ALMOST HUMAN 1.12 ‘Beholder’
Episode Title: "Beholder"
Writers: Chris Downey & Joe Henderson
Director: Fred Toye
Previously on "Almost Human":
In theory, “Almost Human” is either a serialized futuristic police thriller or a sci-fi police procedural drama. Unfortunately, “Almost Human” doesn’t do a very good job of being either of those two things, nor does it work as a blend.
“Almost Human” has terrific leads with Karl Urban and Michael Ealy as John Kennex and Dorian. But they are surrounded by flat, cardboard characters and big sci-fi ideas that never quite live up to their potential. Much like “Disrupt,” the setup for “Beholder” is much better than the execution. A heavily scarred man named Eric is killing beautiful people so he can use nanotech to recreate their features on his soon-to-be perfect face. Along the way, Eric kills a chrome, one of the genetically engineered superior humans that exist as a class unto themselves. And Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) just happens to be one of them.
There have been so many chances to flesh out Stahl as someone more than just John’s love interest, but “Almost Human” has squandered every opportunity. Stahl gets another chance here, as the only cop who can enter an exclusive chrome club and navigate the chrome politics. However, the chromes seem more like traditional 1 percenters than something new and unique to this future world. The chromes introduced in this episode have even blander personalities than Stahl herself, if that’s possible.
One of the chromes, Jake, warms to Stahl and he seems to be her new love interest just at the point that John finally works up his nerve to ask Stahl out. It’s completely contrived and it’s another example of the forced attempts to make the audience care about John and Stahl as a potential couple. When even the melodrama doesn’t work as melodrama, there’s a huge problem within a show.
Which isn’t to say that there weren’t occasionally fun moments in the episode. Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook) was hilariously put out by the thought that a serial killer is targeting beautiful people and he wasn’t given a specific warning from his friends in the police department. Poor Rudy seems to be somewhat delusional about his physical appearance, but it’s very amusing. Dorian also gets a lot of comedic mileage out of defining John’s personal and physical flaws.
The central idea behind this episode was very strong. Using nanobots to perform cosmetic surgery under the skin is an intriguing notion. It was also cleverly turned into a future crime by making the process fatal for the unwilling donors. However, Eric’s plan to beautify himself starts to fall apart once we know what he wants: a woman named Judy, who lives in a nearby building (and apparently she never closes her shades).
Screenwriters Chris Downey and Joe Henderson pull out a twist worthy of Twilight Zone fan fiction when we learn that Eric went through with his murderous plans for nothing. Judy is blind and she already liked him for who he was… or at least, who he presented himself to be. I found that aspect to be pretty hacky, but Downey and Henderson almost pulled it off in the final confrontation between John and Eric. Because Eric would rather die than continue living without love, he throws himself off of the building. And because he’s feeling particularly unloved after Stahl goes out on her date, John seems to empathize with Eric’s plight by the end of the episode.
"Beholder" is a very strange choice for the penultimate episode of the first season. It’s not particularly strong and it doesn’t do a good job of winding things up for next week’s season finale. We can’t even blame this on Fox’s decision to air the episodes out of order. Apparently, the creative team chose “Beholder” to be the twelfth episode. And that was a very poor decision.
It’s no secret that “Almost Human” has lost half of its audience from the series premiere and it is definitely on the bubble for next season. Episodes like “Beholder” are not helping “Almost Human” make its case for a second season. I really enjoy watching John and Dorian bounce off of each other and the world that they live in is intriguing. But after 12 episodes, “Almost Human” seems to be regressing in quality rather than finding itself.
There are so many loose ends that the “Almost Human” writing team doesn’t seem to care about. The syndicate storyline and John’s criminal ex-fiancée have almost completely disappeared from the narrative, while Dr. Nigel Vaughn’s theft of the synthetic souls and Dorian’s hacked memories are practically screaming for any kind of resolution. Next week’s season finale of “Almost Human” has a tall order. Somehow, it has to bring the season to a meaningful conclusion while enticing fans with the prospect of where the show could go in a second season. If it can’t do that, then “Almost Human” may not get another chance.