This review contains spoilers.
Green Eyes, steer clear. Orange Eyes, go near?
Not if your Orange Eyes is Stanley, because then your guaranteed 100% safe bodyguard might turn out to be less Kevin Costner, more T-1000. Humans this week opened and closed on shots of Laura Hawkins’ personal protection Synth, whose received instruction from Anatole to “kill them all” at 2pm tomorrow provided episode five’s cliff-hanger.
Kill who all? The Dryden Commission, presumably, as that’s likely to be where Laura and Stanley are at the appointed time. (The only people in bed at 2pm being nightshift workers and kids blagging a day off school, the relevance of Stanley being granted access to the Hawkins’ bedrooms is not yet clear.)
Is Stanley a Green Eyes in disguise? Could he be the “the Synth that sleeps”? Was Anatole just speaking figuratively in ‘knock ‘em dead’ stylee? Perhaps, maybe, and don’t be silly. When the world’s eyes are on Mia’s address to the Dryden Commission, it looks as though there’s going to be an attack.
This episode was a mix of sweet moments and frustrating developments. Characters kept stating the obvious, while the twists were either so unexpected as to make no apparent sense (Anatole suddenly deciding to stand against Max), so easy to see coming that it was maddening those involved didn’t also spot them (Mattie’s new thirty-something coding pal magically turning up the day after she exonerated Vijay), or so contrived that they jogged you out of the story (Leo’s hide-and-seek memory sending him on a side mission back to his childhood home).
It was as if, instead of its plots naturally building as they have done so far, series three needed to be completely reconfigured in preparation for its second half, so this episode grabbed it and forcibly moulded it to fit the requirements of whatever’s coming next.
That includes Leo’s journey to discover whatever it was his father was hurriedly writing in that flashback. Since he awoke from his coma, Leo’s story has been distinct from the main plot. He was Ariel the mermaid, trying out his new legs, or Pinocchio the wooden puppet, now a real boy but unsure what that meant. The parallels between him and little Sam, both of whom lost their doppelganger mothers in traumatic ways as children, were clear to anybody paying attention without the need for Leo to tell Sam “you and me, we’re more alike than you think.”
It wasn’t all thud and clunk. Mia’s encounter with Iris and Dorian broadened the world of Synth-Human relations. Little Sam’s sad, sweet story also had lovely touches, not least his encounter with the widower at the graveside. The comedy of young Billy Jenkins leaning forward in a wide-eyed conpsiratorial whisper “He was speaking to the ground, Joe” was one such. Jenkins and the talented Pixie Davies both gave strong, well-directed performances, carrying off their two-hander scenes with impressive maturity.
Yet more comedy came from Joe’s first encounter with Neil Sommer, who’s an entirely unwelcome presence in “curtain-twitcher” Joe’s life. Tom Goodman-Hill and Mark Bonnar gave us some real laughs undercut by real feeling.
Real feeling was missing from Anatole’s perplexing shift. Until now, he’s been a stalwart in Max’s camp, offering empathetic counsel and support. Why the decision to reopen the gates following Mia and Laura’s progress would convince Anatole that Max was an unfit leader is hard to fathom. Only last week, Anatole disarmed Agnes. Now, he’s sending her on a mission of his own?
By the end of episode five, everyone was left in danger. Mattie’s crimes are on the brink of discovery by an undercover journo, Max has been betrayed by his closest confidant, Leo’s off to uncover a dangerous secret (perhaps his path will cross with that of Niska, who was entirely absent this episode), while the rest of them face assassination from the Synth who folds their laundry. Even if this was a mixed instalment, it bowed out on high stakes that make next week’s hour a must-see.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.