Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 10: Perception

One young woman walks through the woods and sees everything as graphs, equations and angles. Another woman stands in a concert hall and sees sound waves and harmonies which she uses to create music. They are both awed by their vision – until they collapse and apparently die.

John wakes up from another nightmare about his girlfriend and Insyndicate – and when he wakes up he writes himself a note “Anna had something for me?” when he gets a call from Maldonado about the case. Both women went to the same Academy – one is in the morgue but the woman in the woods is still there.

He arrives on scene and complains at Dorian for telling Maldonado where he was while Dorian asks why John turned off his locator chip for 2 hours that morning (because that’s not creepy at all). Detective Valeria Stahl is also working the case (she gets to work a case rather than just provide computer support for John and Dorian!) and is with the other victim in the morgue. Both women have dilated pupils and small DNA-locked canisters (Valerie and John assume drugs), both of which are empty.

At the police station, Maldonado tells Valerie that both girls were “chromes” (genetically engineered) and she wants Valerie to be liaison with the parents because she’s a chrome as well – though apparently she doesn’t get on very well with other chromes.

The examination does find that the girls were on a drug but they don’t know which kind – though it’s surprising they were using drugs since, though chromes experiment, they don’t become addicted; they also find a third girl who drowned but may have had the same drug in her system – she went to the same school and all three were friends (insert creepiness at how easy the police track their social network connections).

John continues to have minor flashback to the Insyndicate raid – and his hand starts shaking. He takes a small pill to calm it – witnessed by Maldonado on the CCTV (which she’s apparently watching for funsies).

Dorian confronts John about the drug – a memory enabler – and he questions whether John is seeing a recollectionist (like he was in the pilot). Dorian recites a list of all the negative side effects of the drugs John is taking but John insists all is well

John and Dorian interview the parents of the girl who died previously – Lila – and find she wasn’t a chrome, she was a “natural” but gifted anyway and she was let in on scholarship since her mother could never have afforded it. She believed that everyone was covering up her daughter’s death, especially since if she took drugs she would have done so with friends, but her friends denied even knowing her. Of course, her friends are the two girls who just died. The recordings she got from a private detective that she shared with the police proving the friends were actually her friends were also erased at the police station. John suspects a dirty cop.

Valerie goes to the school to investigate and talks to the only other natural in Lila’s grade who is surprised to see a chrome as a police officer (Valerie puts in detective, but it’s clear that chromes are expected to do bigger and better things than become police). Lila tried very hard to compete with the other chromes and fit in but the other natural girl feels intensely out of place and unable to keep up despite her grades.

Interviewing two chrome kids is less helpful – they’re arrogant and condescending and evasive when it comes to talking about drugs. They do find the drug in Scarlet’s (one of the girls) room

Apparently the drug is tailored specifically to her DNA, suggesting each dose is designed to the recipient. They also find the drug is extremely complex and designed using very high tech, rare, expensive and regulated equipment. Tracking down who owns the equipment in the city the find a recently deceased man whose son, Julian, was expelled from the academy.

The device also has a safety feature that backs up copies of every drug it creates to a cloud which Dorian accesses and confirms is definitely the machine responsible and that while Lila died after taking the drug once, the two more recent victims had been using it for some time and seemed to have been deliberately overdosed by their dealer – as he tells John while driving but John is busy having another flashback (or pill induced memory flash) – and crashes the car, only Dorian’s intervention stops it being into oncoming traffic. And gets Dorian’s ear damaged which he angrily snarks about.

They go to see Julian and his very elderly mother (who appears catatonic) and they discover the printer – but Julian starts babbling about seeing their words and Dorian notices his dilated pupils, he’s already on the drug. He calls the drug Verrol and how it expands the mind to realise your full potential – and he claims his machine was hacked and someone messed with the doses, it wasn’t him. They arrest him because his story isn’t all that plausible.

At the police station they check Marshall, one of the arrogant chrome kids, since he’s a computer science student. Valerie also finds the last texts Scarlet sent – to her father; she’d been avoiding him and was upset about him “taking care of something”.

That’s on hold until the next day because it’s quitting time and Maldonado has invited John out for a drink to inquire as to his health because she’s subtle like that. She warns him of the dangers of the memory forces and adds advice that him focusing on revenge rather than focusing on his recent successes (well, not so recent now but the damn episodes are out of order) will break him – also if he can remember stuff they need to talk to Internal Affairs again.

And John goes to see the recollectionist again – apparently something he’s doing far too often (which is laughable considering he hasn’t been seen since the pilot). He remembers the same disastrous ambush but this time also remembers, somewhat unfitting with the rest of the memories, Anna giving him a present, a Russian matryoshka doll.

He goes home and sees the doll. He takes it apart then pulls up the gazillion notes he’s apparently made about his dreams and memories of Anna. After staring mopily at them, he takes the doll to some future CSI person who I think was supposed to be a character but they never developed her – he wants her to check the doll for everything, off the books.

Back to the plot – John goes to see Scarlett’s father and he summons a lawyer by hologram which is kind of nifty. He’s still a TV lawyer though which means he’s not brilliant – and when he finally starts doing his job he’s disappeared. Because TV crime programmes can’t have lawyers, they get in the way of all the rights trampling. Scarlett’s father admits that his daughter took drugs with Lila but that she wasn’t there when Lila died – he had Scarlett lie because he didn’t want the scandal to follow her – he also used his considerable amounts of money to make all the evidence disappear; but Scarlett was furious at the lies, hence the rift. Also, Mrs. Haldman (Lila’s mother) apparently was Not Pleased either and said they’d pay for it – which doesn’t quite match with her previous statement.

While they were talking, the police searching Julian’s house have found an image stick, apparently. Alas, in whatever year in the future, clouds are still unreliable/unsecure enough that we still carry thumb drives, though with futuristic changed names. After questioning he admits that the stick contains the last thing Lila ever said to him; he loved Lila and he talks about how her mother pushed her too hard, always driving her and making her feel she wasn’t good enough. And the drug, Vero, while opening up vast potential for chromes does bad things to naturals: in her own words from the recording, it showed her all her limitations and how she couldn’t reach them, driving her to suicide.

They show the video to her mother though she still holds that the drug was the cause of her daughter’s death – not high expectations. When confronted about hacking the drug machine she has a truly awesomely epic rant about the need for revenge and how it consumed her after Scarlett’s father covered up Lila’s death. Of course this epic rant is not only epic, it also far-too-neatly gels with what Maldonado warned John about revenge.

Story concluded, John has his little visit from Internal Affairs as Maldonado said he would. The investigator questions him, pushing but not that dramatically before John walks out which is apparently a thing he can do without consequence

He goes home and mopes at his notes some more before removing them all – but he gets a call from his CSI contact: the doll is a listening device. And it was still listening as recently as 7 hours ago.

Ok, Almost Human has a problem. Apparently the show was written and filmed completely out of order. So this episode – with John and Dorian seemingly cold towards each other, with John returning to his mental health problems we saw in the pilot that just magically disappeared for several episodes? This was supposed to be episode 4, not 10

This doesn’t break the show – but it damages it. One episode John and Dorian are really friendly and close – then suddenly they’re near strangers next week and John is back to treating Dorian as only semi-human. John has magically got over all of his mental health issues, then next week we’re flashbacking to the pilot. John doesn’t care about his past for episodes on end and then suddenly it’s back down memory lane and a powerful obsession of his. It’s especially bad in a show that has so much character development and character relationship development because that excellent slow growth we’ve been shown is suddenly derailed.

This is also a problem with the world building – especially after the huge revelations and developments in the last episode, we rewind again to before they were revealed for this story.

Why do this? What good reason is there for this (and while “it’s Fox” is certainly an explanation, it isn’t a reason).

Of course with the genetics there are class messages here – but touched on in a rather obvious and shallow fashion – I would much rather have a nice deep look at Valerie’s past, her being a chrome, what that means, why she’s in a relatively “low” position by their standard etc.