From executive producer J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burke (Alias, Lost, Star Trek), creator/producer/writer Joel H. Wyman (The Mexican, Fringe, Dead Man Down), comes a futuristic buddy-cop crime series featuring androids and advanced technology, while exploring existential questions pertaining to around the corner cultural identity.
The Pilot introduces us to a lot of great characters including a disgruntle detective with a advanced prosthetic limb waking up two years after being in comma from a devastating crime scene in search for answers. It's a time where all police officers are required to be partnered up with an Android.
John Kennex (Karl Urban) is first tasked to a MX-43; a model that only thinks "logically" and has no emotional capacity. Out on his first crime scene in two years, we see the MX model question Kennex about his off duty activities and John quickly resolves his irritation, as he allows for the MX model to become expendable...
He then must go to the facility where he is to pick up another model and we're introduced to Rudy Lom (MacKenzie Crook) a technological genius, and the more human android model DRN (Michael Ealy). Lom admits to DRN having a few "bug"s, but ultimately defends Kennex's attack against DRN that, "These are the crazy ones!".
The introduction of DRN is also accompanied by Depeche Mode's, "Your Own Personal Jesus", which is quite fitting song and artist in terms of looking at the pros and cons of being able to create "life" and technology, but also because it's already easy to see DRN as a "savior" figure with his easy going, but yet concerned disposition. It's also fitting using new wave music with it's electronic pop contrasted with overly emotional vocals to add a romantic layer to this kind of story. Depeche Mode is also French for "Fashion Update", which we could apply to Almost Human being synonymous for "Cultural Update" playing to the futuristic landscape.
It should also be noted the the electronic pop band Crystal Method is also providing the series score!
Briefly commenting on the second episode "Skin" , I found the bigger story taking a back seat, giving it a more procedural feel, but still holding great emotional caliber. I loved how a conversation about death and John telling DRN why we tell other people that lost loved ones are "in a better place" and how that emotionally resonated through DRN and the death of Vanessa the Sex Bot, John's experience with the little boy Victor (and what a cool giraffe), which also prompted John to go visit Martin Pelham's remaining family, including his son to tell him his father is in a better place.
"The Pilot" was written by J. H. Wyman and directed by Brad Anderson, who is also serving as co-executive producer. "Skin" was written Cheo Hodari Coker by and directed by Michael Offer.
Mystery and story wise I was expecting to be disappointed, as J.J. Abrams and J. H. Wyman have been making the rounds these past couple of weeks insisting that it's different than Fringe in the sense that is designed to be more of a police procedural than it is was a heavy serialized show, but I found the "Pilot" and "Skin" full of Fringe elements and it's not like Fringe didn't also start out with (and occasionally continue to have) story of week feel while also building a towards emotional stories and mythology. I really don't find the structure of Almost Human that much different yet. I thought the reveal of John remembering Anna was part of the Syndacate was a nice treat and was smart not to drag this reveal out.
I also thought the technology was pretty cool! From android frequency, in air digital menus, skin suffocation bubbles, digital head creation, DNA modification, human to android skin experiments, flash balls, DRN's digital blood analysis download, and the fact that anyone may be part,-- if not all machine, definitely makes for thought provoking fun!
In terms of what the Syndacate are all leading up to, besides their obvious hate for cops, it's hard to say, but they seem like they will be the primary villain of the first season. I'll be very interested when we see who will be cast in Syndacate leader roles!! (This may be where actor John Larroquette fits in! He could easily play that older corporate sudo-villain character) Their name and the idea that they "know" when and where things are going to happen remind me a great deal of theories I had about Fringe characters John Mosely and Jessica Holt being time traveling terrorists, although I could easily see it just be a piece of technology that gives a set of probabilities (like the Machine on Person of Interest, or the abilities of the Observers on Fringe) and/or having a lot of agents embedded everywhere. I also think we should be on the look out for other DRN's, even if decommissioned except for this specific model, there's always the black market! As for the woman Syndacate has created, I have no idea who she is, but I suspect she's somebody who can get access to something needed.
I believe the sex bot company Sebastian Jones and Lorenzo Shaw had worked for was called Insygnious. It's very similar sounding to Syndacate and perhaps there is a relationship. The Albanian club manager, Yuri also had a tattoo on the back of his neck behind his right ear, but unlike members of the Syndacate, his was three dimensional star-like, while theirs were 2 dimensional sets of lines and more centered to the back of the neck.
Possible Pop Cultural References To Look For:
Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark/Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The evidence room looked similar to the a warehouse of Indiana Jones' depiction of Area 51.
A Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic novel by Oscar Wilde, which has had several revisions, due it's controversial content of it's time.
The story is about a beautiful youthful man named Dorian Gray who becomes a mode for a painter named Bassil Hallward. Dorian also meets and becomes obsessed with Hallward's friend Lord Henry Watton, who introduces a new hedoism and believes that the only thing worth pursuing in life is the beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Dorian realizes that his youth won't last forever and on a whim decides to sell his soul, so that the painting of himself will age, but not himself. The painting then serves as a painful reflection of all the sins Dorian inflicts upon himself with his indulgent actions. The rest of novel shows more apparent ramifications including murder. The only way Dorian feels he can absolve himself is by stabbing the painting, ultimately killing himself. Dorain is later found stabbed through the heart and severely aged, while the painting restores to it's original image.
The novel is an example of Faustian literature (where the protagonist makes deal with the devil) and explores the art movement known as Aestheticism: where one values [superficial/sensual] appearances rather than social or political ideas. Art was only meant to reflect beauty, not be concerned with social issues or ideology. By exploring crimes and technology of the future, especially with the second episode titled "Skin", might we see similarities with these ideas, as Androids are even designed for human pleasure, such as The Sex Bots!
Some other general pop cultural references I'm on the look out for would be works pertaining to Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick. One reference the two share would be Scott's adaptation of Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? also known as the film Blade Runner. Philip K. Dick also has Minority Report and Ridley Scott again sudo-explores androids, creationism, advance technology, and scientific discovery with LOST writer Damon Lindelof in his Alien prequel film Prometheus. I found the "Pilot" to be very reminiscent of Blade Runner.
I also suspect we may see winks or references from Star Trek and Star Wars, while also thinking of science fiction works such as I Robot, Robo Cop, Battlestar Galactica, or The Terminator.
The Bad Robot Factor:
Each week after my review I will bring this section relating to many things Bad Robot in relationship to the episode, as I feel certain Bad Robot often makes a point to reference themselves with similar characters, subject matter, riffs, easter eggs, aesthetics, contrasting situations, & occasionally shared pop cultural references. So this section is to explore the possibility of those things, which may provide some and insight speculation and at the very least food for thought and/or trivia. I also think it's just fun to be able to reminisce!
So to start us off lets go with the obvious Fringe connections. Almost Human clearly shares a visual aesthetic with Fringe, but mostly with it's final season, which setting time lines aside, is also futurist with Almost Human taking place in 2048 and Fringe's final season taking place in 2036. It's no wonder either, as Almost Human also films in Vancouver and has nearly the same exact Fringe crew filming, that it would have a similar visual feel. Additionally creator, writer, and executive producer Joel. H. Wyman was originally going to work on Almost Human before getting involved with Fringe. It is then also easy to speculate given that androids might be something initially thought of to be 'other than human', that like that of Shapeshifters and/or Observers, will Almost Human tell similar interesting emotional human identity story.
Another thing it has in common with Fringe is it's criminal element. It's true that Fringe's overall subject matter leaned towards the paranormal, but at the very beginning of it's first season really had more of a crime-detective case of the week feel along with the likes of John Scott (a possible reference to Vertigo), Peter's dubious semi-criminal background, sprinkles of Film Noir aesthetic, and ZFT being a terrorist organization causing the fringe events in relation to "The Pattern" that keep stemming back to William Bell and Massive Dynamic.
Memory Sensory tends to be something the Bad Robot also likes to play with, including memory loss and memory retrieval. John Kennex, like Olivia Dunham in Fringe's "Pilot" (which may also owe much to Alias season 3 episode "Conscience") is also trying to retrieve memories (just not her own) to help solve the first crime of the series. John Scott, Olivia's partner and love interest, was like John Kennex put into a comma, but like Kennex's love interest Anna, is thought to be working with the enemy for a time. Valerie Stahl is also good a figuring out crime related patterns and in that respect has similar abilities to Olivia Dunham and Astrid Farnsworth.
Reference back to Newton, Shapeshifters, and Tattoos!
In Fringe Shapeshifter leader from the other side Thomas Jerome Newton, whose name and head he takes as his own, is stolen from a cryogenic facility. Here we see the the Syndicate also play with synthetic facial modification. Newton also has a tattoo on the back of his neck, which somehow William Bell already knew about. The Syndicate members all seem to have tattoos on the back of necks like Newton.
Both episodes also had some crime-related elements similar to things seen in Fringe, such as skin suffocation ("Ability"), and body deterioration being suffocated by a substance in contained space ("The Pilot")
But the criminal element of a police procedural and male lead bromance factor also leads us to share a bend with Person of Interest. Both shows feature a pair of male leads and both delve into artificial intelligence in relation to solving crimes and/or saving lives. Unlike Fringe, Alias, Revolution, and the short-lived Alcatraz, Almost Human is more like Person of Interest or even Star Trek and LOST in the sense that it is not a family saga story, as much as it about strangers coming together to become a family.
What's In A Name?
On a first glance with have John Kennex with Kennex most likely being a pun for "connects", as in a detective who "connects the dots" to solve crimes and mysteries. John is a popular character name for a few iconic Bad Robot characters such as John Reese (Person of Interest), John Scott (Fringe), and John Locke (Lost).
Dorian (DRN) might be near anagram for "android" (minus a second "d"). Dorians are also the name given to a certain ethnicity of Grecian people around the 5th century BCE.
It should be noted that Fringe had some light Grecian references (So does Lost and Person of Interest) that never seemed to fully flesh out, such as the iconic phrase that translated to, "Be Better Than Your Father." and is one of the time periods featured in the history that Peter time travels through in the cannon comic "Peter and the Machine", which expands on events presented in the season 3 finale, "The Day We Died".
On a comic con promotional poster the following was stated:
DRN-0167 - Protect Yourself. The Future is Coming.
Looking up Dorian's serial number "0167" I found Unical 0167 which relates to The New Testament and Gospel of Mark. Some scholars also believe that Homer's work The Oddessey may incorporate and show influence of the Gospel of Mark, as Christianity continued to spread through Greece. Mark, or really, JOHN Mark, is also known as "the companion of Peter".
John Kennex was also holding onto a necklace that his ex-girlfriend had given him. DRN comments it is the charm of St. Christian, an Irish Saint. St. Christian (Croistan O'Morgair) was a Bishop and brother to St. Malachy. I could not find a lot of information on St. Christian, but at the very least it should be seen as an additional spiritual theme.
Additionally Dorian is also the name of a musical mode and it's common for Bad Robot to use music thematically and metaphysically, such as with Fringe's final season with September's son, Michael and his music box, which played Greensleeves. (Be on the look out for young Bo singing in the upcoming Believe series).
Valerie Stahl - The surname Stahl may be associated with a famous German Physician, but it's literal translation is metonymic occupational name for a "smith" or "armorer", from Middle High German stal 'steel', "armor'. At the very least it implies that she is strong, but this could also be hint that she is "a machine" (android). Stahl also could be a pun for stall (trying to slow someone down). Valerie is also the name of minor Fringe character, Valerie Boone (wife of Nicolas Boone) who was turned into a kind of spinal fluid-sucking vampire in the episode "Midnight". It could be hint that she could be a sleeper agent.
The character name Rudy Lom is similar to LOST character name Ethan Rom, and although Rom was a doctor, his name is thought to thematically tie into a "memory" (Read Only Memory) themes and motifs relating to Empirical Philosophy (The Experience) and ultimately the metaphysical concept of "collective conscience" in relation to time lines, reincarnation, astral projection (smoke monster), The Island being a time machine (giant computer), and/or identity. Rudy Lom character wise is similar to other geeky and quirky scientific and/or technological geniuses such as Marshall Flankman (Alias), Bill Hoyt (Undercovers), or Daniel Faraday (LOST) or even the more famous main character Walter Bishop. (Fringe).
Sandra Maldonado - Maldonado is of Spanish origin and generally means "Ill-favored", but Sandra is a female variant of Alexander, which is Greek based and means "Defender of Men".
Richard Paul - His Character name Richard Paul might be allude to LOST characters Richard Alpert and Dharma Initiative member Paul (Ankh-Ancient Egypt Theories-immortality) . Paul in it's own right might also be a Biblical reference. The Utilitarian Philosopher Jeremy Bentham had wrote a work titled, "Not Paul, But Jesus", believing that Paul's teachings undermines the work and words of Jesus and thus could be perceived as a kind of adversary for DRN and John, who may be a Jesus-like figure, but other scholars and Theologens insist that Paul and Jesus compliment each other. Richard by itself means "Brave Power" and Paul of the Roman family Paulus means "Small" or "Humble".
Sebastian Jones - Although Jones has made a couple of breif appearances as surnames in Bad Robot works ( Alias, LOST), this reference is most likely associated with Fringe's David Robert Jones and Revolution's Sebastian Monroe. Monroe is known to be a bit of a lady's man and there was a possible other reference to DRJ in the pilot as man was covered in bandages.
Some other shout outs may go with Almost Human's minor characters: Hugo, Cortez, (LOST), Shaw (Person of Interest), and the name Martin and Maria Pelham is similar to Olivia Dunham (Fringe).
Butterflies and/or Moths are also featured in LOST ("The Moth", "Ab Aeterno") and another blue butterfly is featured in the promo for the upcoming Believe Pilot and may relate again to telekinesis, hallucinations, and/or things that are paranormal in relation to hope.
Red and Blue
These two colors tend to be aesthetically contrasted quite a lot in Bad Robot works, (Lost, Star Trek, MI:GP) but made most iconic in Fringe. Sometimes they show up as elements: Fire and Water (Lost, Super 8). There were quite a few times I saw the red and blue contrast in Almost Human's first two episodes...
Doppelgangers and Near Counterparts - More Than One Of Everything
Another trade mark of Bad Robot is there continuous use of Doppelgangers! Whether it's counterparts from other universes and timelines (Fringe, Lost), Shapeshifting technology (Alias, Fringe), fighting ourselves in dreams (Alias), Twin Siblings (Fringe), or an astral projecting Smoke Monster (Lost), one way or another their tends to be at least one actor playing several parts comparatively.
So far Almost Human offers them in the form of androids, as there seems to be many of the MX-43 model. (Joe Smith, Anthony Konechny, Darren E. Scott, Garfield Wilson). This model also being a rather Caucasian and practical model, it's also then easy to compare them to Fringe's Observers, whom although like the MX's aren't identical clones, are similar looking and tend to follow the same lines of "logical" thinking. (It's also similar to the concept presented in Fringe episode, "A Better Human Being")...
Bad Robot Alumni:
So far Karl Urban is only well known Bad Robot Alumni to be apart of this series. For those unfamiliar with Karl Urban, he plays an alternate version of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McKoy in Star Trek's new time line (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness). In some ways John Kennex and "Bones" are similar in that they tend to voice their strong opinions and both are seeking to help humanity in terms of their professions, but "Bones" really has a much better outlook than John Kennex and isn't quite as obviously broken, but his relationship with the enthusiastic easy-going DRN, is similar to Bones' relationship with the advantageous Captain James T. Kirk.
Mieka Cox is also a Bad Robot alumni appearing in the unsuccessful Undercovers in the role of Samantha Bloom's recovering alcoholic sister Lizzy Gilliam. And speaking of Undercovers and the Blooms, a minor character's DNA is left behind by a sex bot android in Almost Human's second episode with the surname Bloomquiest (sounds like a pun for Bloom Quest and Bloom Heist). I'm glad that Cox got this role. While viewing Undercovers I always thought she would have been a more convincing spy than Gugu Mbatha-Raw and thought she would eventually join the family business!
Micheal Irby has appeared on one episode of Person of Interest in the episode "C.O.D."
Hiro Kanagawa played the executor in Fringe episode "The Box".
Brad Anderson has directed many Fringe episodes such as "And Those We Left Behind", "One Night in October", "Entrada", "The Road Not Taken", and "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones" to name a few. He also directed an episode of Alcatraz and an episode of Undercovers!
What else to expect?
Always hard to exactly say, but thinking about the comic con promotional poster and it's tagline "The Future is Coming" might not just imply that the show will be showing us a possible up and coming future, but it could be relevant that even for 2048 the future is coming...I'm hoping down the line time travel of some sort could be possible...Imagine if you could use time machines to change outcomes of criminal activity!! Another thing I'm hopeful about is that the procedural aspect will eventually fall away to a more serialized series with a mythology that builds. I have seen Bad Robot shows start out that way too many times and see them morph into a more serialized-myth-heavy show for me to believe that this can't eventually go that way too. Most likely there will be themes of life extension, fate, free will, faith, and survival of the fittest.
So what did you guys think? Did you enjoy the first two episodes? Have a favorite character? Find any other possible references? Any android theories out there? Let us know in the comments below!