Tuesday, June 07, 2016
TV Tuesday: Humans
This brilliant joint project between American AMC and British Channel 4 is an engrossing sci fi series with a great cast. The show is set in London in the present or near future in a world where robots have become so advanced, they are almost impossible to tell apart from humans. These Synthetics or Synths have become an integral part of human life, working at manual jobs, in people's homes as servants, and even working as prostitutes.
In the first episode, we meet a normal suburban family who has just gotten their first Synth. Husband Joe is exhausted by wrangling the three kids and the house while his wife, Laura, works as a lawyer with frequent trips out of town. So, one day on a whim, he buys a Synth to help around the house. They name her Anita, and she is an instant hit with adorable little Sophie. Teenaged Toby is taken with her as well but for entirely different reasons, as he quickly develops a crush on the beautiful feminine Synth. Teen daughter Mattie, though, who is a very skilled computer programmer, is distrustful of the Synth. Worst of all, when Laura returns from her business trip, she is furious that Joe made this decision without her, a bit creeped out to have a Synth in the house, and soon also quite jealous at the way her family comes to depend on Anita.
Meanwhile, we see glimpses into other lives nearby, both Synth and human. George, an elderly man (played by William Hurt), has memory problems and relies on his equally-aging (and malfunctioning) Synth, Odi. The Health Service wants to replace Odi, but he has become like a part of the family to George. We see a pair of police officers who are tasked with investigating any crimes related to Synths (which are rare), and one of them goes home to a handsome Synth physical therapist in his house who is helping his wife recover from a car accident. Most intriguingly, we are introduced to a young man named Leo who seems to have a sort of family made up of Synths that are unlike the typical ones. He refers to a Synth named Max and another named Fred as his brothers, and in the first episode, visits a prostitute Synth named Niska, promising that he is trying to break her out. These unusual Synths that Leo knows seem to be more human-like, even able to feel pain.
Believe it or not, most of that is all packed into the first episode or so! There is a lot going on here, but it all comes together, with surprises and plot twists around every corner. Humans works on two different levels. It's a fast-paced, action-packed sci fi tale about the Synths themselves, their development, and whether or not they might be a danger to humans in some way. At the same time, though, the show also has a more thoughtful, emotional side. It focuses on how the Synths interact with humans (like how George relies on Odi or Laura is jealous of Anita) as well as the relationships between humans. In addition, woven throughout are intriguing moral questions about the Synths and the ways they are used by humans, especially as we get to know those in Leo's family who seem to be conscious. It's a compelling and intricate story with many layers that kept us watching every night until we'd finished the first season!
Season 2 of Humans is in production now and due out in 2016 in the UK and 2017 in the US (uh-oh, we may have to re-watch season 1 for a third time!). Season 1 is currently available for free on Amazon Prime. Watching the trailer makes me want to watch the whole season again now!