Almost Human Review 1×09 “Unbound”

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Almost-Human-Cast

DRN Daddy Issues, and Killer Bots in this weeks Almost Human

Even though patience isn’t not my greatest virtue, tonight’s latest episode of Almost Human, “Unbound”, proves good things come to those who wait! For the past few weeks, Almost Human has been inconsistent with developing its characters, not to mention leaving way too many unanswered questions. Sure, Almost Human’s stand alone episodes are entertaining, and it does allow room for new viewers to watch without feeling entirely lost, but after a while it gets old. At some point viewers will want to know more about Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), Dorian (Michael Ealy), and the rest of the officers who help serve and protect the city of Los Angeles.

“Unbound” is easily one of the best episodes Almost Human has created since its pilot because it finally provides answers to some very important questions regarding Dorian. We see a lot go down, and the pace was spot in balancing the action with the drama. Seriously, it felt like this is the tone the series needs to maintain if it wants to keep viewers hooked every week. Aside from the great guest appearances by a kick ass (literally) Gina Carano, and the charming John Larroquette, the stage is set for some surprising revelations, and heartbreak.

Classic Kennex & Killer Bots

Almost Human usually brings its more humorous scenes right before all hell breaks loose in the next segment. And this week it’s no different. We start with Dorian and Kennex at the precinct giving a tour of their workplace to a bunch of kids. Since Kennex’s social skills (or lack thereof) with children needs fine tuning, Dorian takes the lead. In classic Kennex fashion he spoils things much to Dorian’s chagrin, and one vomiting child later, they find themselves back to work when a mugging gone wrong ends up in murder. The twist, because there is always one, is that the attacker is a “service machine” which I take means it was custom designed for multi-purpose tasks. The service machines with their faceless metal heads, and electronic red orb for eyes are both intimidating and disturbing. It’s a nice fusion of a sleek design, but reminds me of something you’d see on G.I. JoeAlmostHuman-Unbound-02

Brutal Beauty

Once the service machine is disarmed and taken back to the precinct, specifically the evidence room, the story picks up immediately. The android re-activates, and searches the room until it finds a female synthetic head (Yes, the one we first saw in the pilot episode!) and swaps to form one badass looking assassin. She reminds me of a terminatrix with the way she kills anything standing in her way out of the precinct.

Since this whole event is captured on camera, Captain Maldonado (Lili Taylor) later rounds up her team and all but Dorian is in shock. Apparently, the android is an XRN according to Maldonado, who is certain of it. Dorian, still in the dark, tries to understand the situation but he’s left without answers to his questions. We know the feeling, buddy. What I liked about this moment is that for once you get Dorian at a disadvantage and comes to rely on Kennex for answers.  He later explains XRNs were made when DRN models failed to function properly due to its erratic behavior.

Lumocorp, the company that made the DRNs with Synthetic Souls, desperately put together another model; a solider which would rival any military force. But it went horrible wrong.

Kennex: “After Lumocorp’s order was canceled, overnight, they went from being one of the most successful companies to a complete failure. So, faced with a mount of debt and bunch of androids no one wanted, the guy who ran the company came up with a new bot.  The XRN. He designed it to be more solider than cop, and they had a big demo for it downtown, Green Street. All the politicians were there, power players. Let’s just say, it didn’t go well. By the time my unit was called in on the second day, they  set up a triage outside the building. Medics couldn’t keep up with the causalities.”

Over the course of 3 days, one single XRN killed a mass amount of people in its wake. The XRN was finally taken down, disassembled and destroyed except for its head which was kept in the evidence room all this time.  This backstory is so essential, and even though it’s a bit on the infodump side, it serves to the crucial events that happen in Unbound.” You can see on Dorian’s face as Kennex tells this story that it has some ominous tones. One of the biggest struggles for Dorian is finding his way in society now that he is partnered with Kennex. Ealy’s performance as Dorian is a game of subtly and skill; so many times in this episode we see these minute expressions of concern which he tries to masks in front of Kennex and the team.

Things further get complicated when during the XRN’s warpath, we meet Dr. Nigel Vaughn (John Larroquette), who first uses the false name of Dr. Bernard.

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The Curious Case of Dr. Vaughn

The interesting thing about “Unbound” is that although this story is primarily about Dorian’s origin, it’s really a commentary about the future, and Nigel. The lines are a bit blurred, but Nigel’s interaction with Dorian make for some of the most memorable scenes especially when we learn that he is the former president of LumoCorp, and inventor of Synthetic Soul.

Nigel: “DNA is the data, but the soul? That’s the story…that is the essence of life.”

This, of course, not only means he is Dorian’s creator but that of the XRN whose name is Danica, played by the charismatic Gina Carano who has about a handful of actual spoken lines. The women barely talks, but then why use words when all you’re going to do is rage and shoot? It also highlights how perfectly Carano is cast for this role.

As Kennex and Dorian get closer to finding out the identity of the person(s) involved with programming Danica, Nigel stays close by helping out the team. There are moments where it becomes clear who is behind this whole plot, but the predictability doesn’t take away from the depth of the story, which says a lot. It’s not so much about who but of how, how will they get away these crimes?

Later, when Kennex and Dorian finally locate Danica, Nigel advises them that the only way to stop her is by injecting her with a serum.

Kennex: “You’re asking me to walk up to a homicidal robot, and stab it in the back of the head?”

This is the point in “Unbound” where we get some amazing fight scenes that are as good, if not better, than what you’ll find in the latest action movie.

SPOILER ALERT!

Kennex and Dorian take turns trying to take down. Now, I don’t know how Kennex managed to constantly bounce back up after getting such a beating, but he’s definitely scrappy! Dorian arrives on the scene to help Kennex, but finds out that he’s met his match. In a surprising turn, when it looks Dorian might be in serious trouble, Kennex is the one to take Danica down via grenade.

Meanwhile, at the precinct Nigel has mysteriously disappeared, leading everyone to find out he is the one behind releasing the XRN, and nearly getting Dorian killed. An interesting turn is seeing Kennex’s reaction to Dorian this whole time. When Kennex saves Dorian, they hold this exchange of looks that shows true loyalty and friendship, so the bromance continues!

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Final Thoughts

This episode was great because the sum of all its parts (storyline, plot, etc.) built this great set up that acknowledges its past while moving forward to some really exciting storylines ahead. I can’t for Carano and Larroquette side by side once more, if the ending serves as any indication of things to come later down the line. There are a lot of things that just worked effectively than before like the dynamic between Kennex and Dorian. In this episode, Kennex gives Dorian a bit more consideration and respect unlike some episodes ago. Their partnership is evolving but in this episode it feels more genuine.

There were some issues, and minor distractions, mainly dealing with The Wall. Now, we know there is a wall that separates the city from parts of the outside world. Now, what rests on the otherside? It remains to be seen, everyone spoke very vaguely about it. We know it’s bad, and dangerous. It’s a place that’s off the grid, and we’re not sure how long it’s been there. But it places a significant part of “Unbound,” so why so much ambiguity? Then there’s Insyndicate. They get mentioned early on, but that’s about it. What I didn’t understand is why Insyndicate and Nigel didn’t form some kind of deal. 

All in all, “Unbound” really kicked the door open to a whole new world of possibilities because now the threat to the city rests not just from within but beyond the wall.