Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 9: “Unbound”
Written by Jeffrey Hunt
Directed by Graham Roland
Airs Mondays at 8 P.M. ET on FOX
“I don’t know if you know what it’s like to be part of something that defines you forever and in a way that you do not wish to be defined.”
It’s easy to see a person for their most prominent attributes- whether it’s their actions, origins, or appearance- and to reduce them to a stereotype. Both Kennex and Dorian have been fighting against the limitations others have placed on them from the start of the show: for Kennex, it’s the physical handicap that resulted from perceived failure and his resentment towards the technology on which he is dependent in order to function; and for Dorian, the unpredictable nature of existing as a man-made creation and the doubt that isolates him from his colleagues. Here, we see both struggles come full-circle when they meet Dr. Nigel Vaughn (John Larroquette), the creator of the androids and a new player in this world of the future.
The line between man and machine has been redrawn again and again throughout the season, showing that the boundaries are constantly being pushed from both sides; people are becoming more technologically-altered beings, while robots are progressing towards a more organic, self-reliant existence. Following up on “You Are Here”, this episode continues the investigation into the mysterious item in the evidence warehouse and creates a mythology for the history of robotics and introduces a major twist on the current (future) state of the modern world.
The severed head from the pilot finally comes into play as it is revealed to be a piece of a soldier android, played with robotic precision by Haywire action star Gina Carano. One of the episode’s best scenes shows the head attach itself to an android body in police custody. It’s altogether creepy, but it explains the mystery of the robotic head, and it’s satisfying to discover its sinister purpose after all this time. Leaving human bodies in its wake, this android called “Danica” is the fiercest combatant the team has had to face. Not only is she a near-unstoppable force with an unknown directive, but she’s also like a ghost from Dorian’s past, a reminder of the ruthlessness and destruction that androids are capable of.
While the show has done a lot to add warmth and humor to the characters, meeting Dr. Vaughn establishes a mythology for synthetic souls and colors in the specifics about the source of Dorian’s humanity- the very foundation of the show’s premise. It also touches on deeper questions of life and the ethical side of robotics, allowing viewers to ponder the role humans play in the shaping of artifical intelligence and whether or not synthetic souls are inherently good without the influence of corrupted humanity or if it is the goodness of man that produces the initial morality present in androids like Dorian. Even though the essence of the synthetic souls may never be fully explored, it is apparent that the writers care enough about the concept to build in more layers of intrigue but still remind viewers that it is the product of imperfection, which is everything we need to know about this ambiguous force for now.
The climactic finale sequence is an exceptional action setpiece. The coordination of the combat stunts resembles a flashy blockbuster style, and Urban, Carano, and Ealy are on the top of their game as Kennex and Dorian take on Danica. Even thought it is a step forward for Kennex as a character to accept his physical state and appreciate his artificial limb, it should be pointed out that regardless of how high-tech his leg may be, the momentum of a prosthetic limb is mainly generated by the muscular power of the amputee’s residual limb. Thus, the superhuman kicking abilities of androids is hardly a feature Kennex would be able to take advantage of with a leg that is as small, quiet, and most likely lightweight as the one he wears. One thing to note about Dorian’s fighting is the consequences of damage to his parts. His anatomical construction seems somewhat random, as we have seen that damage to places other than his head or throat causes auditory malfunction but his eyes are still the primary source of visual senses and information relay. Whether or not his internal workings have been predetermined by the production crew or whether the writing takes certain liberties for creative reasons is another ongoing mystery on the show.
A completely new revelation to this episode is the idea that society has been divided by a massive wall, a dangerous unregulated part of the city. Only referred to as “The Wall”, this concept provides an even greater mystery to an increasingly complex world. The show has mainly focused on self-contained stories in the usual procedural manner, but the possibility of exploring Dr. Vaughn’s disappearance beyond this ominous structure in search of a sanctuary for his development of an android army is the beginning of a worst-case scenario for the future world and it proposes both an exciting and unpredictable direction to take the series.
With elements such as criminal organization known as “Syndicate” and Dr. Vaughn’s new role as an opposition to the law still unresolved, the show has a lot of ground to cover for a season that is nearly halfway over. But with all of the surprises delivered and potential shown by the first half of the season, Almost Human is starting to exceed all expectations of a show seemingly limited by the typical qualities of procedural dramas, daring to go one step further into a greater unknown to prove its own worth to the doubting eye of its critics.
“It’s not our past that defines us. It’s what we do now.”