ALMOST HUMAN 1.13 ‘Straw Man’
Episode Title: "Straw Man"
Writers: Alison Schapker & Graham Roland
Director: Sam Hill
Previously on "Almost Human":
Coming into the season finale of “Almost Human,” I wondered how the show would handle the previously laid out subplots involving the syndicate, John’s evil ex-fiancée, Dr. Nigel Vaughn (John Larroquette) and his stolen synthetic souls or even the apparent hack of Dorian’s mind in only a single hour.
Apparently the solution was to not even try to address the dangling plotlines. In a truly audacious move, “Almost Human” jettisoned all of its subplots in favor of a bland serial killer of the week story. And this was the season finale?!
The best analogy I can come up with relates to the part of this episode where Dorian (Michael Ealy) pretended to be an MX model android because he thought that’s what the review board wanted to see. “Almost Human” the show is doing the same thing. Somewhere along the way, the decision was made that there would be no serialized storytelling on this show. Instead, the “Almost Human” creative team presented the show as if it was always going to be a light sci-fi police procedural without any real continuity between the episodes. And it became what it pretended to be.
“Almost Human” is a comedy. It works on that level, because John Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian have amazingly funny interplay. The scene in the car where John relates all of Dorian’s missteps as a cop was a great callback and very amusing. Likewise, the scene at the very end of the episode in which John and Dorian bonded once again was fantastic. Together, John and Dorian were magic.
"Straw Man" wasn’t the worst episode of the season, but it was far from the strongest. For a season finale, it felt odd. Almost as if this should have been a midseason episode. There’s no sense that this was the biggest or the most compelling case of the season. It’s simply the one at the end.
The personal connection with John was well played, as the apparent return of the Straw Man serial killer was directly tied to the last case of John’s late father, Detective Edward Kennex (John Diehl). For the first time this season, we learn that John’s father was killed while under suspicion of being a dirty cop. That does seem like something that should have come up before, but a lot of the elements on this show have always felt like the writers were making it up as they went along. Was the Wall even mentioned before the time that we saw Dr. Vaughn make his escape a few episodes ago?
The only interesting aspects of the Straw Man killer, Glen Dunbar (Shaun Smyth) were his methods for hiding his real crimes and the reveal of his cyborg nature. Beyond that, Glen didn’t have much of a personality or a real sense of menace; which made it hard to take him seriously as the villain.
“Straw Man” also manages to drop one more plotline that will probably never be resolved: the murder of John’s father at the hands of dirty cops. If “Almost Human” had even tried to do deal with half of its leftover plot points then this could have been a worthy episode to go out on. Instead, it was just disappointing.
I’ve now reached the point where I don’t care if “Almost Human” is canceled or not. After 13 episodes, “Almost Human” has completely squandered its potential and it may not get another chance. The ratings have not been very strong and its chances for renewal aren’t very high. Back in the fall, I would have picked “Almost Human” as the breakout hit over “Sleepy Hollow.” But even in its most insane episodes, “Sleepy Hollow” always felt like it was going somewhere and it actually delivered a very memorable finale. “Almost Human” couldn’t even match that.
Barring a major creative retooling of this show, I think it’s time to take “Almost Human” offline. This unit is hopelessly defective.