This week's Almost Human takes us back into the world of the beautiful and brilliant genetically engineered "chromes"—people whose parents used their wealth an prestige to purchase perfect lives. But in a world where perfection can be achieved through technology, some people will do anything to become perfect.
This episode embodies so many of my frustrations with Almost Human. On the one hand, the show wants to tell stories about people misusing technology while showing that it's society—not technology—that drives them to do terrible things. And every now and then, the show will have a great, show-stopping moment to remind us that we're in the future. Last night, we had our Total Recall homage with the fellow wearing the synthetic woman suit. But in its quest to show us that the future is culturally oh-so-much like the present, Almost Human fails to completely immerse us in its world.
Last night's episode played like a fable, complete with an ironic twist and a moral. The chromes are all up in a frenzy because one of their own died mysteriously, from an apparent heart attack. Chromes don't die of natural causes, so they call in Stahl to find out if it's a murder. There's something inherently amusing about a group of people whose biological privilege is so strong that it's preposterous for one of them to die of heart disease, but it would also shatter their facade of perfection. The theme of this episode is that beauty, brilliance, a career above and beyond the hoi polloi—those things don't make a person happy. But it's important that chromes maintain the trappings of the elite: the private clubs that no "natural" can physically enter, the high-powered jobs, the judge in their back pocket, in order to maintain their status as the "haves" in their society. But as with the chrome school, there was too little detail and the broad strokes felt so familiar. Aside from the genetic scanner at the door, the chrome club might as well have been a place from Law & Order instead of Almost Human.
It turns out that the chrome was, in fact, murdered, not for being a chrome, but for having a pretty face. There's a fellow going around with a bunch of plastic surgery nanobots that scan "donor" facial features and rebuild them on the recipient's face. The problem is that the nanobots keep killing the donors. (I was trying to figure out if there was a way you could get around that with medical scanning and 3D printing human tissue, which the nanobots would then scan, but I'll let Almost Human ride with this one.) Our killer this week was a recipient in the plastic surgery study who was severely disfigured by the procedure, and is assembling a perfect face for himself so that he can impress his Internet girlfriend. It's somehow only natural that when he finally meets her, it turns out that she's blind. "Have you ever been loved, John?" the killer asks Kennex just before leaping to his death. "We're supposed to be loved." Not to be perfect. Not to be beautiful. But to be loved.
There seems to be a disconnect here, two threads that should have joined up but didn't. On the one hand, we have the chromes who seem to be selling the ideal of perfection because its built into their very existence—who are they if they aren't perfect? On the other, we have a man who believed that he couldn't be loved unless he was beautiful. I feel like there's something we're missing here, that the chromes should be portrayed as larger influencers of society, setting the standards of perfection. After all, it's not hard to see how living in the Gattaca future might drive a person to murder. This is the second time that we've seen a character on Almost Human kill themselves over emulating a chrome, and it seems that this unattainable ideal could be extremely powerful in the City. And Stahl's position as a non-conforming chrome, one who stoops to being a police detective, could prove powerful as well.
And then we have Kennex, who doesn't really see the cultural ills of society so much as he sees what technology makes possible. He spends a lot of the episode trying to play the luddite, suggesting that society would be better without holographic phones and high-tech plastic surgery, while Dorian calls him out on his shit. It's tough to argue that we should pitch all of our current technology when you're walking around on a cyborg leg. Finally, they settle on calling Kennex "old-fashioned," which is fitting for a guy who tries to impress girls with hand-written notes. But this old-fashioned guy has his eye on a technologically enhanced girl, one who has recognized that personal fulfillment is more important than some supposed genetic manifest destiny. And like our killer auto-plastic surgeon, she wants to be loved, not in spite of what she's given up as a chrome, but because of it. And it may take another genetically enhanced guy to understand what her choices mean.