Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 12: Beholder

We start with the crime – a man with an awesome computer game system who then uses said system to play GOLF. Karma quickly catches up with him and he’s attacked by a scarred man with heavy bandages who tases him and then extracts some kind of blue glowing liquid from him. People shouldn’t have blue glowing liquid in them, I’m pretty sure that’s not healthy.

At work John’s phone rings and Dorian helpfully answers it and informs a Samantha that John doesn’t want to talk to her and he’s desperately waving at him not to pass the phone over.

Dorian is gloriously evil. Apparently John when on a date with her the night before and she “holoblocked him”, basically accepting every call she received, and ending up with them having dinner with holograms of her room mate and mother. He complains about being unable to just have dinner with another person but also dismisses Dorian’s attempts to be sympathetic since he can’t experience them so Dorian suggests that maybe John is just boring… ooooooooh

Further sniping is interrupting Valerie who wants their help on a murder – despite no indication of violence of foul play and the EMTs calling the death a heart attack. But Valerie doesn’t buy it, the victim’s a chrome like her (genetically enchanced), chromes don’t die young from natural causes.

To the scene of the crime with the deceased Brian who had a perfect life and perfect health – though John throws in some doubt, Dorian sees the teeny tiny puncture wound; he checks it for DNA (which involves injecting himself with it – ew) and finds 7 different people’s strands.

At the police station the check the 7 – all of them are dead, all by apparent natural causes, but none of them are chromes. There are no patterns between them but Maldondo notes they’re all attractive people.

The heavily bandaged man goes to see a very seedy looking doctor who doesn’t look thrilled to see him to give him the phial he took to “do it again”. The doc isn’t thrilled but blackmail over his revoked medical license makes him co-operate. The bandaged man is plugged into a machine and injected with the liquid which is apparently not a very pleasant experience.

At the police station, Maldonado isn’t amuse because the case has been leaked to the press; Valerie isn’t shocked – chromes are rich and connected and look after their own. The dead man, Brian, had recently come from a club before his death so it needs checking out – by Valerie, since it’s a chrome club. Maldonado asks Valerie about going to the club and Valerie notes that while they may hate her job, they do like what she can do for chromes; and that chromes will be hoping it’s a murder because murder is easier for them to face than the idea that their perfect genes won’t give them the long life they promised.

Valerie goes to the club which gets all kinds of shock and disgust that a chrome is a cop (and her own contempt for the elitism of the chromes). The manager still wants to kick Valerie out because her special members don’t want the privacy violated by piffling cops so they play game of threat on threat until another chrome, Jake, arrives to play nice.

Lots of flirting and he pulls out his brother how is a sculptor which is, apparently, also not an acceptable life for chrome so he’s super tolerant of her unusual job

It apparently worked because when she returns to Maldonado she’s all melty and happy and has had the realisation that she resents clones so much she tends to forget they’re people (oh Jake is most definitely evil now - this just confirms it). And they join the Dorian school of making nifty jokes at John’s expense.

Dorian and John have one of their wonderful banter sessions with John deciding technology is bad for how it puts barriers between people (like him holoblocked on a date and the chromes getting special treatment because of their vast influence) and Dorian hitting back that he should replace his robotic limb with a tree leg, then. The banter journey gets them to Rudy who confirms all the victims had the same tiny wound (with a nifty hologram connection to the bodies) and Rudy playing pathetic comic relief again; this time upset that no-one warned him that there was a “beauty” killer out there for more rather ridiculous forced hilarity because, of course, Rudy isn’t conventionally attractive. Try to make the comic relief at least a little funny, Almost Human. Anyway the injections apparently injected nano-bots into the dead victims.

The footage from the club identifies someone following Brian – the facial recognition software recognises him, but different angles recognise him as different people; 2 of the 7 victims. Rudy drops in the dramatic revelation – the nanobots read and reconstruct facial tissue.

The killer is currently out complimenting a woman on her beautiful eyes.

Dorian and John go to see a Dr. Randolph who is apparently an expert on nanobot facial reconstruction. Apparently it was cancelled after the trials because it stopped people’s hearts which is a pretty bad side effect. He explains the process which is pretty obvious by now anyway, but adds again that the “donors” all died and many of the recipients were disfigured.

To the killer and his doctor and it appears the killer, Eric, may have been one of those first donors, and the doctor a man who performed them; Eric uses the doctor’s guilt to push him to keep injecting the nanobots to create Eric’s perfect face (which, with this many procedures close together, involves flooding his system with adrenaline which I’m sure will become relevant). They go ahead – and Eric marvels at his new, beautiful green eyes.

Back to John and Dorian and since the nice doctor just implied John could use Dorian’s perfect nose, Dorian is having a fun time commenting on all John’s imperfections and John hits back, rather little excessively at Dorian “being a composite”.

Banter interrupted with the latest murder and Valerie warning them the killer is increasing the frequency of his kills. Dorian and John head to see John’s informant who can tell them where one gets one of the nifty injector things on the black market – and it also shows a harsh class divide with the decided low tech bare knuckle fighting ring they approach; the fighters are androids though, much to Dorian’s disgust. John’s contact is De Carlo, a little person in a giant robot suit. After threatening to throw him over the wall, he gives up the identity of a doctor who will change your face to avoid facial recognition.

This leads them to the doctor – who prepares for their arrival by injecting himself with adrenaline (told you it would be relevant) to make himself super strong; that allows him to hold of John for a few seconds but also causes a heart attack and him to die before he can be questioned. They confirm that he was a doctor in the trials who lost his license for covering up that pesky dying thing. They also find a picture of Eric – or rather, who Eric wants to be; he has 9 of the facial features he needs, he’s out hunting number 10 – and the identify the guy with the desirable cheekbones

The man, Jonathon Geddes, is surprised by the sudden appearance of very aggressive police protection with Valerie heading the body guard team. John and Dorian stay in the doctor’s lab when the doc gets a call (from Eric) – he wants Dorian to imitate his voice to the caller but Dorian hasn’t heard the doctor speak.

The problem is, good cheek bones are not unique to one person – and he just has to find someone else who fits. At the police station they consider that and try to draw more connections with the victims – realising they all live in the same area (a HUGE area) and they all have special 3D photos, they realise they’ve all had their picture taken at the DMV… so it must be a DMV employee

Unless there has been a sharp decline in the number of people who drive in the future, I dare say a rather large number of people have had their picture taken at that same DMV…

And we see Eric’s motive for the drastic changes – he’s chatting to a woman online who he’s also stalking; she thinks he lives in Arizona and is coming for a visit. He’s apparently making his “perfect” face before that meeting.

Valerie does some detective work and finds Eric – who went on disability from the DMV just as the trials for the nanobot technology started. Maldonado is surprised that he would volunteer since he looks quite average and not in need of plastic surgery and Valerie tells them about dysmorphic disorder and the effect of seeing perfect images all around and crashing self-esteem.

They launch their raid but Eric isn’t there when they arrive; but it does give Dorian chance to see his chat log with the woman he’s stalking, Judy – and notice that he lives just opposite her and can see her through his window (and by the worn patch on his carpet, he’s spent a lot of time watching her).

Which is also where Eric has fled, to “surprise” Judy. He apologises for the bandage on his cheek that he promises will be gone soon; she’s sure he’ll be beautiful but confesses she’s not told him something. She’s blind. She daren’t tell him because she was terrified their relationship would end if he knew the truth. They have a touching moment – and then the police arrive with guns.

Eric runs to the roof – then gets up on the ledge ready to jump. John tries to talk him down – but he jumps, his last words are “we’re supposed to be loved.”

John returns to the police station to angst and Dorian asks him if he believes there’s someone out there for everyone – surprisingly, John says yes. Dorian offers to go to a bar with him and watch him drink (awwww); instead he invites Valerie, but she already has a date with Jake. Awwwwwwwww. She does watch him as she leaves though followed by an angsty lonely moment I assume was included because the writers had a minute to fill.

The concept of holoblocking is really excellent and a surprisingly little twist to a show that hasn’t done a great job of chasing down the social implications of rising technology. Even today, mobile phones can leave us overly connected and without quality alone or couple time – how much worse will that be as the technology becomes more and more involved?

Chromes are another element that could use some development – not just genetically enhanced but they almost have their own elite subculture with their own network, their own clubs; or maybe superculture since it’s full of powerful elites an “subculture” suggests smaller and weaker.

It’s good it had these to develop because the underlying science is awful. If you have the resources and technology to inject bots into someone’s head, killing them to copy their face is there a reason why you don’t have the technology to perform more conventional plastic surgery and work from an image of them? Do you really need to copy their faces by killing them rather than make, for example, and extremely detailed 3D hologram of them for the bots to copy? The storyline doesn’t work, it’s an attempt at an updated “I tried to create the perfect man/woman by killing people and chopping up their bodies” which in turn is a clumsy Frankenstein copy.

Speaking of times when the technology feels shaky: we’ve already seen that EVERYONE is on facial recognition – Dorian can glance at a picture and automatically recognise anyone, no matter what their profession or whether they have a criminal record. Advertisers use facial recognition to tailor adverts to their recipients, we’ve seen this as well. So why would the DMV need photo ID any more? Why would it exist? The whole point of a photo ID is to identify yourself – but facial recognition is everywhere and freely available sufficient to target random spam at people so there would be no need for a photo ID – or a license at all.

I love Dorian and John’s banter but this week I think John responded to standard teasing with a few comments that were designed to be a lot more cutting

I appreciate the edition of a disabled character, less so her being used to have a great big “OH THE IRONY!” moment which is her sole purpose.