Almost Human "Arrhythmia" Review: 2 Robots, 1 Grump

By Cory Barker

Dec 17, 2013

Almost Human S01E06: "Arrhythmia" 


It's weird to think about it, but this was technically Almost Human's fall finale. Obviously, the show started much later in the fall than most newbies, but it has also put forth an uneven, sometimes random-feeling collection of episodes. The good news is that "Arrhythmia" was a really strong episode to finish 2013 on and quite possibly the best episode we've seen from Almost Human thus far. 

I praised last week's episode for remembering the show's anything goes future premise and this one did that and then some. This episode provided us with a solid procedural story about the off-market selling of synthetic organs, primarily hearts, and did so with a few enjoyable wrinkles to keep the story interesting. The idea that synthetic organs from deceased people were being sold on to second customers, only with high price strings attached worked really well for me. It was pretty clear early on what was going on and who was involved, but the show has done a nice job in the last few weeks of showing the characters work through the procedure of doing the job without over-relying on technology or simply stumbling into epiphanies after a group chit-chat. 

More importantly, the organ selling story allowed the episode to at least partially engage with some relevant moral questions, which is the kind of material J.H. Wyman shows tend to mine especially well. It made sense that the synthetic organs shouldn't just be destroyed once the original host passed on, but the criminal activity here--implanting a chip that required the new host to pay an increasing amount of money to keep the organ or it would be turned off remotely--forced the team to think about the consequences of their actions just a little bit. The episode didn't push it too far in this regard, but included a couple of brief moments that saw John, Dorian, and company wonder how their choice to shut down this illegal operation would negatively impact the people who had lined up to pay them (admittedly illegally). 


Of course, the conclusion to the story bailed the characters out when the corporation decided to give all those originally denied (because of insurance, so apparently Obamacare didn't really take off in this version of the future) their necessary synthetic organs. But hey, I'm fine with tacked-on happy endings for random episodic characters if it means that Almost Human is going to use its premise to consider at least slightly fascinating questions about the intersections between technology and "right" and "wrong." Even last week's successful clone story didn't quite manage to do that, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the show engaging in that kind of material. It's not especially hard to do, and it gives the procedural stuff more obvious heft. 

Speaking of heft, "Arrhythmia" also smartly went back to another one of Almost Human's strengths, which is letting Michael Ealy do his almost-watery-eyed emotional acting thing while Dorian confronts difficult realities of being a DRN in a world that has already proven that it doesn't really want them. Here, he and John stumbled into another decommissioned DRN model (one that looked just like Dorian obviously) who had been relegated to glorified custodial duty at one of the local clinics. Dorian, both curious and compassionate, convinced John--or should I say annoyed to the point where John just gave up?--that it would be good to bring the other model on a ridealong for the day and of course that went pretty poorly. This story permitted the episode to fill in some important information about what happened to the DRNs when they were decommissioned, including that someone created the Lugar Test to determine if various versions of the model were defective, and that when they got booted from the police station their "minds" were wiped and the necessary pertinent files were deleted. I've said a few times in five weeks that the show could do a better job of filling in its history and world and although you would have expected Almost Human to save the big Michael Ealy acts against himself scenes until sweeps (and not in the third episode, which this technically is), this was a decent step towards that goal. 


And more importantly, the other DRN's presence forced Dorian to think about what could--and I guess, did--happen to him if this were to all go away in an instant. Despite the fact that he's growing closer with John (no matter how much John doesn't want to admit it) and is generally doing a good job as his partner, it probably wouldn't take much for Dorian to get pushed out of the force and either back in the bag or working on mop duty at the local YMCA. The second DRN also showed a commitment to police work that Dorian has, and they were able to share that great moment where the former recollected on the proudest moment of his time as a cop and how it was really all about the human connection. Unsurprisingly, Michael Ealy did a great job acting against himself and bringing different things to the scene in both roles. Again, like the minor wrinkles with the morality of the case, doing stuff like this isn't hard. Just let Michael Ealy loose and he'll do all the work the scene needs. Dorian being forced to wipe the other DRN's files and send him back into manual labor, only to leave the really memorable case in-tact in the second robot's mind, was really simple, but pretty wonderful. 

Episodes like "Arrhythmia" show that Almost Human can make good on its premise without doing big, sweeping serialized stories involving multiple layers of a conspiracy and MacGuffin-esque chemicals, toxins, technology, etc. I'd be fine if the show went that direction, but I'm also fine with this procedural-heavy stuff if this is the kind of episode Almost Human can put together. This one is really starting to live up to the promise of its premise, and that means it's worth coming back to in 2014.



NOTES TO BE UPLOADED

– Despite the screwy episode order, this one still hinted at the possible love connection between John and Valerie, and thankfully didn't show us anything that confused the progression of the pairing. 

– Dorian dropping his eye in John's coffee was pretty funny. No matter the episode, those moments in the car between Dorian and John (and in this case, another DRN) are pretty much money. Almost Human could do three straight episodes of just that and it would probably be awesome.

– I haven't talked much about The Chemical Brothers' doing the score, but I really noticed it in this episode—for whatever reason. It's solid and different enough. 

– Although there might be some budget issues in play, shouldn't we see Dorian do some kind of cool physical feat each week? Bursting through the wall, Terminator-style, was great. 


How'd you feel about this one? And will you return to Almost Human in 2014?


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  • cherylscremin Jan 07, 2014

    We've really enjoyed every episode so far, and it seems to be getting funnier as it goes along.

  • DrXabregas Dec 29, 2013

    good show, started like fringe but needs to be more than this in the upcoming episodes, if it stays in the day by day cases it will disapoint, even tough is dark and well written cases.

  • foalar Dec 29, 2013

    Almost Human Great start so far!!!

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Dec 24, 2013

    The aftermath of Dorian 2 getting out of the car was hilarious

  • bubujin_2 Dec 24, 2013

    I'm enjoying the show--particular the banter and repartee--and will continue to watch it. Do hope it survives beyond the first season.

    Although I enjoyed this latest episode, I was bothered by how Dorian's duplicate was reactivated as a cop. Despite having structure/programming that allows for emotion, Dorian is 1) still a cop and 2) his overarching programming would be for him to follow fairly rigid protocols. Yes, Kennex was giving him grief about bending the rules earlier, but to essentially abscond with a service 'bot without any coordination or approval and for Dorian to unilaterally reactivate his twin as a cop and restore his case files? Nah, I didn't buy it. I wish the writers had come up with a more compelling way for this to have come about.

  • preferanonymous Dec 22, 2013

    The plotline with Dorian and the other DRN was a bit derivative of the Star Trek: Voyager plotline where the Doctor was horrified to learn the other holograms like him were redesigned to be mineworkers.

  • Vicky8675309 Dec 21, 2013

    I've enjoyed every episode and felt that this one was one of the best so far. I definitely plan to continue watching the show (hope it gets renewed)!

  • Georgie81 Dec 20, 2013

    This was probably my fav episode of the season so far. The interactions between John and the Dorians was great.
    Ive heard rumors that AH wont be back next year, I really hope thats not the case as Im really enjoying it.

  • MikeUK123 Dec 19, 2013

    I liked the episode. It really felt almost like an episode of Fringe in the first 5 minutes.

    I'm not really easy with the way Dorian seems more human than John, or at least more likely to break the rules.

    Comedian and emotional buddy is not how I imagine AI tech to be in 30 years....

  • Vicky8675309 Dec 21, 2013

    agree! I like Dorian but he seems more human then human...almost superhuman;-)

  • Tigerbob Dec 19, 2013

    Good episode, love the chemstry between John and Dorian and the way John and Val are sweet for each other.

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