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Almost Human, Ep. 1.02, “Skin”: Fills in the blanks and entertains

Almost Human, Ep. 1.02, “Skin”: Fills in the blanks and entertains

Almost Human S01E02 promo pic 1

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 2: “Skin”
Written by Cheo Hodari Coker
Directed by Michael Offer
Airs Mondays at 8 P.M. ET on FOX

The problem with crime dramas these days is the fact that there are so many of them. It’s easy for a good story with unique qualities to fall into step with similarly-constructed procedural sameness. Fortunately, “Skin” continues to differentiate Almost Human from the dozens of other network series and provides plenty of hope for the show’s future.

Detective John Kennex and Dorian, his android partner, appear well-adjusted working on the force together. Despite their rough first mission, the two are quickly becoming a great team. Urban and Ealy are a delightful onscreen pairing. From their car ride banter to conversations eliciting more thoughtful responses, their chemistry as buddies and investigators reaches heights that elevate the episode’s writing, which in itself comes across smarter and better overall here. Dorian’s interest and involvement in Kennex’s personal life is amusing and leads to several genuinely funny moments, one in particular showing Kennex’s attempt to use his artificial limb to amuse kids. Dorian’s precision analysis of Kennex’s personality provides most of the humor in this episode and helps to shape Urban’s character, filling in some of the blanks left over from the pilot, while Dorian’s reaction to the case helps give Ealy a definite direction for the development of his tricky role.

As most of their cases are likely to do, the subject of “sex bots” connects the thematic dots from the pilot to continue the exploration of android humanity, while expanding the topic to include the question of the afterlife and the possibility of androids leaving a legacy after their functioning days are over. The technology at work to provide a robot with empathy, curiosity, and sarcasm doesn’t convincingly exist in a realm of reality, however, when new kinds of androids are introduced without a detailed explanation for their capabilities. A willingness to suspend disbelief is necessary just long enough for the specifics of the case to circle back to the hunt for clues rather than dwell on the absurd.

The investigation gives the team a chance to properly go through the typical motions of working a case, complete with brief encounters with their female co-workers, who have managed to surpass Kennex in their avoidable blandness, something that will hopefully be corrected within the next few weeks. There are hints of a possible office romance in the works, but if the writers find a less conventional way to incorporate Minka Kelly’s Detective Stahl into Kennex’s life, that would be an exciting change from what would be expected and help to set Almost Human apart from other shows that consistently use their female players as plot devices to initiate sexual tension.

One noticeable change from the pilot is the considerable scaling down of special effects. As a practical decision on the production front, it also helps give the feel of a real-world environment, making the tech on display all the more vital and the casework all the more hands-on, and subsequently, more complex and interesting. With this look at what one-off episodes can accomplish character-wise, it will be interesting to see how many stories we explore before returning to the case of the criminal organization introduced in the pilot.

Now that the show seems to have hit a stride comparable to various primetime procedurals, it runs the risk of blending in and fading out. Thankfully, with a fun lead duo and cases benefiting from a futuristic flair, Almost Human is coming along nicely as a series not afraid to do what others have done, but be much better at it.

How did you like the second installment of Almost Human? Are you excited to see Urban and Ealy on a weekly basis? Did you think the humor worked well? Is Mackenzie Crook on his way to becoming a fan favorite as the socially recluse Rudy Lom? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

-Amanda Williams