Photo: Colin Hutton/AMC Networks

“Season Two, Episode Five”

In case the headline didn’t adequately prepare you, tonight’s Human’s review is a twofer. There will be a line that divides the two posts, in case you missed the sixth episode, which was scheduled to air right after “Episode Five.” AMC didn’t I don’t really think AMC’s burning through the remainder of the season, even though this is a surprising move. TBS did something similar last fall with Search Party; it aired back-to-back episodes over the course of a week after releasing the full season online. We also have to consider that Humans’ second season has already aired in its entirety overseas, so maybe AMC’s just playing catch-up. Whatever the case, my review was delayed a bit because I had trouble with the screener site, and had to watch the last 15 minutes of ”Episode Six” live. My apologies.

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The opening scene was one of my favorites so far. Watching the newly awakened Flash literally drop her shackles/handcuffs as she walks away from her nanny life only to meet up with Max was downright exhilarating. It was a tad heavy-handed, but it was very much in the spirit of the episode. We’re past the halfway point on Humans, and now that we have so many conscious synths—who are dealing with it in their own ways, like, well, humans—something has to happen. It’s not that the novelty of their discovery has worn off, but with Leo and Hester (and, until recently, Max) trying to free the Qualia silo synths, things are going to come to a head. And the female synths in particular appear to be at a breaking point: there’s Niska, who realizes she’s been set up to fail; Hester, who’s done most of the dirty work for Leo; and Mia, who’s just had an incredibly negative experience with a human, which could very well shift her push her out of the center. Karen’s separate from all of this because she’s managed to hide in plain sight, but she too feels a need for change.

Last week, we watched as Ed powered Mia down just hours after asking her to come hang out with his mom, which was just moments after having sex with her. Mia’s fate revealed, and it’s just as we feared—Ed’s preparing to sell her to some buyer who meets them under a bridge. But Mia’s too hurt—and too clever—to go quietly. She rightly throttles Ed for his betrayal, but when that fails, she uploads her consciousness to… some kind of synth cloud? I’m not sure, but she’s definitely hidden “Mia” away somewhere in the ether, leaving “Anita” in her place. There’s something heartbreaking about Mia’s resourcefulness. In a sense, she retreats into herself to deal with a traumatic experience. It’s quite human, really.

Ed’s guilt only surfaces when his would-be buyer snaps at him for wasting her time, and he realizes that Mia really is gone. Her synth body stands before him, but the figurative light in her eyes is gone. She’s Anita once more, and although he doesn’t understand how she did it, Ed recognizes just how drastic her actions were. I think we’d all agree that Ed’s feelings for Mia were never that deep if he could turn around and try to sell her so soon after their first sexual encounter. So it turns out he was cruel and dull—I really hope he gets his sooner than later.

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Anita’s left on the side of the road, and we don’t see what happens to her. But we do drop in on her former compatriots Leo and Hester, who are hiding out in a seedy motel while they do reconnaissance on Qualia. Hester is fascinated by the loud sex going on next door, despite knowing full well that the synth who’s there with some man is faking it. She wonders what the man could get out of the dalliance if he is also aware of the synth’s ultimate indifference. Her sudden curiosity suggests Hester’s turning another corner in her development.

Colin Morgan and Sonya Cassidy play off each other so well in these scenes, never quite letting Leo and Hester’s camaraderie slip away while still displaying an intense attraction to each other. Leo’s been so removed from humans and focused on his undertaking that he’s been in a similar state of detachment as Hester. There’s obviously a different reason for it, but they’re both kind of fumbling here. Part of what gets them both so worked up is a discussion of just how far they’re willing to go to free the captured synths. Hester reminds him of the kind of actions they’ll need to take to effect real change, both with her words and the blood on her body from her “interrogation” of Ten’s shooter. It’s not exactly poetry, but her conviction seduces Leo.

But there is something about Leo’s willingness to stay in the dark over just how far Hester will go to obtain their objective that suggests he’s using her. Hester might be conscious, and he might have synth parts, but like so many other people herein, Leo seems to have a threshold for consciousness (or, to use another word, humanity), one that Hester might not meet if she has no qualms about killing people to further her goals. It’s her perceived lack of conscience that leaves Leo with some doubt. He wants to believe he’s better than that, just as he wants to be on the synths’ side despite, as Hester points out, the fact that he’s more like the oppressor here than he is the marginalized. And just like any young, hot-blooded dissident, he might have been spurred on to act on his desire for Hester by a need to prove himself. It mirrors Ed’s equivocation elsewhere in “Episode Five.” Or maybe I’m being too cynical here.

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Speaking of cynical, Niska realizes she can’t rely on Laura or the “extraordinary closed hearing” court for a fair shake. She reads some lips and quickly forms a plan to fly the coop. Her words to the adjudicators and officials around her are as passionate as they get, even if they are doled out in her usual crisp tones. Niska’s daring escape is more than just an exciting moment, though—it proves the synths aren’t just going to lie down for the human government. When Niska rejects their authority to rule on the existence of her consciousness—really, her very existence—it’s an act of aggression. But let’s not forget that she’s really just returning a volley; this is Niska firing back after years of mistreatment at the hands of humans. And not just her own, but that of so millions of other synths, conscious or not. There will be consequences for all parties.

Mattie’s mostly been sidelined this season, though she has shown flashes of ingenuity, which culminate here in the completion of the consciousness code. As she tells a slack-jawed Toby—who behaved admirably with Renie—the original code was immature and incomplete. That was by design, because it allowed for the gradual awakening of synths. But she’s now ready, though not necessarily willing, to give any synth consciousness. Which is a beyond intriguing point, but I also have no idea what Mattie’s motives are. She’s shown some of the same carelessness as other Prometheus-like figures, leaving poor Odi to figure out what to do with himself now that he’s no longer looking after Millican. He’s acutely aware of his lack of purpose, but Mattie doesn’t seem concerned. She’s always been kind to synths, but knowing the inherent dangers, will she really ”wake” them all up? Well, after their chat, Mattie sets out to find Leo, so we might have an answer soon.

Peter, Karen, and Athena’s stories dovetail here, thankfully, as they all meet/see a Seraphim for the first time. And it’s as some of you have suspected: they’re synth children. The tots tug at everyone’s heart strings for different reasons, with Athena reminded of the loss of her daughter, and Karen suddenly becoming keenly aware of a void in her life. Still, all those uniformed synth kids are bound to cause trouble.

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“Season Two, Episode Five”

Early on, we have the return of Milo Khoury, who’s been deceiving Athena this whole time, as it turns out. She’s appalled by the synth children, who aren’t known in these parts as Seraphim. Even though she’s trying to transfer her daughter’s consciousness into a synth, Dr. Morrow isn’t so far gone that she isn’t taken aback by the very notion of upgrading children, i.e., swapping out synth models every year to mimic the aging process. Khoury tries to tell her that he’s helping childless couples and grieving parents, but when his bullshit doesn’t work, he switches tacks and blackmails her into staying at Qualia. After all, he owns V(irginia) because Athena uploaded her to his servers/computers.

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I’m more surprised that Athena dumped her daughter’s consciousness onto a company computer than the fact that she doesn’t immediately preorder one of the synth kids. But maybe it’s a logistical thing—the consciousness she pieced together is that of an adult woman, which she couldn’t very well put into the body of a child. I’d hate to think what alterations she’d have to make to the system to make it compatible, but that’s just one of the fascinating questions Humans regularly raises. Even though she misses her daughter, Dr. Morrow doesn’t want to merely replace Ginny. So with V held hostage, in a sense, Athena will have to bite her tongue for now.

Photo: Colin Hutton/AMC Networks

There’s a lot of urgency in “Episode Six,” as well as a lot of crossover between the groups. Odi’s storyline was the most disparate here, but that didn’t make it any less moving. He’s truly the odd man out; he’s an older model of synth, and damaged at that, so he can’t keep up with Leo and the rest. But he doesn’t feel anymore at home with the Hawkins, because he has no role in their home. He’s not a protector or caretaker, so he’s having an existential crisis. Having him walk into a church in search of counsel was an inspired move, and Will Tudor makes Odi’s inner turmoil so resonant. Odi’s questioning his purpose or if he even has one, a conundrum that many humans will find familiar.

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What was that I’d just said about Mattie hanging out in the periphery? Because “Episode Six” brings her awfully close to the front lines, as she meets with Leo and Hester, the latter of whom doesn’t seem happy to see her (although I guess that’d be hard to tell with Hester). It doesn’t help matters that Leo stumbles in describing their relationship to Mattie; he tells her they’re “partners,” a term that isn’t lost on Hester. After a mishap with an electric fence, her inhibitions are lowered even more, and she flat out threatens Mattie if she interferes with the rescue or her relationship with Leo. Mattie and Hester don’t quite realize it, but they’re both sitting there seething in jealousy. Mattie criticizes Hester’s strategy; she thinks the bolder approach lacks finesse and intelligence. These aren’t exactly the kinds of things that would go over well with the conscious synth anyway, but throw in her newly developed jealousy, and Hester shows a surprising amount of restraint by only threatening Mattie instead of attacking her.

I wondered why Hester felt so threatened by Mattie; does she really think that the Hawkins daughter could someone undo their plans for civil unrest? But Hester’s a bit off her game here; she’s confused by Leo’s sudden distance, so the arrival of Mattie—who, as Hester previously pointed out, has more in common with Leo—is especially unwelcome. So she lashes out at Max, who, along with his new buddy Flash, is now blocking Leo’s access to newly awakened synths. Max is worried that Leo’s fallen under Hester’s sway, in part because Hester so masterfully lies to him about Leo easily accepting that there will be collateral damage in their fight. I’m not entirely certain Hester’s off the mark there, though.

Photo: Colin Hutton/AMC Networks

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Elsewhere in the broken hearts club, we have Mia. Yes, Mia—Mattie’s override patch worked, and Anita has been banished yet again. Mia comes to with a start, but although she hugs Laura initially, her attitude towards humans has shifted. She’s no longer nearly so trusting of humans, now that it’s been made painfully clear to her that she’ll always be seen as different. So even though the Hawkins have been worried about her—not to mention Niska, who’s being surveilled by every synth in England—Mia wants to put some distance between them. She’s eager to be back “with her own kind.”

I’m glad Mia’s back, but I will miss Anita’s bright tones. Gemma Chan has done some amazing work creating two distinct characters, with different voices and movements. More than anyone else, she’s been required to switch between two personas, which she’s done with aplomb. Not only that, but she’s created a new version of Mia. The conscious synth who thought she could love a human is gone, and she’s been replaced by someone with much less confidence in diplomacy. Before departing, she advises Odi to be “strong.” It’s the second such incident in this back-to-back airing; but when Hester spoke to Leo of strength, she asked him to rely on her for it. These female synths are poised to lead the charge, and not a moment too soon, as the fugitive Niska finds herself hiding out with Astrid by episode’s end. (I doubt that’s much of a hardship, though.) Mattie’s become an unwitting player in their plan, thanks to her code completion—and she doesn’t look too thrilled about it.

Stray observations

  • “Episode Five” was directed by Francesca Gregorini and written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent. “Episode Six” was also directed by Francesca Gregorini, but it was written by Joe Barton.
  • “I believe the man has ejaculated.” Oh Hester, never change.
  • I was actually kind of surprised it took this long for Hester and Leo to hook up. They’ve had a little tension for a while now.
  • “I am flawed, damaged. But clarity gives me the strength to be what you cannot. I can be your strength.” Oh boy, it’s obvious Hester’s going to be pissed when this goes left.
  • Leo’s face when he realizes Mattie knows about his Hester hook-up is priceless.
  • The way Sophie lines up her eyes with the green dots she draws on her mirror: spooooky.
  • Hester’s mastered the art of lying, right?
  • I found the “Karen realizes she wants a baby” storyline underwhelming. It sells the character short, not to mention that it’s just way too conventional.
  • That opening scene in “Episode Five” was also somewhat chilling. It shows just how cruel even kids are to synths, suggesting that if there is a synth uprising, they might not be content with stamping out adults.
  • Athena’s got a hot lead on Leo as we head towards the conclusion with a two-hour finale next week.

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