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?"?
AIRED ON 3/3/2014
Season 1 : Episode 13