Almost Human: Season 1, episode 9. Unbound (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, Episode 9. Unbound (2014) starts off on what’s now the standard format. There has to be an extended jokey exchange between Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) so, this time, a group of kids is on a field trip inside police headquarters and, to cut the long story short, John thinks the kids really do want to see the guns and what happens to bad guys. So, of course, he shows them. One kid is sick and the teacher thinks this is a limb amputation too far. Like the arm, it does have the virtue of cutting the tour short. Meanwhile, a mugger snatches a bag but is shot down by the MXs. It proves to be a trojan robot. Packed and stored in the evidence locker, it recovers the magic head (called Danica (Gina Carano)) everyone seems interested in —in the pilot episode, InSyndicate tried to break into the evidence locker. Now this service robot has replaced its head with the stored head and now it’s an XRN back on the streets again. At this point, we need extensive infodumping so we can finally catch up on some of the history in this near future version of Earth.
This is the three-day period the police department was embarrassed. Yes, even in our future, the police have not yet become infallible so they redacted all records of their failures so they can forget where they screwed up. Except elephants like John can remember (the fact he couldn’t remember any of the DRN’s history in previous episodes has also been redacted). The DRNs became erratic when they were exposed to life in the ranks, so they were decommissioned. Having lost its business, the company that made them was declared bankrupt. But, as a parting gesture, the man behind the company repurposed some of the remaining androids for potential military use. When the demonstration was held, it did not go well. Three days and multiple deaths later, the single XRN was cornered and the body destroyed. The head was the only thing that survived. Now, it’s out there again. But with a body so badly damaged, it needs to be replaced. So because this is a show primarily made for men, she naturally breaks into a warehouse filled with sexbots. That way, we can get to see a little glamour before she starts killing people again.
It turns out the warehouse is owned by the notorious Dr Nigel Vaughn (John Larroquette) who made the DRNs. Dorian therefore gets to meet his Daddy which is an emotional moment for all concerned. The good doctor suggests that if he can just get his hands on some of the equipment from his old lab, he might be able to track where the XRN goes. That means we get to see the suave American scientist interact with Rudy (Mackenzie Crook), the incomprehensible Brit. We then have a moment that is ghastly and embarrassing as Rudy demonstrates why he should never have been allowed in the show, followed by a masterclass by John Larroquette in how to deliver pure rubbish and make it sound vaguely plausible. “Yes, these are android souls. . .” and so on. Meanwhile our XRN is acquiring five-hundred processors. Only one per robot is required. This is therefore the makings of an army of XRNs if enough bodies can be manufactured.
So here comes the psychology. When Pygmalion was carving the statue that he later called Galatea, he was full of love. That’s why Dr Vaughn was distressed when the DRNs apparently malfunctioned. When a project so close to his heart proved the making of defectives, he felt the failure more keenly than might otherwise have been the case. With the city contract cancelled and a mountain of debt about to bury him, he came to program the XRN. He was angry, resentful and not a little desperate. If a creative genius invests a part of himself in his creations, the XRN was almost bound to be aggressive and destructive. It’s the Frankenstein version of the same myth. This brings us to be crunch. The initial robot infiltrator was designed to get the head. The head was then attached to a body which was designed to be a sacrifice. Everything was directed by Dr Vaughn so he could disappear to the other side of the Wall (a physical structure that has yet to be explained but it’s presumably something along the lines of Escape From New York (1981) where a fifty-foot containment wall created a massive prison for malcontents. As an idea, it has potential but, so far, I can’t judge whether the result will be impressive or pure idiocy.
Following on from the Pilot, this took a major narrative step forward. Apart from the need to pass on a small mountain of backstory, this was a very efficient plot. It might not be wholly coherent or credible, say because no-one seems to suspect Vaughn of playing a double game — it was just coincidence his robot which, when released, came to him to get another body. There are also serious questions of why it took three days to subdue a single robot when our heroic duo do it in five minutes this time around. All it takes is a bomb large enough to bring down the building in which it’s trapped. No-one need ever go in to corner it. Anyway, Unbound has vaguely reawakened some interest and the prospect of seeing more of John Larroquette is a positive inducement. So far, he’s the only one able to deliver the lines in a credible style. However, the news seems to be bad with no filming on the series reported after Christmas. It looks as though this is going to be cancelled after the thirteenth episode. If that news is confirmed, it will not be a surprise. Apart from this episode and the Pilot, the show has been a disaster.
For reviews of other episodes, see
Almost Human. Season 1, episode 1 (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 2. Skin (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 3. Are You Receiving? (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 4. The Bends (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 5. Blood Brothers (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 6. Arrhythmia (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 7. Simon Says (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 8. You Are Here (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 10. Perception (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 11. Disrupt (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 12. Beholder (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014).