by Matthew Thompson
(This post contains Almost Human spoilers particularly for the latest episode, “Unbound.” )
Most people know that my all-time favorite TV show is Fringe. So when I heard one of the showrunners from it, Joel Wyman, would be creating a new show for FOX, I was in. When I heard the initial description of said show, I was a little less enthused. Something about a futuristic buddy cop show where one partner is a robot just didn’t sound great to me. But the trailer won me over. The production values looked excellent and it got me excited in the way I really wanted to be for a new show by Wyman. That excitement continued up to and through the first few episodes, but it wasn’t long before it started to wane.
Of course the show I’m talking about is Almost Human. The two night premiere event showed a lot of promise. The futuristic setting was interesting, the technology fascinating and most importantly the two leads showed a great rapport with each other. The first episode laid the groundwork for what looked to be some overarching plotlines for the series involving John Kennex’s ex-girlfriend and a criminal organization known as Insyndicate while the second teased the kind of original cases that this 2048 version of LA might yield even tying some more emotional beats for both John and Dorian into the week’s storyline.
But as Almost Human continued, my excitement for the show started to die down. For one, the cases seemed to be ripped straight from your more modern day cop shows, but thrown into the future as opposed to capitalizing on the show’s unique setting. But I think the real bummer was realizing just how much of a procedural this was going to be. Weeks rolled on without a hint of serialization. The LAPD solved the week’s case and that was it. This isn’t so terrible. I grew to really adore the banter between the Kennex and Dorian. The show is legitimately funny. Watching them riding around in the car for forty minutes would probably be pretty entertaining on its own. And some of the tech they come up with is just… so damn cool. As a procedural it isn’t so bad, but rarely have I seen even these type of shows have so little overarching narrative. It was an extra big bummer since Wyman did so many amazing things with Fringe’s mythology during his time with the show. As it was, I felt like Almost Human was destined to be a good solid fun show, but probably not a great one to me.
This past Monday’s episode gave me some hope for more though. In “Unbound,” we are introduced to several new elements that could flesh out the show’s overall storyline. The biggest is John Laroquette’s new character, Dr. Nigel Vaughn. Vaughn is actually the creator of the DRN model of android which is what Dorian is. He’s also the man behind the XRN, an advanced combat android with a more militaristic side that uses similar technology to Dorian’s. So when one of these is out and about and the police run into Vaughn during their investigation, he decides to help them out. I can’t say I was surprised to see that Vaughn was actually behind the XRN’s actions. You could see that twist coming a mile away. But I do like that it gives the show a big bad so to speak, a villain that can operate in the background and pop up from time to time to amp things up. How this ties into Insyndicate I’m not sure exactly, but the fact that Danica’s head was the evidence that they were trying to get back in the pilot sure seems to indicate a link. And then there’s “The Wall” which the show gives a few more hints about and we see Vaughn going over at episode’s end. Throw in the parallels between Dorian and Danica and the show gets a little more intriguing. Instead of a show you just watch and move on from, it might be something that you think about during the week.
And maybe this is fool’s gold. Maybe we don’t hear about this kind of thing for another ten episodes, but it gives me hope that Almost Human will become something I can sink my teeth into a little more. Next week they will apparently air the fourth episode produced (“Unbound” was the tenth), so we won’t be seeing any of this touched on then, but the final three episodes should be the final three produced (though who knows what order FOX might air them in!). I’m hoping they can take the elements introduced in this episode and use them to create the kind of mythology that helps hook me into the best shows as well being something that really puts some of Wyman’s skills with that sort of content to better use. I think it would help them build some steam creatively down the stretch and into a potential Season 2 (which I am fairly confident now that it will get). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how they handle things going forward. I’ll probably check back in when the season’s finished to see how all this panned out.