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Almost Human - 1.10 "Perception" - Review & Speculation

Our tenth episode explores some pretty amazing phenomenon and introduces us to "Chromes", while John Kennex begins to remember a little bit more about Anna and their past.

First we start with two girls, one Scarlet Davis, who's walking in the woods and who's sight is more like an advanced computer calculating angles, trajectories, and various dimensions of the space laid out before her. The other, Eleanor Church, who's virtually conducting beautiful sounds out of the air and onto a a glass pad, while standing by herself on stage in a music hall. 

Eleanor's music starts to make the two appear as though they are in unison. The song climax to a crescendo, when bees swarm in synchronized patterns around Scarlet. Soon the two both drop dead.

Kennex awakes from a dream state, which are more like a series memories, when Captain Maldonado calls John for assistance on the case of these two girls. John and DRN go to Mendall Academy, where we learned both the girls were students of. Additionally this school is for "Chromes", no not Google experts like Revolution's Aaron Pittman, but genetically engineered beings!

Valerie is also there already working on Eleanor's case and determines that they died of cardiac arrest, but that the cause most likely is an overdose due to some drug. They also find this small metal cylinders on the girls that can only be biometrically opened with their individualized DNA. When they open them, they are both empty. Valerie also explains that this is weird, because Chromes are genetically designed to be anti-resistant to drugs.

Back at the precinct they do some more research and find that there was another girl who died on campus 7 months ago named Lila. DRN, who had been berated by John earlier about reporting about his health and whereabouts, noticed John's shaky hands and pill popping, but doesn't report it. However Maldonado happened to be watching the cameras at the time and catches John take the pill. John and DRN have another conversation about it, but John insists he had it under control.

John and DRN go to Lila's mother house. It turns out Lila wasn't a chrome, but just a naturally gifted girl. John tells her that the other girls also had the same drug that Lila had. She tells John that she hired a private detective and that there where tapes, but that those tapes became blank upon magnetic serge, but John quickly expresses that it would be unlikely and perhaps someone intentionally erased the tapes. He asks DRN to investigate the original cop on the case.

In the meantime Stahl and John goes to the academy and interviews some of the other students. One girl explains the pressures of her parents, as she doesn't think she fits in because she wasn't a chrome. Another student Marshall nearly admits to legal drugs, but tells the detectives that they simply wouldn't understand.

DRN finds another biometric cylinder in Scarlet's dorm room and they find a pill, a pill that specifically designed to be used with her DNA. DRN figures out that it would take a Kemp Printer to make this drug.

They find out that the printer belonged to Edgar Wallenberg, who had recently died, but his son, a Mendall Academy student who had been expelled named Julian still lives there. On the way to the residence John has more flashbacks and crashes the car. Julian opens the door and lets them in. We see Julian's mother in a chair and Julian explains he had the printer to make his own pills for his mother. John cuts to the chase and asks how long Julian had been dealing. We then experience Julian answer questions yet to be asked, as he experienced it before John does. Julian explains what the drug Varum (sorry if this is mispelled) is and how it allows people to see things they never should see to allow them reach full potential. They find a picture of Lila on Julian's camera. Julian tells them that the printer was hacked

Back at the Precinct John wants to accuse Marshall as the hacker, but has no real evidence. Valerie finds a message sent on Scarlet's cell phone that points to a dispute with her father.

Maldonado and John have a drink, before Maldonado confronts John about using alternative therapies to help him remember. She tries to tell him that he needs to focus on current success, and not on revenge, because it will take him down. She says that they will have to talk to internal affairs now that he is remembering.

John then immediately goes to The Recollectionist and demands to get into the chair. John remembers Anna giving him a Matryoshka Doll. She said she saw this and thought of him. John goes home and looks at his virtual evidence Wall and the takes the Doll apart. He takes the Doll to a lab where we learn that John has been submitting evidence and has kept everything "off the books".

John and DRN go to Scarlett's fathers house where he summons his attorney. They ask him if he murdered Lila? They tell him that there doses were spiked. He admits to getting rid of the evidence of Lila's mothers case, as he argues he was protecting his daughter. He tells them in so many words that Lila's mother knew what was going on.

Then they found another cylinder in which only Julian can open. It contains the last things Lila had ever said to him. Inside are the recordings of Lila saying goodby and committing suicide. Julian loved her. Tells them she was special and such a good person, but just had too much pressure from her mother. He tells them that he told her that when your surrounded by perfect things, you appreciate the beauty in flaws. He didn't want her take the drug. He explains that it just doesn't have a good effect on naturals...Lila's video hauntingly shows us how segregated she felt and how the drug came to make her realize how limited she was and that he could never understand, because he wasn't born that way. Lila's mom also bares witness to the video. John says, the drug didn't kill your daughter, but she argues that the drugs did make her feel that way. And then she admits to upping the doses of Scarlet and Eleanors dosage, because she felt they acted like as if she were nothing. Going back to Maldonado's warning to John, one can see how revenge can take someone down.

John then also talks to Agent Reynolds from Internal Affairs. Reynold's insinuates that John was targeted for a reason, a reason that has to do with his romantic inclinations to be desperate to be with the right person. He then also accuses John of only remembering what he wants too and suggests that John looks at his father.

John goes home and erases his evidence walls, but notices a call coming through. The woman from the lab tells him that they did miss something in the initial sweep of the doll. It has nano-circuitry technology and is a listening device. The last download happened 7 hours ago!

Making Angels
I normally would save this for the Bad Robot Factor section of the article, but It's one of those things that is hard to talk about without looking to Fringe for more insight,because it hits so many of their mythology and/or story points.

Scarlet Davis visual perception in particular was in line with Observer glasses and the music-making of Eleanor Church is similar to ideas presented with the little boy who was abducted by members of ZFT to play the piano in hopes of completing some equation in "The Equation", which thematically could be further extended to the Observer Child anomaly: Michael. (Bad Robot tends to use music as a way to bridge science and spiritual themes, ultimately making music a metaphysical concept.)

It was always my theory in Fringe that many of the cases of the week, plus the cortexiphan subjects and the Shapeshifters, all pointed to the evolution in creating The Observers themselves. Chromes also seem to be a way to give us similar brands of beings in contrast to various models of Androids and/or their own evolution.

Bee Hive Mind

One thing that wasn't heavily addressed in the episode was the appearance that Scarlet and Eleanor were in sync with each other, with the music (or equation) of Eleanor's score being the driving force of Scarlett's over all experience. It reminds me a bit of both the idea that some cortexiphan subjects and other kinds of pairs could be linked in a kind of bizarre kinetic way (Olivia Dunham and Nick Lane "Bad Dreams", Susan Pratt and Nancy Lewis - Twins - "The Road Not Taken", and an emotional understanding between the Astrids "Making Angels") and that in some cases part clones (Observers, boys in "A Better Human Being") could also be telekinetically linked.

SPOILER: But this makes me think that this drug we were introduced to and a continual exploration of Valerie Stahl's Chrome twin in the twelfth episode "Beholder" END SPOILER along with the fact that this episode allows us to possibly get closer to Anna via John's memories, all point to Insyndicate (like ZFT) and whatever their agenda will be., which wouldn't surprise me if ties into Nigel's Android Army. (Note DaNicA has letters DNA within it and almost Anna's)

My only conclusion, which also stems from the bee incident in this episode being similar to something that also happens in the upcoming Believe Pilot and also looking back at Alias (see below), makes me think that Insyndicate wants to create an event where they can control everyone in a very specific way, but to what end? To kill them? To open a portal to somewhere or somewhen else? Does it relate to creating some kind of prophecy? Where could we possibly go with this?

Internal Affairs - Look At Your Father
We have a couple of other episodes that point to problems with high ranking officials from within the system. There's the other drug-related episode, "The Bends" where we are introduced to drug dealer known as "The Bishop", who's also another police captain and friend to Maldonado. He killed a police officer Trevor Cooper and had some unknown android model do his dirty work. And then there's Nigel's claim to everyone ruining his business (almost as if the DRN malfunction was a set up), as he enacts revenge on Senator James Hart, although this is also a distraction, with his Danica model from the last episode, "Unbound". In this episode we are introduced to an Internal Affairs representative Agent Reynolds...

Reynolds strikes me as an antagonist who's tone comes off as a threat to John Kennex, as Reynolds suggests that he look to what happened to John's father. I was immediately reminded of the time John comments about not completely blaming the criminal Simon in "Arrhythmia", as he he was cheated out of his career, where John Kennex was not, which also like in Nigel's case, points out a politically corrupt system. At the very least I think Almost Human will continue to look at our individualized internal affairs, including perhaps John Kennex struggling with himself and maybe even his own father.

I like to use this subject to side step over to Valerie Stahl. I'm sure many of you, like me, especially if you read this interview, were probably expecting a little bit more of a Valerie-Centric episode.  It appears now looking at the the 1.12 Press Release that more of her story will be explored there and that this episode is a more of an introductory to it.

"Perception" did give some insights on some things. It kind of becomes more interesting to learn that Valerie is a genetically modified being, especially when we look back at some of her conversations with Richard Paul. One time she tells Paul that no matter what kind of genetic alterations he would get that he would still be a jerk and another time he makes a suggestion about her using her father for help. When I think about the parents of these kids in the episode and then also the competitive friction that can transpire between Chromes and non Chromes with the deaths of all 3 girls, it does really beg a moral questions. It makes me wonder about Valerie's parents in particular. On one hand I could understand that beings this advanced could have a great deal of advantages and could potentially create a better world. On the other hand it doesn't give their children a choice or an ability to learn from every day  failures and/or the pressure and literal physiological need to be better could provide unrealistic pressures, despite what it does to more naturally average people. I look forward to see how they use Valerie and potentially her sibling and father to explore these avenues a bit. I also think we saw something that could be contradictory with the notion that Chromes are competitive, but yet they are not prone to addictions. Isn't being highly competitive like being addicted? How do Chromes measure that line?

Additionally we kind of see some of these Chromes, especially when they are high, behave similar to Fringe's alternate Astrid, which was a character that had Aspergers syndrome, as Jasika Nicole wanted to show a positive side to this different way of thinking, as her real life sister has Aspergers. We were led to believe through Lila's mother's act of revenge that Chromes don't have much emotion, but given Julian's final testimonial in which he expresses love for Lila, it might just be that they have a hard time showing it, not that they do not love and do not have emotions. This idea is also something we see with some of the Observers as well.

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!

You Don't Have What It Takes

One theme of the episode is what it was that drove the first girl, Lila, to commit suicide. Coming from pressure of her mother, the insecurity of being around Chromes, and the drug taking all point her motivation. The idea of a parent telling their child that they "don't have wait it takes" is the driving force behind the motivations of LOST character Jack Shepphard. In Jack's case however, it is what made him hang on and continue to try and save everyone/the Island, and although one can argue that many of Jack's causes were suicidal, his contributions did save lives and the ability to have continuous life times. Drowning in water might also remind some fans of Charlie Pace.

Note: The number 23 was dropped and is Jack Shepphard's number.

Name Game
Some familiar names where used in this episode. Julian is the name of strong recurring (he was a regular in season 3) character in Alias (Julian Sark) and is the male equivalent to female name and main character in Lost (Juliet Burke) and who's character has a nephew named after her (Julian Carlson)

We also had the name Marshall used. In Alias there is technology and computer programming expert main character Marshall Flankman, who's character and marriage to another Alias character might have inspired Fringe character name Marshall Bowman. (Marshall Bowman is the first porcupine-man-beast).

Edgar Hollowax is also an alias of Dr. Pierre Chang in LOST's Orchid Station Dharma Video.

Let It Bee
Although I briefly mentioned a Fringe concept and word phrase: Bee Hive Mind presented in one of the opening sequences, controlling bees is something that also shows itself in Alias. In season 4 Alias viewers are introduced to a character named Ned Bolger, whom was experimented on with "Project Brianstorm" allowing his own brain waves to match Arvin Sloane's to the point where Ned believed and literally acted as Arvin Sloane! He was dubbed by viewers as, "Arvin's Clone". Ned continued to work towards Rambaldi's work. At the beginning of the episode "In Dreams" he goes to an Italian Monastery where bees have been bred to become anti-aggressive and where these bees have been cultivating a rare and said to be extinct orchid, -an orchid needed to fulfill a Rambaldi work (ties into immortality/life extension). Ned uses a small scale version of the Mueller Device, which makes the bees become extremely aggressive. They kill all of monks and Ned is able to take the orchid.

Note: Charlie Pace steps on a bee hive in LOST and one of the Dharma Stations is named The Orchid. Additionally "In Dreams" shares characteristics with many episodes of Fringe where dream-states are used to help save the day. Currently John Kennex too is trying to induce memories by taking pills and putting himself into certain states.

Matryoshka Dolls (Russian Nesting Dolls)

Interestingly John's flashes allow him to remember one of these dolls in which Anna had given him and which nano tech had been built in to make it a listening device. One of these Dolls also appear on LOST in the episode "Expose`" where Zuckerman's diamonds where hidden and where Nikki had continued to keep them, but put the doll inside her bag, and where Paulo finds them later and breaks the Doll apart in the Pearl Station bathroom when Ben and Juliet come in.

These dolls in Russian culture tend to have themes such as fairy tale characters or Soviet leaders. They're a metaphorical expression of Matryoshka Principal, where sometimes in nature there are patterns within objects of different sizes sharing the pattern such as an onion in an onion.

Trying to put some thought into the significance of Almost Human's could there be a relationship between different social orders and that maybe Insyndicate is trying to change this social order? And like Nikki used Paulo, it does appear like Anna may have used John.

Note: Nanotech is lightly featured in Fringe, but more heavily featured in Revolution.

The Effect Before The Cause
In Fringe and Lost there were definitely instances where characters are able to know what's going to happen, before it happens. In Fringe  season 4 Walter Bishop coins a phrase for at least Olivia's version of her experience, "The Effects Before The Cause" (which in her case relied on Peter trying to come into contact). Julian like Olivia, or Desmond & Eloise (the person and the rat), or Milo Stanfield now share in similar explorations of this idea.

So what did you think of "Perception"? Do you think Agent Reynold's is a problem? Do you think Insyndicate is connected to high ranking officials? What do you think about the introduction and the morality of creating Chromes? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author - Darthlocke4
Laura Becker (Darthlocke 4) 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.