Welcome to my series blog about the television show Humans. Each week I will be reviewing the latest episode and hopefully some of you will join me below the line to discuss your thoughts on the show and where you think its twists and turns will take us. Warning may contain spoilers.
I am not a robot (or am I?)
Last week I surmised that Colin Morgan’s character may have been a synthetic.
And episode 2 seemed to confirm my hypothesis, although my impressions of Humans is that it is going to keep us guessing and things may not always be as they first appear. So I will sit on the fence and say that episode 2 appears to confirm the true nature of Leo; it also poses several questions. Does Leo know he is a synthetic, is he some kind of advanced prototype because he bleeds, and do all synthetics look like this when they sustain injuries? It will be interesting to see where this story thread leads us. When I think about Leo being an earlier yet more advanced model of synthetic it makes me think about Data’s brother Lore (and we all know how that turned out)
Episode 2 quickly resolves last week’s cliff-hanger in pretty anti-climatic, if predictable, fashion with the revelation that Sophie is safely tucked up in bed when Laura goes to her in the morning. However Laura finds Sophie’s wet pyjamas and Anita’s wet shoes, so where did Anita take Sophie and why is she lying about it. We get a brief look-in on Hobb as his group try to analyse what appear to be memories or dreams within the captured Fred’s brain, we are not yet clear what their motivations are and who they really serve. I wondered whether they may turn out not to be the stereotypical “men in black” type antagonist but maybe they are going to be friendly or at least not be as out and out bad as they may appear at first glance.
Bloody robots coming over here and taking all our jobs
A theme from the first episode that was built upon nicely in episode two, was the idea that some humans are suspicious of the synthetics. In this episode we see this idea more openly explored, drawing a parallel between our current societal attitude towards immigration (mostly whipped up by the tabloid media) and people’s prejudices and hostility towards android life. There are several references to the robots taking jobs and the callous way that Mattie treats Anita and the androids at school show that some humans, at best may never accept synthetics as anything other than manual labour, and at worst they see them as a threat and this sets up the possibility of a future conflict between man and machine. Humans continues to challenge us like all good science fiction should, it gives us a futuristic concept set in a recognisable world and asks the viewer to look at their own pre-conceptions.
If you think we live in a Nanny State now, then spare a thought for poor old George. He finally gives in and agrees to an upgrade, whilst concealing Odi in the shed, and he gets the domineering Vera (played with frightening brilliance by Rebecca Front). Vera is going to make sure George takes his medicine, gets his rest and exercise whether he likes it or not. She eventually manhandles him back into his house when he makes a moonlight trip to check on Odi. William Hurt is always watchable and he brings a lot of likeability to the role of Dr. George Millican and this week he reveals his involvement in the original synth project. He also tries to introduce some light-hearted moments into the drama. At first I wasn’t sure whether the humour jarred against the overall tone of the show, but these moments grew on me, mostly because they were played with such straight conviction by Hurt, with Will Tudor’s Odi playing his part with endearing ineptitude. Again the two characters make a charming double act and I hope to see more of their story in the coming weeks.
By the end of the episode, Anita’s untruthfulness and Laura’s hostility towards her finally bear fruit as Laura reaches for the warranty documentation and calls the consumer helpline. I thought the phone call to the helpline was brilliant, a lovely moment of social commentary. The consequence of Laura’s call to the helpline is that Anita has to pack her bags and go back to the factory.
Niska goes Westworld
The other main action of this episode sees Paul Kaye turn up in what seems to be the only role he plays these days, that of the grubby psychopath. He tells Leo that Anita’s memory has been wiped. This leads to Leo’s beating and Max trying to resuscitate him with electricity, revealing that Leo may in fact be a synthetic. We witness Niska (Emily Berrington) finally have enough of her life as a “sex-bot” in two chilling scenes. The first shows us that after a certain number of “sessions” the synthetics are hosed down, and it culminates in Niska silently screaming into the mirror. It is horrifying and gives you a real sense of the suffocating inhumanity that is the sex-trade and again asks the viewer a tough question, forget the fact they are machines, isn’t this what the objectification of women looks like anyway? When people consume porn or go to lap dancing clubs are they not treating people like objects, there only for sexual gratification. Niska then goes fully Westworld when she is asked to act young and frightened by a punter and she refuses and kills him, delivering the devastating line to the startled club owner, “everything your men do to us, they want to do to you”
Episode 2 builds on the excellence of the first episode and has already begun to ratchet up the tension and intrigue. It is a stylish show, and demonstrates that British TV can compete when it comes to hi-concept shows with a cinematic feel. Humans is also full of subtle character building, hints and clever story telling, it does not talk down to the viewer and I am looking forward to episode 3 of this very promising series.