This review contains spoilers.
When Joe chose Waltringham, he thought he was choosing safety. His motives were short-sighted but benign. What he didn’t grasp until he stared down at the broken body of a woman murdered by a violent mob, was that his vote to turn the back the clock made him him complicit in that violence. Joe may not have chosen Waltringham because he hated Synths, but his choice shored up the confidence of those that did and gave them implicit consent to act. Joe read the town’s leaflet and saw comfort and good sense. Now he looks at Karen’s corpse and sees Waltringham’s horror.
Joe discovering Karen’s body was a sombre end to an episode that had crackled with tension. So much rested on the Dryden Commission visit that the episode drew in its breath from the moment that bus pulled up outside the rail yard, and held it until the Commission drove away.
Had the minds of those inside the bus truly been changed by what they’d seen? Neha and Laura saw reason to celebrate, and that photo op handshake looked promising, but there was a sense of foreboding even in Lord Dryden’s comment about being pleased with the visit. If the Dryden Commission’s unstated goal is to find an excuse to unleash Basewood—whatever that is—on Synths, then it witnessing first-hand the Synth ability to produce sophisticated ‘devices’ could backfire. History teaches that Dryden need only produce a sexed-up dossier claiming that Synth weapons of mass destruction could reach us in forty-five minutes, and Basewood is theirs.
Perhaps the guilt of knowing that Laura was right about the Commission being a sham to cover a foregone conclusion was the reason Neil went so devastatingly cold on her after they had sex. When Laura asked him whether he now believed Synths deserved equal rights, he seemed to choose his words carefully. He praised her for seeing Synth humanity before everyone else, and then the two of them gave in to their mutual attraction. Ever the academic though, is Neil really off the fence?
Laura’s distress at Neil’s coldness was just one sad moment of many this week. Agnes’ terrified requests to be let out of her case on Day Zero were more. Mia’s rough treatment at the hands of the mob that’s taken up residence around her peaceful experiment was another. Niska’s pain at Astrid’s disapproval of her revenge tactics was yet another.
But saddest of all was Karen’s self-sacrifice for Sam. Did she, like Niska captured by the terrorist Synth, override her core programming to put herself in danger and save her ersatz son, or was it a loophole? Either way, the whole thing played out with sickening inevitability and was every bit as upsetting as it should have been. Until now, Karen and Sam’s story has given series three warm-hearted comedy. This episode converted all that warmth into sobering tragedy.
With the hope that Joe, Karen and Sam might become a new family now dashed, Joe has to protect Sam from suffering Karen’s fate. If the Hawkins family—robot adultery aside—knows anything, it knows the right moral course to take. And if Joe doesn’t realise that yet, then his kids can always teach him.
Mattie’s strong moral code almost led to her own self-sacrifice this week, before Leo stopped her. The international investigation has massively narrowed its focus to London, but at least Mattie didn’t have one more life on her already-laden conscience.
Speaking of guilty consciences, Mia’s reunion with Ed was a satisfying one. After the ugliness of Mia’s treatment by the baying mob, their scenes provided some peace, quietly sad as they were. In Ed’s remote Scottish island dream, Mia was also offered a possible happy ending should her acceptance plan work. How often though, can Synths keep reaching out a hand to humans, only to have it met with violence?
The outstretched hand has become a motif in Humans series three. Max spoke of reaching out a figurative hand to humans, Flash did so literally before she was beaten to death. Mia was surprised when, after being knocked to the ground, her outstretched hand was taken by Ed. Max’s outstretched hand was first refused, then accepted while the cameras were flashing, by Lord Dryden.
The hand we’ll remember this episode for though, is Karen’s. Held up and bleeding, to draw Waltringham’s fire and protect her child. “I’ve got you,” she told Sam, “run”. If the Dryden Commission wants proof of Synth humanity, she’s it.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.