In Almost Human’s (Tuesday, 9pm, Watch) shimmering, tech-loaded vision of 2048, crime rates have spiralled beyond control due to an optimistically rapid advancement in science and technology. To combat this, every human detective must be paired with an rigidly logical android: half PDA, half annoying companion; they’re basically iPhones with faces.
In keeping with this Blade Runner vibe, the sci-fi crime series centres on a misanthropic cop with a taste for takeaway noodles. Future cop John Kennex (Karl Urban) returns to the police force two years after having a limb blown off and his partner killed in a botched raid. Now with a synthetic leg, Detective Grumpy-Pants is partnered with Dorian (Michael Ealy), an older model android previously decommissioned for having emotion-control issues. They sound perfect for each other, no?
Incompatible cops who gradually form an unexpected friendship and sentient robots questioning what is means to be human are both well-worn clichés in need of an upgrade. Almost Human’s twist is that Dorian is actually the more emotionally mature of the two, archly dishing out life lessons to a touchy Kennex, who is so desperate to be alone he literally throws his first partner under a bus.
Their forced alliance is the show’s key asset, Dorian possessing a wry placidity that wonderfully dove-tails with Kennex’s constant griping. The scenes where they patrol the streets in their police cruiser (which, incidentally, looks like a baby Bat-Tumbler) are punctuated by a sharp wit that pierces through the more po-faced aspects of a sci-fi show that seeks to hold a mirror to modern day issues.
Aside from the obvious Blade Runner and I-Robot influences, Almost Human also throws more than a touch of Luther into the mix, particularly where future crime is concerned. Like the Idris Elba-starring British series, this has a nightmarish, almost comic book style to its plots that makes it fundamentally dark and scary.
The series so far has featured a cyber-criminal who straps bombs to his victims and films their demise for online viewers, an organ-donation extortion racket based around a mechanical heart with a built-in kill switch, and a terrorist organization that uses face-projection technology to conduct million dollar heists with the promise of even more disturbing storylines to come.
Combine these inventive, clever crime plots with the higher tolerance for violence that sci-fi shows somehow get away with, and it’s no surprise Almost Human is more exciting than your average cop show.
It’s far from perfect, the glitzy future-scape can’t help but look tawdry on a TV budget when a toned-down vision would’ve lent more credence to the near-future setting, and the typical procedural aspect of a criminal investigation – gathering evidence, pursuing false leads – are treated as more of an annoying obligation than a meaningful addition to the plot. The writer’s, however, seem to be keenly aware of the show’s failings and keep these elements to a minimum.
The only real disappointment is that Almost Human has not been renewed for a second season. The upshot is that, on current form, the show looks destined to join the canon of one-season wonders, which includes Firefly, Freaks and Geeks and The Fades. Moreover, lasting only one season means it cannot betray your investment in it, a fate that befell The Following, which had similar ratings to Almost Human yet was still renewed, as it struggled to replicate its earlier form in season two.
There are still five episodes of this brightly coloured, inventive and surprisingly scary show left to go before it comes to a premature end. Make sure you catch it while you still can.
Click here to watch the trailer for Almost Human