Almost Human review: Arrhythmia.

Previously on Almost Human: Blood Brothers.

Oh good, there’s two of them.

This episode of Almost Human gives us many things: a Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? reference in the form of the Luger test, designed to detect faulty DRNs, an organ harvesting crime story, and the issue of government property and god, destiny, and free human will all up in the machine.

“Some even went so far as to call us… crazy.”

The Voight-Kampff test in Blade Runner/DADoES was supposed to distinguish human from android in a time when the machines became so sophisticated they could impersonate “real” humans without anyone knowing. The biggest emotional draw of that novel and its movie adaptation is that Deckard ends up not being able to tell anymore and, more importantly, that people on Earth have lost sight of what being human means. On Almost Human, that emotional draw is being reflected in Kennex, who thought his partner was one of the crazy ones, and hated the thought of riding with a synthetic — and look at him now. He’s sorry for what he said, and the exchange in the car suggests that they actually talked about this.

“Some even went so far as to call us… crazy.”
“Still holding on to that one, huh?”

John and Dorian during the raidThere’s humour in there, John doesn’t get defensive about what he said back then because he knows it’s fine, he knows Dorian doesn’t mean it like that, it’s not aimed at him. He changed his mind about Dorian, and Dorian knows, because Dorian strives for humanity, strives for the connection that DRN 4N4 had with the little boy, Phillip — the connection that Dorian now has with John.

“When I was decommissioned, the second before it happened I just kept thinking ‘I really hope there’s someone there to wake me up again.’ I just want to be a cop, man. I just want to be here. And then you woke me up. It was you. You were that person for me, John.”

John Kennex (Karl Urban)

Waking Dorian & living with the consequences

For the humans in this episode, it’s all about their hearts — not just as organs, but as the driving force behind them taking up the risk of being blackmailed for more time of life. They just want more time — now, Dorian has all the time in the world. He doesn’t age, so there’s a two-edged sword for him here: one the one hand, he could be decommissioned again at any time, should the powers that be decide so. On the other hand, if they don’t, he will just live and live and live. He’ll outlive John. So how do you make every second count, even though you live forever?

By being (almost) human.

Rudy handing over that… thingy to John in order to wake Dorian up struck me as something that would come up again when it happened, because in John’s hands, it carried more weight. He didn’t want another partner, he sure as hell didn’t want an android, but he woke Dorian up. He’s the reason Dorian can work as a cop again, and in the beginning and still now, he’s the person Dorian is closest to. John may deflect all he wants, but he gets it. There was no-one there when John woke up from the coma, just his old job and a missing ex-girlfriend.

And now, he’s worried about Dorian, and sorry for what happened. He still keeps walking into those traps, calling Dorian’s fellow DRN “hospital property” and all, which is the clincher: the DRNs are government property, their lives are not entirely their own, they can be decommissioned at short notice. All because of a test that was designed because some of them turned out to be emotionally unstable. You see, emotionally unstable humans get put into care, or psychiatric hospitals. The DRNs were put to sleep and left to rot in basements, or working as janitors, without any memory of what they achieved. You wouldn’t do that to humans, you wouldn’t put troublesome individuals to sleep permanently — for Dorian, that was as good as dying, not knowing whether he would be waking up again. That wouldn’t be done to humans — oh wait. Robot euthanasia, perpetrated on DRNs that are designed to be human, living beings that feel and and fear and grieve; and it was acceptable because they’re just machines, and government property. They’re just there to fulfil a function, not to live meaningful lives — they were built with Synthetic Soul for the comfort of humans, not for their own sakes. Alienation for them is even worse than for MXs, because MXs don’t feel it, and humans don’t feel threatened by soulless machines the way they do by DRNs that are made to have emotions and behave just like them.

John doesn’t want any other partner, and grouse as he might, Dorian is his friend, and he understands why Dorian wants the other DRN along with them. He doesn’t want to lose Dorian to that test, he doesn’t want him to be decommissioned again, and it’s in this episode that he realises that Dorian may be taken from him, and there wouldn’t be anything they’d be able to do. Dorian may annoy him and drop his removable eyeball in John’s coffee, but in the end, he’s not his own master. He does things out of his own free will, but that agency doesn’t extend to his actual life. He has to deal with being called crazy and being looked at warily, expected to go nuts at any moment. No human would deserve to be looked at that way, and neither does Dorian. Yet, John doesn’t want DRN 4N4 in the car at first — because there’s that double standard rearing its ugly head again. John knows Dorian, and affords him more respect than other DRNs, which he probably realises when they’re in the car and Dorian talks about the test. He knows that Dorian feels these things keenly, and it may have occurred to him that it’s the same for the DRN in the back.

This is also where that old topic of FOX reordering episodes at will kicks in again — some of this would have made way more sense earlier in the season, and the other episode with Dorian being shot totally missed its opportunity to explore the possibility of him going off the rails after being damaged or not being able to cope with the stress.

Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly)

And, of course, there’s the coda of every week’s episode: giving John and Valerie a little time to awkwardly flirt and make googly eyes at each other… I love Valerie, and I hate that they’re doing this to her character. Just let her be awesome on her own, writers, don’t let “Kennex likes her” be your shorthand for her being awesome. Don’t go through him on this, go through her. Ugh, needless romantic subplots… can’t they just be bros? As I said last week, this wouldn’t be happening if Valerie were a handsome man… which tells you everything you need to know.

Next: Simon Says.

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