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.

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.

Disqus - noscript

Almost Human is quite frankly the most entertaining of the various shows I'm watching.

Which unfortunately means Fox will probably cancel it :(

although a decent ep it didn't have the feel of a season finale at all. will be really sad if this gets canned with such a limp last show.

I sometimes felt the show didn't really know what it wanted to be at the end of the day.

If it wanted to be a case-of-the-week procedural. Blade Runner meets CSI, or whatever, then great. The two leads had great chemistry and it would have been enjoyable enough popcorn television.

If it wanted to have a bigger arc, that's fine too, and there was the glimmerings of one with the mention of the Wall, the guy zipping over it with some stolen Synthetic Souls, etc. It felt like they were afraid to actually get too deep into it with the cancellation Sword of Damocles hanging over their head. Maybe if they'd been brave enough, it would have drawn more viewers in.

This leads to two of my biggest gripes with TV;

1) The network interfered at the beginning, making the shows be broadcast out of order, which damaged the build in the two lead characters. One week, best pals, the next week acting like they've only just met. It was jarring and that sort of thing could turn people off as the show feels inconsistent.

2) When you have a stylised show like this, you have to let it breathe. A 13-ep first season is not enough to let them press on with making the show all it could be. At the very least give them 22 eps, or tell them they've got two 13-ep seasons to make it work or THEN they'll be cancelled, in which case fair enough.

I know quite a few people now that won't actually get into new shows until they've been renewed for a second season, as they don't want to get drawn in only to be frustrated (again) when a good show gets canned. It's for this reason that I've not watched any Helix, for example, and didn't touch Breaking Bad until it was 3 seasons in. I've still not got over losing Sarah Connor, goddamit!

I have to say I love this show. Yeah, it has some unanswered narrative plots, but I'd be really sad if this show was cancelled..

PLEASE FOX DON'T DO IT!!!!

Do yourself a favor. NEVER watch Helix! It is even worse than Revolution.

I enjoyed this show a lot. My only issues with it were pretty much highlighted in this review. There seemed to be a lot of good ideas floating around (the emotional robo-crisis, the wall, chromes, the creator of the robots that went over the wall) and I was waiting for a series arc to kick in building on at least one of these but it never did. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the episodes, but it's a shame they didn't try to tell a larger story over the season considering all the potential. I wonder whether if the uncertainty of the American way of commissioning more/fewer episodes of shows while they're in the process of making them (and the fact that they showed some episodes out of order) meant they didn't want to plan an arc they wouldn't get to see through. I'd really like a season two that has an overarching season narrative.

I got three episodes into Helix and then gave up. The characters are all unbelievably dislikeable (even the 'heroes') and the acting feels like they're all pretty much phoning it in.

I'm reserving judgement on the actual plot as 3 eps isn't enough for that to develop, but the performances turned me off. Felt like I was watching a student am-dram at times, and the CGI is laughably bad (see the Helicopter in the first ep, for example).

Odd, I'm still watching Revolution and lost interest in Robocop meets A.I. (Almost Human) after the third episode.

Love the show - agree with the review. Where can I write FOX to say DON"T DO IT!

Has it even aired in the UK?

well this was supposed to get another 9 episodes for the back end of the season but fox told wyman no. my guess is that this was written as the mid-season finale. that works. end of season finale, not so much. i'm still pretty hopeful of a second season. ratings haven't been sky high but reviews have mostly been pretty good.

I watched the first 5 minutes of the 1st episode and turned it off, but thanks for the warning; i shall never go back to it

I watch many shows and Almost Human is one of the best. Please Fox, keep it on. I am able to PVR the Blacklist and given a choice, "A H" comes out on top. The Voice, just another show of 3 minutes of singing with 10 minutes of yapping about it.

Fox have just announced renewals for Brooklyn nine nine, the Mindy project and the following. Doesn't look good for almost human

It'll be a shame if AH isn't renewed. Sure, it hasn't entirely found it's feet yet but it's always been very watchable, largely thanks to it's two leads, alongside excellent comic support from Crook.

In an ideal world, we'll get a season 2 with a bit more focus on one core arc, whilst maintaining the procedural aspects. The only thing it needs is to bring Stahl a little more front and centre.

Your story would make a lot more sense if the episodes were supposed to be seen in the order that we saw them in. Fox in their genius level minds that the shows should be seen in the wrong order instead of the way they should have been causing the timeline and character development to seem off. So we have a Firefly scenario where the show is a lot better when taken in this context its just another Fubar set up by the Fox Company

To me it feels like Almost Human was planned out for a 20 episodes 1st season but when they only got 13, they decided to ended as they did, avoid cliff and have 7 episodes of the 2nd season planed out.

The characters being unlikable is the least of its problems. The fact that they didn't have a story to fill 13 episode is the biggest problem.

You know, I'm not surprised AH is on the cancel list - it's a half-decent show with huge long term potential - long term being the problem. I knew it wouldn't last as soon as I realised I liked it. Happens every time. As if Fox isn't willing to actually put effort into a show that isn't stupid-funny or the worst kind of reality show. Just waiting now for a Fox Exec to make the usual statement - that scifi just isn't popular enough/at all to bother with a whole show.

Sponsored Links