Almost Human review: Blood Brothers.

Previously on Almost Human: The Bends.

Life-size Ken dolls. Oh my, we’re in trouble.

John Kennex and the mystery of the life-sized Ken dolls

There’s John, waiting, pacing — waiting to pick Dorian up for shift, and Dorian (gasp) is late! No wonder, he’s having repairs done, like getting a new chest plate, so more time in the pod is to be expected. Except John doesn’t know that, so when Dorian hasn’t turned up at their meeting spot far past 8, he takes the elevator down.

And oh boy, was he not ready for this.

Thus begins the saga of Dorian just showing John his junk in the car, while John is driving, who is perplexed, then mildly scandalised at the, apparently, impressive size of Dorian’s package, before veering off into completely inappropriate workplace conversation, all the while keeping the car completely steady and not pulling a ‘no homo.’ Golly.

“Your fake leg is really sexy.”

While I resent the writers using Dorian to push John and Valerie together, I love that Dorian can make John laugh about his stupid leg, instead of just reminding him of how he’s only almost human anymore. John may get self-conscious when other people talk about it, but with Dorian it’s ok. I like that little moment between them, it shows their growth together without being too flashy about it and having big heartwarming moments each episode — those can get a little too much. (What was heartwarming, though, was John’s instant panic at the thought of Dorian leaving the car during the attack without a proper chest plate. Daww, boys.)

John and Dorian

And, yes, it’s terrible down there (no pun intended), and Dorian shows how different from the MXs he is in this concern as well: privacy. The MX don’t care about everyone knowing what they’re doing, but Dorian does. He has private thoughts, he’s protective of his interior processes, of his feelings. None of us like living in constant close proximity to other people, where they can always butt in and make a nuisance of themselves when we just need some time to wrap our minds around things. Dorian needs time to deal with his stuff alone. Learning about being human is exhausting and mildly terrifying, and he needs his own space. So I wonder when John will have that chat with Maldonado about getting Dorian his own place to live…

Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) in the hands of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum
Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) in the hands of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum

 

Toeing the line: Capt. Maldonado vs. the lousy romance arc

Speaking of Captain Maldonado: the writers are doing a really good job with her. She’s badass and vulnerable — just like a human being. But, often enough, women on the screen tend to be either one or the other, when they could be so much more. Sandra is such a character. As humans, we struggle. We know that we shouldn’t define ourselves by others’ perception of us, but we’re creatures of perception and image — we can’t help it. And women in her position are under more scrutiny than others, and the Captain lives her professional life very much aware of that; to the point that her personal life may take second place behind that. This is everyday reality for a lot of people out there, and most of the time, we’re fine with that. But a lot of people also feel the longing to be with someone, to share their lives with someone. It’s not dependence as in, the opposite of autonomy. It’s just human. So Captain Maldonado has every right to be pleased when the DA pays her a compliment, because humans are complex, we can feel several things at once. Well done, show.

The only thing that really makes me roll my eyes: the romance arc. Ten minutes ago, John was devastated about his girlfriend — first, because he had no idea where she was and then, because it turned out she was involved with the Syndicate, that he was the leak who led his team into the ambush. And now, the writers are pushing him and Valerie together because… well, because they’re there.

Writers: romance isn’t the only meaningful relationship in the human repertoire; and especially the on-screen relationships between men and women since, well, ever, are severely lacking in twosomes who were really, really just friends and managed to stay that way. Like Sherlock and Joan — and unlike Mulder and Scully. The plot would work without the romance angle, them bonding over soccer and bourbon would work without the romance angle, but that’s clearly what the producers are pushing for, and I think it’s a wasted opportunity. If such a show — if Science Fiction — is designed to show us the whole range of human emotion, it makes no sense to have it operate within the trope/cliché confines of the world we already live in. Give me the outrageous — give me the radical notion that women are people, like they’re already doing with Captain Maldonado. If Valerie’s character were a man, this wouldn’t be happening. And there you’ve got your problematic storytelling. The boy meets girl trope shouldn’t serve as the entire shorthand narrative to make audiences accept this subplot. Give Valerie something to do — more than she’s been getting. Make her a character in her own right before making her a love interest. Kennex, if he has to fall for her at all, needs to see more than her (admittedly very beautiful) face first — and that means that we have to see more than that first. If we don’t, it becomes obvious that her character is just a shortcut to John’s redemption arc, and not there because the writers wanted her specifically to exist and kick ass and be her own character.

Something else I don’t really understand: why did Dorian have to flip the car? Wasn’t there any other way of stopping them? And how is Dorian dealing with that, I mean, did it freak him out at all? It’s not the first time that he’s killed someone, robot or human, but it struck me that that’s got to be a lot to deal with — which is a signal that this use of force may have been excessive. Plus, it just erased the clones from existence, while I would have liked to see the justice system dealing with them all in one place.

I really liked the case, though. It was a good protecting the only witness/hunting the bad guys/cop as a hostage scenario; and Avery really was delightfully creepy. The clones living as family angle wasn’t really explored though, just teased with the “how far would you go to protect yourself?” line. It was also teased that, of course, the clones were all clever but had different personalities, or at least different predominant personality traits. I would have liked to see more of their interactions, to see how each other their parts made a different whole when they’re together in different constellations, and what their attitudes towards the
“original” Avery are.

Next: Arrhythmia.

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