Almost Human Season 1 Review “Pilot”

It’s always been said that it’s impossible to please everyone. Despite all of the talent or money that you throw at a TV series or movie, it seems that there will always be naysayers. In fact, with the advent of internet commenters and Twitter, it seems that it’s impossible to please anyone.

As soon as the premise for Almost Human was released, the internet cried foul at the derivative nature of the series. With hints of “Blade Runner”, “I, Robot”, “Minority Report”, and “Total Recall” all mixed in, people were a little concerned that this show was lacking in originality. Even with the Fringe dream team of co-creators JJ Abrams and JH Wyman reuniting with director Brad Anderson, not to mention the acting talent of likable leading men Karl Urban and Michael Ealy, it’s all in vain if we don’t have a good story to really invest in. So did tonight’s pilot episode give us the story we need? Well…yes and no.

The opening scenes did a good job at setting up our protagonist John Kennex, and why he’s seeking revenge on the shadowy organization known as The Syndicate. The whole idea of a police officer having a robotic limb, and being forced to partner up with a robot, is definitely very reminiscent of “I, Robot”, but they did just enough to differentiate this series. It helps that the outdated model that he’s teamed up with, known as a DRN or “Dorian”, is played wonderfully by Michael Ealy. I’m glad that John didn’t stay ornery and grumpy about working with a robot for a long time, though. Dorian was nothing but gracious and helpful the whole time, and he was being pretty darn patient, so it would have made John just look downright stubborn if he kept his distance any longer.

They definitely need to quickly and firmly establish what the DRN can and can not do, though. I just hope that they aren’t going to introduce a new ability every episode into Dorian’s arsenal and make it so that’s what cracks the case. Tonight, we were told way too late that Dorian had the ability to just hack into a dead MX’s memory and see more footage that wasn’t previously available. Umm…why didn’t they try that as soon as possible? As soon as the MX died, somebody should have said “Ok, well get another robot to hack into it and we’ll get more information”. Nope, they just discovered that ability in the 11th hour.

They’re also going to have to do a little more to flesh out the rest of the cast, as we were really just given the basics on the rest of the crew. Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Carribean) plays a solid scientist, so I was glad to see him pop up mostly for comic relief, but the female characters are going to need some work. It’s tough to buy the diminutive Lili Taylor as the captain, and I was really only happy to see Minka Kelly because of my undying adoration for Friday Night Lights. They’ll need to work on her quite a bit more so she can graduate from just being the requisite eye candy.

Granted, this is only the first episode, and it’s obviously meant to be paired with tomorrow night’s episode, what with this being a “two night premiere event” and all. There’s some interesting ongoing mysteries here, with The Syndicate still being around and why John’s girlfriend is with them, so I’m interested to see how those pan out.

While this episode may not have been groundbreaking in its originality or execution, Almost Human definitely has some great potential! I’m excited to see more, and I’ll see you all tomorrow for my review of episode two!

Random Thoughts:

– When Rudy introduced John and Dorian by saying “John…Dorian”, it reminded me of Scrubs, what with the Zach Braff’s character JD’s full name being John Dorian.

– I find it a little weird that the newer models, the MX’s, aren’t as sophisticated as the DRN. I get that the DRN was retired because it had faulty emotions and was subject to emotional outbursts, but why can’t they keep the same level of humanity with the normal speech patterns and personalities? I guess Dorian was right, newer technology isn’t always better.

– Most people have compared this series to different movies, but the best comparison I’ve found is to the comic mini-series Automata over on Penny Arcade. If you guys haven’t seen that yet, I strongly recommend you go check it out.