FOX’s Almost Human Beholder TV Show Review. Almost Human, season 1, episode 12, ‘Beholder’ was something of a follow up to ‘Perception.’ The death of a Chrome, from seeming heart failure, drew suspicion. Chromes are genetically engineered to not suffer system failures of any kind. Closer inspection led to a connection to various other overlooked deaths (overlooked since norms die of heart failure all the time), as they all exhibited a tell-tale syringe puncture to the base of the skull, and their residual DNA was left in the Chrome’s wound. For Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy), the focus on the circumstances around the Chrome’s death would eventually yield eerie results. Surveillance footage of a man that facial recognition software would ID as multiple persons – all deceased. This killer was literally assuming key facial characteristics of others, in a nano-driver process that proved fatal for those whose features he coveted.
While the “face dancer” at large, Eric Lathem (Michael Eklund) seemingly had no specific designs on Chromes (that particular victim just happening to meet his requirements), the fact that a Chrome was targeted at all created some sensationalism. Part of that sensationalism came from concern, within the Chrome community, that a Chrome might have died of natural causes – a much scarier prospect than murder. To that end, Det. Stahl (Minka Kelly) was tapped, once again, to get some answers from the Chromes. This time, however, she was fully committed to her end of the investigation, and was not about to be stone-walled. This led to something of a showdown at the private Chrome social club, to which the victim belonged.
With a more expansive role, this time around, for Stahl, came a better look at the Chrome world. Along with some additional scoffs at her chosen profession (but still no answers regarding that choice), came more in-depth exchanges – both confrontational and interpersonal – that delivered what ‘Perception’ only promised. Chrome-on-Chrome confrontation was fascinating to watch – even when they only engaged in flirtatious sparring. That flirtation came from club owner Jake Bellman (Jesse Hutch). With a Chrome blacksheep relative of his own, Jake took a clear interest in Stahl (and not just for her shade of blue collar chrome). This, in turn, allowed Stahl to open up to someone with a better understanding of her background (even if that background was still left unaddressed). A mere bonus, as it was Stahl’s end of the investigation that produced the breakthrough footage of Lathem.
Dorian and Kennex, meanwhile, had a lead on Lathem’s very specific instrument of choice, and Kennex had someone in mind that could point them in the supplier’s direction. Kennex’s informant came in the form (snicker) of what I thought to be a nod to Total Recall (no soup for you, if the remake entered your head for even a second). Of course, anyone who’d recognize the name Tony Cox might have seen that little surprise coming.
The informant set them on Lathem’s trail, by way of his disgraced surgeon. The panicked doctor went Bane on Kennex, but his heart gave out. There was enough procedural record, however, to not only lead to an ID on Lathem, but on his last intended target as well.
It turned out that Lathem had two targets in mind. With his last intended victim under guard (Lathem having been tipped off by a horribly obvious plain clothed cop sentry), he jumped his own time-table, regarding his ultimate goal. This was Judy (Rhonda Dent), a neighbor from across the way, with whom he had been corresponding as a long distance suitor. Unlike his other targets, she had long been the target of his affections; the motivation behind his quest for cosmetic perfection.
This, of course, confirmed that Lathem was yet another hollow character – with more effort going into his methods than his mentality. Certainly, love is as noble a motivator as any, but really, all Lathem had been doing was using one obsession (he didn’t really know this woman) to propel another.
I’m not sure whether we were meant to draw comparisons to Manhunter/ Red Dragon, or just not notice/ recall them (Hollywood has seemed to be banking on short attention spans with the ongoing “remake the 80s” initiative – including a semi-recent take on Red Dragon), but the ultimate irony of Lathem’s murderous obsession amounted to one more victim; if we were meant to feel some kind of sympathy towards him, I think the plan backfired. Short of Kennex & co. crashing in, that final twist (not an altogether surprising one, if you were paying attention), would have amounted to a storybook ending; but consequences had to be paid, with Judy winding up paying her fare share, as that elusive ending was snatched away from her. As I said, one more victim.
While the theme of scientifically enabled inequity and social vacuousness made for some great banter fodder – with Kennex as the anti- tech curmudgeon, and Dorian as the optimistic humanist – the episode did little to further either’s development. Some hay was made, over Kennex’s dating life, but this was mostly reduced to a back-stop for the episode. ‘Beholder’ provided more glimpses into Almost Human‘s setting, but the series has yet to actually realize any of these incremental set-ups. The Wall only received a passing mention, and a better taste of Chrome life was still just a taste.
Something else to consider: as Chromes had been demonstrably hyper-perceptive, in their dealings with each other – much less norms, it stands to reason that Stahl had been aware of Kennex’s attraction to her all along. I can only assume, then, that she had been waiting for Kennex to act, mindful of his “need to drive,” but took an unexpected (and perhaps unprecedented) opportunity to re-connect with her “own kind.” Throwing Bellman into the mix meant an extension to the Kennex/Stahl will-they-won’t-they dance; but this is assuming there will be a series future over which their relationship can evolve.
With only one episode left, this season, no word on a second season pickup, and a some viewer dissatisfaction, over how the show had been run, I am concerned that Almost Human‘s potential may never be realized. If that turns out to be the case, the problem could be cited as taking too much for granted. Stretching out what little the series has offered, in terms of a core mythology, over thirteen episodes of mostly filler – such as Beholder – seems like a decision that presumes enough time to slow cook a feast. If that were the case, it may have been a bad call. Even The X-Files, which took forever to set up, then follow through, on its mythology, would have left a lasting impression, had it died prematurely. The difference would amount to fillers. Even before viewers got a sense for where The X-Files was going, they were drawn in by the individual episodes. Had Almost Human provided more substantial fillers, its viewers might have been left more fulfilled by its disjointed first run; its future more certain.