In just the opening minutes of “Blood Brothers,” Almost Human managed to show off a good chunk of what makes it stand out from the pack. It’s all about the world the show creates, and a veritable bombardment of sci-fi technology that makes the viewer want to live in that world. Something as simple as giving us a glimpse of the “barracks” where the android police officers “sleep” (and apparently shower) is enough to make me want to dig deeper into Almost Human‘s setting, even if the rest of the episode didn’t quite measure up.
And speaking of “measuring up” (see what I did there?), the now-obligatory opening bit of comedy involving Kennix and Dorian involved what I believe is our first official set of sci-fi dick jokes of the season. You see, these first few minutes also played a little bit on an exchange from an earlier episode, where Dorian took John to task for his lateness. So when Dorian is late to report (he’s down in the, ummmm…robot shower), Kennix gets concerned and goes to look for him. And what does one encounter in a locker room, but naked men! In this case, a naked MX-Unit sans towel, who, as you might imagine, is basically a normal adult male, except…well…a six foot “Ken doll.” Yeah. It’s disturbing. As it turns out, Dorian’s designer was more “considerate,” and he’s more than happy to prove it to John. Slash-fic writers, you may start your engines!
If it seems like I’m spending more time on this intro than strictly necessary, that’s because the rest of the episode is a fairly unremarkable, time-honored police procedural plot, with the usual Almost Human science fiction elements thrown in to make things interesting. A suspected murderer (who happens to be a clean-cut philanthropist) is on trial for the murder of a prominent doctor and the only witnesses are in protective custody and testifying via remote hologram. A gunman finds their safehouse and wipes one of ’em out (along with a couple of guards), all while the accused is sitting smugly in court, where Captain Maldonado is forced to admit that there was no physical evidence linking this man to the original murder.
The surviving witness happens to be a psychic medium (“on a good day, I’m a petite medium” she quips), who can speak to “the other side” via contact with objects. While the expected jokes at her expense are made courtesy of Detective Kennix, Dorian is more understanding. And in the world of Almost Human, even psychics seem to have a plausible explanation. The young lady has undergone a procedure which allows individuals to use more of their brain, thereby activating (in theory) certain extrasensory abilities. However, she doesn’t need extrasensory abilities to know that the man who killed her fellow witness (and tried to kill her) was the same man supposedly sitting in court. Uh-oh.
So, for the rest of the episode, Kennix and Dorian are protecting this woman, who makes for another fun way to poke at Kennix’s general crankiness. As the clues begin to pile up, it’s clear (from the title, really) that this is the work of clones. It’s WHY these clones are doing what they do that makes things somewhat compelling, and ultimately, their shared arrogance helps bring them all down. So, we can check the “protect the important murder witness” box on the list of cop show plots that Almost Human has updated and move on.
Oh, don’t worry, “Blood Brothers” has its moments, notably two terrific gun battles, plenty of humor, some actual character development for Captain Maldonado and a hint that we might see some more from Detective Stahl. It’s a start! The flip in the expected dynamic, where the seemingly logical “machine” is actually empathetic and receptive to the ideas that might drive someone to crave psychic abilities or believe that they can communicate with the dead was fun, but in this case it might have been more interesting if the cynical, hardboiled Kennix turned out to be the superstitious one. A minor nitpick, I’ll admit, as Karl Urban and Michael Ealy are a great duo, and either one can make magic happen in a scene.
Here’s the thing, “Blood Brothers” is fine television. But it’s not great television. And in order for Almost Human to survive, we’re going to need something more than these warmed-over cop show plots from time to time. There’s only so much goodwill that flashy visuals, a brilliant cast, and even very good sound design will earn you from audiences currently getting spoiled by cable drama after cable drama, especially as the genre show bracket is looking to get increasingly crowded between now and 2015. I want Almost Human to succeed, and all the pieces are in place for greatness, but it may need to up the ante a little.