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Almost Human - 1.03 "Are You Receiving?" - Review & Speculation

Our third episode into the series centers around an elaborate heist, where men posing as well known terrorist organization: The Reformation Army infiltrate an office building. After shooting in the lobby they go to the server room, drill a hole into the floor, and put a cylinder bomb inside. They then proceed to get to the 25th floor where they take everyone on it hostage.

DRN and John Kennex get the call to scene. The lobby shows us a shooting of a man we were briefly introduced to in the opening scene now dead. With the the elevators shut down DRN and Kennex start assenting by stairwell. Eventually the terrorists remote detonate the bomb from the server room and everyone else left in the building begins to evacuate. Captain Maldonado too tells John and DRN to get out of the building. John asks that they jam the communications signal in the building and requests again for back up, while he pretends to suddenly loose communication with her. 

Maldonado, knowing John all too well, follows some of his request as they jam the communications signal, but this makes all calls coming and going from the building go directly to DRN. After comical scenes where DRN switches voices and languages to help comfort some of those in coming callers he comes upon a hostage not yet detected on the 25th floor named Page, who's worried about her sister Jena, who is one of the hostages.  John and Page talk back and forth through out the episode, as John eventually tells her about a time he was scared when his father took him ice fishing and he fell into a lake! His father came in after him and everything was ok. Page eventually decides that she too needs to be brave, and sneaks into the hostage room to be with her sister and is able to make a bathroom request, where she puts her captive on speaker phone and John and DRN can hear what's going on.

Other things that happen include John fighting with a guy on the 15th floor. It's at this time DRN gets hit in the head and John discovers that these men are not The Reformation Army, but have been using facial changing technology to appear as they are! John tries to help DRN, who's about to shut down. The two argue over the color of DRN's wires and John's cutting instruments, when John finally cuts the right wire, but DRN still seems to shut down. John then proceeds to take chewing gum and seal the wiring back up! It works!

After killing one hostage, which came with a warning to the cops, the terrorists, headed by Lucas Vincent, requests a piece of military technology called the fission ignitor. Rudy Lom decides that he can make a fake replica to buy some time. He does so, under the pressure of a a seemingly rude MX, and they send the tech via drone to the terrorists.

John and DRN discover through the speaker phone left by Page that wanna-be Luke Vincent and gang don't even want the tech! John asks DRN to scan adjacent buildings for other valuable objects and realizes there is a building that houses precious metal across the street!

DRN gets ahead of John by climbing up the elevator cables and goes through a ventilation shaft. He enters the 25th floor first and takes out a good chunk of the terrorists, but is almost taken out by the guy posing as Luke Vincent, until John comes, using the McGregor's face altering technology, and takes him out. The cops are able to catch the other team across the street and help the hostages out of the building,

Page introduces Jena to John Kennex and she expresses her gratitude. Later DRN and John go out for some noodles!

Although the episode continued in it's procedural fashion, I do feel, much like Fringe, that all of the things we have been playing with, such as making human skin for androids or the introduction of the face changing technology does play to mystery of the female head and/or android found in the evidence room during the Pilot. Fringe I think did this a lot in relation to showing us various aspects that lead to the creation of the Observers, despite that is never directly addressed.

I really liked the episode title, "Are You Receiving?". It's the cold, distant, and technological way to more aptly say, "Do you understand?" (Or, "Do YOU understand ME?") It resonated with the episode from John refusing Maldonado's orders and her acceptability of it, to the jamming of the communication signal in the building, from Page reaching out John via DRN and with John being able to give her a relatable story that she can aspire from, John and DRN trying to fix DRN, from the terrorists using another form of communication (and making demands), Rudy Lom addressing the rudeness and lack of empathy coming from the MX model, and John taking DRN to get noodles after a hard days work instead of allowing Rudy to probe and prob their make-shift repair job and DRN's gratitude towards it. I think communication will be highly thematic to the series, since it's that ability to try and understand and show our emotions that really determine human identity and the perceptions we have of each other. It will be something I will be thinking of as we continue to progress into the season.

 One thing I'm unsure of (perhaps I missed a line or two of dialogue?) is that even though we know this group of criminals disguised themselves in the image of The Reformation Army, including it's head Lucas Vincent, and besides the need for a decoy, I don't think it was addressed "WHY" this specific group was used, --If there is a relationship between these men and the Army?? I really liked the actor who played the false Lucas Vincent and think he would make a good reoccurring villain, although obviously Vincent might be VERY different than the portrayal of him presented. I'm also curious on why this precious metal is considered valuable? Were they going to sell it, or was it going to be used for something? Does this crime and these criminals relate to The Insyndicate??? I'm also wondering if we will ever see an actual Fission Ingnitor, which I'm speculating is some kind of magnetic fusion/nuclear device????

Another thing I also liked was how the episode was able to contrast the dark and light. The writers did not shy away from making the terrorists being pretty ruthless and having it's hostages expendable and there were some scenes that felt intense, but yet DRN and Kennex' banter and developing relationship, kept things from ever feeling too bleak. In the same way it was able to balance serious emotional scenes with more comedic ones, and still execute great action sequences!

The only thing I'm burning a little more Richard Paul and Valerie Stahl. I know the series will most likely cater to KNX and DRN, but I do hope those two other characters in particular are explored. There's nothing in this episode that would support my previous suspicions of those two characters.

Some possible references to address might be the first in the film franchise Die Hard. Just in general the film has a similar plot, although Almost Human perhaps simplified it a little, but it just felt right in line with that film. I can't remember off the top of my head, but I swear I have seen 'the sign on the back of a person-message to the cops' idea in a movie or another TV series, but where specifically escapes me.

We also got some musical treats with song, "Sun up, Wake up" by Jeremy Little. -And much like Fringe references to David Bowie with music and a character named from his birth name, do we now have Elton John references, as John is also middle named "Reginald" after Elton John's birth name Reginald Kenneth Dwight! We also were treated to DRN singing along with "Bennie and the Jets" off the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (a reference to The Wizard of Oz). We should be on the look out for more Elton John references and/or allusions in the future!

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!

Fight or Flight
This week there were just little bits of things that reminded me of other things. To start us off we have this hostage who is killed and thrown out the window of the 25th floor. It immediately reminds me (along with the butterfly from "The Pilot") of the Fringe episode "Dreamscape", where a man jumps out his office building window after experiencing hallucinations of a swarm  of butterflies with razor edges attacking him. John Locke from LOST is another character that comes to mind as he is thrown out an 8 story window after being pushed by his father ("The Man From Tallahassee").

I was also lightly reminded of Fringe episodes "Power Hungry" (elevators, box delivery romance), "OS" & "Safe" (stealing, precious substance), and "What Lies Below" (most of episode taking place inside office building/crazy situation in office bulding)

This episode was also written by Justin Doble who wrote the Fringe episode "Wallflower". He also served as an assistant to Matt Reeves while working on Cloverfield.

The episode was directed by Medium writer and co-exective producer Larry Teng. Larry Teng also writes for Hawaii Five-0 and has written one episode of Person of Interest ("Baby Blue").

On the 15th floor John Kennex is trying to out best the criminal McGregor. He uses his phone as a way to move and figure out were McGregor is and so he can take advantage. It's a very similar scene in Alias' pilot, "The Truth Be Told" where Sydney Bristow also uses her cell phone to do the same thing in the parking garage of Credit Dauphine building. Additionally DRN climbs up the elevator cable and climbs through a ventilation shaft. These are things that have also happened on Alias and LOST

The number 15 is a LOST candidate number relating to James " Sawyer" Ford.

Lucas Vincent 

Vincent was the name of Walt's pet labador retriever on LOST, another survivor of flight 815. Vincent was used as a plot device to lead the characters into certain situations, but also he was a character that brought insight (Niki and Paulo) and hope (Hugo and the Dharma Van, Shannon morning Boone, Jack not dying alone) to the other characters.

The name Lucas however might tie back to Grecian/Christian themes and motifs I mentioned in the previous review. Lucas might refer to Biblical Luke and/or The Gospel of Luke, which gives an account to the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Some scholars believe there are discrepancies with the words of Paul verses Mark, and others argue that The Gospel of Luke barrows greatly from the The Gospel of [John] Mark. As stated before in the previous review, All of The New Testament is written in Greek rather than Hebrew and even Homer's The Odyssey may have had Christian/Gospel of Mark influence.

The name Vincent is also the name of several Christian Saints and political figures through out history. It's also the name of an Island apart of the Lesser Antilles Chain. Vincent name meaning derives from Latin means "To Prevail".

Note: The LOST Experience also had the character Dr. Vincent "Wally" Bole`, who was a canine parapsychologist and neurologist studying the abilities of Yellow Labrador Retrievers. Wally Bole is an anagram for "yellow lab" and the image of the character seems to be a photo-shopped meshing of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas! 

The actor Damon Herriman (Justified, Vegas) reminded me of both Fringe villainous characters David Robert Jones and Thomas Jerome Newton. It's curious since I thought that character Sebastian Jones ("Skin") might have been a reference to David Robert Jones (Fringe) and Sebastian Monroe (Revolution), but perhaps it is also a reference to Thomas Jerome Newton as well, considering Sebastian Roche' played Newton (and given that this facial-changing technology and Insyndicate tattoo references may point to all things "shape-shifting") in terms of being able to change identity. Herriman also played a character named Mr. Jones on Vegas.

It should also be noted that J.J. Abrams is directing Star Wars: Episode 7 after Star Wars creator George Lucas sold his franchise to Walt Disney. It's easy to see from many drafts and Lucas own surname that the main protagonist of the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker, is named for him and may relate to one of the several Religious allegories Star Wars may have

Dead is Dead
DRN explains that even though he knows it's probably not the same as John's near death experience, he tells John that he felt something like that. John responds by saying in so many words that it is the same, because "dead is dead". Dead is Dead is a concept and episode tile in LOST's fifth season in which allowed fans to debate the meaning of the phrase. As it turns out, in LOST understanding it relied on the definition of what dead or death really was, which was not the end of anything, but the continuation and transformation of everything, as the Island, including the astral projecting smoke monster, was actually life extension on every conceivable level. It's a curious choice to have this conversation after the episode DRN and John have in "Skin" in which John explains to DRN the importance of telling the families of those that have lost loved ones that they have gone to "a better place". Fringe and Lost proved in many ways that there was more than one kind of existence and life beyond death. It will be interesting to see if Almost Human will go there too?

It should also be noted that FOX has been changing the episode order (this was suppose to be episode 6), but so far because the olive oil reference followed through to John's synthetic leg from the Pilot, and because of the 'death' conversations, along with things pertaining to DNA and "the face", this episode feels consistent with the previous episodes.

NOTE: Revolution ended it's fall finale with the character Aaron confronting the nanites now astral projecting into an image of a boy from Aaron's past. Like LOST (and FRINGE) Revolution continues to explore the metaphysical or paranormal in relation to God, human purpose, identity, memory preservation and things that may go beyond death. Revolution shares a bend with both Almost Human and Person of Interest in exploring different aspects and different creations of artificial intelligence.

Note: Kennex comments to DRN that he had made a "Greek" salad, explaining where he got the oil from, suggesting it was convenient.

Ice Fishing
John's story about his father saving him after falling through the ice is surely a shout out to Fringe in which September had saved blue Walter and young Red Peter at Reiden Lake ("Peter")

Gum makes the world a better place!
In the episode we see John Kennex use gum to try and temporarily fix DRN and it's really DRN who is able to physically rescue the hostages using his beyond human strength and ability to not be easily killed.

In Fringe episode "Brown Betty", a Film Nior Spoof special episode, Walter tells young Ella a story about how a good man becomes corrupt posing himself in the story as "The Candy Man". Walter recites the following line:

 "I have spent my life making things that bring joy and happiness, to make the world a better place. Bubble gum was one of my first."

And briefly I'm also reminded of an episode of Felicity, where Megan uses her bubble gum to try and stop the beginnings of leaking water pipes in her's and Felicity's dorm room.

So how did you like the episode? Would you like to see Lacus Vincent for "real"? Do you have any thoughts on John's father? And what do you think of all of those purple colored wires in DRN's head? Let us know in the comments below?

LAURA BECKER (DARTHLOCKE4) is a long time commentator, TV addict, and aspiring writer participating with other fans on SpoilerTV. She writes reviews and analytic type articles. Some of her other interests include philosophy, cultural anthropology, reading, drawing, and working with animals, as she grew up and continues to work on her family's horse farm.

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