Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Almost Human: “Arrhythmia”

Illustration for article titled Almost Human: “Arrhythmia”

Then again, maybe airing episodes out of production order says absolutely nothing about the quality of story. There are few things more exciting than watching a new show fit all the promising pieces together for the first time. “Arrhythmia” is that first step for Almost Human, blending together strong character moments and a lot of humor to form the first episode since the pilot that I would recommend watching as more than a curiosity. Previously there had been a glimpse here or there that the show was getting its act together, but still dropping in a problematic subplot for Stahl or Maldonado, or having Kennex and Dorian investigate some lukewarm cases.

“Arrhythmia” doesn’t have that added flair of palpable sexual chemistry between Ealy and Urban. But it does have the most interesting episodic case of the season, a plethora of new theoretical technologies, and a second Dorian android that gets to experience a ride-along, make big mistakes, and ultimately leads to the most coherent thematic explanation so far in the series.

Last week I was very skeptical about moving the second and third episodes of the season this far back (the second episode produced still isn’t on the schedule), behind a bunch of later episodes that suggested Almost Human won’t be as serialized as other Bad Robot creations. But that extra time turned out to be all the show needed. In fact, delaying this episode is a bit of a masterstroke, because it allows enough time to establish Dorian as a character before suddenly introducing another identical android. That’s my best guess as to why “Arrhythmia” ended up where it did in airing order.

The first scene of the episode is the only time I’ve been immediately intrigued by the impetus for an Almost Human investigation. A man bursts into an operating room with a gun, demanding medical attention. He accurately predicts the minute he’s going to die, and his biomechanical heart stops. Thus begins a whirlwind investigation into the underground organ black market.  The victim had been beholden to some extortion ring responsible for installing modified hearts that stop working after 30 days unless reset, presumably after some kind of exorbitant payment.

When Kennex and Dorian arrive on the scene, it’s right after another surprisingly funny bit of bickering in the car. But then they both spot another Dorian, working as a glorified janitor, decommissioned from police work. Seeing an opportunity to pay it backwards but forwards, Dorian invites the other DRN model to ride in the back of Kennex’s car and observe for the day. Ealy is the best part of the show so far, but simply having him play two identical androids isn’t enough. He doesn’t go full Tatiana Maslany in differentiating the two—after all, they’re just identical machines—but it’s enough to tell which one is just now remembering his time on the force and which one is still trying to grow up.

What follows that promising beginning is a string of the best scenes Almost Human has done: Kennex’s nightmare dealing with two Dorians in his car, the former cop tackling a man due to outdated case-file software. But what I love most about this A-plot is that it doesn’t let the cops off scot-free without actually showing physical consequences of the crime and the attempt to get away with it. Once the criminal collaborators figure out the cops are after them (and potentially scanning wire transfers), the co-conspirators decide to stop working. That has the side effect of leaving nobody to reset any of the biomech hearts, meaning a lot of people will die even though they were prepared to extend their lives with increasingly large payments. The big action finale isn’t anything special, just some action quick-cuts until Dorian does yet another awesome stunt: breaking through the wall in order to stop the ringleader.


And instead of a sentimental conclusion that lacks for larger thematic significance (like last week’s), this week’s coda—Dorian wipes everything from the memory of his counterpart, save for the little boy—has the opposite effect. It’s a sad fact that Dorian has to live with, even though for a short time he gave someone else the chance to be woken up and given a chance for proper use. Dorian worries a lot about his employment status (and existence), but those scenes are never cornerstones of an episode, just like Kennex’s family issues haven’t become that important yet. There’s still a lot of subtlety missing here—any time Dorian isn’t in a scene with Kennex, it usually signals a lower-volume conversation—but this is the first episode of Almost Human that I’ve found to be strong overall. That makes me excited that this is a possible direction the show could take, becoming a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking procedural.

Stray observations:

  • The technology in this episode was pretty imaginative, even if I’ve seen a lot of it before. The hospital feels lifted from Idiocracy in a way.
  • Almost Human comes back on January 6. My DVR cut off most of the preview, but it looks like we’re getting some John Larroquette soon, which is awesome news.
  • Song playing on Kennex’s car stereo when he keeps hitting it: “Robot Rock” by Daft Punk. Excellent choice.
  • I hope everyone spotted that not at all conspicuous currency BitCoin. The Internet has truly arrived!