Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Almost Human - The Bends

Like several other pretenders in recent years Almost Human steals various ideas from sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov and his mix of mystery, cop story, robots, and futuristic setting with mixed results. It's certainly nowhere near as well-thought-out or engaging as Asimov's work, but the new FOX series involving a hard-boiled detective forced to work with a robot partner against his will (who he starts to take a shine to - sound familiar?) makes good use of its stars (even if the psuedo-futuristic episodic storylines haven't been all that interesting so far).

After an off-the-books undercover investigation involving a dangerous new drug known as The Bends gets an old friend killed, and paints the victim as a dirty cop, Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) try to get to the truth. To do so, and nab the notorious dealer known only as The Bishop, he'll have to convince Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) to go undercover as a chemist (or "cook") and sell both Captain Maldonado (Lili Taylor) and an old informant (Patrick Gallagher) on the risky mission.

After getting a crash course in undercover work and cooking from Detective Paul (Michael Irby) and Detective Stahl (Minka Kelly) the plan almost immediately starts falling apart forcing Kennex to send Dorian in to support Rudy long enough to try and force The Bishop to make his appearance. That doesn't stop the man's right-hand man from making his escape with his new cook, but the plan isn't a total loss as drug dealers' inside knowledge of police tactics, and Rudy's experimental tracking device, help Kennex and Maldonado identify The Bishop's real identity as the dead cop's former commander (Benito Martinez).

"The Bends" set-up certainly reminds me of TekWar, but other than that isn't much of a stand-out. The identity of The Bishop is teased early, and is far too easy to figure out. The ability to craft a good TV mystery, it seems, is not a talent (so far) present in the show's writers room. The episode succeeds mostly on the absurdity of Rudy getting in over his head and the basic character interactions (mostly between Kennex and Dorian) that have made up the backbone of the show so far.

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