FOX’s Almost Human Straw Man TV Show Review. Almost Human, season 1, episode 13, ‘Straw Man’ wrapped up the season (and possibly the series) with another largely procedural episode, but not necessarily a stand alone one. A serial killer (Shaun Smyth), stalking homeless centers, seemed intent on copying the Straw Man, so named for replacing the organs of his victims with straw. The case would result in Dorian (Michael Ealy) and Kennex (Karl Urban) revisiting the original case, supposedly solved by Kennex’s father, Edward (John Diehl), but not before a review of Dorian’s fitness of service had to be dealt with.
It seemed a pretty good indication of the show’s priorities that a departmental board of inquiry was more concerned with a DRN evaluation than Kennex’s many serious infractions (as a matter of character, I think it’s safe to assume they have been more serious & frequent than we have been privy to). Given the core premise of the series, this review amounted to little more than an excuse for Kennex and Dorian to address their bond.
The real focus of the episode was in making sense of the Straw Man’s method & motives, while Kennex followed up on his father’s efforts to follow a sensitive lead, and to clear Michael Costa (William ‘Big Sleeps’ Stewart), the man convicted as the “original” Straw Man. I would imagine that behavioral analysis and lie detection capabilities would have advanced to the point where Costa’s claim of innocence could be better presented in his processing/defense (never mind current statistics, making a black serial killer a rarity). Of course, that would have been too easy, doing away with the bulk of the ‘Straw Man’ sub-plot intrigues and red herrings.
The title to the episode was clearly meant to be applied to both Costa, and Edward, as well; the former as a patsy, the latter as a discredited investigator of both the Straw Man case, and its possible ties to police corruption. Maybe my memory of the film might be a little rusty, but it seemed to me that Kennex’s anecdote, about his dad being incorruptible, came right out of Training Day.
An opportunity might have been missed, regarding the Straw Man’s activities linking to the Syndicate, Dr. Nigel Vaughn, and the show’s larger mythology (such as it has been). There was definitely the makings of a larger arc, involving police corruption and Kennex’s father; but this was left as a plot strand, tied solely to Kennex.
A lost opportunity may be Almost Human‘s epitaph, if ‘Straw Man’ winds up being the final episode produced. Way too much was invested in showcasing technology without any real thought into their implications. Whatever futurist consultation went into this series, seemed to come up with a future free of futurists. A promising setup, between Kennex’s connection to the Syndicate, and Dorian’s creator walking on the dark side, never quite went anywhere – either separately, or as part of a potentially amazing single story.
There was an emphasis on the technological aspects & visual effects, that may have simply made a greater mythology of secondary importance. If character development was the primary distraction, Almost Human had not lived up to its potential there, either. Kennex had never evolved beyond curmudgeon-with-a-gooey-center. Dorian’s role, as the ironic heart & soul of the series, gave way to good cop/ Spock, to Kennex’s bad cop/ McCoy. Even the subtle overtones of racism (despite being evidenced, in this episode, by Dorian attempting to “pass” for an MX, in order to pass his review) had been sidelined; Dorian becoming more of a bulwark, against rogue androids, than the would-be champion of all synthetics, by this point. Of course, airing episodes out of order might have thrown some viewers, and the whole mid-season break thing can really kill whatever momentum a new series can muster.
Bear in mind, however, that my disappointments in Almost Human hangs on the contingency of its cancellation. ‘Straw Man’ would be a very bad place to end the series; renewal could mean addressing of some of the show’s issues, and fulfillment of some of its potential. A show with Almost Human‘s profile & pedigree usual comes with prompt notice of cancellation or renewal. I have yet to hear word of either. Straw Man, on its own merits, could be considered either a key piece in the building of a potentially great series, or an example of a promising show wasting its potential. That doesn’t say much for its own merits, as a single episode, after all, I suppose.