According to Humans, the Robot Revolution Will Be Totally Justified

Illustration for article titled According to Humans, the Robot Revolution Will Be Totally Justified

When the robot revolution comes, it will be… justified? Or so the second episode of Humans posits, given that most of the living people on the show seem determined not just to treat Synths like machines, but to treat them with total and utter contempt.


In fact, I’d say every storyline in last night’s episode features a human either inwardly seething at Synths or being genuinely cruel to one—storylines, by the way, that were again almost wholly unconnected to each other (I’m pretty confident we should consider Humans as one story told in eight chapters as opposed to eight individual episodes; this is probably a show better binge-watched than seen one installment per week). So forgive me for separating them yet again:

1) Hobb

Let’s start with the obvious; Hobb, the old man who’s trying to hunt down the conscious Synths. He hates the Synths because he thinks they’re going to kill all humans. However, other than having his lab assistants uncover part of a memory from the captured Synth Fred—a memory of him swimming after Anita/Mia—he doesn’t really do anything this episode.

2) Drummond

The Special Technology Task Force investigator is seen helping his paralyzed wife go to the bathroom, a job their Synth Simon could do easily—in fact one his wife would prefer the Synth do, because the robot isn’t out-of-shape, so easily tired, and it’s probably nice not having to worry about what Simon is thinking or feeling during the procedure. Drummond resents that his wife prefers the help of the robot, and that the robot can help his wife better than he can. He also hates that it’s good-looking.

2) Millican

When Millican tells the Health Department that he’s recycled Odi (as opposed to simply telling the malfunctioning Synth to hide in the shed) he’s issued Vera, the severe, matronly Synth we saw last week. Millican hates Vera for… well, everything, basically, but mainly because Vera is programmed to take care of him no matter what the hell he wants, whether making him low-sodium bean broth for dinner or physically forcing him to come back inside on a late-night visit to check on Odi. Although it’s silly for Millican to hate Vera—she’s only performing her programming as dictated by the Health Department—Millican hates Vera so much. He even tries to rename her Tugboat, a name she doesn’t accept as it’s not on the Health Department’s approved list of names. He also hates her for the use to which she’s being out because, in a twist that surely everyone knew was coming, Millican was one of the scientists who first created Synths back in the day.


3) Niska

Niska, of course, is the thinking, feeling Synth who is trapped in a Synth Whore House and is not happy about it. When she gets an elderly customer who seems like a harmless, nervous old man looking for a guilt-free shag but quickly reveals he’s looking of a pedophilic rape fantasy, Niska decides it’s time to go. She kills the old guy, uses his remaining body heat to trigger the door to her prison/boudoir, and gets the hell out. In keeping with my thesis, I can tell you the guy was very angry when Niska refused his desired scenario in the brief time before he had his throat crushed.


4) Joe and Max

The duo obviously don’t hate Synths, but travel to a known illegal seller of boosted Synths, hoping to track down Mia/Anita. There, they learn the seller erased Mia’s memory before reselling her. The information gathering turns ugly, and the seller and his cronies kick the hell out of Joe, forcing Max to reveal his uniqueness by attacking them. They barely escape from the criminals, who not only do some seriously unsavory things to Synths in their little workshop, but are also clearly happy to beat a Synth up… even if they didn’t know, because, in another twist that wasn’t that shocking, Joe is a Synth as well. He might be an older model, as his blood is red, while other Synth blood seems to be bright blood, but at any rate Max is able to rejigger a light fixture to recharge his injured friend (incidentally, the episode’s sole connection between plotlines occurs when Drummond later arrests the same Synth seller).


5) Anita/Mia and the Hawkins Family

Of course, the main storyline is of the Hawkins and no one is more thorough at hating Synths than Laura. She basically spends the entire episode peering suspiciously at Anita, who, to be fair, gives her plenty of reasons. First Laura notices Sophie changed pajamas (after her strange midnight jaunt with Anita), then Anita surprises her with a spider (Laura hates spiders, which Anita didn’t know… maybe?), Anita lies about taking Sophie outside (even though she says she can’t lie because of her programming), and spends a hell of a lot of time giving Laura creepy stares herself.


The rest of the family also gets a bit more involved with their new Synth. The elder daughter Mattie is apparently a budding genius hacker who tries to hack a Synth at school, although it recognizes an unauthorized program is being uploaded. Although the school calls Laura, Laura hates Synths so much she actually takes her daughter shopping as a reward for trying to mess with one. I doubt she’d be as pleased to learn that her son Toby tried to cop a quick feel on Anita while she was in energy saving mode, but she busted him before he could manage it (which also meant that she didn’t have to report the incident to his parents, in what seems to be Anita trying to keep a dumb horny kid from getting in major trouble as opposed to a lucky break in her logic).

And the youngest daughter, Sophie, has a nightmare and demands cuddles, which she does by adorably screaming “CUDDLE” until Anita gives her a hug. This is significant for two reasons: the first is that Anita was directly ordered not to touch Sophie without authorization, meaning Anita can do anything she wants; and more importantly, Laura catches her hugging Sophie and freaks out. The episode ends with Laura determined to get rid of her Synth that very instant, ordering her into the car.


I think we can safely say that Anita won’t be going anywhere—I doubt the show hired Katharine Parkinson just to play a woman who is mildly freaked out by a robot for two episodes and then disappears without future consequence—but I’m eager to see how and why she stays. Actually, everything in the “next week on” preview looked pretty fascinating, and it seemed a lot more action-packed and dramatic than these first two episodes have been. Oh, Humans hasn’t been bad so far, but I eagerly await when the real conflict is revealed and these storylines start tying together for real.

Or, failing that, maybe Niska can just go on a one-Synth murder spree and kill every robot-hating human in the city. I’d also be down for that.

Illustration for article titled According to Humans, the Robot Revolution Will Be Totally Justified

Assorted Musings:

• I’m kind of confused about Joe. How does recharging his battery help him heal from his wounds? Did the criminals literally beat the energy out of him? That seems… unlikely.


• I’m also confused about why the Synth Whore House has a woman hose Synths down to “disinfect” them. I mean, I know they need to be cleaned after use, and I know the symbolism of showing captives being hosed down. But couldn’t the Synths be ordered to just take a shower? Wouldn’t that be easier and more effective? Or, if somehow the hose thing is the best way to do this, why have a living person do the hosing? Shouldn’t they just command the Synths to hose themselves off?

• Chances of me accidentally calling Laura Jen in these recaps: 88%. Chances of me quickly giving up and just called her Jen from The IT Crowd anyways: 64%.


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Ravenous Sophovore

I don’t think Joe is a Synth, but rather a cyborg. Although this does not really explain why “recharging” him helps.

I found myself thinking about Niska’s line to the brothel’s madam a lot after the episode. “Everything they do to us, they want to do to you.” It is scary - these guys want to hurt, rape, and maybe kill women, and seek a socially acceptable way to do it to an object that looks like women and society just doesn’t care. This does nothing to help them, from a mental health standpoint, it just redirects those urges onto something that can’t be hurt.

Synths provide a safe outlet for people’s socially unacceptable sexual impulses, or really any socially unacceptable impulse. If it wasn’t for the self-aware synths, there’d be no harm done by this practice, just like no one is harmed by drawn porn no matter what the content is. We’re meant to see the synths as slaves, as oppressed, as mistreated. But with the exception of the self aware Synths, it’s no more mistreatment than the time I took a sledgehammer to my old computer was murder. Unless they show that the other Synths also have some level of awareness, the message is falling a little flat.