Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 5: Blood Brothers

John is waiting impatiently for Dorian in his… droid barracks? Where they charge up and do droid things? He gets tired of waiting and goes down to find him – and seems a naked MX droid – complete with Barbie-doll groin (well, those special effects are good – there’s some mental images that will take some time to erase. A snarky part of me wants to question why, if they’re going to make so little effort to make the leg joins look human, would they sculpt 6 packs on the droids?) John is rather thrown by this – until Dorian arrives and they can leave – though Dorian needs a new chest plate from Rudy.

In the car John complains about the image seared into his retinas and Dorian has little sympathy – he has to live with the emotionless, robotic MXs with no sense of personal space and freakily vacant eyes; he wants to move out. John is still dealing with the mental images and asks Dorian if he’s the same – just after Dorian has protested his lack of privacy. He makes a point of it not being John’s business, he unzips to show him (John objects but perhaps should have respected boundaries in the first place) and explains his creator was more thoughtful. Also, apparently, very very generous. John questions what exactly an android does with it anyway – and Dorian snarks back “same as you do with yours, nothing.” And teases him about Detective Valerie Stahl’s obvious interest in John

Capt. Maldonado is in court testifying about the murder of a Dr. Fuller (a cloning, reproduction and fertility expert) but the defence lawyer points out she has no physical evidence at all. Maldonado decides to insert the eye witnesses she does have despite the objections that no-one asked that question (the prosecution didn’t already bring these up? Maldonado doesn’t know how court cases work?). To make matters worse for Maldonado’s case, one of her witnesses is incredibly nervous and the other describes herself as a psychic, a medium and has arguments with the empty air.

Nervous witness, Hayley, speaks first – broadcast remotely into the court with nifty hologram technology. As she gives her testimony, the android outside her door in the safe house is shot in the head. In the court they can see her react to things they cannot see and Maldonado calls in that the safe house has been compromised. She is shot – flying across the room and out of the hologram, along with her guards (the defendant, Ethan, smirks). Scatty witness is in the bathroom and manages to run.

The police search the woodlands she escaped to, Dorian using his heat tracking vision to find the woman, Maya. In the safehouse John talks to Detective Richard Paul (the arsehole) reviewing the evidence – no physical evidence and the safe house was found with a tracker on one of the guards. Over the ruins of the broken MX, Valerie and John get in some flirting

For some bemusing reason, Maldonado goes to visit Ethan in prison so she can tell him he still has to kill the other witness (why?!) and to let him play headgames with her about her career and her being single and how terribad awful it is to be a woman who is completely ignored by men (why are you sitting there for this? What do you hope to achieve Maldonado?) She curses him and leaves. Well that was productive.

At the police station Dorian and John interview Maya and discover that, yes, she thinks she’s talking to her dead fellow witness. John is not impressed. Apparently Maya has had the “cerebellix procedure” which increases how much of the brain a person uses and has been known to increase intelligence or senses – but it’s also completely unproven (if it’s “unproven” according to Dorian, I’m assuming that “has been known” is anecdotal. Otherwise these 2 statements are contradictory). And she claims Ethan murdered Hayley, Hayley saw it it was him – despite being in a court room at the time.

John and Dorian take this to Maldonado, John adding that relying on Maya as a witness is… dubious (no, not in those words). And Rudy bustles in to give us a quick speech on how modern technology can imitate nearly everything about a person – but not their voice. Not only can they not completely imitate someone’s voice, but technology can tell the difference between a voice from a recording and a voice from a person – analysing the voice from the hologram at court, he concludes the killer actually spoke (which means they can also tell the difference between a recorded voice and a live broadcast voice? Apparently). All this is relevant because the voice belongs to Ethan, the defendant, who was in the court room.

Personally I would think “oh someone has succeeded in imitating the voice” or “the hologram was off” or something else other than “this man has mastered how to be in two places at once.” But that’s just me.

No, really, that’s just me. The gang brainstorms identical twins and cloning. They focus on cloning because, even though they have no record of anything indicating Ethan had a clone or could have a clone, the victim Dr. Fuller, was an expert (and all of this is waaay more plausible than equipment failure or voice imitation tech?) especially since it would provide a connection between Fuller and Ethan – since they have nothing so far (and, therefore, no motive for the killing either. No physical evidence, no motive, no connection, just 2 witnesses, one of which sees dead people. Uh-huh, I wish I could say this is the shakiest police case I’ve ever seen, but it isn’t)

While Maya amuses the other police, Valerie interviews Adelaide, a woman who worked with Dr. Fuller many years ago, though his work had to change when cloning was banned. And John and Dorian find that Maya has gone wandering.

They find her heading to Hayley’s parents to deliver a message – and John browbeats her to get her back in the car and to safety. She talks about energy and auras (aided by Dorian’s snark) until a van full of gunmen pull out in front of them (relief!) They cower in the car, most of the bullets bouncing off – Dorian starts to leave the car but he doesn’t have a chest plate still – he’s not bullet proof. One bullet manages to get through the repeatedly hit glass and hit Maya, while John and Dorian manage to hit one of the gun men. The others jump in the van and leave, leaving their wounded fellow behind. John fires after them while Dorian calls an ambulance and tries to treat Maya’s injury.

John removes the mask of the man who was shot and the man looks exactly like Ethan – he calls it in to Maldonado that he has Ethan’s clone –just like him but 10 years younger and makes the guess that the other men in the van were also clones. They also have to question how they found Maya – after all, no-one planned for her to be where she was, it was completely random. He contacts Rudy to examine the shards of the broken MX – they stole its ear, its communicator – and are using it to monitor police coms.

Maldonado looks angstily at the award trophy she has that Ethan mocked her for letting us know he got under her skin

In the hospital, Maya is ok and healing and talks to Dorian about how she lost her parents when she was 19 – the reason why she had the cerebellix procedure. But while she was in the hospital her parents’ house burned down and without any of their possessions to touch, she can’t contact their dead spirits.

Valerie goes to investigate Dr. Fuller’s mother’s home where Adelaide told her most of his work was, and they enter when she tells her MX “she’s an old lady, I’m concerned about her health.” Giving them “probably cause” to enter (like anyone on this show gives a damn about law or ethics, welcome to the club Valerie). Valerie finds a computer and uses a little device to hack into it and check the files – she seems to find cloning information and a picture of Ethan and Fuller together. Going through his drawers she finds a letter to Ethan from Fuller – with Fuller being concerned that Ethan doesn’t want to publish their findings with the “clone children” which was their original aim and being suspicious of Ethan’s motivations.

She has all the files sent to Maldonado via her MX and continues to explore – down stairs she finds a number of camp beds – then hears a sound upstairs. She goes up to find her MX out of action and 3 clones who grab her and knock her unconscious.

At the police station, Maldonado passes on the information about the coms being compromised and them setting up an encrypted channel – and they get Valerie’s info. But also realise that she sent it via normal channels. John gets a call – the clones using Valerie’s phone to contact him. They want Ethan delivering to them and they will give up Valerie (she’s tied to a chair, a tear rolling down her face). Valerie tries to talk to the clones but they’re pretty brainwashed.

With the ultimatum, Maldonado has a vehicle prepared and Ethan ready for release – though they also have Rudy prepare some techy surprises.

They arrive at the location specified by the clones – and they begin the prisoner exchange. Only Rudy is there to create a hologram projection; they think they see Maldonado leading Ethan, but it’s just a hologram (Maldonado is still in the prison, leading Ethan and having it projected to the van). Until they reach the end of the range and the hologram flashes blue – firefight! Valerie manages to hit one of the clones holding her and run. Dorian and John fire on the van and the clones try to drive off

Dorian chases the van, on foot, catching up with it and then flipping it over. Yes, he flipped a van over with his bare hands (some of that super duper strength could have been useful in the past). Then van then explodes massively for Reasons. In the future all vans must carry large supplies of nitro-glycerine, it seems. Also, we almost had a bad guy SURVIVE! Can't have that.

To the court and Maya identifies Ethan as the man who killed Fuller. The court recesses and Maldonado takes the opportunity to mock Ethan as someone who is going to jail forever. And to further validate her, one of the men in the courtroom compliments her on her looks.


Dorian gives Maya a box of things from the arson case at her house, hoping there’s something of her parents there so she can connect to them; and she does over a doorknob.

And Valerie and John share a drink while they’re staying late at the police station (and the drink is bourbon which psychic Maya mentioned which is Significant).

Maldonado looked ridiculously unprofessional a few times this episode – she couldn’t hold it together in court and then she went to visit Ethan in prison for no other reason than to allow him to get under her skin. And this is the future – a future that is at least somewhat removed from now – there’s absolutely no reason why this future has to maintain the trope of “career woman gave up a family and isn’t that tragic!” And how do we combat this trope? By having a guy notice her as attractive! 

What’s frustrating is I think this episode was supposed to be Maldonado’s. She said it was “her case” and was obviously very emotionally invested in it. Her little speech to Ethan was supposed to be her victory. But it didn’t feel like that, she was still pretty background and she wasn’t overly competent. It would have helped if they’d been more clear that the hologram idea was hers maybe, but it was still weak. And why is she obsessed with this case anyway? Perhaps we could have spent some time with her to see why this case has got to her, why it matters so much to her and why she's having these little visits with Ethan? Also, can she please quit with the super-earnest-almost-whisper-voice. She uses it all the time. If she bought a sandwich she'd make it sound like she's breaking some tragic news to the poor guy behind the till. 

Then add in that Valerie is being more and more firmly stamped as a love interest – and one who was damselled this episode as well. This is on top of the sex bots (yes some were male – but they were background) and kidnapped women, the tearful woman in a cupboard (who, yes, helped but still spent most of the episode tearful and afraid)… it’s early, we’re only 5 episodes in to the first season and a lot could change – but 5 episodes in and the treatment of women is… shaky

And can we talk about the ridiculous court case? Eye witness testimony is dubious right now – but eye witness testimony in a world where we have SEEN people perfectly imitate someone else? And that’s before the clones show up.

Or how about the fact that Maldonado said they had no connection between Ethan and Fuller - but Valerie found so much after, what, 3 minutes of investigation? After... searching Ethan's mother's house? And then there's this whole idea that Ethan is going to GET AWAY WITH MURDER (ZOMG!) despite the fact they have a body of one of his clones that just tried to shoot the witness! He didn't try to get away with murder - he arranged for your very very shaky case to be reinforced with a fuckton of relevant evidence.

I love speculative fiction but I do prefer them to be internally consistent.

Oh - and the Black Android has a very very big penis. For Reasons. Uh-huh.