The year is 2048. Evolving technologies can no longer be regulated. Dangerous advancements forever alter the criminal landscape. Police are not prepared. Law enforcement combats this corruption with a new line of defense... but not all are created equal.
Almost Human is a sci-fiprocedural that aired on Fox.In the year 2048, horrifically high crime rates brought on by uncontrolled technological progress have led to every human police officer being assigned an android partner for safety, record keeping, and making sure they adhere to procedure. After almost two years in a coma after walking into an ambush that got the rest of his squad killed by the criminal organization InSyndicate, Detective John Kennex is brought back onto the force to investigate attacks similar to the one which took out his team.The only problem is that due to the coldly pragmatic actions of the androids during the ambush, Kennex hates all synthetics. The chief assigns him an MX anyway. It "accidentally" gets thrown into highway traffic.But rules are rules, so Kennex needs a new android partner. The only one left is DRN "Dorian," a decommissioned model designed to be as human as possible—removed from service due to being too emotional and hard to control. Kennex is surprised to find himself forming a bond with Dorian, and the two work together to take down the dangerous criminal organization InSyndicate.Almost Human follows the week-to-week missions of John and Dorian, as they fight crime across this futuristic landscape, while the mysteries surrounding John's attack and the larger mythology of this new world unfold. As of April 29th, 2014, Fox has canceled the show, and Season 1, unfortunately, is its last.You can find the recap page here, which is a work in progress.
This Series Contains Examples of:
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted, it isn't. So far, no evil android has been introduced, and even if that is going to happen one day (which isn't that unlikely), the androids encountered so far are actually pretty helpful. Most of them may be soulless automatons that aren't even strictly bound by the Three Laws Of Robotics, but nevertheless aren't actively malevolent or (unintentionally) hurtful. More like your average personal computer, but with somewhat of a brain. Even the 'criminal' android The Bishop uses is less actively malevolent and more an obedient partner much like MXs.
And then the XRN "Danica" was revealed. That said... she was probably intentionally built to be malevolent, to an extent. And she was still only following orders from her creator, demonstrating less sentience than her 'brother' Dorian.
Androids and Detectives: The basic premise. Apparently enforced In-Universe; when Kennex wants a human partner, he's told this isn't allowed (whether this is the law or his particular department's policy isn't made clear)
Androids Are People, Too: Depending on the android. MXes are basically treated as the good-guy equivalent of Mecha-Mooks, and when John shoots one in the head because it was annoying him, he just gets an official reprimand for drawing his gun when there wasn't a threat.
Arms Dealer: A minor enemy the LAPD faced off in "You Are Here".
Awesomeness by Analysis: Dorian can tell that a suspect shot himself in the leg just by looking at the medical records for a few seconds.
Backup Bluff: The victim in the fourth episode tries after getting caught wearing a subcutaneous wire, but the drug dealer doesn't fall for it.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: In episode 5 the MX models are shown as literally this in the crotch area, complete with doll hip joints. John references this when he says he can't get the image of a life-sized Ken doll out of his head.
John: Wait, you're a robot. What do you do with it? Dorian: Probably the same thing you do with yours—nothing.
Be Careful What You Wish For: John wanted to remember more about the ambush and recalled that his ex-girlfriend was part of it. The creators of the human-like androids wanted their creations to be as human as possible but forgot that human beings are emotional, unpredictable and if subjected to stress can have breakdowns.
Dorian wanted a residence outside of the MXes' recharging bay, so Kennex arranged for him to move in with Rudy.
The Beautiful Elite: Chromes, people genetically engineered from birth for beauty, intelligence and perfect health. The procedures are so expensive that only the wealthy can afford them in the first place, ensuring that they have a leg up over everyone else in every respect.
Biggus Dickus: Dorian possesses one, apparently, judging by John's reaction (subverted in that he hasn't "used it").
Bio-Augmentation: Genetically-enhanced children are referred to as "Chrome". Valerie Stahl is a chrome, though she tries to downplay it most of the time.
Richard: Yeah, well, my parents didn't have the money to make me taller. Or pretty. Valerie: Even if you were genetically enhanced, Richard, you would only be a taller jerk.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dr. Vaughn poses as a kindly old man haunted by his last creation, the XRN, going on a rampage... until it turns out that he programmed her to do that, and engineered her current rampage in order to steal his research back from under the police's noses.
Brick Joke: When Dorian and John first met, Dorian recommends olive oil for his (prosthetic) knee that bothers him. In a later episode, John tries it and it actually works.
Brutal Honesty: Dorian says to John's face that one of his reasons for being concerned about him is because without John, Dorian would be re-purposed for something else or, worse, deactivated, and Dorian wants to be a cop (and not dead). Ironically, this is one statement of many that slowly changes John's opinion of Dorian.
But Not Too Black: Both Dorian and the ex-girlfriend. Of course, it's likely that Dorian is played by Michael Ealy because he looks unusual.
Catch Phrase: Dorian - especially when he's being snarky or subtly upset with humans - tends to use the phrase 'man' but disguising it as casual banter.
Cop Killer: In the pilot InSyndicate assassinates Detective Vogel of the LAPD using a biological WMD with another officer killed with the same weapon during their attack on their precinct. This becomes a sub-plot a few episodes later.
Cut Apart: In episode "Skin", Dorian, Kennex and team begin searching Yuri's nightclub which is where they believe the "skin lab" is located. Simultaneously we see Yuri, his henchman and the doctors in the "skin lab" packing up their gear in a panic. After kicking in the last door, the police realize they are in the wrong place.
Deceased Parents Are the Best: John's father was also a cop. In episode 3, John tells a story about him and his father going ice fishing. When John slipped through the ice is father, of course, saved him.
In the same episode John mentions that his middle name was due to his father being fond of Elton John.
Maldonado: Last time you were around chromes, you went to the target range for three hours. Poor targets didn't know what hit 'em.
Die Hard on an X: The third episode's plot is nothing less than the fabled "Die Hard in an Office Building", complete with the terrorists actually pulling a heist and manipulating standard police tactics to disable security systems.
Fear of this is a major reason why Captain Maldonado wants John back on the force; with regard to InSyndicate, he's pretty much the only person she knows isn't working for them, since they nearly killed him.
The future's police force seems to have a fairly serious corruption problem. In "The Bends," the victim is proved innocent, but "The Bishop" turns out to be Police Captain Barros.
Disaster Dominoes: Episode 6 has one featuring two cars, a fire hydrant, a police drone, an MX, and a third car, all triggered by a DRN.
The pressures and tragedies of being police officers had great impact on the emotional DRNs and many couldn't cope.
At least one "natural" who took the Fantastic Drug Vero couldn't cope and killed herself.
A man desperate to impress the girl he has an internet relationship with had been using an experimental Nano Machine plastic surgery treatment that had the side effect of killing whoever he got DNA from. He ends up jumping from a building in front of John after finding out the woman is blind, making his efforts meaningless.
Do Androids Dream?: A big reason for the DRNs' decommissioning from police work was that DRNs were programmed to be as close to human as possible. A large part of the show Dorian's struggle is to be recognised as a person by the people around him. Dorian obviously displays all human-like tendencies, like fearing death, wanting to working as police and so on. It's revealed in "Unbound" that the reason the DRNs were decommissioned was because some of them couldn't cope with emotions and ended up taking their own lives.
One serial killer targets bankers and televises their blackmail & deaths via internet chatroom complete with comments very similar to what you'd find in an actual chat room, particularly one populated by Occupy supporters ("He deserves it!" "All bankers deserve to die!" "Wait for a crowd for more collateral damage!").
Anonymous gets a lookalike in Disrupt, a protest group who performs the same Internet Counterattack protests that Anonymous performs. Subverted in that the real killer is a lone hacker out for revenge for personal reasons, not the actual Disrupt group. The situation that sets them off also bears some resemblance to the Trayvon Martin shooting (a paranoid security system fatally guns down a probably-harmless teenager, leading to "Justice for Aaron" protests) invoked
Easter Egg: There are tiny toy robots that appear in various locations throughout an episode. It takes a screen cap to spot them all.
Evil Counterpart: Danica to Dorian. Dorian even worries that he may become like her.
Expy: Your mileage may vary, but to Asimov fans, this series has a few shades of Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw in the characters of John Kennex (dislikes robots on general principle) and Dorian (a robot with near-human abilities). Dorian even has the Asimovian tradition in his name, being an expansion of his model line's initials DRN.
"The Bends". Overdosing is apparently just as painful as the real-world effects of "the bends" due to failure to observe precautions when ascending from deep waters.
"Membliss", a small red pill that helps the taker open memory clusters to help the user remember past events they may have forgotten subconsciously.
"Vero", a rare synthetic that can be tailored to the DNA of a particular recipient, and which can enable the user to see, almost in real time, complex chemical formulas, equations, and mathematical data about anything they look at. It apparently also enables the user to predict the maximum likelihood path of a conversation.
Fantastic Racism: Androids aren't considered people. In the case of the MX units, that's not an unfair assessment, but Dorian is more human than most of the actual humans on the show.
John physically and verbally makes it know that he is not fond of the MX Units.
First episode has him pushing one out of a moving vehicle.
In Episode 8, he shoots an MX point blank. His reason that it 'wouldn't shut up', though Dorian teases that he shot it because it insulted him[Dorian].
Paul appears to have an issue with androids, however, the temperament towards his own is questionable.
He has been shown yelling at his MX unit and even ordering it to do mundane tasks.
In Episode 7, Paul appointed himself as 'Energy Marshal' and rationed out much of the energy charging to the MXs units, leaving Dorian to function at only half capacity. Dorian's lack of energy resulted in him having mood swings.
He addresses Dorian as "bot" in Episode 8.
That said, in "You Are Here", he gets upset when John shoots his MX in the face. While he may not think of them as living, that he kind of gets attached to his MX in a Companion Cube sort of way is evident. Only he gets to abuse his MX.
Captain Maldonado on the other hand is suggested to think of androids as living beings but stuck in the position where she can't actively say so.
Note, too, that while the creator of Dorian and Danica uses gendered pronouns to refer to them, Kennex specifically uses "it" to refer to Danica. Not suprising, considering how many people it slaughtered. However, when he later goes to comfort Dorian, he switches to "she" for his sake.
IRCs are there to preform human-like tasks and intimacy expressions for their assigned clients, however, they are just property of whomever created or owns them. And John's approach to questioning one during an interrogation was less than stellar.
Fantastic Slurs: Dorian does not appreciate John calling him a "synthetic". But on the flip side, Dorian will use and/or emphasize 'man' when he is taking a jab at humans, though he'll use it in such a way as to sound like he's speaking casually.
Bang Bots or Sex Machines as oppose to its more formal title of Intimate Robot Companions.
Flashback: Prominent in episode 1 and 10. John endures painful flashes when visiting a recollectionist.
Foil: Dorian and John for each other. John is a person who has been desensitized and dehumanized due to the extreme violence and evil he has witnessed. Dorian is an artificial being who has been humanized and sensitized by those same things.
Foreign Queasine: Dorian gets annoyed at John's excuse that they have to wait for him to finish eating because it would be rude to the Japanese chef to leave without finishing the meal, so he orders him what looks like a whistling, metallic slug.
Generation Xerox: John's father, Edward, was also a police officer and a detective.
Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: So far, the Black Khmers is a Cambodian gang that specializes in biotech while the Albanian mob is involved in the illegal sexbot market.
Dorian's line was designed to be as human as possible, including emotions. It worked perfectly. As it turns out, humans are prone to psychotic breaks if you treat them like machines.
Also like humans, only a handful have the temperament and emotional stability necessary for police work. Not a good thing for a line custom-built for police work.
The XRN robots were designed to be physically and tactically superior to the MXs, posses the intuitive intelligence of the DRNs and not be crippled by the DRNs emotional and "conscience" issues. All those features worked perfectly but the prototype also developed a psychopathic personality and at the first opportunity went on an One-Man Army killing rampage.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: John is brutal with their captured criminal, and Dorian is the one that is worried about the guy's civil rights.
Groin Attack: In "Disrupt," Detective Paul is said to have suffered an infected piercing in his penis which was bad enough to require surgery. Ouch.It's not actually true, just a story invented by Kennex.
I Cannot Self-Terminate: Aversion discussed (but not in the way of a Discussed Trope) when John tells Dorian that many early DRNs took their own lives because they couldn't handle the stresses of being cops.
The XRN, Danica, states that her sacrifice was necessary.
In-Series Nickname: John and Dorian have spouted a few during their car banters, particularly episode 7.
John (by Dorian): Sergeant Whiskers, Mr. Friendly; White Cheetah, during his youth.
Dorian (by John): Coffee Warmer, Disco Face, Benedict Android, Mr. Happy, Happy Toaster, "D"
Richard (by John / Dorian): Paulie, Little Man, Captain Energy
Irony: In "Beholder" the serial killer is targeting people based on their looks in order to upgrade his own. He's doing so to woo a woman he's been talking with online, only to discover that she's blind and loved him for his personality.
The Juggernaut: Danica the XRN is portrayed as this. She's borderline unstoppable in combat, can shrug off nearly everything hurled at her, and manages to effortlessly overpower both Kennex and Dorian in a fistfight despite being outnumber and outgunned. It takes a high power grenade that blows a twenty foot hole in a concrete wall to finally put her down.
Kansas City Shuffle: The bad guys' plan in the pilot relies on making the cops think that they got a major break in the case but it is all just a series of misdirections. The bad guys simply need to get one of their men inside the precinct to plant a device that will disable the MXs so they can then kill the humans using a biological weapon and then walk in and take the evidence from the evidence warehouse.
Leonine Contract: The extortion racket in "Arrhythmia" runs on these. They offer black-market bio-mechanical heart transplants to people who have been rejected for hospital aid, and modify the hearts to stop after thirty days if they're not reset, forcing the recipients to pay for each month of their life.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: An odd example of this is in "Blood Brothers," when the witness the team is protecting claims to be a medium psychic, thanks to an experimental surgery she had that theoretically develops untapped parts of the brain. Whether or not she's crazy or if her operation actually gave her psychic powers is not determined (and it doesn't really have any bearing on the plot), but she's able to use her ability to learn something she wouldn't otherwise know twice over the course of the episode, and she seems pretty convinced she has actual powers
Men Are the Expendable Gender: Averted extremely well. Men and woman alike are victims and killers. Men and woman alike may have sympathetic or unsympathetic motives.
Moment Killer: Just when you think John Kennex and Valerie Stahl are going to hit it off at Leo's, who should show up but the owner of the exclusive club for chromes only. Talk about chrome-blocked.
Ms. Fanservice: Sexbots in general. Specifically, it was of course absolutely necessary for Danica to commandeer a sexbot for her new body and show her checking herself out.
Neck Snap: Dorian is strong enough to snap a thug's neck with one hand on his jaw.
New Media Are Evil: In "Simon Says" the killer attaches Explosive Leashes to people and makes them do stuff while streaming video of them online. Comments are mostly stuff like "blow them up", and "bitch deserves it", or "fuck those pigs".
BitCoin is portrayed in multiple episodes as the preferred medium of exchange for black market deals (and depicted as Credit-card- or USB-drive-sized devices), while it has been used for that most crooks prefer cash or pre-paid gift cards as most merchants won't take BTC and the exchange rate is constantly fluctuating. While it's plausible that cash has been eliminated in this future it's hard to believe that no physical currency exists anymore.
No Sell: Dorian is unaffected by the beacon wave that takes out all of the newer androids. Same thing for the cop-killing gas that the syndicate member tries to use on him. He also takes a few shots to the chest with no significant damage.
No Sense Of Distance: The episode "You Are Here" revolves around an inescapable magic bullet "with an accuracy of 25 centimeters". Or enough to turn a shot to the heart into a complete miss. note That said, for a weapon fired off-bore over long distances, tracking a moving target based on wifi and GPS signals, a 10-inch margin of accuracy is pretty accurate (GPS-guided bombs are accurate to a circular error probable of five feet, for reference), and it would still be a center mass hit.
Odd Couple: This trope is something of a staple of Buddy Cop Shows, and Kennex and Dorian are no exception.
Older Is Better: Dorian as an older DRN. That said, it's not really his age that makes him better, it's the fact that unlike MXs which follow pure logic and rigid direction, DRNs can make intuitive leaps and think in flexible ways. In a profession like a police detective, this is extremely useful. To be fair, while Dorian is used for detective-like purposes, most of the MXs are simply regular street cops or used as part of an assault team.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: In "The Bends," the detectives need someone good enough at chemistry to cook up a street drug and do it better than actual professional drug cooks. They recruit Rudy, the guy who spends all his time tinkering with androids.
Out of Order: FOX's practice of airing fledgling shows out of order continues. The "second" episode, "Skin", is actually episode 5, according to IMDb. So far the effects are John going from being pretty hard nosed and unfunny to him actually being more relaxed with Dorian and socially awkward. The possibility of skipping the early episodes would likely have explained this as well as John's therapy sessions about the bad raid.
After airing episodes five through eight in production order after the pilot, episodes two and three by production order aired as numbers eight and six, respectively, bookending episode ten, leaving episodes four and nine for future airdates.
John is out of commission due to the criminal of the week so Dorian and Paul have to work together. It culminates with Paul commenting that Dorian's plan is 'pretty smart' and then making a wise crack to his MX about whether the MX could pull off Dorian's plan.
While undercover at a homeless shelter looking for a serial killer that preys on the homeless, Paul gives a street kid some bitcoin so he can get off the streets for a night.
Red Herring: In the episode "Are You Receiving?", a group grabs a bunch of hostages so the police will jam all communications in the area, which prevents the alarm at the nearby palladium processing plant from sounding as well.
Color-inverted by the completely rational and unemotional MX-43s, whose temples light up with red circuit patterns when scanning or receiving and whose perspective is shown with a red tinge, as compared to the more humanistic and emotional Dorian, whose similar effects are cast in blue.
The neutral Sam-bots from 1x11 had their light tracers in green.
Robo Cam: MX and DRN model POVs are shown like this.
Running Gag: Every couple episodes a MX unit is destroyed or severely damaged in a humorous way.
Science Is Bad: Not bad in and of itself, but the opening narration claims that technology advanced faster than society could compensate for, resulting in dangerous drugs and weapons ending up in the hands of criminals and children.
Send in the Clones: Ethan Avery, a narcissistic sociopath, has himself illegally cloned so there can be more of him. When he's put on trial for murder his clones try to get him out.
Sexbot: A great deal of them feature in the second episode.
Sherlock Scan: All the androids can do it. The one that stops John as he is driving away from his Back-Alley Doctor can tell that John just had a nosebleed and that he is taking painkillers. But he assumes that it is a side effect of the painkillers. Then the MX assigned to John sees him take the painkiller without having a nosebleed and gets suspicious.
In the Pilot episode, Detective Stahl mentions Loeurng Sak, which is an important part of Cambodian New Year where Cambodians do good deeds and avoid violence.
Also, "First Order Predicate Logic" is not technobabble. It's actually used in current AIs.
Palladium really is extremely valuable, especially in a technologically advanced society.
Solar flares would be an issue for an extremely power hungry society, more so than they are today.
Bullets capable of altering their flight path have actually been designed. Unlike the show, however, the best they can do is adjust their path by a few degrees through twisting and pivoting their head (like curving a baseball).
Shout-Out: Several, most of them to Cyberpunk properties.
The pilot episode, where John tries to recall his experience in the failed LAPD raid does have some shades of TotalRecall.
In the same episode, the scene where John and Dorian sit down at an Asian restaurant stall in the streets of the SubAsia district also has some shades of Blade Runner.
In one episode, there is a tower called Deckard Plaza.
Survivor Guilt: John seems to have it in spades according to his psych evaluation. He even undergoes illegal and dangerous procedures to regain his memories of the ambush.
Sympathetic Murderer: To a certain extent. A couple of the killers come off as having been driven to commit horrible acts by the fundamental injustice of the system around them; one faced an almost completely indifferent reaction to the suicide of her daughter because her daughter was a normal in a school full of genetically engineered children, for example, while another went off the deep end after the one person tethering her to the real world was killed by faulty technology. On the other hand, definitely averted with some of the others.
Take That: To hacktivists and internet trolls everywhere: "Real protestors stand up for what they believe in, they don't hide behind a computer screen."
The Nose Knows: Several androids are portrayed as having this ability.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ethan Avery gives one to Captain Maldonado in "Blood Brothers" and it sticks while the case against him is unraveling. Once he's convicted, though, she turns it back around on him.
Averted with the police androids. They carry guns and have no problems shooting at humans. They can disobey an order from a human, even a policeman. They have no problems going into dangerous situations where they can be damaged or destroyed. That said, they nevertheless embody the spirit of the three laws (that of being ethically good) and, to an extent, follow the so-called Zeroth Law. Other androids we've seen can be more compliant but by proxy, the less free will an android has, the less sentient they tend to be. This then is one of the things that makes Dorian - and other DRNs - special - they are good people because they choose to be.
However, it is revealed that Dorians are programmed with a variant on the First Law which requires them to prevent a human being from committing suicide.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the underlying themes of the show. When an autopsy is performed on an android, we're clearly supposed to feel vaguely discomforted rather than interested in the technology. And Dorian often reacts to the plight of his fellow machines, though few humans tend to notice. On the other hand, the MX units tend to get no sympathy from either John or Dorian.
Why Am I Ticking?: Kennex takes out Danica by triggering one of the grenades she's carrying around.
Wire Dilemma: After Dorian is hit in the head by a bullet in 1x03, John is forced to clip a tendon in Dorian's head to bypass the damaged area and keep him from shutting down. He has Dorian talking him through it and only needs to clip the magenta one...except they're all pretty close together in colour.