Almost Human, Ep. 1.05, “Blood Brothers”: Reimagines classic set-up and flourishes with improved character focus

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Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 5: “Blood Brothers”
Written by Cole Maliska
Directed by Omar Madha
Airs Mondays at 8 P.M. ET on FOX

In its first few episodes since the action-packed series premiere, Almost Human has delivered thrills, humor, and clever integration of technology into the criminal and crime-fighting worlds, and this episode is no exception. “Blood Brothers” takes another step forward in creating memorable characters out of the people on both sides of an increasingly complex investigation and offers some answers to lingering questions.

So far, we’ve gotten to see a glimpse of Kennex’s personal life, which consists of synthetic limb maintenance and solitude. From what we’ve seen, he only interacts freely with Dorian during their morning commute (the highlight of every episode) and directly following the closing of a case. His loner tendencies raise questions about Dorian’s “private life”, such as where Dorian sleeps or recharges and whatever else sentient robots do when not required to perform the duties for which they were created. Seeing Dorian’s charging station addresses the question of where he lives, but his request for a living space separate from the police quarters designated for the synthetics implies that he doesn’t do much when stored off-duty, though he might if he was given more freedom and privacy. The possibility of Dorian having his own housing could eventually make for an enjoyable episode through his perspective as he becomes familiar with the domestic side of humanity. Residing in a house or apartment could also aid his detective skills; where a robot in a facility may not pick up on subtle inconsistencies in a residential crime scene, one used to those kinds of environments would. Living on his own would signify just that- that he is continuing to adapt and evolve past the limitations of his programming. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of that developed as the season progresses.

Some credit is due to the production team for the immaculate sets, both in the precinct and in the android storage facility and for the visual effects required for the “Life-size Ken Doll” moment in the android equivalent of a locker room. The visual presentation along with Karl Urban’s acting in that and the following car scene is especially comical, making it a memorable moment in Kennex’s introduction to the private aspects of android existence.

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Once the episode switches gears and moves on to the procedural elements, it picks up even more momentum with a compelling plot and over-due involvement of the supporting cast. In a surprising but not completely unwelcome move, viewer connection to female characters is mainly coaxed by focusing on Captain Maldonado and a darling female witness whose own backstory makes her the most interesting and enjoyable guest so far. Minka Kelly does have a few more scenes than usual- for instance, Detective Stahl’s search of the victim’s house shows how other officers handle working with the androids with cardboard cut-out personalities- but her presence is still minimal. However, that is hardly worrisome since Lili Taylor is great on her own as Maldonado as well as with either Graham or Alex Miller, who play the suspected killer, Ethan Avery, and his clones.

The Miller twins are well-cast as multiple personalities of the same person, their nuanced performances of either Avery or one of the clones are exceptionally confusing, leaving us guessing which is which. Avery and Maldonado’s scenes are perhaps the most sincere interactions we’ve seen between characters. The darkness of Avery’s taunts juxtoposed with Taylor’s genuine responses make these scenes just as entertaining as anything Kennex and Dorian do, albeit for different reasons. The “face-maker” device featured in “Are You Receiving?” would have been a simpler way to explain Avery’s ability to simultaneously murder one of the witnesses while remaining in police custody in plain sight of an entire courtoom, but the decision to use cloning as the means as well as the motive is a smart one since it doesn’t rely on repetitive explanations of future tech.

Speaking of which, the way holographic displays are utilized is another example of this episode’s appeal. Along with the virtual broadcast of the first witness’ murder, the deceptive hand-off of Avery to his clones is well-played. It’s not the risk of the move that makes it interesting, (there is no way that was going off without a glitch), but the way the position of the scanners in the hallway limit the advantages of tech give a sense of realism and suspense that goes a long way in adding weight to a show that relies on non-existent variables. The only notable flaws here are Dorian’s surprising and somewhat awkward display of Superman strength and the contrived romance between Kennex and Stahl. The scenes give both characters a moment of closure: Dorian tying up loose ends and Kennex finding an ease to being around his gorgeous co-worker, but neither seem necessary or indicative of an original route the show is planning to take its characters in the future. And that van flipping over is just weird. Really weird.

“Blood Brothers” takes yet another tried procedural scenario and reworks it in a way that lets every element shine- whether it’s the upbeat score, inventive CGI, capable acting, or fabricated environments. Exploring Maldonado’s character and giving Stahl some actual police work to do help to even out the tone, creating an all-alround fast-paced episode that reimagines relatable issues and blends them seamlessly with sci-fi theatricality.

What did you think of “Blood Brothers”? Was it engaging enough to keep your heart racing or did your mind keep wandering back to that image that Kennex will never be able to get out of his head? Are you prepared for the inevitable pairing of Stannex (Kennahl?) or are you dreading that union? And, most importantly, are you prepared to go a whole month without Almost Human after the last new episode next week? Leave your thoughts, hopes, and dreams for the show in a comment below!

-Amanda Williams




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