Almost Human Review 1×10 “Perception”

by

 

 

Almost-Human-Cast

Almost Human Goes Tripping in 2048

FOX series Almost Human returns with the latest episode “Perception,” which is the perfect choice of word to describe this episode. On the one hand, “Perception” focuses on some great scenes with Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), followed by the standard use of Dorian (Michael Ealy) as comedic relief. We also get a bit of neo-noir with the use of designer drugs and darker elements of the show like John’s obsession with his ex-girlfriend. On the other hand, some of the storylines feel off center with the timing. If “Perception” aired sooner rather than later, perhaps my feelings on this episode would be different. But in light of last week’s “Unbound,” where it kicked down the door by introducing a mad scientist with a hankering for making his own robotic armies, the idea of creepy genetically enhanced teenagers in comparison is far less exciting, but more on that later.

Chromes! It’s Not Just A Web Browser Anymore

Almost Human - Perception 01

Like most episodes of Almost Human,“Perception” wastes no time in making an impression. In the first scenes, we get two teenage girls having what looks like hallucinations. One girl virtually composes music out of thin air with a wave of her hand while the other girl strolls through a forest with visions of chemical equations displayed on trees. For a moment you wonder if they’re human because one of them can scan their surroundings like Dorian (Michael Ealy) who is a synthetic android. We learn quickly the answer to that question when both girls collapse, and die from an overdose of some drug. Their deaths convince Captain Maldonado (Lili Taylor) to assign Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) to the case.

Captain Maldonado:  “The kids were chromes, genetically engineered. I need you to liaison with the parents, they’ll respond better to one of their own.”

This intriguing beginning sets off a story of a future where you can play God with your children by having them genetically enhanced within the womb. Imagine being able to pick and choose the “perfect” child! The children born from this genetic manipulation are called “Chromes” whereas those who are born geniuses without tampering are called “Naturals.” But it isn’t enough that the Chromes who attend the exclusive Mendela Acadamy—a upper crust private school, go figure—are without biological flaws, they’re as condescending as one expects from such a group. There’s nothing really special other than taking advantage of being entitled. Also, they’re kind of creepy, in a cultish Children of The Corn sort of way. What does make for an interesting plot is observing how those who are naturally gifted react to their surroundings.

Like many Almost Human episodes, it would appear the Mendela Academy girls didn’t OD by accident. The use of an older case, the death of a Natural, Lila Hoving (Sarah Grey) opens up a nice indirect tie to what Kennex is going through in his life.  We also meet Lila’s mother Mrs. Hoving whose search for the truth regarding her daughter’s death has tragic consequences.

Somebody That I Used to Know

Almost Human - "Perception"

Meanwhile, Kennex is dreaming once again of the attack on his unit by the criminal organization Insyndicate. We also see his evil ex-girlfriend, Anna (Mekia Cox), try to blow him to bits. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy, however, this scene does a good job of tying in with the events in the pilot episode. Although, if you’re been tuning in recently to the show, it can be a little confusing.

We learn that not only has Kennex been at it again with drugs, one that’s called “Membliss” but that he’s as obsessed as ever with getting more information on who led Insyndicate to attack them, apart from the sting of having been played by Anna.

It’s really a relief to get a chance to focus on Kennex instead of Dorian; don’t get me wrong, Dorian has some of the best character development, but he can’t do it alone. We need to know more about Kennex and his life apart from Dorian, if we are to understand and measure far they’ve come along. And after approximately 9 weeks of waiting to see how Kennex will deal with the fallout of his memories regarding Anna (Mekia Cox), this gives viewers the insight to knowing how really messed up he is in the head, literally.

In the Words of Nancy Regan, “Just Say NO!”

Almost Human - Perception

The topic of drugs is at the core of “Perception” and it’s not just to spoon feed the concept that they’re bad. In a somewhat surprising use of character development for Kennex, we see how much addiction can take over a person’s life to where the means do not justify the end. I love that we get to see that Dorian isn’t blind to John’s plight:

Dorian: “I know you’ve been taking Membliss, John. I’m required to give updates on your mental and physical condition every 72 hours. You thought I wouldn’t detect it? Prolonged use of Membliss can result in paranoia, visual distortions, short term memory loss, migraines, heart palpitations, increased risk of aneurysms, blackouts, and diarrhea.”

Kennex: “Diarrhea? And I thought it was the burrito.”

Despite his smart ass comments, I like how the episode serves to make Kennex aware of his personal demons, that they run deep, and he’s on the brink of losing control. It’s also interesting to see how both of the drugs featured in “Perception” deal with emotional connections to memories and self-worth. You have Vero, which the chromes use to enhance their abilities, and Membliss, the memory miracle pill, for Kennex whose feelings for Anna seem to trigger more of the dangerous side effects. Although one could argue that “Perception” unintentionally glamorizes drugs, I think it does the opposite. It shows the damaging repercussions, and the impact it has on the people around you. In “Perception,” there’s a lot more weight given to how people cope, react, and deal with those who are abusing drugs than the actual use of it. So from that point of view, I see its strong points.

Final Thoughts

“Perception” is classic Almost Human where you are simply in awe of the type of technology available within its world. It’s a total testament to the shows careful and skillful use of special effects. However, for as many steps forward in making the show live up to its potential, it takes almost as many steps back by failing to at least address events from last week’s “Unbound.”

The acting was great as usual, and the plot no matter how progressive it is with revealing necessary information about Kennex feels anti-climatic. There were some highlights like seeing how similiar Mrs. Hoving’s virtual Wall-O-Crazy look eerily the same as the one Kennex has back in his apartment. Then there’s the “ah-hah” moment where we find that Kennex had a right to be paranoid after all.

Almost Human still has a lot of room to grow, and while it is catching up to its tone and pacing, there’s still a random feel about it. Last week was about Dorian’s history and his literal maker, this week it’s Kennex tripping out on drugs while coping with his trauma. These episodes, despite piquing my interest, don’t really bridge and connect. I believed last week’s “Unbound” would have accomplished a smooth transition this week, but instead it feels like nothing ever happened which is a damn shame. I hope they pick up on it soon.

Almost Human is a study of what makes us human, and the bond we share with one another. One of the best ways to explore that connection is give our heroes trials and tribulations that allow them to grow into stronger characters. We can’t really explore Kennex’s “change” into a better and more empathetic character if we get bits and pieces of his history; especially If the basic motivation launched in the pilot–Kennex’s ambushed unit–is neglected for nearly half the season. We get only glimpses which at this rate are not enough to carry as much interest despite his great partnership with Dorian. But credit, where credit is due, Almost Human does a great job with exploring Dorian’s backstory; it’s a big part of why “Unbound” was such a strong moment for everyone involved because we know what’s he’s been through up to this point. Kennex? Not too much. What we need is an episode revolving around him without the standard whodunnit storyline. On the positive side, I love the dynamic amongst the cast, and their chemistry. Kennex few scenes with Maldonado never disappoint, and I’d love to see them share a few more rounds of drinks together. “Perception” is written by  Sarah Goldfinger and directed by Mimi Leder who really did a great job of using some innovative twists in its use of futuristic gadgets and the “science” behind it.