Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014) starts with a, for once, interesting take on life for those who fall through the cracks. It seems this is by no means a perfect future society with an equal distribution of wealth and opportunity. Here we find ourselves in a pod flophouse or shelter where the down-and-outs can get a pill and somewhere to sleep on a first-come-first served basis. Unfortunately, Abbey is too late for a pod and accepts an invitation from Glen, a man in a wheelchair, to show her where she can spend the night. Needless to say, this does not work out well. The performance evaluation of Dorian (Michael Ealy) is also interesting with Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor) and Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) going out to bat for him (even though Kennex does express surprise at how physically strong the android is) while Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) the Geek comes over as in need of a complete psych evaluation prior to involuntary confinement in a mental facility. Dorian, of course, is completely charming (as you would expect from an android).
So after the mandatory banter between Kennex and Dorian, we come to the place where Abbey’s body has been dumped, stuffed with straw (big clue about that in the episode’s title). This is a copycat of the case which his father solved just before he was killed. The man arrested for the crime is still in jail. Diagnosed and treated as a paranoid schizophrenic, he tells our dynamic duo that Kennex senior believed he’d been framed. Unfortunately, when the old man was killed, the accused’s ability to defend himself also disappeared. This presents a slight problem because when the son attempts to access his father’s case notes, he finds the evidence sealed (the why of that is never explained). Maldonado breaks the embargo and gives Kennex a copy. In the privacy of his home, he views the files. From the visual notes, it seems the clue to cracking this case lies in the feet of the victims. Now there’s a novelty.
If you wrestle me to the mat, threaten me with a knife and hold a gun to my head, I might just admit there are some clever ideas in this episode. Obviously future societies are going to have comparable problems of homelessness among the young and displaced so, to keep them healthy, it’s not unreasonable for the state to supply them with pills containing essential nutrients to help keep them healthy. Real food would obviously be better but vitamin pills are a good start. There are fortysomething of these shelters in the city which shows the scale of the problem is fairly considerable but, in none of the earlier episodes, have we seen anyone obviously homeless in the street scenes. Judging from this episode, there are as many back alleys in this future city as there are in our own cities. I wonder how these people actually survive.
Now to the point of the episode which, because it’s the final episode in the season, should be one of the best to get the fans onside and petitioning Fox to renew. The guy with the incurable disease is stealing people and using an old printer to make copies of the bodies. Because this is old tech, the copies of the internal organs would never be convincing during an autopsy so they are removed and replaced with straw. Apparently the skin, bones and the meat of the arms and legs will pass muster on the DNA scales. The only problem is the feet which will go flat while the flesh is setting in the mould. Now that’s interesting but it doesn’t explain why it’s actually necessary to keep the donor bodies alive nor, for that matter, why any bodies must be “found”. Sure the aerial scanners will keep on looking for anyone declared missing but once the bodies are harvested, they can just be thrown into the convenient river. The only reason for the script keeping any of these victims alive is for the feel-good factor in releasing them. For that to be plausible, there’s nothing on display to show how they were actually kept alive inside their sarcophaguses.
Talking about feel-good, we had Kennex rehabilitating his father’s reputation as a good cop — perhaps I missed something but I don’t think Kennex Snr. was ever mentioned before and, if he was, the rep must have been good because, in his final case, he put away a serial killer. I think there were earlier hints Kennex might be an android himself — obviously that’s ruled out now. In fact when I think about it, I see no value in this old case having been investigated by Kennex Snr. It’s not as if son of Kennex felt he had to clear the old man’s name. Even mentioning the old man seems redundant and, without any backstory in earlier episodes, certainly not an appropriate choice of theme for the closing episode in the series. Ah well, at least the innocent guy was released from prison, and Dorian got through his evaluation without a stain on his escutcheon. Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) and Detective Richard Paul (Michael Irby) put in token appearances to remind us they were in the cast. Sadly, there’s no continuity to show Kennex and Stahl might have a romantic future and nothing more about the Insyndicate and the missing girlfriend. Having carefully shown Dorian has “real” memories in episode 11, there’s no mention of it here. So there’s nothing from the earlier episodes brought to a conclusion here or left with a cliffhanger. It’s just another standalone case, some banter between the two principals (who do work well together) and Dorian coming over all emotional when he gives his partner a new leg. What a touching gesture to end this half-baked episode and fairly dire series. Frankly, I’ll be amazed if we see a second season.
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 9. Unbound (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).