With a plot about a bomb maker who gets off on tormenting and broadcasting his victims, this week's episode of Almost Human felt a bit more like an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit than a futuristic cop drama. Of course, Benson and Stabler don't usually have to deal with a partner whose personality is on the fritz.
Now, if this had been an episode of SVU, the sex crimes detectives would have exposed a secret subculture of people who enjoy watching public humiliation online, or at the very least we would have gotten BD Wong explaining exactly what happened in our bomber's childhood to turn him into a homicidal lunatic. And that's so often what's missing from Almost Human, not BD Wong (although he wouldn't be unwelcome), but that sense of the culture of the future. There were some nice details in this episode, like the 3D printed flowers and the weighty decision the detectives make to raise the bomb shield over the first bomb victim, but on the whole, it was hard to say what makes 2048 different from 2013. Part of that comes from Almost Human's eighties movie sensibility, but it's also a failure of world-building. I mean, here we get a guy whose major technologies are bombs, text messages, and what looks like Ustream, and his backstory is that he washed out of the police force for generic psychological failure? Criminals of the future, you can be better than this.
Even the chatter alongside the Ustream is too familiar. When this popped up on my screen:
I felt an overwhelming urge to do this:
I kid. But a little invented slang can go a long way to immersing us in a world, and using such a current term takes us out of the robot-filled future.
That punch brings us to Dorian's "I'm a robot" plot line. Because of energy rationing, Dorian had to function on less than a full charge for this episode, and his emotional regulation is the first thing to go. I'm pretty sure that the whole crazy Dorian business was an excuse to make this joke:
Which I rather enjoyed and plan to use in real life. And to have Dorian do this:
But honestly, Dorian, you didn't miss much. When John started talking about his high school career as the "White Cheetah," falling asleep was the appropriate response.
I understand that John is more our point-of-view character, but I feel like we're missing out by not spending more time witnessing Dorian's experiences. One thing that this episode hit home is that Dorian is in a nebulous position in which he's a person with wants and desires, but is treated as property and is subject to more extreme police regulations than any human cop is. Plus, even where robots are concerned, he's a second-class non-citizen. And we already know that Dorian finds living with the Ken Doll MXs creepy, but it must be especially obnoxious trying to accomplish day-to-day tasks with those dead-eyed devices hanging around. To me, that's a far more interesting story than John reflecting on his failed psych evaluation, and might even give weight to Dorian's frustration that his plea to move in with John is met by that White Cheetah story. Goofy robot antics are all well and good, but there is some really interesting stuff going on beneath the surface of this show that is getting glossed over.
For a moment, I did think that John was going to relent and let Dorian move in, and then this show was going to turn even more into The Odd Couple with guns. But no, instead Dorian is moving in with Rudy, which I'm actually pretty pumped to see. Now that Dorian and John are pretty cozy, I'm looking forward to Dorian having more interactions with another human being and a life outside of the police station. Plus, I imagine that Rudy might try to make all sorts of improvements to Dorian when Dorian isn't paying attention. Those two are going to have to draw up a very interesting (and thorough) roommate contract.
Gifs via Almost Human Gifs.