“We have made them more.”
After two episodes that have meandered in pace, hitting the reset button each episode, episode four of AMC’s Humans has offered up its strongest and most intriguing episode yet. Finally, things are beginning to happen.
Apologies to any fans for my lack of reviews these past two weeks. Episode four has piqued my interest once again, and my reviews will be up on a weekly basis for the remaining of the season. Consider me hooked.
My problem with the past two episodes was the utter lack of movement. Even when Niska murdered the man looking for her to play the role of a sexual assault victim, or when we learned that Leo may not be as human as he appeared, or even with Anita’s cry for help last week, there was very little progress in the narrative. George got a new caretaker and made Odie go and hide in the woods, Laura continued to have suspicions of Anita even after she saved her son Toby, and Leo got closer to finding Anita/Mia. Plot points happened, sure, but none of it seemed to matter. This was highlighted by how each storyline felt singular, with very little cross-over: each story felt as if it were apart of its own show, rather than all existing in the same universe.
This changes this week when Leo and Mattie meet, drawing together two big storylines where Leo is looking for Mia and Mattie is trying to figure out what’s wrong with her supposed synth, Anita. Mattie instantly became a much better character this week when she goes to a house party and stops the host from having sex with his unconscious synth. The idea of agency is a larger theme for the show and one brought to focus this week when Joe (who is just the absolute worst), in a moment of self-pity, decides to utilize Anita’s 18+ options and have sex with her. It’s a deeply uncomfortable scene enhanced by Gemma Chan’s subtle and affecting performance. Her performance as the character is one of slight changes but they all matter and they all mean something. Her slight smile when her 18+ options are enacted and then her return to form after the act, asking Joe if she can use the bathroom after it, are all wonderfully performed but also quietly done. Chan is easily the show’s MVP, and it’s her performance that makes Anita the most interesting character.
This betrayal on Joe’s part is likely going to lead to some sort of backlash, and it’s interesting to play it against Mattie stopping another young man from dragging the female synth up to his bedroom. In the end, how different is what Joe did from what the party host was planning to do? Both are dealing with synths that are can be controlled by their “primary owner” and both, as they are currently written, don’t have the same agency that their human counterparts do.
All of this makes Niska’s rage at the human race explicable. She goes to an underground fight club that pits humans against synths and pretends to be a human before wreaking havoc, and while I know there are some frustrated with her lack of nuance, you at least understand where the fury comes from. Where she was forced to hide allowed her to bear witness to true depravity, all of it at the hands of humans. So while I do wish the writers would allow her to be more than the angry, human-hating synth, I think there is merit to her anger.
In terms of tying together stories, Leo also meets George, and they talk about Anita/Mia’s code and learn that there are secrets about how they were made and what they could achieve buried in it. This is also when we get further proof that Leo isn’t human and is looking to be more of the cyborg variety when he tells George that he’s his old partner’s son, someone George believed died years ago.
Laura gets one of the less interesting plots of the week, and I’m beginning to grow frustrated about how poorly the show is utilizing the Katherine Parkinson’s talents (ditto for Colin Morgan, who is much better not playing the brooding silent type). However, it does show us that Laura sees that there is a bigger picture behind the synths; Laura being on this side, where she’s questioning how they’re used and why, is much more interesting than her simply being skeptical of Anita’s true intentions.
The episode ends on a truly unsettling moment: Karen, Pete’s partner, is revealed to be a synth when she removes a bag from her mouth containing everything she’s eaten and drank during the day.
For the first time, the show has me eagerly awaiting the next episode.