On Almost Human, what Facebook knows about you can kill you

Last night's Almost Human was light on the android-cyborg banter, but heavy on the evils of consumer identity tracking software. When a technologically enhanced bullet can find and kill any specific individual, that application that matches you with the right designer optical implants seems a little less friendly.

This is a rather odd episode to judge at this point as the production code indicates that it was one of the first episodes to be produced, but was apparently buried later in the season in favor of more exciting, better realized episodes. And it has the feel of an early episode, one where spaghetti is still being thrown against the wall. When we opened on Kennex's anger management support group, I wondered if Kennex was supposed to be Matthew Perry's character in a futuristic version of Go On.

Our grumpy detective also has a major case of unfrozen caveman cop going on in this episode, calling one of his fellow support group members "Anal" instead of "Anil" (Non-Western name jokes!) and joking about what another detective wants to do his ass (Buggering jokes!). It feels a bit like Kennex has been in a coma for 35 years instead of a year and a half. But it's all part of the episode's thesis, that John Kennex is old-fashioned in both the best ways and the worst. Sure, he may be quick with the gay jokes, but he can also write a flirty note in pen.


Weird side note on that cute pen moment: When we're in Kennex's office, there's an object that looks very much like a ballpoint pen on his desk. I'll give the show the benefit of the doubt and assume it's a stylus for a tablet, but it was weirdly distracting.

One of the benefits of this early episode, though, is that we get a nice moment comparing the abilities of the MXes with Dorian's. When a man is mysteriously shot while running for the train with no shooter in sight, the MX does something rather rational: eliminates the impossible and then moves to what's left—the implausible. The MX notes that there is a minute chance that the bullet could have ricocheted in just the right way to kill this fellow, but that there is a chance. Dorian, on the other hand, has imagination, and is able to synthesize his knowledge of the rapidly evolving criminal technologies to suppose that something stranger and yet more plausible is going on.

But man, those MXes just aren't built to last, are they? Dorian is able to shrug off heavy fire during a gunfight at the end of the episode, but when Kennex shoots an MX in the face, it shatters like glass. Then again, maybe MX heads are cheap and easy to replace. I'd think that if a police officer shot up government property like that, he'd get more than a slap on the wrist. Somehow, MXes in the future are less valued than police cars are in the present. MXplode!


Plot-wise, this wasn't a terrifically exciting episode: a damsel in distress, a crew of none-too-bright arms dealers trying to sell an offensive technology, yada, yada. And when Kennex puts his star witness in a bullet-proof truck and then lets the door hang open mere minutes after she was targeted by a magical, individual-seeking bullet, I almost shouted at my screen for him to close the goddamn door. But I hope we'll be seeing more of the technologies introduced in this episode. For one thing, I dig that Dorian has a consumer profile despite being a piece of property. You never know when an android is going to find himself with a bit of buying power. And the arms dealers using surveillance technology to create a deadly infomercial was wonderfully macabre idea. On top of that, the notion that a weapon can track you through cameras, communications systems, and your various media profiles is one that I sincerely hope we see the government employ down the line. After all, if the magic bullet can track down a single computer programmer while the police are using inefficient and outmoded facial recognition software, why not take a play from the criminals' technological playbook? Luddite Kennex may want to stop new criminal technologies and shove them under the rug, but I'd really like to see those technologies applied to law enforcement—perhaps to to Kennex's displeasure.

Then there's the technology that I'm almost certain will come back in the end: scrubbing. A key point in this episode is that the aforementioned damsel threatens to go Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on us, having her murdered beau erased from her memory so that she can't serve as a witness against the arms dealers. Given that the idea of scrubbing was placed in an episode that dealt so heavily with Kennex's apparently treacherous ex-girlfriend, I imagine that scrubbing will resurface around the same time that she does. Kennex seems to dislike the idea of scrubbing personally, even as a means to let go of his anger. I wonder if his former gal-pal might turn up with her own brain freshly scrubbed and with no memories of the events that landed Kennex in a coma.

Another downside of this early episode thrown at us so late in the game is that it was woefully short on the Kennex-Dorian banter. Since Dorian was so twitchy last episode and so quiet in this one (when he wasn't speaking Korean), I'm really missing those quippy exchanges.


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