This review contains spoilers.
1.7 More In Heaven And Earth; 1.8: Incursion
In this week’s double episode, Molly becomes a mama to be reckoned with (though she needs to work on her catchphrases), John is hit harder than ever before with the implications of playing God, and… well, all kinds of stuff. Episodes seven and eight, I presume, were meant to be aired in separate weeks, but presented together, they were a lot to deal with. Not that that’s a bad thing – we were treated to probably the greatest amount of reveals to date, not to mention a staggering amount of “what have we done?” Let’s dive in.
Really, I think it’s Katie Sparks’s ghost (for lack of a better term) that weaves the discrete stories of this week’s two hours together, a reminder of the consequences of the type of decision each character is on the verge of making. Her tragic end, obviously, most acutely affects her father – though Alan Sparks’s complicity directly led to her death. He is a haunted man, one for whom we want to have some shred of empathy, but his behavior is, to say the least, confusing. While his interactions with his visions of Katie are pitiful, it’s hard to gather too much pity before being reminded of just how diabolical a plot he’s committed to, and just how unfeelingly he is indeed committed to it.
Sparks’s one-time friend Molly, having been devastatingly altered by what she now knows was his direct command, finally snaps into Mama Bear mode this week. She knows Sparks has “her” baby (the question of whether she’s actually its mother is a repeated discussion), and nothing is going to stop her from finding him. Oh, by the way – the baby is a him, and he’s affectionately known to the ISEA conspirators as The Offspring. Now armed with the footage of Katie on the doomed Aruna, she just needs proof that the baby’s still alive.
Halle Berry has been a little hit or miss in her portrayal of Molly, and I’m wavering on my opinion of her performance here. I love how Molly – along with Kern and Kryger, but more on them later – has gone complete rogue. The whole “no risk, no reward” thing, which I assume is supposed to be her “get to tha choppa!” or “allons-y!” or (insert motivating pop culture battle cry here), definitely felt forced and just this side of camp. (I’m pretty sure camp is the last intention of the writers, unfortunately, though I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of it intentionally in such an unhinged story and setting.) Dialing it down a bit would probably be a good choice, though, to match the undeniable drama.
In any case, the adventures of the delightful trio of Woods, Kryger, and Kern was hands down my favorite part this week. I’ve made no secret of my unabashed affection for Harmon Kryger (Brad Beyer), and I’m a sucker for a brooding antihero, so Gordon Kern (Maury Sterling) piqued my interest even when it appeared he was just Sparks’s minion. The two precariously joining forces to protect Molly and help her find the baby, especially after the whole Kryger-captive-in-Kern’s-basement thing, felt like a present just for me. These three loose cannons each have their own motivations (and reservations, in the case of Harmon, whose reasoning as to why he didn’t want to rescue the baby was LOL-worthy), but access to the baby chamber just might only be possible through their combined efforts.
We leave Kern in a dangerous position, his betrayal having been discovered by Sparks but having helped breach the security long enough for Kryger and Molly to get to the room where the baby has been hidden. Unfortunately for Molly, Kryger is not the help she’d hoped for, and even if he were, the baby has disappeared, replaced by an unlucky dead scientist.
Molly’s other “baby,” Ethan, meanwhile, is inexplicably showing signs of development that are more than her husband, his creator John, bargained for. He can speak Japanese, ride a bike expertly the first time he gets on it, wake up on his own despite having a programmed sleep cycle, and act like a typical defiant human brat when he doesn’t want to do what his dad tells him to. Problem is, he’s not a typical human kid, he’s a humanich, and none of this is consistent with his programming.
While not-so-subtle hints at a possible rise of the machines plot have been thrown about since episode one, this week’s two episodes bring it to fruition more explicitly than ever before. Once a wide-eyed idealist, John is just now, it seems, truly stricken by the serious implications of what he’s created. Goran Višnjić takes the character into full-on panic mode (even letting his accent slip a bit for the first time in a few weeks!) trying to make the loaded decision of whether to limit Ethan’s development and betray all of his work and beliefs up to now or to stay true to his original mission and risk greater consequences than he will be able to control.
This arc is really solid; though it echoes many a sci-fi and movie plot all the way back to Frankenstein and beyond, the dilemma of following through with a life’s work, having it possibly go horribly wrong, and what wretched decision to have to make in its wake is never not relevant. That the life’s work in this case takes the form of an apparently well-meaning little boy who is essentially John’s son just ups the stakes. The twist here is that the choice is taken out of John’s hands – he’s locked out of Ethan’s controls, ostensibly by Ethan himself.
However, besides one brief Kubrickian glance at the camera at the end of hour, Ethan seems to be genuinely struggling with it all. He faces situations that all schoolkids do – being talked about, being bullied, wanting to explore and test boundaries – but with abilities that other schoolkids don’t have. He can push back with the powers of a humanich, sure, but he’s not completely ready to reconcile the urges and emotions and confusions of a child. Told that an obsolete sweeper bot can’t be fixed because it no longer has a function, he asks, “what’s my function?” As Julie later tells John, that’s about as human as it gets.
Speaking of Julie, her distance from John is becoming wider, and her relationship with Odin is becoming closer. Perhaps distracted by her hurt feelings after John’s accusation that she was the one who cut off Ethan’s access, or maybe just by Odin’s dreaminess, she doesn’t seem to notice that Odin is taking unusual interest in her work with Ethan and Humanichs. This is a very crucial blind spot, as it’s revealed that Odin is the charismatic leader of a group of anti-machine zealots (including Femi Dodd!) determined to bring on a violent “reckoning”, starting with Ethan.
As the ethics surrounding Katie and the Aruna crew’s deaths are reflected in just about every story being told here, it’s appropriate that we end with a cryptic message from the lady herself to her father: “Dad, he needs our help.” Who does? My bet would be The Offspring – especially given the plans Yasumoto has for him – but things don’t look great for Ethan, either. In the meantime, The Offspring is missing but seemingly trying to communicate through Molly, Kern is MIA, Kryger has shown some true colors, Julie and Odin are about to have a babysitting sleepover, and John has gone after Molly despite her wishes. Next week, which will be another double feature, has a lot of following up to do. I hope it’s not too much for our neural nets.
Read Holly’s review of the previous episode, Nightmares, here.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.