This review contains spoilers.
When asked at the press launch who the main villain of Humans series three was, the cast and creators colluded to keep their secret. “If there’s a villain in this piece, it’s division,” said writer Jon Brackley, obliquely. “I think the villain is the situation,” nodded Tom Goodman-Hill.
The surprise they were keeping from us is that the villain of series three is not only division or the situation—it’s Anatole. Loving, supportive Anatole (Ukweli Roach), always ready with a kind word and a beatific smile, has been coldly plotting rebellion against Max and the humans all along. We should have seen it coming. Nobody with a homemade shrine made of pictures cut out from magazines is ever up to any good.
Episode six introduced us to Anatole as the Batman villain he really is. Flanked by goons, he subjected Laura to a twisted game designed to cleave Stanley and Sam from their new human family, and it worked. In a harrowing scene, Laura chose a human life over a Synth life, proving Anatole’s argument that his kind will never be considered equal.
Synths may no longer think in binary, but Anatole does. As the originator of his David Elster-based religion, his beliefs are fundamentalist by nature: Day Zero was divinely ordained and the future belongs to Synths. It’s theirs for the taking.
Not Agnes’ future, of course, nor Stanley’s had he followed through on Anatole’s murder rampage plan (using what else but a Stanley knife). Nor the futures of the Synths who will doubtless die in retribution for the second bomb, or as a result of Basewood. But that’s fundamentalist terrorists for you—empathy isn’t their strong suit.
Betrayal was a theme of the episode. As Laura discovered her betrayal by Stanley, Max discovered his by Anatole, and Niska hers by the junker posing as a devotee of Attis, ‘the Synth Who Sleeps’. The kicks came one after the other, only momentarily leavened by the familial warmth of the scenes in which the Hawkins built Sam’s trampoline.
Mattie is yet to discover her betrayal by ‘Audrey’, who’s on the brink of identifying Leo as David Elster’s long-dead son. This week turned Leo into Frankenstein’s creature, sadly reading the diary of his regretful creator. Will he find something else in that notebook, something that, as he hoped, could change everything?
(Mattie’s pregnancy, incidentally, feels as though it could be a built-in plot escape hatch for increasingly in-demand actor Colin Morgan, whose storyline has been only incidental to the main plot this year. Were Leo to die in the next couple of episodes, his child could still live on.)
Niska too, is getting closer in her search for something else that could change everything—the Synth Who Sleeps. Her adventures this week should lead her to discover just who is in that cabin in the Welsh mountains: Fred/David Elster/Lord Lucan?
It was a difficult but engaging watch, episode six, full of well-managed ticking-clock tension and heartbreak. We’d barely recovered from Karen’s murder when we were presented with our human hero Laura at her lowest point. Guilty, traumatised and resented by her family, Laura walked out of her house. Will she be able to live with her decision?
Laura wasn’t the only cause for sorrow. Stanley’s moral struggle and Agnes’ earnest plea to the human who’d just racially abused her to run and save herself were also hard to watch. Anatole had radicalised them both with his violent mantra, taking away their individual voices and replacing them with his own.
By showing Stanley and Agnes’ inner struggles, Humans contributed to its overall series three goal of building empathy between those on opposing sides of a battle. Stanley and Agnes’ actions weren’t excused, but effort was made to understand how they’d reached their regretful decisions.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.