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Almost Human Series Premiere Review: And behold a New Sci-fi Buddy Cop Drama is Born

By on November 19, 2013
Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban, R) and Dorian (Michael Ealy, L) in FOX's Almost Human. Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban, R) and Dorian (Michael Ealy, L) in FOX's Almost Human. Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

By Lisa Casas (@Queenofmynerds)

I’ve been suffering a Fringe withdrawal for months looking desperately for a replacement … Revolution, too much sword yielding … Once Upon a Whatever, melodramatic and not futuristic.  No suitable Fringestitute.  Until now.  Almost Human had its highly touted two day premiere on FOX over Sunday and Monday night and has earned an “almost must see” place in my heart.

The show is JJ Abrams and Fringe executive producer JH Wyman’s latest sci-fi offering of a budding cop/android broidmance in the vein of 48 hours meets The Odd Couple say hello to Turner and Hooch.  The two initialed genius show runners gave us the pilot episode on Sunday where characters were introduced, heroes established and villains were blowin’ off legs.  The Monday night episode was really just a stand alone that could’ve aired anywhere in the season. Fragmented from the pilot, the second episode gave us a look into what we should expect on a week to week basis.  But let’s talk about the pilot first.

The scene is set immediately – we’re in the year 2048, Los Angeles, high crime, every cop is partnered with an android, specific model, MX-43.

John Kennex (the extremely sexy Karl Urban) is our hero cop. He’s been in a coma for seventeen months after his team is ambushed and everyone’s killed except for him.  He barely survives the attack; his leg doesn’t. The villain is a group called Insyndicate, and we know they are some bad characters the way they blow off that gorgeous leg without a second thought. An ex girlfriend is introduced early on through dream sequences and later revealed as being on the dark side.  We know the thread of Insyndicate and evil ex will run throughout this season much like The Mentalist solves crime while keeping an eye on the prize, Red John.  This John. Detective Kennex, wants the baddies who took down his team.

Kennex has a synthetic leg that he’s rejecting as emphatically as his synthetic/android partner.  His return to work is not going smoothly. After “disposing” of his emotionless partner, an MX-43,  by pushing him out of a moving car, John is paired with a more human android, Dorian (sexy and sweet Michael Ealy) – an outdated DRN model.  And behold a new sci-fi buddy cop drama is born.

Karl Urban (L) and Michael Ealy (R). Co.  Cr:  Liane Hentscher/FOX

Karl Urban (L) and Michael Ealy (R). Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

The rest of the episode is spent establishing the Kennex/Dorian relationship with witty banter, a give and take between these two slightly “off” crime fighters. Is Almost Human going to change the world? Transform the age old buddy cop formula? No.  But that’s okay. The show is offering up some lighter fare for our viewing palates. It’s like Blade Runner on anti depressants, or as I like to call it … Fringe-lite.

Yes, Kennex is a tortured soul getting illegal black market medical treatments to remember the fateful night of his attack.  Dorian is a tortured android not comfortable in his own fake skin or with his almost human status.  But these two offer up some funny moments with genuine chemistry that can’t be manufactured.  As Walter White could attest to, good chemistry is an art form and these two have it.  It can’t be faked or synthesized, but it can make a show.  It is the reason I’ll be coming back for more anxious to see where these two broken men take us.

Well, the wait for another episode wasn’t a long one, 24 hours. The second instalment titled “Skin” aired the next night with no real mention of any plot points introduced in the pilot. That being said, it was almost as enjoyable as the pilot with more humorous moments and further helped to establish the relationship between our two leads.

“Skin” begins by showing a lot of skin.  A man is about to get “serviced” by what appears to be a prostitute when two other men who were watching it all go down via a camera barge in and shoot the guy dead.  Turns out the unlucky guy who just missed getting lucky was a high end sexbot maker.  Yes, there are androids made for sex coming our way in the not so distant future and they’re called sexbots or bangbots.  I think I may be regressing to the maturity level of a thirteen year old boy because every time one of the characters said “sexbot” I immediately giggled or snickered.

The not so funny sexbot or segment of the episode occurs when a mom is kidnapped right in front of her young son.  This may possibly be the cutest kid ever! Him drinking from a juice box at the station is adorable. But what the heck!  They still have juice boxes in 2048?  We create lifelike androids and synthetic body parts but we still have to half suck, half spill juice out of a box?

Kennex and Dorian vow to get cute kid’s mom back. They discover that young women are being kidnapped for their DNA to make human skin on the sexbots.  It’s a race against time with our duo finding out it was those pesky Albanians. They race around to all the sexbot creation labs they know before eventually finding the right one. The mom is still alive … whew.  Super adorable reunion follows.  It’s cheesy and predictable, but who cares?

The drama is a complete formula, and we can tell each episode will feature a crime of the week solved before hour’s end. But it’s strangely satisfying.  We want to see Kennex and Dorian giving each other hell and contemplating the meaning of life. In a bittersweet moment, Dorian asks John,” What do you say when someone dies?”  John educates his new partner with the euphemism, “They’ve gone to a better place.”  Kennex goes on to say that it gives people hope.  They have to believe. We can see that Dorian needs to believe, but what about John?  He seems to be the less human of the two needing to find something to believe in.  I’m thinking Dorian’s going to help him in that department.

Apparently, some serious bonding occurred in the twenty four hours from the pilot to this episode.  I’m pretty sure that Kennex and Dorian did more than talk and actually made out because in a hilarious scene, Dorian says he scanned John’s balls and found he’s “really backed up.”  To help matters get unbacked up, he set up his partner with an online dating service using the best name since Carlos Danger … Dr. Richard. You get the idea.

In one of the final scenes Dorian is with a gorgeous sexbot who has to be put down. She’s worried until Dorian reassures her that she’s going to a better place. She asks if he’ll be there.  It’s a poignant scene that blurs the line between human and droid begging the question, “What makes someone a person?” We know this will be a theme explored week after week through the broidmance of Kennex and Dorian.

The episode ends with Kennex showing that he too is almost human.  He is talking to the son of his dead partner and says, “I want to tell you about your father.”

Facing demons, as well as criminals, our two broken crime fighters need each other. They are the odd couple that synthesize together to form one almost human.  Their journey is just beginning but there’s much hope in it.  Hope that the relationship will develop with more of the funny banter and dramatic layers added to our leads, hope that the Fringeprint will gain strength adding more of the strange with a little darkness mixed in, and hope that this promising show will become a true “must see” offering, a sci fi classic we’ll be lamenting when it finally comes to an end years from now as well as complaining about its “lame” final episode.  So, yes, Almost Human our hopes and expectations are high, but I feel confident you’re up to the challenge. If you accept this mission, I’ll see you back here next week, same time, same place.  I can hardly wait.

Random Notes

  • Silly sexbot talk of the night:
  • Sexbots are licensed. It has to be licensed. Well, duh.
  • Are you telling me the sexbot we’re looking for is leaving this girl’s DNA? The horror!
  • We should focus on finding the sexbot that was with Sebastian. Well, again, duh.
  • He just opened a sexbot shop for himself. Lucky dog.
  • The latest sexbots have a little bit of your (Dorian’s) tech in them. So, Dorian’s tech is in the sexbots? We’ll have to have a talk with him later.
  • He couldn’t believe anyone could build a better sexbot. I think I can, I think I can.
  • If you used human skin you’d have the best sexbot on the market. Ya think?
  • Lili Taylor is back!  She plays tough Captain Maldonado who seems to be the only one who can boss around Kennex.  I like it.
  • Mackenzie Crook portrays Rudy Lom, the nerdtastic Q of the show bringing Dorian back to life as well as a host of super cool, futuristic gadgets.
  • The beautiful Minka Kelly plays Detective Stahl who looks at John Kennex with the eyes of a dog lover looking for a stray. I’m thinking it won’t be much longer before this lady takes in the tramp.