Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we?
Psychics are horseshit.
People who claim to have some kind of otherworldly sense are one of three things: charlatans, attention-seekers, or genuinely deluded. And whenever television portrays psychics, that third option doesn’t even exist, replaced instead with a cheeky sense of ambiguity. “Maybe this character really IS psychic. Maybe they CAN speak with the dead.”
Now, I have no soul, but even still, I recognize the use of psychic one-off characters as a lazy writer’s tool for artificially injecting a sense of wonder into a curmudgeonly character. In this case, that’s the perpetually dour Kennex, whose psychic reading brings him closer to a romantic connection with Detective Stahl. One needn’t be psychic to anticipate their relationship, though. She spent the entire pilot eye-banging Karl Urban. And who could blame her? And frankly, any defense attorney worth their salt could discredit a “psychic” witness in five minutes. Avery didn’t need to sic his clone family after Psychic Witness. He just needed an attorney with half a brain.
Okay, rant over. This week’s episode revolves around a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist egomaniac murdering the stem cell scientist who cloned an entire family of the egomaniac. Ethan Avery (Alex Miller) hits all of the Hannibal Lecter hallmarks, taunting the police from captivity while he orchestrates his crimes in absentia. Ultimately, though, there’s not much to him beyond a desperate need to leave his mark on the world. Had I been listening to his hissing speech to Captain Maldonado, I would have laughed and pointed out how he was projecting all of his insecurities onto me. Instead, she appears rattled in a resolved-by-the-end-of-the-episode way. Because naturally, if an older woman is single and in a position of authority, she’s secretly terrified of never being validated by the men around her.
Wow, it really sounds like I hated this episode. I didn’t, really. It wasn’t as stellar as “The Bends,” but I think it’s a strong delivery on the promise Almost Human made with its pilot. Our detectives have developed a familiar routine already, hunting down clues and doggedly chugging through actually decent detective work. Kudos to the show for showing them running down leads; other detective shows have followed the Tao of CSI, Sherlock, Elementary, Monk, and the like, using “brilliant” leaps of intuition to serve in place of working hard. Kennex and Dorian might not be Mensa material, but they put in the time. So why don’t I like this show better?
See, I’m torn about Almost Human. I like the characters, the writing, and I love the hell out of the setting. But the presentation of that setting sets my Sci Fi teeth on edge: almost every technology presented on the show has been used to commit or obfuscate crime. For as much as this show revels in its Blade Runner-esque setting, it sends an uneasy message about our future: “progress will hurt you.” Take this episode, for example. Cloning has been outright banned. Never mind that stem cell cloning could be used to grow new organs, saving millions of lives. It’s bad, so it’s banned. Synthetics are either used by criminals, in sex trade, or by the police, but not in a civilian capacity thus far. We rarely see the flip side of technology, the everyday good it can do, because that technology is too busy killing hookers and witnesses and innocent bystanders. It’s a troublingly conservative message, and good science fiction should be about the exploration of possibilities, not a cautionary tale opposing progress. Maybe I’m reading too much into an agenda that isn’t there, but all the same, I’d like to see some of these “deviant” technologies being used for good as well.
As is quickly becoming the norm, the best parts of this episode take place in the squad car. Kennex’s relationship with Dorian is the heart and (synthetic) soul of this show, and anytime you can stick them in the car to have an awkward conversation—this time about robo-dongs—they make television gold. Maybe in Season 2 they’ll become US Marshalls and drive all across the country solving crimes, like Supernatural without the fantasy. Then they’ll be stuck in the car all the time.
Hmm. Time to write a spec script.
- I hope the “Dorian wants his own place” discussion is revisited soon. And I’m calling it right now: he and Kennex will be roommates before the end of the season.
- What the hell good is an elevator that small in a police station? It fits one person, or maybe two really chummy people.
- “You’re a robot. What do you do with it?” “Probably the same thing you do with yours. Nothing.”
- The Captain gave a stirring testimony that was completely inadmissible. Does no one writing television care about how a trial really works? And keep in mind, I learned most of my trial procedure from My Cousin Vinnie.
- Yet another psychopath trapped under glass psychoanalyzing the hero. Thanks, Silence of the Lambs, The Dark Knight, Avengers, Thor 2, Star Trek Into Darkness, et. al.
- CTT adds “audio expert” to his list of generic TV scientist specialties.
- “Why don’t you just go re-read the How to Be a Cop manual?”
- I’ll admit, as soon as CTT confirmed the perp’s presence at the witness murder scene, I guessed it was a clone. What I didn’t guess was that the perp would have a whole family of clones. Lends whole new meaning to “keeping it in the family.”
- “Avery’s winning.” Except you just found an illegal genetic duplicate attempting to murder the prosecution’s only witness. If you can’t use that in your case, turn in your badge.
- As annoying as Psychic Witness was, I liked Dorian forming a bond with her. His search for meaning to his existence in a world that treats him like a tool might make him more willing to believe she can contact the next world.
- Sit down at the computer with your gun still holstered before you clear the house. That’s some good police work.
- Hologram projection? Why not just use one of those snazzy instant holo-masks they had a few episodes back? Put one of those on an MX to get it nice and close, and then go crazy-bananas all over the clones.
- Dorian’s been taking lessons from the T-1000 in car-chasing. Yeesh.
- “People running…bourbon….bright light.” Right, because it’s going to be super-rare for a cop to encounter people running in some fashion connected to lights. And bourbon? No police officer in the world has ever experienced alcohol abuse issues. Once again: psychics are horseshit.