This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
It was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop. It would never leave him. It would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine was the only one that measured up.
The psychiatrist’s assessment of Sophie Hawkins’ synth obsession carried a rather large flavour of Sarah Connor’s consideration of a relentless killing machine’s capacity for caring parenthood. ‘They are perfect, kind, gentle versions of adults’ he offered reassuringly. ‘Boundaries have been blurred’. It’s an obvious point in retrospect, particularly at this midway stage in a season which has explored the capability of synths to engage in complicated, emotionally contingent tasks. All the more sinister then, that it should also be juxtaposed with the revelation that, contrary to their core programming, synths have the ability to operate independently of their human controllers (their ‘forgetting’ to cc in a human being when they email one another was a clever and ironically human touch), and to cause home to biological humans.
The examination of the reaction of children to synths helped to place this episode as a companion piece to last week’s, which explored the relationship of synths to the world. Here we were presented with the flip side of that test and prompted to look more closely at the relationship of the world to synths. Of course Joe would take the gag money to buy his silence of the manner of his redundancy, he’s less interested in overcoming the injustice of being marked for the scrapheap by a robot than in simply having the facts confirmed. It’s a neat inversion of the expected relationship, with synth minds selecting him, and several other air-breathing humans, for discontinuation. From Joe’s immediate point of view, it was immaterial whether he was made redundant because of the conspiring of synths or an equally cold human calculation across a spreadsheet. It doesn’t change his position on an individual level, even if it has more frightening implications in aggregate.
It is through this reversed lens that we saw Mia’s relationship with Ed. Although there was still a sense of her feeling her way through their odd situation (telling her lover that she ‘enjoys the proximity’, was an algorithmic-scented sweet nothing) we were more focused, at least initially, on how Ed could introduce her to his very human existence. ‘You’d need to pretend to be my owner’, offered Mia helpfully. Ed, to his credit, managed the awkwardness perfectly. Still, there was something of the ‘better than human’ in Mia’s connection with his dementia-suffering mum. Her illness gives her a childlike quality and there were strong parallels with Sophie’s reaction to the synths and Mia’s everlasting patience.
Of course, not every synth can make the perfect companion, as the poor heartbroken Astrid may testify. Her appearance at Niska’s test was a necessary component, not only of the examination itself, but of Humans’ focus on both sides of the person/synth relationship. Naturally, it was the human response that made the strongest case for synth personhood, a kind of sexual Turing test. Astrid was utterly convinced that Niska was ‘real’ and that the feelings that she, Astrid, had were genuine. This, however, was not a test of how well Niska could convince other people but of the subjective feelings that she is able to feel. She failed the test. There will be no trial, at least for now. The synth invader and his determination to prevent Laura from following up her case suggests that a pass or fail is ultimately irrelevant when persons (or things) unknown seem so eager to halt the trial in any case.
The human-side view extended to Pete and Karen too. Pete revealed that his enthusiasm for following the Seraphim lead was personal in nature, reasoning that ‘if conscious synths are a thing’, Karen would no longer have to hide. That the obviously conscious Karen may herself be a strong lead in the case doesn’t appear to have occurred to him and he continued to pursue the black market lead, to his own cost. It was a major clue that the dodgy buyers realised that his offer was counterfeit as soon as he started to describe his merchandise, ‘standard domestic model, female, 5 foot ten inches’, lending credence to the theory that the real seraphim models resemble children.
Children, perhaps, like Renie. It’s entirely possible that if the psychiatrist did group discounts for families, he’d conclude that Toby’s early adolescent experience with Mia is what prompted him to pursue a friendship with Renie despite the boy’s obvious difficulties in making a connection. Still, pursue her he does and even manages to succeed in making her laugh. She immediately corrects herself, but the facade has been broken. The precise nature of that facade is yet to be determined.
That, though, is also true for human beings. The odd goings-on at Ed’s cafe seemed to suggest that he is not all he seems either and his obvious (perhaps a little too obvious) financial problems may press a little more heavily on his mind than do any kind of feelings for Mia. It may be a little too convenient that Milo Khoury is in the UK and pressing ahead with his project to transfer consciousness and that Athena has need of test subjects. Milo’s childhood sob story didn’t really generate any sympathy and seemed far too rehearsed. It’s just another facade and more evidence that, human or otherwise, nobody’s perfect.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode here.