Almost Human: The Bends, review

A dangerous drug called The Bends is about to flood the streets, so Almost Human's resident police technician has to go undercover to help sort things out.

So far, Almost Human has done a fine job of disguising the fact that it’s little more than a police procedural in extraordinarily slick, science fiction clothing. “The Bends” is the first episode where the seams show a little bit too clearly. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t entertaining, but there were definitely more problems on display here than in previous episodes. So what’s up with “The Bends?” Read on…We open in what almost appears to be right where the previous episode, “Are You Receiving” left off. After all, John and Dorian were going out for noodles after the success of last week’s mission, and here we find them in one of John’s favorite joints chowing down. Alright, only John is chowing down, as Dorian is quick to remind him (and the audience) that he doesn’t eat. We get some of the trademark ribbing between John and Dorian, and, as usual, Dorian gets the better of John. Who ever thought that Karl Urban would be the “straight man” in the comedy element of a buddy cop series? Yet, here we are!We’re quickly brought into the meat of the episode with a high-powered drug deal going down, involving a tremendous amount of a powerful, luminescent green drug known as “The Bends.” The Jesse Pinkman-esque potential dealer/cook is meeting with a potential distributor, known as “The Bishop” before it’s revealed (in gruesome fashion) that the young fella is wearing a wire, and therefore an undercover cop…or is he?When Kennex gets wind of this, it’s revealed that he and the deceased were pals at the police academy, making this one personal. But the suspicion is that he was a cop gone rogue, who got too deep into his undercover operation and was simply operating on his own. After all, his wire didn’t appear to be transmitting to anybody at police headquarters.The solution is to send someone with a serious knowledge of science to infiltrate the Bishop’s network, since he’s looking for someone that can prepare enough of “the bends” to flood the streets with the highly addictive compound. Which, of course, brings us to the show’s resident tech expert, Rudy Lom. Mackenzie Crook’s Rudy Lom hasn’t had much to do in the early episodes of Almost Human, so this started off as a rather welcome way to showcase him a little bit. However, the almost sinister, mad scientist vibe we’ve occasionally gotten off him in other episodes is eschewed for a more comedic, timid, characterization as he’s briefed for a serious (and quite dangerous) undercover operation. Nevertheless, he’s fun to watch, but in an episode that was supposed to really flesh him out, I found myself disappointed in the route they took.This is pretty much where things go off the rails. There’s nothing about “The Bends” that isn’t terribly predictable, and its plot could have come straight out of any number of police procedurals. This certainly isn’t the first time that Almost Human has gone to that well, but it was particularly blatant here, and it’s the first time that the show didn’t add anything new to the equation. For example, “Skin” despite all of its vice squad trappings, handled the sci-fi procedural tightrope much better with its undertones of alienation and subtle hints of racism and classism, which brought out the best in a tricky character like Dorian. “The Bends” on the other hand, comes off as nothing more than a cop show with some crazy tech.Even much of Kennex and Dorian’s banter was a bit canned, and after seeing them warm up to each other considerably in “Are You Receiving” this felt like an unexplained step backwards. What, was John mad about the slug the whole time? C’mon. Even John’s moment with his dead friend’s wife, meant perhaps to showcase how lonely he is, seemed like a rehash of what we saw at the end of “Skin.” Throw in a “twist” that was blatantly obvious from the minute some of these characters were introduced and, well…not even a quality robot decapitation could make up for it.Almost Human continues to dazzle the viewer with moments of brilliance and its absolutely top-notch cast. “The Bends” is its first major misstep, and even then, it was a fun piece of television. But considering that it isn’t the most original show out there, and continues to lean heavily on various sci-fi, action film, and police show tropes, it may have to stretch a little further in order to really distinguish itself.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


2.5 out of 5