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Irredeemable by Jason Sizemore

June 4, 2014 1 comment

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Irredeemable by Jason Sizemore (Seventh Star Press, 2014) is a collection of eighteen stories, seven of which are original. “Caspar” strips down the setting to the bare minimum and has us view a meeting on a bench. Two men come together and one offers insights into the story of the three gifts offered by the three wise men to the baby Jesus. Perhaps this interpretation of the Bible is not quite standard, but it certainly comes with a point and indicates the probable direction of travel. “City Hall” wonders whether Human Resources Departments, particularly those in the public sector, could become slightly more innovative when it comes to terminating employees who are tardy, incompetent, or have serious halitosis. For too long, personnel mavens have relied on the tried and tested pink slip. But that’s altogether too impersonal. I’m reminded of Julius Caesar Act 4 which warns, “These many, then, shall die; their names are prick’d.” “Faithless” reminds us that sometimes there’s a double edge to a situation. Now it may well be that a serpent was responsible for tempting Adam and Eve with the unfortunate consequence of original sin. But there are times when, in the right hands, the serpent can have precisely the opposite effect.

“For the Sake of Pleasing” is as the title suggests, a rather pleasing science fantasy in which the rather powerful vampire-like creatures who run Earth like a cattle farm suddenly detect the imminent arrival of aliens. This could be very inconvenient, so Earth sends its Barbarella on a first-contact mission. In tone, this is rather like the Richard Jeperson stories by Kim Newman with psychic forces blending in with sixties and seventies spy and thriller film and television series like The Avengers and James Bond. Although I don’t think the ending is quite worked out properly, this is a standout story. “Hope” is a different form of science fiction context for an urban fantasy story of hunter and hunted at the end of the world. Although mildly explicit, it builds to a pleasingly wry conclusion. “Ice Cream at the Falls” sees us back to the straight horror with an artist who has a mission to impose his point of view on the world. With his latest work on display, he suddenly discovers the sins of the father can pass down to the son. “Little Digits” is a short short story which inverts expectation lickety-split or should that be splat? “Mr Templar” takes us back to the sfnal world with a story of androids surviving a nuclear holocaust. They wander the surface of Earth searching for fuel to keep themselves functional. At times, out of desperation, they scavenge the fallen for spare parts and residual fuel. It’s a tough life made more pressing by the discovery of a spacecraft in orbit. Perhaps if they could reach that ship there would be salvation. Or perhaps an entirely different fate awaits them.

Jason Sizemore

Jason Sizemore

“Plug and Play” is a faintly humorous spin on the drug mule trope as our human hero has what some might think a psychotic break on the space station where he works and discovers it can be a better life to work for, rather than against, android interests. I don’t think the plot is completely coherent. Why he should want to go back to his old job and, more to the point, why the androids would want such a troublesome human back needs to be explained. Nevertheless, as written, it maintains interest to the end. “Pranks” is an unsuccessful attempt to run the biter-bit trope. Unfortunately, it telegraphs the ending from the first paragraph. “Samuel” sees a son try to defend his mother from death. It seems not to follow the logic of its basis in faith. If the mother had been baptised and had led a life without sin, or, more likely, had been given the last rites after confession, the son should have faith his mother would go to Heaven and dismiss the words of the devil as lies. But you can ignore this comment. As an atheist, I’m afraid I don’t really understand stories like this. “Shotgun Shelter” takes us back into the real world with a kind of coming-of-age story in which three teens get into trouble and have to decide what to do about it. The answer is slightly extreme but not unexpected.

“Sonic Scarring” is a powerful alien invasion story with a very interesting variation on the answer to the traditional question, “What do the aliens want with us, anyway?” “The XX Agent” is one of the most successful stories in the collection, showing us how arbitrary the line is between life and death, and how often the choices we make dictate which side of the line we fall. “The Dead and Metty Crawford” takes us into familiar zombie territory, and as the title suggests, “The Sleeping Quartet” has us in a dream/nightmare scenario where the trick is telling the real from the imagined. “Useless Creek” is one of these nicely ambiguous stories in which even thinking about a lost love can be emotionally painful. As with all such situations, it’s the uncertainty that’s the most difficult to deal with. And, as is appropriate in collections, the publisher leaves the best till last. “Yellow Warblers” is a terrific story about the nature of acceptance and the role of knowledge when it comes to survival.

Having finished, three things are clear. Jason Sizemore is better at length than writing shorter stories. Second, he’s better at writing science fiction and naturalistic crime stories than straight horror. Finally, although this collection is slightly uneven in quality, there’s no doubt that when he makes a good connection with the ball, he hits it out of the park. All of which makes Irredeemable highly readable and worth picking up if you’re into short fiction which, for the most part, is influenced by the southern gothic style.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014)

March 5, 2014 2 comments

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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.

John Kennex (Karl Urban) takes a straw poll

John Kennex (Karl Urban) draws the short straw

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).

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 12. Beholder (2014)

February 26, 2014 3 comments

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Almost Human: Season 1, episode 12. Beholder (2014) begins with a terrible warning about playing virtual golf. There’s no quicker way to lose face than playing against the machine. So our pretend golfer in shorts is distracted and gets the wrong type of hole in one side of his neck courtesy of a bandaged intruder. Switch now to police HQ where Dorian (Michael Ealy) takes a call from Samantha — the woman Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) dated last night. Naturally Kennex is upset Dorian has interfered in his private life. Dorian offers the insight that the women he dates find him boring which is why they keep taking calls when out with him. This bromantic heart-to-heart is interrupted by Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) who speculates she has an unnatural death involving a chrome. Such people are genetically modified so don’t die young of heart attacks. We then get the slightly spooky view of Dorian taking a blood sample from the deceased and injecting it into himself. Of course he doesn’t have to worry about HIV or any other infection, but it’s a faintly surreal moment. Dorian’s internal CSI lab processes the blood and he announces the entry wound has been contaminated by the DNA from seven people — such bad hygiene from our killer should have consequences but this is not about the DNA. A records search reveals all seven donors are dead from natural causes.

Meanwhile, our bandaged man wearing the hoodie goes to his local unregistered physician who “fixes” his face (again). This is quite the best approach to cosmetic surgery I’ve seen in a television series or film for a while. It makes shapeshifting abilities redundant. Just one quick injection and a lot of pain, and nanobot cosmetic surgery does the trick every time. Who needs to manipulate the DNA when you can have the robots map the desired facial features from the inside of the model and then replicate the same effect inside the target human. Be still my heart — unfortunately that’s the effect the bots had on most targets. Their electrical action induced arrhythmia when injected into the models (except when those donors were prepared for the shock by the injection of adrenaline). The only drawback to this illegal version seems to be it doesn’t work on the already damaged person which is why he has to signal his continuing threat to society by wearing bandages.

Eric Lathem (Michael Eklund) gets the eyes he's always coveted

Eric Lathem (Michael Eklund) gets the eyes he’s always coveted

The theme of tonight’s episode is not so much that people make barriers for themselves and so find it difficult to relate to those around them, but rather that technology makes barriers between people. Genetic modification makes the chromes who don’t like associating with normals. Women prefer taking calls from their friends rather than talking with Kennex on a date. When Kennex rants anti-technology, Dorian reminds John of his leg (and the salad oil that keeps it working smoothly). A further application of technology is the midget inside the obese woman — you have to see it to believe it — which is a really strange life choice when, presumably, the midget could have chosen the body of a giant hunky man. Dorian proves the exception that proves the rule. He can bridge the gap with humans because he’s a walking defibrillator who can jump start a heart assuming not too much adrenaline in the target body.

All this would not be unreasonable if it were being used in service of a sensible plot. But this is mawkishly ironic and overextended. Eric Lathem (Michael Eklund) as our homicidal nutter is forcing the reconstruction of his face so he can appear perfect when he introduces himself to his online chat partner. With time running short and the police moving in for the arrest, he finally picks up enough courage and goes to meet her. It turns out she’s blind and he’s been wasting his time. She loved him for who he was as a person, not what he looked like. It’s a ghastly moment as our facial dysmorphic disorder person throws himself on the scrapheap of life, i.e. off the top of a tall building. This just leaves one thing to perfect the already perfect day Kennex has been enjoying. He finally asks Stahl to go out for a drink with him only to find she’s agreed to go out with the chrome she met earlier in the episode. Carpe diem was not his approach to life and he’s cast adrift at the end of the episode, reflecting on how slowly the plot has moved. Sadly, although there’s some character development, the episode itself is intensely boring. And despite this now being episodes running in the order intended, Almost Human: Beholder shows no plot continuity with the last episode.

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 13. Straw Man (2014).

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 11. Disrupt (2014)

February 19, 2014 5 comments

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Almost Human: Season 1, episode 11. Disrupt (2014) starts off with what seems to be a subplot with Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) covertly accessing the memory core of Dorian (Michael Ealy) without the android’s knowledge or consent. When Dorian was persuaded to recharge in Rudy’s lab, there were no signs of a hidden agenda. This means motives are supposedly suspect. When Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) appears to take Dorian off on the early shift, Rudy returns to one of the memories he has extracted which has an error message attached to it — the video shows a child playing with a toy. With this running order, we have a conscious parallelism from the episode titled Perception in which Kennex is getting memory flashbacks about his ex-mistress and the loss of his leg.

We now get one of these annoyingly coy introductions to the main plot involving a smart house marketed by Synturion. Michael and Linda Bennett have arrived at the one year anniversary of the death of Aaron Kasdan. The boy was killed by the house when he trespassed in their back yard, and the occupants continue to get death threats. When Linda decides to go for a swim, she’s attacked by the house (cf Kate Wilhelm’s Smart House with its death in a jacuzzi). Michael’s efforts to intervene are interpreted as a threat by the house. He’s shot and his wife drowns. You can’t get a more secure house than that. When our dynamic duo go to the HQ of the company which has designed and installed the security system, they discover SAM (Matthew Kevin Anderson), the butler, has now been upgraded from a hologram to an android. In physical form, he can be your protection wherever you are. Peter Newsom (David Stuart), Synturion’s lawyer, and Kay Stinson (Suleka Mathew), the CEO, suggest the group called Disrupt is probably behind the hack which caused the Bennetts’ death. By coincidence, Dorian meeting SAM triggers the recall of the memory being probed by Rudy. As backstory, before he was recruited to the police force, Rudy was a hacker who used the handle “Aphid” — they may be small, but they’re destructive. This is the most hackneyed cliché we’ve seen in this show to date. The geek scientist was a hacker who’s been recruited to the forces for good. So we’re now supposed to think he’s a trojan idiot who’s playing both sides.

Is Nico (Reece Thompson) more cool than Rudy

Is Nico (Reece Thompson) more cool than Rudy

The plot, such as it is, then meanders further into terminally boring mode. Peter Newsom is killed by his own smart house using the fire suppression system to evacuate the air — can’t think where I’ve seen or read that before. A hacker called Crispin X cuts off the city’s power supply in apparent support for the Kasdan family. Conveniently, Rudy knows exactly where they can find this man and, before you can say Hack Robinson, Crispin whose real name is Nico (Reece Thompson), has been co-opted as hacker-in-chief for the good guys. He’s in cyberspace, protecting Kennex by producing distracting holograms (Rudy did that first in Blood Brothers), switching the air back on when he’s only got 5 seconds of air left (yawn), and generally being a better hacker than Rudy. Yes, that’s right. The Aphid is left sucking his sap on a distant leaf. It was the perfect opportunity for the British geek to advance his cause as protector of the just. Yet all he gets to do is lie to Dorian and make worried noises to Kennex about these memories he’s apparently found. I really can’t understand the thinking behind this show. They have one regular character missing and consequently the butt of infantile jokes. A chance to make us impressed by Rudy goes begging. Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) avoids redundancy by talking to Mrs Kasdan for ten seconds in two scenes. Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor) has a couple of lines to prove she’s still in the show. The cast is just too big to be able to give them all enough to do to develop their characters. Put all this in a trivial revenge story and Almost Human: Disrupt is embarrassingly bad.

According to the good people on the IMDb forum, one of the reasons this show is such a mess is that the running order of the episodes has been changed. It should be as shown in brackets:

1 Pilot (1)
2 Skin (5)
3 Are you Receiving?(6)
4 The Bends (7)
5 Blood Brothers (8)
6 Arrhythmia (3)
7 Simon Says (10)
8 You Are Here (2)
9 Unbound (9)
10 Perception (4)
11 Disrupt (11)
12 Beholder (12)
13 Straw Man (13)

I’m not convinced this running order would have made any better sense, but it would have been more interesting to make a judgement on the merits of the show by watching it in the order the creators intended.

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 12. Beholder (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014).

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 10. Perception (2014)

February 12, 2014 7 comments

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Almost Human: Season 1, episode 10. Perception (2014) welcomes us to the world of smart drugs on two quite different levels. In our backward days, we just have street drugs to give pleasure if not happiness. The first of these drugs makes people smart. The second helps people remember when used in conjunction with a machine.

Walk through a forest and suddenly you understand the whole ecological process of growth. Stand on a stage and discover a world of music at your fingertips. However, as with most “something for nothing” offers, there’s a downside to this wonder drug. The person who takes it at the wrong dosage dies. Just think. For one brief instant you can know what it feels like to be a genius. The next you feel like Leonardo da Vinci or whichever dead genius takes your fancy. So Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) has one body going through autopsy and our dynamic duo get to bicker over the body of the girl in the woods. Both have containers only openable by the holder’s DNA. Both containers are empty. While trying to deal with this case, Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) is getting memory flashbacks of his betrayal by Anna and loss of leg. He’s not the happiest of bunnies. Not for the first time in this season, new background information is sprung on us poor viewers. We now learn that, in addition to the naturally produced children, there are “chromes” who have been genetically engineered to be bigger, better, more beautiful, or whatever is the trait du jour. It seems Stahl is one of these tweaked people so she’s integral to this investigation. As one of the insiders, she’s supposed to be able to talk with the new generation. Except, ironically, she’s just as excluded as the naturals. Everyone apart from the immediate peer group is inherently inferior. No-one else can understand them.

Stahl (Minka Kelly) and Kennex (Karl Urban) not being a couple

Stahl (Minka Kelly) and Kennex (Karl Urban) not being a couple

The autopsy shows a chemical link to a girl from the same school, the appropriately named Mendel Academy, who died seven months earlier. It seems we may have a serial killer on the loose. Meanwhile we get visual confirmation Kennex is taking a drug to stimulate his recall and risking diarrhea (and other more serious side effects). Dorian (Michael Ealy) is supposed to report this abuse but Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor) has also seen Kennex on the internal monitoring system. Pig-headed Kennex asserts he has the problem under control. No-one else is convinced particularly when he crashes the patrol car with Dorian almost decapitated. The problem is Kennex is obsessing about remembering something that will help him catch Anna. This pursuit of revenge seems essentially nonconstructive. As is required when challenged, Kennex walks out of an interview with Internal Affairs. He can’t have it both ways. If he can’t remember what happened before his traumatic injury, then he can’t defend himself against the accusation he failed to follow protocol and therefore was negligent in allowing Anna to infiltrate the police through him. But if he can remember, he should be able to give significantly more detailed information about how the infiltration was achieved. This leaves us with one loose end which he has managed to dredge out of his memory. The Russian matryoshka doll has been broadcasting everything said in his home all these months. The infallible police failed to find the bug when they swept immediately after the injury landed him in hospital.

When the dust settles, we’ve identified the killer who hacked the drug printer and multiplied the dosage in the pills by 1,000 — a fairly sure way of causing death. Had this episode been in a proper context, it could have been really interesting. Any society that allows the creation of an elite by genetic manipulation is opening itself to the possibility of conflict. As it is, our current culture has issues between the haves and have-nots. If rich parents are buying the enhancement of their children and then placing them in key power-broking positions, this could be social dynamite and a “rich seam” for exploration. Even in the microcosm of this episode, the tension between Stahl and the new generation was revealing. Their contempt that all she had managed to do with her talent was to become a detective was fascinating. It may also partially explain why Kennex has been slow to act on the probable sexual attraction between them. He’s not the most confident of people and may not want to get too close to someone who might outthink him. It was also interesting to see Dorian rather pushed out of the limelight. His contribution in this episode was reduced to warning Kennex of his drug abuse and wearing a fetching plaster on his ear after the car crash. So Almost Human: Perception was yet another example of potential wasted. With just a little bit of work in the earlier episodes, this could have been properly set up and have been more powerful. The only good thing I can say about it is we do seem to be pursuing a broader narrative thrust towards resolving the InSyndicate element and Anna’s role. Since we’re now almost certainly stopping at thirteen episodes, there should be proper resolution of this plot element.

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 11. Disrupt (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 12. Beholder (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014).

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 9. Unbound (2014)

February 5, 2014 2 comments

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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.

Dr Vaughn (John Larroquette) looking trustworthy

Dr Vaughn (John Larroquette) looking trustworthy

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.

Gina Carano as Danica, the coldblooded killer

Gina Carano as Danica, the coldblooded killer

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).

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 8. You Are Here (2014)

January 19, 2014 2 comments

Almost-Human2

Almost Human: Season 1, episode 8. You Are Here (2014) starts with a throwback to the idea of the running man. Sadly, we don’t have anyone famous doing the running but this guy is giving it his all as he attempts to get away from whatever it is he’s afraid off. So, like the startled rabbit, he’s across the bridge, dodging and weaving through the mass of people, and into the city centre. He’s trying doors but the businesses are not yet open. Then it’s into the light rail system station where transport cops slow him down, and then the bullet finally catches up with him. He can a good race but, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t never outrun a bullet that’s got his name on it. And talking about things hitting with unerring accuracy, Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) has been required to attend anger management classes and we get an extended joke whereby the counsellor tells one guy he’s making great progress because he’s using words instead of his fists (he can’t use his fists because the bandages hide serious injuries from the last verbal exchange of opinion he had) while Kennex is being dishonest by saying everything is fine when he should be angry. The peanut butter joke strikes the target in this sequence as it perpetuates the increasing tired routine of a supposedly humorous few minutes to start every episode.

Well, for the first time, we get to hear an MX in action as it deconstructs how a single bullet, given a 5 mph wind, could have entered through the glassed roof, bounced around the station a little, and then entered the victim’s chest. Even Detective Richard Paul (Michael Irby) thinks it the most likely explanation. Yeah, right! However, this leads to an illuminating exchange with an MX insisting Dorian (Michael Ealy) is an inferior android and its opinions are worth shit (fortunately this has nothing to do with the skin colours of the two androids — it’s just version numbers). This is the first tine we’ve been allowed to see the racism of the android community front and centre. It’s a sign of some intelligence on the part of the script. The intelligence is then, sadly, sacrificed by Kennex pulling out his gun and removing the head of the KKK MX. When Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor) berates Kennex for shooting an MX, he defends himself by saying he treated it like it was a defective toaster and put it out of its misery before it could spoil any more breakfasts — MXs are not designed to accept verbal commands to cease talking. It really looks as though the anger management counselling is delivering the goods. Inevitably, Dorian is right. This is the ultimate in intelligent bullets. It did not ricochet or bounce. It adjusted its flight to ensure encountering the heart of the victim and then smashing itself on the nearest wall. Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) researches the technology and identifies it as Russian. Dorian suggests the victim created the software to perfect its tracking ability and the gunrunners used it to kill him.

Kennex (Karl Urban) prepares to decapitate the MX for defaming Dorian (Michael Ealy)

Kennex (Karl Urban) prepares to decapitate the MX for defaming Dorian (Michael Ealy)

The girlfriend tells our dynamic duo her boyfriend was into gaming. He didn’t know lot of people outside work. He might have been approached by a headhunter called Natalie. And then, quite out of the blue, we suddenly get a link back to the pilot episode with Maldonado offering one of the criminal gang a deal if he will explain precisely what the gang wanted to recover from the evidence room. Continuity! It makes all the difference to the credibility of a series. And then back to Dorian saving the life of the girlfriend who can identify the gunrunner (who’s not actually called Natalie). It’s just a thought but, having now seen a demonstration of how this this rifle is supposed to work, it’s almost pure bullshit. The bullets are not rocket propelled. The rifle imparts momentum and then it’s somehow left to the bullet to keep on flying until it reaches its target. Yet it must have been able to outrun the first victim. So it must have been hovering and then flying up and down, and round corners to have some fun by allowing the rabbit to think it had a chance of escaping. That’s some evil bullet, Harry.

We now discover Kennex is anti-scrubbing. Personally I just go for the usual wash, rinse and spin cycle, but the rescued girlfriend is trying to say the bad people would let her go if she had her memories scrubbed. Kennex tells her scrubbing would make no difference. We then get into the embarrassingly bad plotting device of Kennex “promising” he and Dorian can find the bad guys and take them out before the tracking software finds her. Sorry, only joking. They’re going to use the girl as bait. She will be moved to an underground location and then the tracking software will be turned back on. The bullet can’t go underground even if the doors are open or it’s a car park without barriers, so the bad guys will have to come to her. Yeah, right! The bullet is suddenly dumb because there are no tracking devices underground. How come the man who wrote the tracking software didn’t know that, run into the nearest cellar, and shut the door?

The plot then assumes the threat to the girl and her daughter is over with the death of the two fronting this operation. It seems no-one else is involved in having stolen the technology from Russia, smuggled it into America, found the key software engineer, and so on. No-one will care enough to kill the survivors because the gang members who could be identified are dead. In the end, there’s an appalling flood of mushy sentimentality because the girlfriend didn’t finish the scrubbing and so can remember her boyfriend, and then a return to the old technology of paper and pen — a ghastly note on which to end. So You Are Here has more magic technology with memory wiping and occasionally intelligent bullets that can go anywhere (except underground) within a two mile radius of where they are fired. That compounds the hokey script and overly dramatic acting to produce really bad results.

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 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)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014).

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