Almost Human: Beholder review

When a bandaged criminal makes the mistake of murdering one of the genetic elite, the Almost Human team goes into action.

In the immortal words of Johnny Rotten, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” We were promised that Almost Human, after a season of airing almost entirely out of sequence, would air its final three episodes in the proper order. While FOX is true to their promise, you would think that this would imply that these final three episodes of Almost Human season one would carry some weight when watched in sequence. That doesn’t appear to be the case, as there’s little of dramatic consequence in “Beholder.” This is particularly unfortunate when you consider that this is the second to last episode of season 1, and potentially the second to last episode of Almost Human we’ll ever see. There will be some spoilers, so read on with care.

A creepy, bandaged home invader has been killing folks…but nobody puts the fact that they have a serial killer on their hands until he kills a “chrome,” one of the Almost Human world’s genetically perfect citizens. “Chromes” don’t die of natural causes (this guy’s weapon of choice is designed to make it look like they died of natural causes), and suddenly, the case is linked to the mysterious and sudden deaths of seven other citizens. The only apparent connection? They’re all attractive. Perhaps you can see where this is going. 

There’s a hint of Sam Raimi’s Darkman about the proceedings here, as a deformed, bandaged man is putting himself through painful procedures in his run down hideout. “Beholder” is good fun (for most of it), and a fairly well-paced little piece of television. Minka Kelly’s Detective Stahl gets a little something to do, as the notoriously secretive (and stuck up) chrome community doesn’t want “regular folks” to know that one of their own was murdered…and they don’t understand why a chrome would want to be a police officer. Unfortunately, Stahl provides the viewer with no real answers, but I suppose it’s nice to know that with one episode left in the season, the writers are at least paying lip service to the idea that this character might have a story to tell (sigh).

In fact, what “Beholder” does dangle the tantalizing hint of, is just how much of a class divide there is on Almost Human. There are absolutely genetic haves and have-nots, and the “haves” are going to be considerably more successful, thereby perpetuating even greater material divides. You think there’s a 1% and lack of class mobility now? Imagine when the wealthiest can make absolutely certain that their children are genetically superior, and their success becomes practically predetermined. Hell, Almost Human could probably build an entire season around this premise were they so inclined. In fact, that sounds like a much more interesting pitch for a show: a broken down cop with a cybernetic leg and an outdated android partner protect and serve a genetic elite that distrusts and looks down on them. This isn’t the kind of thing you introduce and dismiss in a single episode.

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The central tech of the episode, a plastic surgery program gone horribly wrong that actually performs these surgeries from the inside via nanobots, may not be the deepest well, but it gets the job done. The villain, obsessed with his idea of perfection, is continually recreating his face for…his own purposes (who is this guy, Michael Jackson?). His unwilling accomplice is a doctor he has blackmailed. Even the necessary prep for each surgery (a shot of synthetic adrenaline) comes in handy in the expected fashion. Sometimes these simple tropes work, and they do here…until they go and ruin it.

What was otherwise a well-paced, fun, comic book adventure style episode all comes crashing down with a finish that we all should have seen coming a mile away, just based on the episode’s title. Is it bad enough that the villain of the week was doing it all to impress a woman? Yes. Is it any better that the big dramatic twist is that (gasp!) she’s blind? No. Not at all. In fact, let’s never speak of this again. After teasing us along with an episode that really delved into the larger world of Almost Human, an episode that finally did a little (the bare minimum, really…something that should have done much earlier in the season) character work on Detective Stahl, this is the ending they saddle us with?

What’s worse…what happened to the mysterious implanted memories in Dorian that seemed so ominous last week? What about Rudy and Dorian’s friendship from his deactivated days? What about John Larroquette’s character who went over “the wall” (which got its first mention since that episode)? If this is indeed the episode that was intended to be watched right after “Disrupt” it sure does everything in its power to ignore it. 

That had better be one hell of a finale, next week.

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2.5 out of 5