Almost Human "Are You Receiving?" Review: 50 Shades of Purple

By Cory Barker

Nov 26, 2013

Almost Human S01E03: "Are You Receiving?"

That was bound to happen. If all goes to plan, Almost Human is going to be mixing fascinating questions about technology and humanity with procedural stories for a very long time. Some episodes, like last Monday's, are going to give us a lot more of the former, and those are going to be the more interesting episodes. But some are going to be like "Are You Receiving?": almost entirely powered by the procedural stuff with only a few brief character moments to keep things afloat. This wasn't an especially poor episode, but it was pretty boilerplate episodic storytelling, complete with a very familiar hostage situation. 

The advantage Almost Human has in situations like this, where bad guys start shooting up a building, taking hostages, and the characters (and us) have to determine what the heck is going on, is the setting and the technology. "Are Your Receiving?" didn't bring as much to the table as "Skin" on that front, but there were still a few flourishes that gave the hostage plot a jolt: A face-changing device that allowed the baddies to disguise their identities and a cool long-distance communication technology that involved little chips and some kind of laser-like process. One of the things I appreciate about the technology in the show thus far is that episodes don't waste a lot of time delivering exposition to explain it. It's the future, the technology is advanced. Deal with it. That obviously allows the show to pull whatever the heck they want out of the blue on a given week, but in three episodes it hasn't been too harmful. 

Character-wise, "Are You Receiving?" certainly didn't offer the same kind of depth and intrigue that "Skin" or even the pilot did. Still, there were a handful of moments between John and Dorian that made this one worth watching. Obviously, their scenes in the car are always going to money and this episode was no different. The bickering still works for me three episodes in because the chemistry between the two actors is so developed already and it seems like John and Dorian aren't hateful in their banter, which is a key thing for me. The big sequence here was when Dorian decided to go all RoboCop on the hostage-takers and almost successfully took them all out before finding himself too injured to carry on. John eventually saved the day with the face-swapping tech (in a decent callback to earlier in the episode), but Dorian's actions showed us two important things. First, we know now that he can get damaged relatively easily. Even before that final shootout he took a bullet in the head and John had to fix him with a dirty Q-Tip, nail clippers, and gum. It's crucial for the show to start to outline Dorian's capabilities and knowing that he isn't invincible helps give the procedural stories a modicum of additional tension and stakes. Not much, but some. Second, as Dorian detailed later, he felt fear right in the moment before John saved him from getting shot in the face. Again, it's probably not a surprise that Dorian can feel fear considering all the talk about souls and such in the first two episodes, but that brief moment emphasizes yet again that Dorian is really close to human. I'm guessing that will play a larger role in some kind of ongoing narrative in the future. 

Other than that though? Not a lot worth mentioning. So much of the episode was dedicated to the hostages negotiating with Lili Taylor's Captain Maldonado and John talking to a hostage-in-hiding played by Emily Rios from The Bridge. That stuff was as predictable and standard as television gets. Heck, even Minka Kelly had less to do in this episode and she barely had anything going on in the first two episodes. Well, she has stuff going on, but, um, never mind. 

It's sort of weird how this all shook out for Almost Human. The two-night premiere gave us a good pilot and a really strong second episode, even when we expect second episodes to be lame and repetitive. Even if we point to "Skin" as some sort of aberration because it was really the fifth episode produced, the quality of "Are You Receiving?" makes even less sense because it was the sixth episode produced. There are a dozen reasons why producers and/or networks screw with the episode order but the basic assumption is that it's done to give us the best as early as possible. Though this one wasn't a total failure, let's hope that this is about as bad as it gets in the early run and that the procedural/character balance gets ironed out a little more in future weeks.


– It seemed like the show was trying to use some kind of sped-up effect to display Dorian's strength and agility. It was weird.

–John put olive oil on his leg, which was a nice callback to the pilot. If this was really the sixth episode produced, it's odd that the show would wait so long to pay that off. 

– Kelly's Valerie is apparently so good at her job that she can just wear a white V-neck white T-shirt to the office. I'm certainly not complaining.

–John's middle name is Reginald because his dad was a big Elton John fan. I approve.

Ratings for last Monday's episode were... not good. I hope Fox gives Almost Humana chance to find its footing,  but since the network has already found a drama hit withSleepy Hollow, it might be a little less patient. Stay tuned on that front.

How'd you feel about "Are You Receiving?"?

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  • marcusj1973 Dec 11, 2013

    Even during episodes that flounder a little, I'm entertained enough by watching Urban and Ealy go back and forth. I don't know if it'll ever get tiresome...I doubt it, but we'll see.

    I can say though that I don't think this show will ever be as smart as 'Fringe', but it could be just as entertaining in a popcorn sort of way.

  • geekmalaya Dec 09, 2013

    Whoa. Did Dorian just pull a 'Robocop' move on those terrorist? Not perfect though. I blame it on the chewing gum.

  • Kuro_Neko- Dec 02, 2013

    A good scifi show on FOX? I predict cancellation in the next seven episodes, if not sooner. Not that I don't hope I'm wrong, but FOX doesn't have a good track record here.

  • littlebitliz Nov 30, 2013

    I really like this show, and I will be very disappointed if it gets cancelled. The chemistry between Dorian and John is great; I am really enjoying both of those characters.

    Cory, I really love your reviews, and this is not directed at you personally, but I really get frustrated by what sometimes seems to me like a kneejerk reaction against procedurals. I agree that they can get repetitive over time, but Fringe used a successful (for me) blend of procedural with ongoing storytelling, and being only 3 episodes in right now, I'm guessing they will eventually do the same here. Especially early on, Fringe was very procedural, and I have no problem with that. I actually enjoyed the first two seasons of Fringe more than Seasons 3 and 4, although I do know I'm in the minority there. (Season 5 was awesome tho).

  • Drop-dead-gorgeous Nov 30, 2013

    Admittedly, the case of the week was a weak one and totally a mixture of "Die hard" and "Die hard with a vengeance", regarding the hostage-in-a-skyscraper-situation and the distraction-of-the-heist-stuff. And seriously?! How long can it possibly take to climb up lousy 25 floors??

    But then again, I felt quite entertained, the visuals and the overall futuristic setting is nice to look at, not to forget: as well are both male leads! I like the good-natured bantering between them - so funny: Dorian imitating gorgeously Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets"! Besides, who agrees with me that the featured music suits the show very well?

  • MirelaPilipo Nov 30, 2013

    Great Fringe callback with the ice fishing/frozen lake story. Im also noticing a lot of gadgets straight out of Fringe's final season.
    I'm still not loving this show but I'm willing to give it a fair chance. Ealy's Dorian is definitely carrying the show right now.
    I'm sorry but Minka Kelly is just a pretty prop. Her JLo voice is like nails on a chalkboard. I hope she gets even less dialogue in the future.

  • StutiJindal Dec 13, 2013

    Yes that ice-fishing/frozen lake story ringed several bells for me too. One was the Fringe connection and another to me was the Titanic connection. Didn't John's dialogue sound exactly like Jack Dawson's (played by Leonardo diCaprio) lines? It did to me.

  • MirelaPilipo Dec 14, 2013

    I didn't get any Titanic vibes but it's been AGES since I watched that movie. But yeah, Fringe connection for sure.

  • StutiJindal Dec 17, 2013

    I'm sorta mad about that movie! :P

  • MirelaPilipo Dec 17, 2013

    A reply to your comment below:
    Oh right. Sorry....Duh me!
    No I remember Titanic, I just don't remember the lines spoken in the movie. But yeah, I saw it about 5 times when I was 15. It was very romantic & epic, I remember that. :-)

  • StutiJindal Dec 17, 2013

    Mad 'about' it as in I LOVE that movie! :) Can't force it on other people though. So it's alright if I'm the only one remembering such stuff pertaining to Titanic. :P

  • MirelaPilipo Dec 17, 2013

    Lol! Mad at the movie or mad at me for not having watched it in a while? ;-)

  • MirelaPilipo Dec 14, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • shunsai Dec 07, 2013

    I didn't even think about that frozen lake story connection. Nice catch!

  • plasmarulz Nov 29, 2013

    Liked it. Thankfully, looks like the ball-scanning is stopped :-)

  • samuelquentin Nov 28, 2013

    I'm on the same page with you, Cory. I like the chemistry between the two leads already (which is a good thing after three episodes), but if this turns out to be ANOTHER cop procedural with buddy appeal and sci-fi gadgets, I'm out.
    I hope they will develop a greater story arch that gets more into the darker side of this future vision and gives the show and its characters more depth.
    I don't know if the writers and producers can pull off something that even gets close to what BATTLESTAR GALACTICA did in the beginning of its third season (which maybe would be a bit too bleak), but I'd be pleased if there was a show around that walks off the beaten tracks and doesn't only deliver what dozens of othes have done during the past years. - If you're doing something sci-fi, please don't insult your viewers' intelligence. Please! - I'll keep my fingers crossed for this one. :)

  • Phoenix1781 Nov 29, 2013

    Yes, Yes Yes!!!! I really want to like this show, but it is so generic. What's the point of having a futuristic story with present day problems? .... boring!
    But I do enjoy the relationship between the 2 leads.

  • StutiJindal Nov 28, 2013

    Good episode, the previous ones were better of course! But I'm liking this series and I sure do hope FOX gives it a fair chance.
    Was wondering with all the tech Dorian has in him, couldn't they have given him a thermal camera? Wouldn't that make finding the bad guys lurking in rooms and stairwells a little easier?

  • JohannaSch Nov 27, 2013

    Weren't they just getting noodles at the end? Who needs flashing lights to go get noodles? That just seemed like overkill.

  • Deadeye666 Nov 27, 2013

    When you want noodles you really want noodles. There is no middle ground. I´m just glad he didn´t shoot at the other cars to get there quicker.

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