Friday, December 13, 2013

Karl Urban is Almost Human

Near-future Sci-fi, cops and robots. It's one of those concepts that's just about a perfect fit for me. Throw in Karl Urban as the main protagonist and J. J. Abram's latest TV series definitely seems like we're onto a winner.

It's no secret I hold Fringe in very high regard. I bloody loved that show. So if some of the people from that had a new idea I was always going to be on-board. The fact the premise is so suited to my interests is an extra bonus.

The pilot episode almost feels like a Blade Runner series done right. Though obviously with the widespread use of robots it's a very different place, but the constant rain, noodle vendors and mix of Asian and American culture it's not hard to spot the influence.

It kicks off with a failed raid on a gang stronghold Urban's character Kennex led. Then we're quickly shown that he's in a back alley Doctor's office who's capable of letting him relive the event. Something he's doing to try and figure out why it all went wrong. Then he pops some pills and returns to duty where we learn he's untrusted by everyone except the Captain and the hot female cop he's clearly got a thing for. Only while he's been in a coma and had a bionic leg attached there's been a few changes in the force. Now he has to have a robot partner, and he doesn't want one, which he proves by shoving his under a truck.

Then the mistrust from his colleagues is made even worse by the fact he not only rejects the standard logic-based robots, but goes for a more human-like older model, which most people think of as crazy since others of the series had extremely emotional reactions to highly stressful circumstances. It also has the unfortunate moniker of Dorian, stemming from its model of DRN.

Things continue to get crazy with robot specific EMPs and gas that only kills cops, all of which our pair of mis-matched cops manage to stop and save every cop in the precinct.

After that things get a bit too standard cop show, with cases revolving around future tech rather than any of the hooks that the pilot set up. Not that this is particularly a bad thing. It's just a shame we haven't even had a hint of that stuff again since. The mistrust of Kennex and Dorian is completely gone after their day saving in the first episode, and so is the mistrust of Kennex and technology. It's almost like the setup of the pilot was forgotten to make Almost Human rather generic.

Thankfully it doesn't suffer from that too badly, with the future tech working quite well to set it apart from everything else, Urban's great as always, and the relationship Kennix shares with Dorian quickly hits the levels that all good screen cop partnerships have of being able to wind each other up yet working perfectly together. But a lot of what made the pilot really special does seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Still we're only five episodes in so plenty of time to go digging yet. I'm also reminded of Fringe's early days. It was literally case by case episodes, it was only at the end of the first season that shit started to kick off and we properly returned to the hooks left dangling by the pilot. I think Fringe just did it a bit better with certain aspects managing to carry it through. Right now Almost Human is a little by the numbers, but given the show's pedigree, and it's concept, I'm more than willing to see where it's going.
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