Title: Humans episode #2.2
Director: Lewis Arnold
Writers: Lars Lundström, Jonathan Brackley, Sam Vincent, Joe Barton, Emily Ballou, Charlie Covell, Iain Weatherby
Starring: Gemma Chan, Katherine Parkinson, Lucy Carless, Tom Goodman-Hill, Ivanno Jeremiah, Theo Stevenson, Colin Morgan, Pixie Davies, Emily Berrington, Neil Maskell, Ruth Bradley, William Hurt, Sonya Cassidy, Carrie-Anne Moss, and many more.
Episode length: approx 42 minutes
Humans shares the ideas with Westworld of taking place in the near future, and being about the birth of artificial intelligence, but that’s where the similarity abruptly ends.
Another quality they share is they are both ensemble productions with a sometimes sprawling cast of characters, but they represent radically differing approaches to the same topic of discussion.
Westworld is primarily a more suspenseful, sometimes bordering on the horrific, puzzling and cryptic story about the events taking place in an amusmaent park that provides an immersive gaming experience for a more exclusive clientele. Because of its puzzling nature and the secrets it refuses so far to reveal, some genre fans may find watching Westworld somewhat frustrating and annoying.
Humans portrays a world where the artificial man-made life forms are pretty much pervasive throughout all levels of society, and are an everyday presence in the world of human beings. The androids are referred to as synths in the series. The synths that have not achieved self awareness are portrayed as somewhat robotic in behavior and speech and, for the most part, as simple minded programmed automatons going about their routines in an almost human manner like life-sized wind up dolls.
The synths serve in every aspect of human society, as laborers, helpers, companions, sex partners, etc., but all is not perfect in paradise, when some of the synths gain consciousness and free will, they are not all happy with their lot.
Humans is more of a discussion of how people would react to the presence of androids as a part of everyday life, and vice versa, how they would respond to us once they gain self awareness, consciousness, and self determination.
The first season of the series portrayed most humans in a very unflattering light, but that began to change toward the end of the season when humans, in some cases, began to be depicted as more kind and compassionate towards their synth counterparts.
In Westworld the androids are programmed with safety features that prevent them from causing harm to their flesh and blood counterparts, but there’s no such precautions taken in Humans. There’s no sign of Asimov’s laws of robotics anywhere to be seen, which becomes obvious in the second episode of season 2 where a recently made aware synth, Hester (Sonya Cassidy), kills a human being, and it almost seems as if she does it out of anger and hate, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Season 2 picks up just a few months after the ending of season one of the series, with the advent of several androids gaining self awareness and consciousness. They form a group that settles into living together in a secluded farm like setting, away from the human beings that too often threaten their existence and safety, because people, for the most part have a less than enlightened attitude towards their artificial counterparts and display sometimes ignorant and violent behavior towards them.
They all settle down for the most part, except Niska (Emily Berrington), a former sex worker who suddenly became aware and rebelled from her former life in a somewhat violent manner. She escaped taking with her a copy of some code that holds the promise of making all androids self aware and possessing consciousness.
After traveling around for awhile she is shown getting involved in a same sex relationship with a human being before returning to the home of the Hawkins’ in Britain, a family that helped her escape last season. Before she returns she releases the code into the network in order to awaken androids everywhere, but it doesn’t work in the way she imagined, instead of suddenly waking up all androids everywhere at once, it only works randomly and only in few androids at a time.
The show does an excellent job of depicting the juxtaposition of androids in comparison to their human counterparts, using dramatic and sometimes amusing scenes to make points about behavior and the motives behind it, as part of the discussion about what makes us humans, and where is the line that separates us from them as human beings.
The full range of emotions and behavior are depicted by both the humans and androids, and things like compassion, or lack of it, plays a role in the story in a sometimes surprising manner. For the most part, the androids are better human beings than the actual humans whose likeness they are made in, being less prone to cruelty and violent emotional reactions to things they don’t understand that cause them to be afraid.
The show is not without humor and some heartwarming moments, there is a scene in this latest episode where Anita (Gemma Chan), the more or less lead character of the series, risks being exposed as a self aware android in order to help a human she works for and has grown fond of. She visits a bank, applies for a loan on his behalf, and hacks the bank’s computer system in order to get the money for him, by using a keyboard upside-down, and without seeing the screen. A talent a lot of us would like to have and use on occasion.
Niska has returned to Britain in order to help prepare the world for more of her kind, by bringing attention to herself to help humans adjust to the reality of self aware synths The idea that synths may not wish to be used as free labor or do things they don’t want to do is something the humans will not willingly embrace without a period of adjustment to the concept.
In a selfless act, she has allowed herself to be taken captive by the government in order to stand trial by human beings simply for being what she is, a free thinking android that desires the freedom to have an existence where she can choose to do what she likes when she wants.
If she loses her case it could mean her destruction, the government has already set up squads to capture conscious androids and is holding them in undisclosed detention facilities. Likewise the synths, after being attacked by one of these squads take a human captive, who is subjected to some harsh treatment by one of their number, Hestor who seems determined to test the limits of her former human masters, it even seems as if she is going beyond curiosity in her attempts to extract information from their captive, and her efforts almost seems flavored with anger and hatred.
The other androids do not approve of her harsh treatment of their human captive, and tell her so, requesting that she stop doing it. One of her android companions, Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) who seems to have way more compassion than she does, eventually frees him, but Hester follows the fleeing human into the woods and kills him. She is the scary side of the equation, a cold blooded killing machine without guilt or compassion. Hester may be the most human synth of all.
I find this series to be a most interesting one, with a thought provoking discussion that seemingly covers every aspect of the situation, and that leaves no stone uncovered in its scope . Its not only a fascinating exploration of human nature and discussion about what makes us uniquely human, its also good genre entertainment, and even though it may be lacking in some of the more garish examples of the trappings of the genre, we have grown used to, like explosions, scary aliens and spaceships. Its good solid intelligent science fiction.