It’s 2048, and crime is at an all-time high. In order to protect and serve, cops are paired with android partners as they wage war against the criminal underworld, using an assortment of other highly advanced technologies. Or, at least, this is the future pre sented in Almost Human, a new sci-fi series from the mind of Fringe veteran J.H. Wyman.
The pilot opens as Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) awakens from a 17-month coma induced by a mission gone wrong that blew off his leg and killed his partner. As the cop gets back into action, he is grudgingly assigned an artificially intel ligent companion to replace his former partner; all the while he has visions of his ex-girlfriend and struggles to get rid of them.
Although he expresses his opposition to his boss, Captain Sandra Maldo nado (Lili Taylor), Kennex is nonetheless paired with Dorian (Michael Ealy), an android to whom he refers as a “synthetic”. Though the newer androids are entirely robotic and can only un derstand things in terms of logic, Dorian is an older ver sion, possessing more human qualities such as the ability to think and feel.
However, in order to com bat a crime syndicate that has infiltrated the force, Ken nex and Dorian must break through the barriers between them.
Like many other shows in this golden age of television, Almost Human demonstrates the medium’s potential for top-notch storytelling. Hav ing collaborated on this series with fan-favorite and Execu tive Producer J.J. Abrams, Wyman has created a show that’s both fresh and compel ling in its execution.
Though the pilot contains no shortage of action-packed sequences and sophisticated special ef fects, Wyman doesn’t allow these elements to override the story. Draw ing from his experience with Fringe and merging it with classics such as Blade Run ner, his work here is a unique culmination of both science fiction and film noir. Kennex is a nostalgic, hard-boiled detective —much like Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, who views the androids as abominations.
As viewers watch Kennex and Dorian’s relationship de velop, we see that this is not merely a conceptually driven series, but also one based on the characters it follows. The chemistry between Urban and Ealy makes every scene with them thoroughly enjoy able. And with Urban famous among sci-fi fans as a result of his roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new Star Trek movies, his presence is no doubt another highlight of the premiere’s success.
Whether this duo is search ing for gangsters in their hideouts or simply convers ing with one another back in their car, the meticulous characterization displayed is clearly a driving force behind this show.
And what a treat it is to watch the action scenes play out. From the nicely com posed sound effects to stir ring visuals, Wyman and Abrams show what happens when big budgets and vast resources are put to good use.
In conjunction with the nicely stylized fight sequenc es, the show also displays a precise amount of detail in terms of the futuristic society that it takes place in. Some of my favorite moments in the episode are the establish ing shots of the cityscapes and suburbs, which are both carefully constructed and brilliantly executed, thanks to the pilot’s director Brad Anderson (The Call). Don’t watch this on your iPhone or tablet, as you won’t be able to experience the cinematic pre sentation of these images.
If anything, the antagonists could be better developed, but there’s certainly room for that in the coming episodes. Though we know little about the crime organization at this point, who knows how many seasons Wyman will have to explore that territory.
Despite ABC being the network that also airs the highly disappointing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it makes up for that mistake by deliver ing a much more original and thoroughly entertaining sci-fi drama. If you’re looking for something besides reality TV and high-quality storytelling, I suggest giving Almost Hu man a shot. Almost Human airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m.on FOX.