Just a few thoughts before I properly get into AMC’s Humans. First and foremost after viewing episode one last night, that is a future I fear far more than a world of Ultrons and terminators. Secondly, I really need to go watch Ex Machina.
Humans even in one episode, feels like the flipside of what Fox’s Almost Human wanted to accomplish. It’s a world where it feels like it’s not too far way in our distant future where AI robots (or synths as they are called) are a part of society just like every other piece of transformative tech out there that’s currently on the market. The idea of this show is not if this will happen but when and how we will react when it does. Almost Human dealt with the interpersonal relationship between a human and android as well as the world around them, Humans deals more with the world at large and the place that synths have in it. The synths in this show have taken up many of the menial roles in everyday life as caretakers, maids, drivers, therapists and even sex-bots (someone has been watching one too many Ghost in the Shell episodes!). Why do they even exist? They exist of course to make life easier on humanity. Robots exist to make people less like robots. At least that is the overall message we are lead to believe. Throughout the first episode many ethical dilemmas are discussed on whether AI is actually helping humanity or making us even lazier. Are they putting people out of jobs and even questions of ownership and slavery are brought up. This is where this show actually excels at many points that Almost Human didn’t in that we as viewers get to see these debates played out on a global scale as well as personal ones. Then of course, the age old question we have had since the creation of Frankenstein’s monster and the Tin Man, what happens when AI gains sentience? Is mankind then obsolete?
The first episode is divided up into 3 subplots. The first has to do with a father Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill) who buys his family a synth to help around the house as he works, cares for his 3 kids and deals with a wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson), who is always away from home. Anita (Gemma Chan) as she is designated, plays the role very well as a ‘dumb machine’ but of course unknown to others, there is more that has happened that meets the eye. She has resurgent memories of a bad accident and as she and some of her fellow synths go into hiding, she does what she can to keep from being recycled. While among this family you can see the dynamics of how people interact with machines as some of the kids gravitate to Anita and others treat her like a slave. The mother of course has her eye on her as Anita was brought into her home without her having a hand in the decision. One of the best scenes early on is when the family seems like they are about to treat Anita as one of the family and when a joke is told, Anita’s reaction uncomfortably reminds them that she is not human. Interwoven with this story, is that there are a band of synths on the run. We meet Leo (Colin Morgan) who is leading them and the scientists who want them back because of course, now that they have discovered that AI synths can ‘think on their own’ they want to discover how and reverse engineer it. As Leo tries to meet up with his connections things start to go wrong horribly as he realizes some of his synth friends he will have to leave behind. The last story subplot is fairly interesting. Dr. Millican (William Hurt), who worked on the orginal project to develop synths has an out of date model, Odi (Will Tudor) that the government wants to recycle because it’s old and breaking down. The contrast here is the fact that Millican himself has possible onset dementia and Odi remembers what he can’t and with Odi breaking down, even he is not reliable.
All of the touches and uncomfortable questions brought to the forefront is what makes this a good show. Sure, this is not a new idea but it still raises the same questions and shines a light on some of the answers that we would want to see. We are at a point now where so much of our tech does some of the little things that we take for granted. Early on when Anita asks Joe if she should drive and he lets right after buying her gives pause in the thought of how much trust we put into machines. Despite the familiar themes that we have seen in past productions Humans feels like one to watch and probably the show concept that Fox TV let slip away.
4.5 cans of lube out of 5.