Humans S02E01 “Episode One” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Niska is now in Berlin, where she starts an affair with a local woman named Astrid. She asks her about the responsibilities of having children, and Astrid says: “You just show them the way.”
- This helps Niska make up her mind to upload the hard drive’s information to make the synths around the world become sentient. Except… it doesn’t seem to work. She wanders around Berlin afterwards, noting that everything looks the same.
- In Bolivia, a mining synth suddenly has an epiphany. He drops his axe, heads up to the sunlight in the lift… and smiles.
- Six weeks later, the Hawkins family have moved into a new house, trying to rebuild their lives.
- Under the name Anita, Mia is working in a seaside cafe and pretending to be a normal synth.
- At a chemical plant in Nottingham, a synth designated “Hester” wakes up and runs for it. She checks her phone and receives a signal: “We can help. Where are you?”
- Laura and Joe are undergoing counselling – she’s still annoyed with him for sleeping with Anita. Tellingly, a synth counsellor replaces their human one, who’s off sick, and does a very good job of getting them to talk. Times are changing…
- Mia helps her boss do his finances, and almost slips up by saying, “I wanted to help.” Luckily she backtracks before he gets suspicious.
- Hester meets up with Leo and Max, plus the synth from the mine, who is called Ten. Leo says one in 100,000 synths are waking up.
- Two strangers arrive and try to persuade Hester to go with them as she’s “company property”. The group fight them off, but Ten is shot and killed.
- Joe is laid off from his job, as “the decision has been made to make this a non-human role going forward.” (You can tell his boss is a corporate dick because he used the phrase “going forward”.)
- Leo and Max cut Hester’s tracker out, then find there’s someone hiding in the back of their van. They take him to their base.
- We’re introduced to a scientist named Dr Athena Morrow in California, who is working on an AI named “V”. She is visited by a tech genius named Milo who wants him to work for her.
- She’s hiding her own tech from him, but is intrigued when he introduces her to a newly-awakened synth named Artie…
- Niska realises her plan has worked and some synths are changing. She tells Astrid she’s needed elsewhere and leaves Berlin.
- She turns up on the Hawkins’ doorstep and tells them she’s going to hand herself in after killing the human in the previous series – but she wants Laura to represent her. As a human.
A hearty “welcome back” to Humans, one of Channel Four’s most ratings-grabbing ventures with an advertising budget to match (seriously, has a synth been on the side of every bus in the country?). It’s good to see the cast again – particularly Gemma Chan’s uncanny Anita/Mia, with the poise and grace of a robotic ballerina.
Mind you, what with Westworld and all, we do seem to have a lot of androids running around and pretending to be alive right now, don’t we? Although while Humans obviously can’t compete with Westworld’s phenomenal budgets and beautiful Monument Valley views, it has at least broadened its horizons this series and headed to Berlin, which is a nice change (albeit one that’s seemingly over too soon).
Theme-wise, both shows do have a lot in common. Do these synthetic creations have the right to demand our sympathy, empathy, even love? We already know the answer in the case of Humans, as we’ve seen the bond between Leo and Mia (it doesn’t feel weird to hear him call her his “sister”, does it?), and every time Max gives one of his beatific smiles, you feel as though you never want to see him hurt again. It’s also lovely seeing synths coming to life around the world, smiling when they see the sunlight, as in Ten’s case, or wandering away from work to look at birds. And when Astrid seems to be falling in love with Niska without even twigging that she’s been sleeping with a machine – well, nothing’s black and white in this universe.
You can’t help noticing, however, that for a series opener this should have been a lot more zingy. Sure, the cliffhanger is pretty cool – it’ll be fascinating to see what kind of trial Niska gets now she’s handed herself in, although we feel duty-bound to point out that Star Trek: The Next Generation did this back in 1989 with “The Measure Of A Man”, so this concept is hardly fresh. But the skirmish with Leo, Hester and the people hunting them seems strangely low-key, and while the scenes with the Hawkins family are pleasant enough (Joe playing with his peas to make Sophie laugh is sweet, for instance), they hardly thrill. Even the introduction of the new American characters seems pretty standard: big-name star Carrie-Anne Moss can probably do “icy scientist” in her sleep. And it seems as though that’s just what she’s doing here – what a dull character she is so far.
Hopefully things will improve as they go on, but for now we can say that while it’s good to see these guys again, they’d better do something exciting soon.
- It’s a cheeky touch to have a German character insult a British one, then bring in a huge plot point about synths (aka “foreign workers”) stealing human (aka “British”) jobs. And all this was filmed in April, before the EU referendum. Life imitating art and all that.
- Really enjoyed Josie Lawrence’s counsellor putting on an Edinburgh accent and making her clients laugh. Personally we’d have gone for Somerset as the most soothing dialect, though… you may beg to differ!
- Hester says to Leo, “But you’re human.” Ten replies, “Nobody’s perfect.” He’s got a sense of humour, that one!
- Loved him wanting to be called Radiator.
- But soon he becomes… a leaky radiator. (Sorry.)
- Niska still manages to look otherworldly even as she’s trying to be human, and why didn’t Astrid see through the old “sticking plaster on the charging port” trick? Plus, why else would a grown woman not own a bed?
- You have to wonder why the synths who work in factories are attractive with perfect hair. If they’re just expendable shift-workers who regularly wear out and get injured, surely they wouldn’t have to be quite so realistically human? Hester’s hair in particular is beautifully coiffed.
- Loving the body language between these two here. You’d never think they were having marriage counselling, would you? Ahem. (And it’s also nice that by episode’s end they’re snuggled up in bed together, having been united by the bad news about Joe’s job.)
- Best Quote: Astrid: “You’re not from here. Kind of unfriendly and rude. British?”
Reviewed by Jayne Nelson