Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of Humans. To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
Eight episodes and Humans doesn’t feel like it was ready to tie up its story. While the finale of season one (two is a go) was entertaining and satisfying enough on the larger scale, it would have benefited from an extra hour to let things settle, build up the tension, and then tie up loose ends. Instead, what we got was an episode that had a lot of easy outs for the characters. The entire Humans season one finale is centered on relationships, ones that mend and ones that break. Despite so much of the focus zeroing in on Leo and Karen, the real showstoppers are Laura and Mia and Karen and Pete (something I would never have predicted at the start of the episode). It’s these moments, as small as they are, that give the episode just the right amount of nuance to help muddle through some of the messier set pieces.
Considering how integral she’s been to the show’s entire plot and the success of the early episodes, Gemma Chan’s Mia takes a rather alarming back seat in the finale, aside from two pivotal scenes. Instead, the focus is shifted largely to Karen and her relationship with Leo. Karen had been made as a model of Leo’s mother, who he lost at a young age. However, she was rejected and ran off, lived on her own and integrated into society rather nicely. Now she wants herself along with the others to be destroyed, fearing what it would be if there were to be more created. Leo tries to speak to her humanity, telling her that she is only angry because she didn’t get the chance to travel with him and his makeshift family, that she always felt isolated. All of this is true, but she can’t instantly make herself forget the pain, or make the decision to let them all free.
Still, the scene between Leo and Karen is wonderfully acted between Colin Morgan and Ruth Bradley, both of whom lay bare in the moment, as Leo speaks to her heart and she to his intellect. Both are reaching out in any way they can to get the other to see reason. However, Bradley’s greatest scene comes much later in the episode, and it’s one that she shares with Pete. I have not been a big Pete supporter throughout this show, but the finale does some fine work in turning his likability up by making his curiosity get the better of him. He knows Karen, even if he didn’t truly know who she was before. The smile Bradley gives Pete at the end as they walk with one another, letting the day’s events sink in, is luminous, and she truly shines in this moment. More of this version of Karen would be great in season two.
It seems ridiculous to try and spell out the plot of the episode, since so much seems to happen in a very short amount of time. They synths are taken, Fred learns that he’s been changed to be obedient: he has free will but cannot act on it, making him and potentially his family slaves.
However, Laura and co. manage to blackmail those wishing to do the synths harm and they’re released. Not too long after, they realize Fred has a tracking device in him and they have to turn him off. Then they split up, with Niska swiping the hard drive with the information on how to make more like her. Laura tells Joe about her brother and the seeds of reconciliation are planted, at one point the group finds themselves at an anti-synth rally, and Max ends up being okay!
The goodbye scene is what sells the episode and actually managed to stir a bit of annoyance it me again at just how little Chan was used in this episode. Her goodbye with Laura and Sophie was suitably touching, and her and Laura’s relationship turned into the strongest and most compelling of the season. Where Laura once viewed her with distrust, she now does with friendship and worry. Both women are fierce protectors and share a bond in their need to keep those they love from harm’s way. Chan and Katherine Parkinson worked marvelously together, and it will be a shame if their relationship isn’t revisited in season two.
Life gets back to normal (ish), aside from Niska having stolen the hard drive (conveniently setting up problems for the characters in season two). Humans had a bit of a rough start in the first few episodes, with many of the characters failing to land (such as Mattie, Niska, and Leo) and a difficulty in separating itself from the pack. However, Mattie, Niska, and Leo were all redeemed and became more intriguing characters (even if Niska takes a bit of a dive in those closing moments), and once all of the characters came together, the show became instantly stronger, working on the group dynamic. Episodes six and seven were particularly memorable. While the logic wasn’t always on solid ground, the characters and performers (Chan and Parkinson in particular) were always reliable to elevate the material.
I’ll be tuning in next year. Comment below and let me know what you thought about the season finale!
Episode Grade: 6/10
Season Grade: 8/10