This is a relief. After a rather dim-witted episode last week, ‘Almost Human’ rebounded on Monday with a pretty solid new episode that’s more of what I expect the show to be.
First things first, when will those baby hover-strollers glimpsed in an early scene be invented? I need one of those.
In ‘Arrhythmia’, we learn that Obamacare doesn’t make it to the year 2048. In a storyline with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, the evil, evil, evil, evil (did I mention evil?) insurance companies have made it virtually impossible for anyone but the ultra-wealthy to ever see a doctor or get healthcare treatment. Everyone else is forced to go to crowded slum-like clinics where glitchy holograms dole out useless advice and surgery is performed in filthy back rooms. Into one of these walks an Asian man with a gun, who demands to be put on life support because he knows that he’s about to have a heart attack. At precisely the time he said he would, he drops to the floor, muttering “They killed me,” and then dies.
Looking into this, Kennex and Dorian learn that the man had an artificial heart. Because his insurance company wouldn’t pay for it, he had to get a black market unit harvested from a corpse by a shady mortuary attendant named Oscar, who has been working with a mystery woman named Karen on an extortion scheme. They provide the hearts to people who need them, but install a modification with a timer that expires every 30 days unless the patients pay ever-increasing amounts. Fail to make a payment, and the heart gets turned off – which is what happened to the Asian guy.
The investigation leads Kennex and Dorian to a bio-tech company called Vastrel, where the heartless bitch CEO tops their list of suspects. Ultimately, she doesn’t pan out as the culprit, but her assistant Jacinta (alias “Karen”) had been collecting the names of patients rejected by insurance. Spooked that the cops are onto her, she orders Oscar to let the timers on their remaining victims run out regardless of whether they try to pay.
Our heroes break up this scam, but not before several people die. Upon the PR disaster created by the revelation of the company’s involvement and culpability, the Vastrel CEO offers free heart replacements to any surviving victims.
The heavy-handedness of its political parable aside, this episode has much better and more logically consistent plotting than the last one – at least by sci-fi TV and police procedural standards. More importantly, it has a very fun subplot in which Dorian meets another DRN unit who’d been demoted to working as a janitor. Empathizing with what is basically his identical twin, Dorian offers to bring him on a ride-along, much to Kennex’s dismay. This leads to some entertaining bickering between Kennex and the two Dorians, some hijinks when the new DRN attempts to bust a criminal only to learn that his old police files are woefully out of date, and a bit of pathos when he relates a story about his best day as a cop. Also, when the second DRN panics while on a stakeout, we understand why the model was retired from service.
Eventually, Dorian has to return his new twin to the menial janitor job and wipe his memories, but he lets him keep his favorite memory of saving a child.