ALMOST HUMAN 1.10 ‘Perception’
Episode Title: "Perception"
Writer: Sarah Goldfinger
Director: Mimi Leder
One of the things that’s driven me up a wall about “Almost Human” is Fox’s decision to air the episodes in random order as opposed to their intended order. Once I knew that, I couldn’t forget it. So every out of place episode makes the flaws of “Almost Human” even more apparent and frustrating.
The biggest flaw is still the fact that no one but John Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) come off as fully realized characters. “Perception” (originally produced as the fourth episode of the season) was a golden opportunity to develop Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) into someone interesting. Up until now, Valerie has been so personality free that she could probably out-android Dorian.
And maybe there’s a reason that Valerie seems so lifeless. “Perception” reveals that Valerie is a Chrome; which is a genetically enhanced human designed to have limitless potential. On the face of it, that’s an intriguing idea and I kept waiting for this to give Valerie something meaningful to do. Instead, Valerie did nothing at all. She didn’t even play a significant role in solving this case. She was just there. Even The Asshole, aka Detective Richard Paul (Michael Irby) contributed more to the resolution than Valerie did!
The set up for the episode wasn’t bad. Two young girls died simultaneously while under the influence of a mind-expanding drug that was genetically coded for them. So far, so good. Both girls were Chromes who attended an elite school for their peers and a few “lucky” normal humans. The problem is that none of the Chromes came off as anything more than entitled rich kids. Considering that the Chromes are supposedly the pinnacle of artificially enhanced human achievement, it was disappointing that they never truly seemed special at all.
This is not the fault of the “Almost Human” creative team, but it seems a little late in the season to be revealing that Valerie is openly a Chrome. Obviously, this was originally intended to come out much sooner. But Valerie hasn’t come off as an overachiever or anything special in the previous nine episodes; which makes it seem like her Chrome status was largely downplayed or forgotten. Imagine making Dorian an android who never does incredible things with his computer mind or his cybernetic body. That would have been a huge mistake. So why choose this origin for Valerie and then completely ignore it?
It didn’t help that the mystery of what happened to the dead Chrome girls just wasn’t very compelling. The only really engaging part of the episode was John’s dangerous attempts to jog his memory about Anna (Mekia Cox), the Syndicate operative who was sent to infiltrate his life and spy on him. We even got to see The Recollectionist (Hiro Kanagawa) again as John got desperate for results.
John’s efforts to remember did manage to find something useful, as it turns out that Anna still had a way to keep tabs on him. Despite Anna’s absence from a large chunk of this season, my guess is that she’ll show up in the flesh near the end of the season. “Almost Human” needs to get some closure for John so it can move on to other storylines. But because John is a well defined character, I’m actually invested in seeing him catch her. As it is, the episode’s most powerful moment comes when John notices a parallel between himself and the episode’s killer… which drives John towards making a change in his life. It was a little obvious, but still effective.
I still really like the partnership and interplay between John and Dorian, but this was easily one of the weakest installments of the series to date. Given time, I still think that “Almost Human” can be something special. Maybe not “Fringe,” but certainly something worthwhile. However, I’m dismayed that the series has wasted a good deal of its first season with unimaginative cases and an incredibly undeveloped supporting cast. I want more than this from a J.H. Wyman show.