ALMOST HUMAN. Surprisingly good science fiction series

The Fox series needs to be looked at from two sides.


4 April 2024

ALMOST HUMAN. Surprisingly good science fiction series

On one hand, it’s an average procedural with clichéd criminal cases; on the other hand, it’s an intriguing sci-fi with solid acting and great potential, which lies in the slowly unfolding main storyline.

The action of J.H. Wayman‘s (Fringe, Keen Eddie) Almost Human series takes place in the near future on the streets of Los Angeles in the year 2048. With the development of technology, crime has also evolved, posing a challenge for the police. Therefore, each law enforcer is assigned an android with artificial intelligence. After an almost two-year hiatus caused by a failed operation and the loss of a leg, John Kennex (Karl Urban) returns to duty. However, he prefers an older generation robot for assistance, one with much more developed freedom of choice and emotions (which is why this type was withdrawn). John finds one of them, Dorian (played by Michael Ealy – Californication, Sleeper Cell), and decides to fight crime in the City of Angels with him.


The relationship between the embittered Kennex and the warm and emotional android Dorian is the strongest point of the series. Their conversations are full of balanced and natural humor, which serves as a good link between the action. And there’s plenty of action. We have a typical procedural series here, where – somewhere in the background – there’s a thread that ties each episode into a coherent whole, in this case – a mysterious organization seeking total power. Most episodes address completely different topics, well known to fans of TV crime dramas: corrupt cops, protecting the sole witness, new types of drugs, prostitutes, mysterious murders. It could be said that Almost Human doesn’t stand out in any particular way.

Almost Human Minka Kelly

But there’s one thing – the whole is adorned with a very interesting sci-fi world. Starting from brilliant prosthetics (which Kennex has), through subtle everyday gadgets, and ending with synthetic souls – we have a picture of a modern future that doesn’t lead only to ruin. The mentioned soul is an invention implanted, among others, in Dorian. Therefore, due to the limited control over such androids, they were withdrawn from production, and their creators had their licenses revoked. The inevitable conflict with the machines and their creator, who did not accept failure, seems imminent. This makes the character of the titular “almost human” even more interesting, who, having the ability to choose, will have to decide which side he wants to be on. His emotions are perfectly reflected by Michael Ealy. The actor, who besides Californication and Takers didn’t stick in my memory much with his performances, is incredibly believable and meshes well with Karl Urban in Almost Human. Stars of this caliber don’t need much introduction: his abilities are well known from the big screen, and the role of a tough guy with a gun suits him well. However, Kennex is not such a simple and one-dimensional character. The trauma he experiences after being betrayed by his girlfriend, who turned out to be a terrorist, as well as the loss of his leg and the problems with accepting the prosthetic, make the psychological portrait of this character not as banal as one might expect.

ALMOST HUMAN Karl Urban Michael Ealy

It’s also worth mentioning the supporting characters. My greatest sympathy was earned by the slightly eccentric scientist working for the police, Rudy Lum (Mackenzie Crook – Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean). However, I was disappointed in the almost Wonder Woman, Minka Kelly, who plays the character of Detective Valerie Stahl. An actor whom I had high hopes for after her gracefully played role in Friday Night Lights, in Almost Human – apart from her beautiful face – she adds no value. A fake smile and zero emotions – that’s her character in a nutshell.

In sci-fi series, references to classics of the genre are inevitable. As one might guess, Almost Human in many aspects resembles Blade Runner. Even the description of the plot should direct viewers to Ridley Scott’s film. Several elements, such as Kennex’s way of recalling events from the failed operation, refer to Total Recall. It’s good that the creators don’t try to overdo it with their vision of the future and maintain a certain realism in all this, and if they draw inspiration from older productions, they choose only the most important things. So, the series is somewhat similar to Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (although not as spectacular), which incidentally shares the time setting (the mid-21st century).

Almost Human

An undeniable positive aspect of Almost Human is the fact that it’s hard to find a good sci-fi series on American television nowadays. Surely, Falling Skies had its audience, but it’s a slightly different theme. Certainly, a success is Helix from SyFy channel, but it’s also a different story, which we’ll write about soon. A few years ago, Fox aired Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and it’s probably more appropriate to compare Almost Human to that series. At that time, this ambitious production only managed to survive for two years.

Almost Human Minka Kelly

After 13 episodes, so little is still known about the main motive. For viewers who don’t necessarily like procedural series, this could be a barrier they can’t overcome, and they might stop watching Almost Human after a few episodes. The creators should have leaned more towards what was done in Person of Interest, where everything was superbly connected, and we constantly felt that each episode is part of a larger story. I miss that here, but it’s worth giving Kennex and Dorian a chance.

Words by Marcin Cedro.



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