Humans, Season One, “Episode Seven”
Written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley
Directed by China Moo-Young
Airs Sundays at 9 pm (ET) on AMC
The awakening of Mia last week represented a major breakthrough for Leo and his group, especially coupled with Fred’s escape from Hobb’s home. While the desire for Leo and his group to determine the consciousness code and make it available for other synths hit a roadblock with Max’s sacrifice, the open willingness of Laura and Mattie to help proved that the group had allies they could trust. This week’s episode sees Leo’s group and the Hawkins family connect further as Karen’s history is revealed and a key character is lost in an entertaining episode that sets up an exciting first season finale.
It’s intriguing to note Karen’s anti-synth stance this week, especially when contrasted with Niska’s pro-synth stance. The revelation that Karen was created as a replacement following the death of Leo’s mother and David’s wife, and that her early life was marred by rejection from both of them, heavily colours the path she’s chosen to take since. Her subsequent decision to become an investigator of synth crimes, as well as her dogged pursuit of Niska, now appears to be borne out of a hatred and distrust of conscious synths, including herself, rather than a desire to find others and connect with them. Karen’s current position of power and alliance with Hobb, combined with her history, makes her a fascinating character. It’s clear that her desire to prevent consciousness in synths is a deep-rooted one, but how far she’s willing to go for it may be a question she’s forced to ask before long. If the claim Hobb made to Fred last week is true, and Hobb truly is interested in expanding David’s work to bring consciousness to all synths, then Karen has unwittingly given him the means to do so. This will mean that Karen may have to take another human life to further ensure that this step is not taken. However, the greatest obstacle Karen is likely to face is that of Leo. Leo’s insistence in implementing consciousness among synths means that he is the biggest adversary to Karen right now. Karen, however, has been programmed by David to love Leo, in much the same way that Mia was. This may altogether prevent her from directly harming Leo, which will mean that the courage of her conviction about conscious synths being a step that shouldn’t be taken is likely to be put to the test before long.
Dr. Millican’s death is sad to see, particularly due to its suddenness. The death of the character is most keenly felt in the fact that his story still feels incomplete, and was marred by intriguing ideas that were never followed up on. Much of Dr. Millican’s storyline in the early part of the season revolved around his affection for Odi and his attempts to fight bureaucratic rules that demanded Odi be replaced. Vera’s arrival similarly opened up an interesting idea of the mistreatment of humans by synths who were following orders from unsympathetic primary users. The revelation that Dr. Millican had not only worked with Dr. Elster, but had initially been hesitant to explore the idea of consciousness in synths, was also a storyline that was full of potential, especially given his relationship with Odi and his conversations with Niska. Thus, Dr. Millican’s death, despite the poignancy of Odi giving him a positive memory of his late wife as he’s dying, feels more like a frustrating waste than anything else, due to none of these plotlines getting an adequate follow-up. The character’s relative isolation from the other storylines of the show’s first season also means that these storylines or ideas cannot be transferred to any existing character without a number of contrivances. This, in turn, means that if the show does want to properly explore these ideas, it’ll necessitate a fresh start with either an existing character or a new one. The ultimate lack of effect Dr. Millican had on the show, despite numerous possibilities, is certainly one of the poorer aspects of the season as a whole, and his abrupt death only seals it.
Overall, while somewhat less thrilling than the past two weeks, this is nonetheless an enjoyable outing that sets things up well for the finale. Joe’s about-face on conscious synths is somewhat abrupt this week, however. This is a symptom of the general lack of development that Joe received, as his mistrust of Leo and Max was understandable in light of being forcibly left out of the loop on what was happening with the family. His sudden acceptance, however, seems to come too easily, and be driven more by plot convenience than genuine character growth. The reaction of Laura and Joe to the footage of Niska’s smash club attack is also very telling. Despite both the Hawkins parents giving Niska the benefit of the doubt, and Niska herself bonding with Sophie, the suspicion and fear that emerged from watching the footage was still powerful, something Niska herself seemed to understand. As more people become aware of Niska’s actions, particularly her murder, she’s likely to gather more enemies, as even people who support conscious synths are unlikely to side with her, which means she’ll have to carve out her own path before long. While Leo and the others might support her, whether or not they actively help her will also be in question, as associating with Niska will undoubtedly put others in the crosshairs as well. Pete’s investigation of Karen’s past has a lot of potential, particularly in seeing how his viewpoint of synths changes if and when he discovers there are others like Karen out there. How he deals with that knowledge in light of his past prejudices will say a lot about him, and how that happens will be worth seeing in next week’s season finale.