Almost Human Series Premiere Review: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

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Supporting cast members hardly get any screen-time in the pilot, though Lili Taylor pops up in a few scenes as the warm-hearted Captain Sandra Maldonado, Kennex’s only remaining friend in the LAPD. Detective Richard Paul (Michael Irby) comes off as a dedicated but suspicious cop, while Mackenzie Crook appears to have taken acting classes at MIT, ensuring that his robot specialist Rudy Lom will be purely classified as tech support. Unfortunately for Minka Kelly, her wide-eyed human intelligence analyst Valerie Stahl has yet to leave any sort of impression, which isn’t a great sign if (as her moon-eyed gaze in the pilot suggests) she’s being groomed as a romantic interest for Kennex. Almost Human has a better-than-average crop of supporting actors, and the action-heavy pilot didn’t leave much time for elaboration on their roles, so I’m inclined to give the show the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Almost Human‘s visuals are more impressive than anything I’ve seen on a network show in a long while, and it’s clear that Wyman put nearly his entire budget towards crafting a believable setting for the show. Futuristic cars zip through the streets, the action is flashier and more engaging than anything else currently on TV and advanced weaponry adds an unpredictable edge to the pilot’s shoot-outs. Meanwhile, the androids themselves are solidly designed and surprisingly distinctive (likely a tough obstacle for the show’s make-up department to overcome). Unfortunately, I can’t see Almost Human maintaining its high-quality special effects in future episodes, which means that the dynamic between Kennex and Dorian will be front-and-center. Luckily for the show, Urban and Ealy are up to scratch.

I do hope, perhaps naïvely, that Almost Human will take the time to properly explore its futuristic setting. Androids patrol the streets, but what that actually entails is still unknown. Advanced technology in the police force opens up new channels for abuse of power. Meanwhile, a mysterious Syndicate menaces the police force with organized attacks and dangerous technology (the pilot’s biggest ‘ick’ moment comes when an unfortunate cop gets sprayed by a poison gas compound they cooked up). However, Almost Human really requires a menacing villain for its protagonists to cross swords with. There’s a hint of one towards the end of the pilot, but bold storytelling is unmistakably the key to Almost Human‘s success, and that’s simply not on display yet.

The show also needs to establish itself in order to come out from under the shadow of I, Robot, from which it has lifted most of its story so far. Wyman showed a lot of originality while working on Fringe but, good-looking though it is, Almost Human feels disappointingly derivative. With two talented leads and an intriguing blend of sci-fi action and buddy-cop banter, the show has the potential to improve on its pilot and create a truly enjoyable show in future episodes. For now, however, Almost Human is unexceptional, if adequate.

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