Let me first say that I’m glad to be back on Almost Human. It’s one of this season’s most interesting newcomers, and it has so much potential to bring inventive sci fi back to network television. Urban and Ealy have chemistry that can carry the thinnest of plots, and they’re a delight to watch, especially when there’s no case on the line and all they have left to do is bicker. And with that said…
What a repugnant episode.
Understand that I’m not leaping to the defense of CotW’s bad guy, Simon the bomber—played by David Dastmalchian, who sadly seems to have a face made to play television psychopaths. I’m not pro-bomb here. What I am for is the freedom of thoughts and ideas exchanged on an open electronic forum. And this episode clearly isn’t.
Plot: Simple Simon (had to be done), a police academy washout, starts a channel on the “Dark Net”—an un-policed corner of the internet, and more on that later—wherein he straps bombs to people who wronged him and blow them up in front of a live audience that participates via a YouTube-esque comment stream. Kennex and his robot pal, who’s operating on a limited charge thanks to sunspots (Seriously? When was this written?), are forced to track down the killer. In foiling Simon from killing a woman who spurned him, Kennex earns his own neck bomb, forcing Dorian to spend the remainder of his charge in a feat of parkour while Kennex disarms the bomb via mirror pliers.
This episode demonizes internet content with the same vigor and veracity that Reefer Madness (1936) brought to bear against marijuana. And no, that last statement was not me speaking in any way about marijuana legalization; it was me recognizing sloppy propaganda, which is what “Simon Says” is. Simon is portrayed throughout most of the episode as a creepy shut-in, painted pale in the light of his computer monitor as he gleefully watches his wholesome victims squirm beneath his remote, disconnected authority. A chorus of faceless commenters egg him on, giving him a sense of celebrity that feeds his darker nature until he kidnaps and wires our protagonist to explode. Simon isn’t just a TV Nerd; he’s a strawman for the tech-savvy entertainment self-starter of the twenty-first century, who creates content entirely without the studio establishment. It’s people like this, who broadcast on the internet wholly without studios, that the studios are terrified of, and they want us to fear them too. So they invent their own, and then make him strap bombs to people.
Networks’ fear of the internet is justified. It’s replacing them, and their profit margins have been showing that for years now. Neilson Ratings are a joke to anyone under the age of 45, a laptop can do post-production almost as well as any dedicated studio, and creators only need to purchase a domain name to sell their product. Simon is how FOX sees creators on the internet, and it’s too funny to be insulting. They hate people like Simon—and people like Rooster Teeth, the Nostalgia Critic, Epic Mealtime, and ten thousand other creators like them—so much that they actually make a banker Simon’s first victim. A banker! What kind of audience is going to have sympathy for a banker when our economy is still putting itself back together? Yet FOX wants to remind you that these old institutions, like the hard-working banker, or the wholesome corner flower store, are safe and familiar, while the world of the unchecked internet will get you killed. Even internet regulation can’t help us, as Captain Maldonado’s throwaway line about policing the internet demonstrates. The only way to be normal and happy is to get off the internet and not be one of these greasy, twisted freaks crying out for strangers’ blood.
I’ve talked before about Almost Human’s anti-progress agenda. That agenda took a huge leap forward with this new episode, which takes the tiresome trope of the innocent bomber and spins it against unregulated content. This kind of fearmongering insults my intelligence and the intelligence of everyone still watching network television. I suppose FOX is so terrified of losing those scant few primetime viewers that they’ll stoop to cheap scares. I’d hate to see that kind of Law and Order: SVU crap continue on a show with as much potential as Almost Human.
- “Say we’re cool.” There was a lot of fun stuff with Dorian going goofy on low power and still wanting a place away from the MXs, but honestly, I’m too worked up about the theme of the episode to pay it much mind. Still, props to Ealy for pushing Dorian’s emotional boundaries.
- In the future, the homeless will possess technology capable of magically cleaning your windshield. Because that’s stupid.
- “I’m sorry. We will find whoever did this to you.” Kennex, placing a disturbing emphasis on vengeance as opposed to comfort. I guess it makes sense, but recalling The Hurt Locker, the main character—played by Jeremy Renner—showed a lot more humanity in a similar no-win bomb scenario.
- What the hell kind of show in 2014 tries to make a banker into an innocent victim?
- Creepy Tech Troll is really, really lonely. Literally no one can’t imagine why.
- “Humans, off!”
- Faceless internet comments egg him on, propagating violence. Hmm…just like people used to accuse TV of doing. The more things change, the more they stay stupid.
- With one word, Flower Girl becomes a one-woman flash mob: “Dance.”
- Flower Girl met Simon online. Even internet dating is getting run through the wringer tonight. Although he is carrying around a can of aerosol date rape drug…
- Simon’s doing this all for thousands of viewers online? If he made cat videos, he’d get fucking millions of viewers. What a stupid genius.
- “Yeah, I’m not sure I’d like to be in the room with them.” FOX makes its stance on internet viewers pretty clear. Which is hilarious considering I’m watching the show on Hulu right now.
- “You wanted out. I got you out.” “This isn’t what I had in mind, John.”