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Almost Human’s “The Bends”: A Bad Rehash of Breaking Bad?

By on December 3, 2013
Pictured: Mackenzie Crook as Rudy. Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Pictured: Mackenzie Crook as Rudy. Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Big question of the night… now that Breaking Bad is over, did creator Vince Gilligan take a writing job on the JJ Abrams’ buddy cop drama Almost Human?

The episode would have been so much better if he had. The new futuristic FOX drama was all formula, no flash, and seemed to steal from our recently departed Walter White/Jesse Pinkman classic.  It is way too early in this young series’ life to be feeling like we’ve seen it all before and as recently as last week.

The episode begins with Rudy Lom, resident Mr. Gadget, in danger, running from bad guys. What? He’s usually working in his lab on the latest cool, nerdtastic invention. Flashback to 24 hours earlier. We see a guy meeting up with some evil men.  They are barking about needing a cook to whip up some drugs.  We know they are bad, bad men when they shove a probe into the guy’s belly button in some futuristic, cop detecting amniocentesis.  Ding, ding, ding, probe comes back positive and two shots later the undercover cop is dead.

Our favorite robromance couple is on the case. Detective John Kennex and his android partner, Dorian, are investigating.  Kennex discovers the dead cop is an old friend, Cooper, who he knows from way back …  a good guy.  Cooper’s boss, Capt. Barrow, shows up to agree with John.  He thinks Cooper must have been running a rogue operation to get evidence against a drug lord known as The Bishop.  The Bishop is cranking out a lethal drug called The Bends responsible for many overdoses in recent days.  So many B’s – Bishop, Bends, Breaking, Bad.  Coincidence?

Meanwhile, Cooper’s wife shows up insisting her husband is innocent.  She also says her husband had been spending time at their cabin. He was returning from it on the night he was killed.  Hmmmm, cabin code for camper? Has someone been cooking in the woods, perhaps?

Kennex and Dorian head out to the cabin and discover that sometimes a cabin is just a cabin and not a camper to cook drugs in. This one’s been ransacked however. They find a recording of Cooper’s meeting with The Bishop. John is convinced his friend is innocent and sets up a plan to go undercover as a cook to lure out The Bishop.  We all know he probably can’t handle cooking Ramen noodles, so the team decides Rudy would be a better fit to cook up illegal drugs.

Rudy accepts the assignment and is all nervous energy full of ideas about elaborate disguises. Kennex gets the meeting with Bishop set up, and we know Rudy’s going to have his hands full.  He’s no former chemistry teacher.  Kennex asks Rudy what’s the one thing he needs to remember? Lom’s response?  “Don’t mess up the drugs. Don’t get killed. Don’t soil myself.” No silly.  Kennex reminds him that he’s  gotta get The Bishop to say he distributes narcotics. Piece of cake. It’s kind of like saying supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  Once you have it down, it’s easy.

Rudy goes to the meeting and says his real name within thirty seconds. I don’t think that was part of the plan. Kennex sends Dorian in to help Rudy. He explains his android friend by saying he found him and refurbished him.  The bad guys are bad, but not smart.  Obviously, because they can’t even cook up a decent batch of The Bends. They are okay with android friend showing up.  Rudy quickly cooks up some of the drug and passes the test. The real Bishop reveals himself and it’s … Captain Barrow, Cooper’s boss.

Capt. Maldonado gets Barrow on the phone they track where he is. It is all just too easy.  We’re never really worried about anyone’s safety, and worse yet, we’ve seen all this just last week. Kennex and Dorian show up and there’s a shoot out like the one from last Monday.  The bad guys go down with our guys victorious. Kennex shoots and kills a fallen Capt. Barrow.

The shoot out is too familiar, the wife of Cooper thanking Kennex was so similar to a hostage thanking John last week.  Now all we need is the funny moment to end the episode.  Cue lights and…

Rudy’s all excited and wants another assignment. They shake their heads in one united, firm, no. Dorian says they’re going to McQuaids, Kennex’s usual hangout.  John protests saying that’s his super secret club, and they don’t even know the handshake to get in.  He finally agrees but briefs them on what is acceptable behavior. He demands that Rudy doesn’t talk about his test tubes. “Is that a euphemism?” asks Rudy.  Funny moment over, fade to black, episode over.

Almost Human’s charm lies in the buddy chemistry established in the first few episodes.  This eppy had so little banter between the two, it was as if they’d barely met.  We need that chemistry to buy into the cookie cutter crime of the week. It’s way too early to have an outing devoted to a supporting character.  Kennex and Dorian, we barely know you.  Not only was the episode light on the robromance, it also was a retooling of elements from Breaking Bad I would call closer to plagiarism than an homage.  The whole soliloquy of Rudy philosophizing about cooking being an art form and the importance of approaching your work with reverence was so familiar. I know I’ve seen a similar speech in Breaking Bad but with much more character development.

This was a major disappointment, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on the series.  New dramas often take time to establish a rhythm and misstep once in a while before finding their footing. This was a definite misstep, but the promise of the first few episodes have me routing for the FOX drama, hoping it gets back to a chemistry we can buy into – the chemistry between the two hunky leads giving each other a hard time while developing a real friendship.

Random Notes

  • Rudy asks if he can get some “pomp and circumstance.” He’s dressed so adorably it looks like he’s going to Prom.
  • Rudy deflects attention by letting one rip as he’s being questioned by the bad guys.  I think that’s his go to move.
  •  The Bends that Rudy cooks is 95% pure and is a pretty blue, I mean, green color.
  •  One of the few funny lines of the night…Kennex says Cooper was the only guy who could outrun him and outshoot him.  Dorian deadpans, “So you had a class of two?”