ALMOST HUMAN 1.11 ‘Disrupt’
Episode Title: "Disrupt"
Writer: Sarah Goldfinger
Director: Thomas Yatsko
Previously on "Almost Human":
As far as setups go, “Disrupt” had perhaps the best one of the season. At their home, a wealthy couple named Michael and Linda Bennett are harassed by constant threats. Suddenly, their personal security system/personal assistant, S.A.M. (Matthew Kevin Anderson) turns against them. And moments later, Michael and Linda are dead.
Anderson was an outstanding guest star as S.A.M., as he had perhaps the most eerily inhuman performance of the episode outside of Minka Kelly’s Detective Valerie Stahl. Seriously, for someone who is supposed to be a functioning human being, Stahl is alarmingly robot-like.
But that’s been “Almost Human’s” problem from the very beginning. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his android partner, Dorian (Michael Ealy) are amazingly fun to watch. Everyone else on the show, not so much.
Strangely, The Asshole aka Detective Richard Paul (Michael Irby) is missing from this episode, but his absence is used to feed a running gag that ultimately goes nowhere and fails to deliver any real moments of comedy. It simply putters out when Captain Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor) learns that John has been falsely spreading rumors that Paul was undergoing some painfully embarrassing medical procedures. It’s such a waste of time that it’s amazing that the entire thing wasn’t cut from the episode.
The other primary subplot of the episode dealt with Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook) discovering some memories in Dorian’s mind that didn’t belong there. And it was amusing to see the very invasive way that Rudy accessed Dorian’s mind and body while he was recharging. It turns out that Rudy wasn’t just being a creep. He has legitimate cause for concern, as Dorian begins experiencing the memory flashes in the present that suggest he was a child. Or at least, Dorian is holding a child’s memories in his computer brain.
Crazy theory time: remember Synthetic Soul? It’s the innovative computer program/process that makes Dorian and the DRN models seem like they could be human. What if there’s nothing synthetic about those souls? What if the MIA Dr. Nigel Vaughn (John Larroquette) found a way to harvest real souls for his androids? That might explain why Vaughn went through so much trouble to retrieve the Synthetic Souls during the Danica crisis two episodes ago.
Rudy’s theory is that someone has hacked into Dorian’s mind for unknown reasons. That’s very interesting. Very promising. And it’s way, way too late in the season to be introducing this idea. There are only two episodes left this year and that’s far too little time for a subplot like this to play out in a meaningful way.
The entire angle seems like something that was added to the “Almost Human” storyline as an afterthought. It was a terrific revelation that Rudy had been using Dorian as his surrogate friend before he was recommissioned to be John’s partner, but that also felt tacked on. If the audience had been privy to that information sooner, it would have added resonance to the scene where Dorian moved in with Rudy a few episodes back. This was also the first episode that really dealt with Dorian’s new living arrangements; which is perhaps another casualty of Fox’s decision to air the episodes out of order.
Getting back to the case of the week, the murderous actions of S.A.M. are traced back to the accidental death of Aaron, a young hacker who was shot and killed one year earlier by the same automated security system. For the first half of the episode, the investigation moves at a steady clip and it featured a great visual of Los Angeles suffering a coordinated blackout in tribute to Aaron, courtesy of a superhacker named Nico (Reece Thompson).
To draw out Nico, John and Stahl doned some hilariously awful undercover disguises (pictured above) and got access to Nico by trading on Rudy’s hacker cred. Nico turns out to be willing to help the future cops find the real killer in return for a deal. I actually liked Nico as the helpful hacker, but everything was too easy for him. It didn’t seem like a challenge when Nico guided John and Dorian through a building controlled by another hacker and several android versions of S.A.M. who were running around.
Unfortunately, “Disrupt” pulls the real killer out of left field, with the introduction of Emily Wilson (Laine MacNeil), Aaron’s secret girlfriend who wanted revenge for his death. That killed the momentum of the primary storyline for a simple reason: the audience had no idea who Emily was until she showed up and she was suddenly declared to be the killer. Without any setup or a proper introduction, Emily’s actions had no emotional resonance and that story seemed hollow.
On the plus side, we did get to see an android vs. android fight when Dorian took on S.A.M. and the holographic images of John was also a clever touch that should be used again. I love it when “Almost Human” uses the future tech to enhance the action. Now, if only it could enhance the story and the characters as well.