A Short Review of Almost Human

A new show debuted this week that should please many science fiction fans -- Almost Human, executive-produced by J.J. Abrams and created by J.H. Wyman, who previously brought us the excellent Fringe. Set in the future (which doesn't need to be a specific year, but is -- let the countdown to 2048 begin!) when crime has quadrupled, law-enforcement has tackled the problem by partnering human police officers with androids. The new robot models, labeled MX, are more, well, "robotic," like emotionless mannequins, but they are meant to be an improvement over their "almost human" predecessors whose simulated emotions made them unpredictable and hazardous. Karl Urban plays a troubled detective returning to the force after being out of commission in a coma for almost two years as a result of a gang attack that killed his colleagues. After not fitting well with the new MX model assigned to him, he is partnered with an older version (played by Michael Ealy), brought out of storage.

Urban and Ealy are terrific, their characters completely likable and full of depth.  Ealy's Dorian, like so many of the best android characters in speculative fiction history, struggles with the self-awareness that he's a machine and that his emotions and thoughts are just coded into his wiring, yet he was created to be as close to human as possible. Many times during the story, he comes across as the most human character of all. As in Bladerunner and other science fiction tales that came before, there are hints that Urban's Detective John Kennex may be less human than originally thought. Having lost one of his legs in the attack that almost killed him, he now has a computerized, artificial limb -- but we're left wondering if there is more cyborg to him than just the leg. Are his memories implanted? Is he the next evolutionary step in the android factory-line? Nothing is said outright, but his last name "Kennex" does have a similarity to "MX."  We shall see what unfolds in future episodes.

Like the best science fiction, the pilot episode creates a fully believable futuristic world with many glimpses of advanced technology. I'm hoping that such sci-fi elements aren't downplayed as the season progresses -- I want this show to explore ideas instead of just becoming another police procedural. The supporting cast does a fine job of keeping up with the dynamic duo of Kennex and Dorian without getting in their way -- Lili Taylor as Captain Sandra Maldonado, Minka Kelly as Detective Stahl, Michael Irby as Detective Richard Paul, and Mackenzie Crook as Rudy Lom.  I especially enjoyed Hiro Kanagawa as the mysterious Recollectionist, trying to help rehabilitate Kennex and draw out his memories as he attempts to go back to a regular life. I hope we see more of him.

Almost Human runs on the FOX broadcast network. Full episodes are also available online at FOX NOW, FOX On Demand, Hulu Plus, and elsewhere.  Check it out.

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