Almost Human: “You Are Here”
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Almost Human: “You Are Here”

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Almost Human

"You Are Here" 

Season 1, Episode 8

“You Are Here” is the only episode of Almost Human to carry a credit for departed co-showrunner Naren Shankar (who only worked on the show for a brief time). Sometimes co-executive producer partnerships don’t work out, but judging by the smaller background plots in this episode, the series could have had a much heavier serialized touch. The Syndicate has barely been mentioned since the pilot, and the same goes for Kennex’s ex-girlfriend, who infiltrated his life as an undercover criminal.

But I for one am actually glad this episode got shifted back so many weeks, because it plays a lot better with some actual foundation for the Kennex/Dorian partnership already established in largely episodic stories. Though the cases have been uneven, the world building has mostly shown off bits of technology, and the supporting characters (especially the female roles) remain flimsy at best, Almost Human has put in the time to draw out its two best actors and feature their eminently watchable rapport. Building on that familiarity—and at this point I actively root for Kennex and Dorian because of how well they work together—it makes sense to return to the inciting incident of the series, step by step, with the benefit of a strong pair of central characters.

The first moments after Kennex and Dorian arrive at the scene of a homicide—a man gets shot after running a long distance, seemingly followed by nobody—shows how this episode would have felt like a giant leap if it had aired second. When making initial observations of the crime scene, Richard’s MX posits a theory to explain three areas in the subway station that were hit by gunfire. It has statistical basis but an astronomically low probability: a magic bullet ricochets off of three different locations before twisting to strike the victim, which would leave only one wound but leave the appearance of three bullets. When Dorian makes by far a more plausible observation—all the damage was done by one bullet—the MX gets offended, calling Dorian an inferior, and generally making a cold, feeling ass of itself. Kennex, fresh out of lying and faking his way through an anger management group meeting, pulls out his weapon and blasts the MX.

That leads to yet another stellar conversation in Kennex’s car, with Dorian needling him for lashing out in order to defend his android partner. Ealy muttering “You like me,” and Urban going on the defensive needed the buildup of the previous episodes in order to be this funny and actually resonate. The fact that Rudy’s dialogue has been changed to reflect his one time out in the field dealing with sex robots suggests that parts of “You Are Here” were rewritten or potentially reshot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that car scene was one of them. Still, I look forward to any witty banter in the car each week.

If there’s a minor problems with the time shift, it mostly involves how antagonistic Kennex and Richard are with each other, more of a carryover from the pilot instead of how they function in later episodes. Their argument in Maldonado’s office feels like covering old territory, even if it does have a ridiculous ending in which Richard warns Kennex and Dorian to watch their butts—which brings to mind Britta’s observations about boys fighting in the first-season Christmas episode of Community. Comedy has definitely turned out to be Almost Human’s secret strength.

The fictitious future tech tonight is actually pretty scary, combining CCTV (which doesn’t really help to geographically place the city where the show takes place) and a large caliber bullet with maneuvering capabilities. Basically it makes a sniper shot, given a locked location after hacking into a weak point in the camera system network all over the city, effective and untraceable from many miles (though I believe Dorian says kilometers) away. Unlike the bomb vests in the last episode, this is something new, utilizing the topical fear of surveillance to divine a weapon that somebody at a big defense contractor has to be looking into right now. The case itself—tracking down the victim’s girlfriend Kira, tracking down a safety deposit box, protecting Kira and her daughter—isn’t as interesting or full of unexpected twists as some others, but I did appreciate that the threat posited here is a pessimistically logical extension of both trends in furiously evolving weapons technology and ever-present surveillance.

Even Minka Kelly’s Detective Stahl gets a few brighter moments in “You Are Here,” creating some genuine chemistry with Kennex. Instead of the forced, awkward pairing when they ended up sharing a beer and watching a soccer game, here they simply flirt a bit, trade some information, and have a nice moment when Kennex mistakes her saying she got him something for a gift instead of a bit of research on the case. It ends sweetly, turning the “I revealed her boyfriend didn’t sell technology to arms dealers and was trying to protect her, she gave me a pen” Say Anything moment into a note that makes Kennex and Stahl smile. I still don’t think the show needs this undercurrent—especially when the unintentional heat between Urban and Ealy is so palpable—but a moment as charming as that note exchange once every five or six episodes wouldn’t be so bad.

So Almost Human heads into another extended break having evaded the second-episode curse by delaying it and adjusting it to better fit a more episodic approach to the show. The plotline of Maldonado repeatedly interrogating the Syndicate prisoner and contemplating a deal in exchange for information puts Kennex’s girlfriend back in play, but it doesn’t take up much of the episode. A lot of the things I haven’t liked about the show so far worked in small doses tonight, and that’s a promising sign that when the show returns—and potentially affords a bit of time during each episode to the overarching story—it’ll be stronger for having done the hard work of establishing a steady comedic center in Kennex and Dorian.

Stray observations:

  • Almost Human is off for the next three weeks, but when it returns it’ll have the debut of John Larroquette as DRN inventor Nigel Vaughn.
  • I haven’t mentioned him by name yet, but Michael Irby looks so incredibly different from his role on The Unit. It’s the hair.
  • “It’s Anil.”