Michael Ealy Shines in FOX’s ‘Almost Human’
FOX hit it out of the park this season with the launch of its new genre drama series, Sleepy Hollow. It arrived with much hype, and as opposed to most hyped shows, it delivered. So now that the show has already earned a second season, the network’s focus has shifted to its next pet project, Almost Human.
So, what is Almost Human? In a nutshell, it’s a futuristic, sci-fi spin on the police procedural. It takes everything that you love about all of those cop shows, throws it 30+ years into the future, and colors it with sci-fi flair. Sounds intriguing enough, right? Just wait until you see how it’s executed.
In the year 2048, the crime rate has increased by 400% due to rapid advances in technology. As a result, the police force is overwhelmed. So in order to keep up, a strategy of partnering human officers with robot companions is implemented. That simple summary plants us right into a firefight involving our protagonist, John Kennex (played by Karl Urban from the Judge Dredd remake), and a crime organization named “The Syndicate.”
In the ensuing fight, his right leg is blown off, and he ends up in a coma for 17 months. Once he recovers, he sets out to regain his lost memories by getting illegal treatments from an under-the-table style doctor. His goal is to figure out how he botched this planned raid and to bring The Syndicate to justice. And today is his first day back at work.
Problem is, John doesn’t care much for the mandatory robot companions. And when his new partner threatens to expose his memory treatment secret, the robot mysteriously falls out of his moving car. Enter his new synthetic partner Dorian (DRN), played by Michael Ealy, a robot built to emulate human emotions.
By the time we hit halfway through the episode, a full-blown conspiracy starts to materialize. The Syndicate is targeting police officers with a tailor-made pathogen. And after one more seriously dangerous memory treatment, Kennex learns that his own ex-girlfriend is part of The Syndicate that heads the conspiracy.
The show will clearly revolve around the mystery of The Syndicate. What are they trying to achieve? How did they know the police were coming for them? In the ambush, of which he controlled all of the intel, how was Kennex the only person to survive? Who is good and who is bad? I’m sure all of the answers to these questions will slowly reveal themselves over the course of the season.
True, you could claim that this territory has been trodden before. In many ways, the whole thing harkens back to I, Robot, the Will Smith starrer from 2004. You’ve got your rebellious cop that hates robots, even though his own body contains synthetic parts. You’ve got the one robot that is different from the others. And most importantly, the two of them must work together to solve some huge conspiracy. Still, there are some definite similarities to Sylvester Stallone’s Demolition Man. It’s got that same penchant for big explosions and the police force feel ill-prepared for the challenges it must face.
Yet, Almost Human succeeds in places where these movies didn’t. The writing is incredibly thoughtful and intelligent. There is also an incredible amount of depth built into the cast within the show’s first airing. And though set in the future, the world that these characters live in feels genuine and accessible.
You can chalk a chunk of that up to J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams, the minds behind shows such as Fringe and Alias. Their patented method of storytelling and character-building is in full view here. But their efforts would be worthless if not for the work of the very capable actors. Karl Urban plays tough, damaged, hurt, and conflicted well. Michael Ealy gives the performance of his life as the “bleeding heart” robot. The supporting cast manages to fill their roles competently without becoming distracting.
But Michael Ealy is the true source of the magic in the show. Joining together the robot know-how and the mimicry of human behavior, Ealy brings his robot to life, creating a completely intriguing and unique character. He’s intelligent, creative, and funny. His work is what sets this show apart from all of the rest. And I’ll be watching each week to see what he brings to the table.
So, does Almost Human live up to the hype? Yes … and then some. Now if they don’t screw it up, FOX will have the perfect Monday night companion for Sleepy Hollow.
Did you see the premiere? Hate it or love it? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below!
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