Almost Human season 1 finale review: Straw Man

Review Billy Grifter 5 Mar 2014 - 09:45

The last Almost Human of the season provides a fond farewell rather than any platform for the future...

This review contains spoilers.

1.13 Straw Man

The path to get through Almost Human season one has been far from smooth at times. It’s like they’d made Kennex’s artificial leg a little longer than the real one. This isn’t strange for a new series; the creative people behind the show try to judge what’s working, what’s not, and how best to move forward. 

From the pilot it was obvious Almost Human had a major success with the combination of Karl Urban and Michael Ealy. It just gelled, and every scene they had together lit up the screen. The issue, and it didn’t really take long to emerge, is what to surround that strong character relationship with.

That’s what Straw Man massively underlined. Having got through a thirteen episode season, they’re still not sure how to support their main characters with a major narrative and gripping plotline. In fact, most people would have been shocked in retrospect how little of the pilot's central plot was accessed during the season, and it wasn’t mentioned at all in this story. That’s been put aside, so has the history of the DRN series, and so has ‘The Wall’, and Chromes.

That left Straw Man as another standalone story that did nothing in terms of creating any sort of expectations about a second season, or the future possibilities. Why?

Before I answer that, I should say that as a story, this wasn’t a bad one, even if the conclusion went somewhat woolly around the point of resolution. Homeless people are being abducted, and their bodies turn up filled with, oddly, straw. The man who originally committed these crimes is in jail. Where you don’t age it appears, from the picture in his record from ten years previously. This detective story was nicely threaded with a subplot about Dorian being evaluated, and his obvious concern about the implications should he not perform well.

I sat patiently waiting for this to have any connection to the greater plot lines that we’ve been presented over the season, and it never came. Instead Minka Kelly got the intern's job again. Richard returned after being AWOL for four stories, so they could make him out to be much nicer person than he’s appeared so far. Lili Taylor is still barking out her lines as Captain Sandra Maldonado like she’s reading the contents of a cake mix, and Mackenzie Crook (Rudy) has regressed to playing the character he was once in The Office. They could all be great in this, but they’re not writing them that way, or not consistently.

What was really telling was the end scene where Dorian tells John that he’s passed his assessment, and gives him a new enhanced leg in thanks. The overtones of Blade Runner, always somewhere in each episode, boiled to the surface. It’s all set at a noodle bar somewhere in a neon-lit street. They get an alert and head off into the night to fight crime, arm in arm, in leg.

If you didn’t get the huge hint, that wasn’t the way to end a season, it was the way to conclude the show without making for an untidy exit. The writers wrote this story so that when they get told the show isn’t coming back (as they may have already), then they won’t get bombarded by fans demanding to know how the cliff-hanger would be resolved, and asking for them to continue until it is.

Officially, Fox haven’t decided yet if the show will come back or not, but I took the contents of Straw Man as the clearest indication that it won’t. That, in my very humble opinion, would be a big mistake, because when this show works, it’s great. And, even when it doesn’t, it’s still generally entertaining. When I compare it to utter dross like Revolution, Almost Human has much greater credibility, and I’d like to see it and the characters and narrative develop further.

I could be wrong, and Kennex and Dorian might grace our screens again in the fall, but somehow I wouldn’t bet on it. Fox, may your sexbot malfunction disastrously!

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, Beholder, here.

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