Almost Human: Pilot and Skin Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The prolific J.J. Abrams strikes again in the awesome new Sci-Fi FOX show Almost Human. It is 2048 and crime is up 400% with drugs, violence and weapons flooding the streets. While science and technology are advancing at a remarkable rate, police are unable to keep up with the losses. To fight back, police officers are partnered with an advance, combat-model Android. Immediate comparisons will be made to the Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner, Almost Human stands on its own as one of the best entries of the new TV season. While some of the futuristic characteristics of the show may seem like cliche's, Abrams and his gang of geeks are able to make the buddy cop storyline feel fresh. The gruff and tough veteran cop with the “Bot” that can feel are a perfect mix.
Starring Dredd himself, Karl Urban is perfectly cast as Detective John Kennex; a cop that has only just recently come out of a 17-month coma after being caught in a brutal ambush. Not only did Kennex lose his leg, he lost his longtime partner in the attack. Kennex is seeing an denounced doctor to try and help him reconstruct the events of that fateful day but he is struggling with many issues since the surprise attack. When Kennex finally is ordered by Captain Sandra Maldonado (vet actress Lili Taylor) to return to work, he realizes that it is protocol to ride with a synthetic android. However Kennex is not a fan of androids as partners and dumps his new model on the highway in a hysterical scene of destruction. This was a good sign to me that the program was not taking itself too seriously—a good thing for a show barely out of the TV womb.
After pleading his case to Maldonado, Kennex agrees to ride with an older version of the synthetics called a DRN or “Dorian.” These models were decommissioned after proving to be too emotional and actually being able to “feel” things. The new MX units while more efficient are logic based and designed to feel nothing. But Kennex is not the warm and fuzzy type that wears his heart on his sleeve and he immediately clashes with the unorthodox police methods o the DRN. Dorian is played by Michael Ealy and does a great job of stealing almost every scene that he is in. He is not some robot that just thinks that he is human, he is a synthetic that wants more than anything to be a cop. His pride and easygoing way of crime-solving takes Kennex by surprise and by the pilot's end you realize that Dorian is the best thing to happen to Kennex.
The pilot is excellent and it presents us with a lot to take in and more than enough to think about for future episodes. Minka Kelly is the dutiful super hot Detective Stahl but she is not given much to do but bat her gorgeous lashes at Kennex. John is still trying to put together what happened nearly two years ago with the ominous Insyndicate organization that is hard at work to take down the cops by planning to ambush the police HQ after deactivating all of the MX units. I think that one of the most intriguing elements of the show is that although 33 years in the future, they do not go overboard with crazy futuristic stuff and gadgets that are not in the realm of possibility. In the end good triumphs over evil and the scene is set for what looks to be one of the best Sci-Fi TV shows in years.
By the second episode entitled “Skin,” we are taken into the underworld of sex “bots” and are given an inside look at Kennex and Dorian's take on mortality. Smartly written and well executed, Almost Human jumped to the head of this years freshman class of new programs. It was a smart move on FOX's part to have the big premiere pilot episode on Sunday right after football, a smart gamble that gave fans a chance to talk about it at the water cooler on Monday. By Monday night the buzz was big and it already felt like a show that I had been watching for far longer than one episode. Bare in mind that I watch the shows I review three to four times while I write because it stays fresh in my mind. Plus its always nice to pick up on stuff that you did not see the first time around. Creator J.H. Wyman just may ironically be the next J.J. Abrams—who knows?
One of the things I loved most about the show was its terrific production design and its movie-like feel. It reminded me a lot of the future Detroit in the original Robocop or the original Total Recall's locale. Whatever it is, they are doing something right and the two leads are really terrific actors. Playing Bones McCoy and Judge Dredd were the perfect roles that prepped Urban for Almost Human while Ealy is one of those out of nowhere working actors that can be an overnight star. The mystery surrounding a group of Albanian's that are dealing in the sex trade by kidnapping real women and then using their human skin grafted onto sex bots. It is a solid episode with the whole skin thing really being a backdrop for the relationship between Dorian and Kennex. One thing about buddy cop shows or movies, you really have to get to the core of the two leads. These guys nail it and I think that this show will become a staple for Sci-Fi fans that loved shows like Alien Nation and movies like the aforementioned Blade Runner. With the right mix of action, thrills and a sprinkling of comedy the mixture is brewed just right. In just two episodes Almost Human is almost perfect.
Mania Grade: A
Episode: Pilot and Skin (Season 1, Episode 1 and 2)
Starring: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly
Written By: J.H. Wyman (creator), J.H. Wyman
Directed By: Brad Anderson
Studio: Bad Robot, Frequency Films, Warner Bros. Television