Illustration for article titled On emAlmost Human/em, Smart House control is the gun control of the future

People who live in well armed smart homes are more likely to be murdered by their houses. On Almost Human, though, the law fails to address killer smart houses, someone takes justice—and the houses—into their own hands.


For the last three episodes of this season, we are (blissfully) seeing these episodes in proper order, so this eleventh episode was actually intended to be the eleventh episode of the season. So Kennex and Dorian are on friendly terms and Dorian and Rudy are roommates. I figured it was only a matter of time before Dorian woke up to Rudy probing his programming, and I was right, although Rudy isn't simply curious about the inner workings of Dorian's brain.

It turns out that Dorian has memories in his head that don't belong there, memories of a young boy in a hospital bed. Rudy suggests that someone planted those memories in Dorian before he was recommissioned. Assuming that's true (and that the memories aren't somehow part of his "Synthetic Soul"), why would someone stash those memories in a synthetic? Are they there for safe keeping? To keep a dying child's memories alive? And did whoever put them there know that Dorian might wake up again? After so much hemming and hawing over what happened with Kennex's girlfriend, I'm happy to see a Dorian-centric mystery—and one that uses his peculiar nature as a synthetic.

Dorian's story continues to be more interesting than Kennex's, whose subplot this week involved pulling an odd prank on his coworkers. I'm not sure what the purpose of the prank plot was—perhaps to show that Kennex is feeling good these days, more a scamp than a tortured hero pining for his evil ex-girlfriend? I must say, though, seeing the one woman's reaction to Kennex inventing a sexbot STI did make me wish that Almost Human utilized a wider ensemble of cop characters.

Watching this episode after watching so much of the season out of order makes me realize how much the Dorian-Kennex dynamic as grown over time. Dorian is less cheerful and capable of a little self-deception. Kennex has gotten good at reading his partner, and when he doesn't cut Dorian any slack, it comes from a place of affection.

Their relationship still feels stronger than the crime of the week, but at least it in this episode it feels like Almost Human is trying to examine a present-day issue through the lens of science fiction. That issue was gun control, realized here in the form of a trigger-happy smart house. A year earlier, a smart house security system killed a teenage boy who was using the homeowner's yard as a short cut. Given all the bizarre crime we've seen in Almost Human, it's no surprise that some people have sophisticated security systems built into their homes. The problem is that the smart home functions as a sort of living gun, one that can detect an intruder but wasn't programmed to ask questions before firing. (This gave me weird flashbacks to torts class, in which we learned that unmanned gun traps end in unfavorable lawsuits, no matter how many "No Trespassing" signs you put up.) In retaliation for this boy's death, someone kills off the owners of the offending smart home and threatens the head of the smart home company.

Illustration for article titled On emAlmost Human/em, Smart House control is the gun control of the future

However, instead of focusing on the rather interest story about the ethics of killer smart homes (along with a slightly creepy security android who talked like a walking advertisement), Almost Human plunged us into the underworld of sexy hackers. It's another example of Almost Human setting up something that's intriguing and worth exploring, and then failing to deliver. When the show spends time on a coherent idea, as it did in the sexbot episode, it can find some rich areas to mine. But it felt like this episode changed gears for the sake of a single warm-hearted moment—when we learn that the photo of the dead boy that's being sent as a threat is made up of photos of people he met online. On the plus side, we did get to see Karl Urban in eyeliner.

It's also interesting to see this episode placed right after the episode about the technologically enhanced teenagers, because both involve crimes committed against a financial elite that uses technology to separate itself from the rest of the population. Almost Human does have some running themes about separation—especially where the Wall is concerned—that could neatly connect to these themes of class and technology. Almost Human can be an entertaining procedural, but every now and then I see glimmers of a smarter, deeper show—one that I very much want to watch.

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