Being aware that episodes are airing out of order is a tricky detail. It’s something that wouldn’t have been extremely noticeable before the proliferation of show data on Wikipedia and other websites. But it provides a larger understanding of how desperate a network can be to put a show’s best foot forward and how a show approaches narrative. “Blood Brothers” was the eighth episode of Almost Human produced, but it’s the fifth to air. Next week is the third episode produced, and the second episode isn’t even on the schedule. Usually that would signal some episodes after the pilot so bad the network moved to bury them until after viewers are hopefully hooked on the show. But I don’t think that’s the case.
This episode looks like the show is pulling back dramatically on any kind of overarching criminal plot to tie the season together. (Which is wise, considering the dip in overall viewers and the key demo in the past three weeks.) What I glean from this is that Almost Human is not aiming to be a heavily serialized show, but instead a much more episodic, action-oriented, futuristic police story. Science-fiction elements may turn viewers off from dropping in on Almost Human without being familiar with the show in the beginning, but right now, this is as easy to pick up with no prior context as something like CSI, NCIS, or Castle. Though it’s bleeding viewers, I want to see more of these characters just hanging out—especially because Wyman and his writers need to fix what they’re doing with Minka Kelly’s Detective Stahl and Lili Taylor’s Captain Maldonado.
“Blood Brothers” begins with the most intriguing element the show has going for it: the increasing sexual tension between Karl Urban and Michael Ealy. In the first couple episodes, it transcended mere working partnership. There’s undeniable sexual chemistry between these two guys, and the way they play off each other in an ambiguous way adds to it. Dorian has scanned Kennex’s body to determine if he’s getting any from the ladies, and tonight Kennex goes into what appears to be the android dormitory-slash-locker room, where he (and the audience) gets an eyeful of an MX’s Ken-doll lack-of-nether region.
So begins a quasi-ethical dilemma that I found far more interesting than the case of a wealthy philanthropist willing to kill to protect the anonymity of his clones. Dorian doesn’t want to sleep in the closet-like robot dormitory space, crunched in like sardines, since he has that “synthetic soul,” leading him to ask Kennex to talk to Captain Maldonado about getting him some proper housing. He’s an android, so he should be able to just shut off, but he’s not a totally robotic or unfeeling robot, so there’s mistreatment involved. He’s agitated and feeling caged, but he’s not truly alive, so what’s the right way to treat Dorian fairly? Kennex doesn’t much care, since he can’t get the smooth image of the MX out of his head, and letting curiosity get the better of him by asking Dorian whether he looks the same, um, down there.
And, what do you know? Dorian just whips it out in the car and Kennex comments on it. Seriously, that scene happened. At the beginning of a police procedural set in the future with hyper-advanced androids. The funniest and most unique aspect of this show right now is the central partnership’s homoerotic chemistry. In a way, it’s almost Holmesian, except Kennex isn’t nearly smart enough to be Sherlock and Dorian is far too assured to be Dr. Watson. The leading conversations attempting to pair Kennex with Stahl are halfhearted at best, since the chemistry they have right now is that they both follow the same soccer team—another vague detail that sets this series in some otherworldly future or at the very least in another country. Oh, and she drinks bourbon. So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s two conversations about genitals and witty banter for Kennex and Dorian, and whiskey and a soccer team for Kennex and Stahl.
But the central case is more about a megalomaniacal murderer trying to kill witnesses using his clones and taunting Maldonado in the process. That monologue in the prison is probably the worst scene in the episode, with Maldonado standing there and continuing to listen to verbal abuse for no discernable reason—not standing up, not defending herself, not revealing any bit of character. Figuring out the clones exist was an intriguing, if obvious, answer once the initial details started to piece together, but the way Maldonado ended up using the modern technology to maintain the upper hand shows she’s an intelligent and capable captain. But good lord, the kicker back in the court room where the prosecuting attorney stops Maldonado and tells her she looks nice was such a bad move. Hey everyone, someone still thinks she’s pretty! She’s not sad and lonely and single while being an incompetent police captain! “Blood Brothers” does show Maldonado to have an acceptable amount of control, neither a genius not an incompetent, but in general Almost Human has taken a patronizing approach to both of the regular female characters.
The other character that comes into play here is Maya, the “medium psychic” (as opposed to a “petite psychic” on her good days) who had a futuristic medical procedure to enhance her senses, which allows her to commune with the dead. It’s an interesting idea, and Ealy’s scenes with Maya yield some nice interplay, but her backstory doesn’t add much to either the android’s internal conflict or the larger police narrative. It’s mostly just a curiosity, that a woman whose parents died in a car crash got a procedure to talk to them, but all her possessions perished in a fire. Dorian giving her an evidence box at the end should be a satisfying button, but it doesn’t resolve a significant conflict. I honestly hope Maya comes back, since she’s the first peripheral character involved in a case to actually make a memorable dent. The episode keeps trying to forge a thematic connection between how she touches objects and infers their meaning with how Dorian functions as an android, and while that didn’t quite track, there is promise in the small bond they formed by that penultimate scene.
- Another cool future-cop detail: the not-totally-airtight secure way of beaming witnesses into a courtroom from a safe house.
- Generic Futuristic Alternate Title Of The Week: Hologram Justice
- Great Kennex dis: “Why don’t you just go reread a How To Be A Cop manual.”