Carl (Doug Jones) is getting ready to do some Peeping Tom-ing.
Image: DUST (YouTube)

Automata is a classic story of two hardened detectives solving crimes and scoring ladies in Prohibition-era New York City. Except this time, one of them’s a robot, played by Doug Jones.

The first episode of Automata, Van Alan’s free, five-part scifi series based on the Penny Arcade comic series of the same name, is now available online. Grimm’s Basil Harris stars as Sam Regal, a toothpick-chewing private dick who’s basically a male Veronica Mars—catching dames breaking laws and hearts to collect a check from their unwitting husbands. After all, this is Prohibition times we’re talking about—vices are strictly forbidden. Only in this reality, it’s not booze that’s the societal problem. It’s robots.

This is a world where automatons have become a regular part of everyday life, inspiring a moral panic that eventually led to a ban on all future production of these steel-faced androids. Remaining androids—like Sam’s partner, Carl Swangee (Jones)—have become a lower servant caste, facing widespread discrimination as well as threats to their safety and well-being. But, as we see in the debut episode, they can also pose a threat themselves.

The first episode has its ups and downs, but ends on a cliffhanger that makes me curious to see where this scifi noir is headed. Plus, I can’t resist a good vest and tie combo. Those robots are looking sharp. New episodes of the five-part series come out every Tuesday.

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