Humans, Season One, “Episode Eight”
Written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley
Directed by China Moo-Young
Airs Sundays at 9 pm (ET) on AMC
For much of the first season of Humans, various forces in favour of and against Synth consciousness have been building, with certain segments, like Dr. Millican and the Hawkins family, caught in the middle of it all. Last week’s episode started seeing casualties as the forces began colliding, with Dr. Millican’s death and the potential arrest of the Hawkins family as Hobb finally tracked down Leo and his Synth family. This week’s episode reveals Hobb’s true plan, while delving deeper into what drives Karen and Laura as both become key components in unfolding events, in a season finale that manages to close things off effectively while leaving a lot of exciting possibilities for the show’s second season.
The reveal of Hobb’s ultimate plan with Synth consciousness is an intriguing one, and puts his actions to date in the series in context. While most of the Persona representatives have been frightened by the possibility of conscious Synths upending the status quo, Hobb’s plan is a lot more sinister, as his actions with Fred display. Hobb’s endgame is an interesting manifestation of Karen’s fears about what would happen if Synths gained consciousness, and opens a new avenue of worry independent of the We Are People movement. It would have also been a fascinating direction to go in with Vera and Dr. Millican, as the moral conflict the former might have felt in her actions while still being forced to follow orders would have helped realise the potential of that storyline, especially with Dr. Millican having been a part of the Elster-Hobb research team. Hobb’s ideas finally paint him as a formidable enemy to Leo and his group on an ideological level, not just a technological level, and pays off on the sinister atmosphere that surrounded him. Hobb’s insistence on pursuing Niska on his own, and impeding the police investigation in the process, also becomes an interesting idea when considered in this context. Hobb’s idea of Synths with consciousness, when taken to its extreme, could mean making them assassins, driven by hate or other motivations rather than coldly programmed and prone to errors, or engaging them in other unlawful activities where their consciousness would allow them to evade capture. Hopefully this is not the last time the writers delve into these ideas.
Karen’s arc over the past two episodes has also made for a compelling storyline. While Karen emerged as an antagonist for Leo and his group, even working with Hobb, it’s clear that her overriding motivations were to protect other Synths from going what she went through, rather than the desire to harm the conscious Synths. Much like with Niska and her time both with Dr. Elster and the brothel, much of Karen’s actions have been informed by her early rejection and abandonment by both Leo and David. However, her willingness to both find Leo and then help Max gain consciousness again suggests that her fear and anger have not consumed her completely, which is a promising development. In many ways, Karen represents the logical endpoint for Niska’s storyline earlier in the season, as a Synth who is forced to make her own way in the world while hiding her true nature. While Karen’s challenges differed from Niska’s in that Karen had to contend with Pete’s growing anti-Synth sentiment while Niska had to deal with brothel users who willfully treated her as less than human, they both had to make their own way after being abandoned, with the key difference being that Niska had a support system with Leo and Max that Karen never did. But now that Karen has been accepted into Leo’s family and has some support, however reluctant, from Pete, it will be worth watching her storyline next season, if it’s followed. Conquering basic fears can be difficult for humans, and undoubtedly more complicated for Synths who cannot forget any memory they’ve ever had, which sets Karen up to travel a difficult but ultimately rewarding path.
The episode as a whole is the best one of the season, both entertaining and well-paced, and helps Humans end the season on a strong note. The finale drives home how much of the first season was devoted to world-building, and the decisions of both Karen and Niska to walk away from Leo and the group is given more poignancy by the knowledge of what they’ve gone through to get to this moment. It’s also nice to see Mia and Laura reconcile after all the issues the two had when Mia was overriden with the Anita code. Toby, however, remains a weak spot throughout the season, and the character’s lack of development is highlighted in the finale, where he gets little more to do than hang around with Mattie. While Sophie being solely defined by how she bonded with Anita and Niska is understandable due to the character’s age, Toby’s presence fails to ultimately add anything to the season, with the only storyline that could’ve been affected by his absence is that of the conflict between Joe and Laura over Anita. While Toby is not the only character to suffer from this issue, others such as Hobb or Fred get compelling ideas attached to their storylines, which is absent in Toby’s case. Laura’s story, on the other hand, has been very well-handled throughout the season. Her guilt over her brother’s death driving her actions works well to explain her motivations, whether it’s her concern about Anita at the beginning of the season, or her willingness to help Leo and Mia near the end. With Niska keeping a copy of the consciousness code, Season two of Humans holds a lot of potential, and how it develops that potential will be worth tuning in for when it returns.