Just three episodes in, and Fox’s new sci-fi drama ‘Almost Human’ has already resorted to a full-on, shameless ‘Die Hard’ knockoff storyline. This seems awfully early to have run out of ideas.
At the start of episode ‘Are You Receiving?’, we learn that detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) has to charge up his new bionic leg overnight like an iPhone. Strangely, for as much as every other tiny detail of future life has changed in 2048, a bottle of olive oil (which he uses to lubricate a squeaky knee joint) looks exactly the same. I expected blinking lights and 3D holograms to leap off the label to show how futuristic olive oil has gotten. It doesn’t even make any “beep beep boop boop” noises like everything else in the show. Someone on the production staff has clearly gotten lazy.
The plot of this episode concerns a group of terrorists from the “Holy Reclamation Army” who have invaded a high-rise office building and taken a bunch of employees hostage. Among his demands, their leader, a guy named Lucas Vincent (Damon Herriman from ‘Justified’), wants the police to provide him with a military-grade “fission igniter” doodad capable of setting off a megaton explosion. That doesn’t sound good.
First on the scene to arrive, Kennex and Dorian work their way up 25 flights of stairs (because the baddies have shut down the elevators). Their captain (Lili Taylor) orders them to clear out of the building, but of course Kennex ignores her. Soon, as a matter of procedure, the cops jam all communication in a three-block radius. This means that Kennex and Dorian are entirely on their own. Except that, weirdly, cell phone calls within the building itself are not blocked. Kennex spends a lot of time in the episode on the line with a panicked woman named Paige, who’s hiding in a closet and provides him some important intel about the terrorists.
Half-way there, our heroes engage in a gunfight with a couple of the bad guys. Dorian takes a bullet ricochet to the head that leaves him unable to walk. Kennex has to MacGyver a repair with a pair of nail clippers he finds in a desk drawer, a used Q-tip and some chewing gum. Ain’t science wonderful?
Eventually, things wrap up with another big shoot-out, and Kennex discovers that the terrorists weren’t terrorists at all. They were just common thieves pretending to be terrorists, and the fission igniter was a red herring. In fact, their entire hostage crisis was a distraction from a palladium heist happening across the street. You see, the thieves knew that the cops would jam all transmissions in the area, which includes the alarm system in the other building. Once Kennex figures this out, he tells his captain to turn off the jammer, and the thieves there get trapped in an automated lock-down, their scheme foiled.
The episode is not even a little bit subtle about how derivative it is. Fortunately, working in the show’s favor is the chemistry of the cast. As some of our readers commented last week, Kennex and Dorian continue to trade funny banter, including a running gag about Elton John songs. Urban makes a good lead for this type of thing. He can sell the action stuff, while also delivering the goofy dialogue with a straight face. Now that I think I’m getting a handle on how limited the scope of the show’s ambitions are, I find it perfectly enjoyable in a non-demanding fashion. This isn’t a complex drama with richly developed characters and storylines. It’s just a cop buddy procedural with some cheesy sci-fi trappings. I think I’m OK with that.