I’m betting there’s some romantic tension somewhere down the line for her and John.
The next episode is on tomorrow night in its regular weekly timeslot: Monday, 8 p.m. on Fox. Great lead-in for “Sleepy Hollow.”
Thoughts on “Almost Human”? Think it’ll go the distance?