Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 7: Simon Says

Opening exposition – Detective Richard Paul (the arsehole detective) tells us all there has been a solar flare that has knocked out all power and there’s going to be rolling black outs. Since they’re going to auxiliary power for a while, that means energy is rationed – which means androids only get charged if they’re prioritised. John snarks away because he doesn’t like Richard really. Richard snarks about about John’s cybernetics – and Dorian punches him. Dorian is pissed because Richard has decides the MXs get charging priority.

Richard threatens to write Dorian up (what? Why would that even be a thing with 99.9% of androids being emotionless MXs? Follow your world building through, Almost Human!) and Dorian apologises – though it’s Richard’s fault; Dorian is only half a charge which makes him emotionally unstable.

Uh-huh, y’know when things like this are revealed we can see why the DRNs were maybe, just maybe, not the ideal androids for police work.

While he’s an arsehole, he’s also right when he points out the randomly giggling Dorian is not really fit for duty – but John takes him anyway. Richard takes his anger out on his MS (who he also treats as a servant).

In the car Dorian is definitely angry at the MX getting priority, especially since a DRN’s personality matrix is always the first thing to go. He repeats again that he needs his own space, as he complained about before: but Maldonado nixed it because Dorian is city property and needs to be supervised at all times. Dorian has a great idea – what about John’s place! His back room; John objects, that’s his trophy room thank you very much! While Dorian isn’t very impressed with the man keeping his high school trophies, John quickly recites his achievements and is so lost in them he almost doesn’t even notice Dorian falling asleep

On to this week’s crime – a man, Ramon driving home, happily talking to his wife when he’s interrupted by a man washing his window, despite his protest. While looking for money to pay him, the man sprays him in the face, knocking him out. He wakes up with a big metal collar round his neck with an ominous timer on it – counting down.

That’s never ever a good thing.

He looks around and sees teeny tiny cameras everywhere as his new bulky fashion accessory tells him to follow the rules of the game – oh, Saw without the gore. Wait, was there any real point to Saw without the gore? Damn it, first Dorian is too angry to be witty and now we get a gore-less Saw.

Anyway, the guy behind the game is watching remotely from a screen that also keeps track of the number of viewers (do I even need to say the collar is a bomb?) – he is live streaming it. Aha! Reality TV! Well, seeing a man follow orders or be blown up is a lot classier than 21st century reality TV.

Ramon is instructed to take a gun out of the briefcase that has been left for him and go to the bank where he works – and to hold it up for a whole lot of money. He takes the money (loaded up onto a flashdrive… yeah this futuristic style of money is ridiculous and only exists because they need to be able to steal it) and runs.

Dorian and John pursue his car, alerted by the bank alarm (Dorian uses his megaphone voice in the car), but, of course, Ramon is not allowed to pull over until he is stopped when John EMPs his car. Dorian quickly confirms the collar is a bomb; and he doesn’t have enough time to disarm it. All they can do is put up a shield so no-one else is hurt.

Lots of very well done angst –and the bomb explodes. Ramon dies.

And the killer got over 3,000 views. Only 3,000? Needs more cute cats, clearly. The killer revels in the praise from social media, encouraging him to do another one (ah, must be Youtube).

They search, find the knock out chemical (John makes a joke about Dorian moving in using it but Dorian is too stressed to find it funny), loads of cameras, money and a recorder (Dorian has another anger moment from his power levels).

They report everything to Maldonado and Richard interviews co-workers to find if Ramon had any enemies (he’s a banker in charge of loans. So oh gods yes, he did). And Valerie found the video online (on an “unpatrolled” area of the internet. Not only does that sound creepy and totalitarian as hell, but I also want to know how one “patrols” the internet). Valerie explains how the view-hits were the real goal and how people were cheering it on.

In the workshop, Dorian is getting a mini-charge (which he’s not satisfied with at all) and Rudy talks about loneliness of living alone (Rudy also reassures John that Dorian isn’t going the way of past DRNs – after all, the model was decommissioned for erratic behaviour) though his mood swings may get worse. Dorian tries to turn them off. Oh Dorian, I wish that worked.

They check and address left on the car’s recorded but Dorian notes there would be no way for Ramon to get there with the money in the time he had left anyway. The address is abandoned with only some weird kind of juke box which, when activated, transmits messages from the bad guy to John and Dorian, including his next victim, Jeanie Hartman (recognised by Dorian). And they have to save her, alone.

Bad guy orders flowers that Jeanie delivers (he promises his fan base another video). She’s knocked out and collared. When she wakes up, Valerie, Richard and Maldonado watch the live broadcast. Jeanie is taken to the park and John and Dorian join her, Dorian starts to disarm her bomb while Rudy talks him through it (because he doesn’t know how/have the information for REASONS) while Jeanie guesses the bad guy is called Simon who she met through a dating website she describes him including how creepy he was – which causes the commenters to shift, now mocking him for failing to get a date.

John refuses to back up and put on the shield and decides to help – because Dorian taking the time to explain it to John and then both of them trying to stick their hands in and watch an area that can be covered with one hand is much better.

They save her, of course they do (is anyone surprised that the attractive young white woman is saved by our heroes, but the MOC is the one who dies to set the scene?)

They succeed and Dorian has a gleeful mood swing and celebrates this with a group hug. Simon watches his viewers disappear leaving angry messages and has a little tantrum

At the police station, they’ve identified the bomber as Simon Lynch who has been turned down by both victims (Jeanie on a date, Ramon for a loan) and a Sergeant James Morton kicked him out of the police academy. They head out but not before John has to reassure Maldonado that Dorian is safe to be allowed out.

At the scene, Dorian doesn’t want to hold back, afraid of losing ground in winning the acceptance of the other officers. They blow up the trailer that Simon has rigged to explode, but John is lead aside by Simon dressed as one of the CSI (so much for facial recognition) and knocked unconscious with his spray.

Dorian finds John’s locator chip lying on the ground. Everyone scrambles to find him

John wakes up on a park bench, at night, clutching an alcohol bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. He has a bomb collar on and is chained to the bench. Simon calls – he has a remote detonator now so doesn’t just have to rely on the timer. John has tools and has to disarm the bomb, alone. Simon rants about how he was kicked out of the police academy when John was given a chance after his dodgy psych evaluation yadda yadda it’s all unfair. He freaks out when Richard, Dorian and crew arrive so they have to keep their distance – but they realise he must be somewhere around watching to see them arrive since he had no chance to place cameras.

Dorian spots him in the clock tower and a sniper is sent to point a gun at him – but he’s holding the detonator switch, he dies, it explodes. New plan, Dorian climbs the tower following a route he’s calculated to stay out of sight then shocks him so the pulse will make his muscles tense so lock his hands on the detonator – all with only 15% charge left.

As Dorian climbs, Richard asks his MX if he could do that (aww he’s jealous).

This actually goes on for a fair while with ranting, John trying to disarm the bomb and Dorian climbing. It’s actually pretty boring – I’m pretty sure no-one believes there’s any chance of John getting his head blown off so trying to build tension fails rather dramatically.

Needless to say, everyone’s master plan works perfectly. John doesn’t die. Dorian’s battery lasts JUUUUUUST long enough.

Back to the station with John and Maldonado sharing a drink, everything’s good but John angsts about the way people look at him after the whole failed mission and bad psych evaluation from episode 1 (remember them? Probably not, the show seems to have forgotten).

And John has either helped Dorian or tortured him horribly – he’s arranged to have Dorian’s charging station moved to lonely Rudy’s lab. He’s no longer with the MXs! Yay. But he’s with Rudy all the time… poor Dorian.

Almost Human with its very premise, keeps rising up the thorny and complex issue of how androids, especially the very human-seeming androids like Dorian, are treated. But it never really goes into depth, not nearly the depth it needs. I hope that this is escalating towards where these issues are really dragged out especially since we’ve had a lot of episodes touch on the issue and then look at it with poignant angstiness. I think it needs to because, otherwise, we have a Black man being “city property” needing supervision and talking about social injustices… to machines.

I’m also interested to see if they will expand on some of the other elements of observation that we’ve seen in this world. The net is patrolled, Dorian’s facial recognition software seems to be able to recognise anyone – suggesting some kind of database.

I’m faintly amused that a crisis level of battery power for Dorian is 47% - that’s when he got warnings. Damn, and I thought my tablet was inefficient!

Am I supposed to take any kind of clumsy aesops from this about the dangers of social media, the anonymity of the internet etc? Because anyone who has spent time in comments section is going to be fairly unshocked and this is so utterly heavy handed with its messages that I’m actually more concerned about the whole “patrol the internet” etc.

I think there was supposed to be a message here about how people with mental illnesses are never trusted and are always expected to go off the rails - the comparison drawn between Simon, Dorian and John. Exceppppt....

Dorian DID go off the rails. He punched a co-worker! He was barely able to communicate! Should we base it on judging Dorian by all other DRNs? Then you need to address the humanity of the androids in more detail because judging all machines of the same model to perform the same isn't unreasonable.

Simon was a serial killer!

So that leaves John - except we've almost completely forgotten John was mentally ill in the first place and his colleagues suspicion (by colleagues we mean Richard because zero effort has been made to depict more hostility - in fact, the only other detectives he's worked with: Maldonado, Valerie and the deceased Vogal all not only welcomed him but semi-hero worshipped him) seems grounded as much or far more in the fact that his failed mission killed at least one police office through what they regard as incompetent decision making. Has anyone said "John shouldn't be here, he's insane" so much as "John shouldn't be here, he got those guys killed"?

Nice message but utterly failed to deliver