Last weeks episode of Almost Human practically rebooted the series and re-introduced The Syndicate as the main villains. This week’s episode ‘Perception’ also introduces new features to the show such as Detective Stahl’s genetic enhancements and Kennex’s drug addiction that was last mentioned in the pilot episode. Both this episode and that of last week make up for some of the deficiencies of the first 8 episodes, namely a future world that seemed far too shallow and little in the way of an overarching story to keep everything focused. ‘Perception’ essentially has two storylines. The first is about Kennex and Dorian trying to solve the homicide of two genetically enhanced girls which represents the procedural part of the episode that is commonly known as ‘villain-of-the-week’. The second storyline or back story follows Kennex as he remembers more details from the ambush that cost him his leg and his drug addiction. Often such storylines offer little mutual support to each other but these two are nicely interwoven as both deal with the consequences of illegal drugs.
The episode starts with two girls in their late teens using their enhanced abilities to examine either the complexities of nature or making music. Then both girls suddenly die. John Kennex meanwhile has recurrent nightmares of the day The Syndicate ambushed his arrest team. Each time remembers a little bit more about the ambush and his then girlfriend Anna who betrayed him. Captain Maldonado informs John of the death of the two teenage girls and also reveals that she knows he has run his own investigation into The Syndicate from his apartment. Dorian is already at the scene of death of one of the girls. The other girl has already been transported to the morgue where Detective Stahl is investigating the body. Both bodies show sign of drug overdose and on both girls empty pill containers are found. However, the drug is unfamiliar to forensics.
Captain Maldonado informs Stahl that the girls were ‘Chromes’, genetically engineered to suffer less from illness and have better acumen. Stahl is also a Chrome, something that visibly troubles her. Dorian discovers that the compound the girls ingested was also found in a girl Layla Hoving that drowned seven months before, but she was not a Chrome. At the police station both Maldonado and Dorian observe Kennex taking pills. Dorian Reminds him of the dangers the pills and seeing a recollectionist. Layla’s mother said she thought that the other two girls knew more about the drowning than they let on. she hired a private detective but was informed that the evidence he collected had been erased by a magnetic surge.
All three girls attended the Mendel Academy. The students there seem to show little remorse for the deceased and seem more concerned with their own academic standing. One girl seems to dislike Chromes for what she perceives as an unfair advantage and even manages to deduce that Stahl is one. It becomes obvious to Kennex and Dorian that other students are also using the drug but no one is willing to help them. Dorian finds a pill-box with just one pill. The pill contains a designer drugs specially tailored to a specific person. After viewing a list of known possible chem-printers they question a young man named Julian Wollenberg. His father owned such a chem-printer before his death and the young man seems to have forgotten that all drugs made with it have their design stored on a cloud server. The young man admits to making the drugs but states he has been hacked thus causing the fatalities.
While driving over to the suspect Kennex suffers from disorientation due to his addiction habit and crashes the squad car. This leads to Captain Maldonado taking a closer interests in Kennex’s recollection experiences. She informs him that internal affairs will have to be informed if he remembers anything from the ambush. She also mentions that she thinks he is becoming unsteady. She warns him against using the Recollectionist and allow the memories to come back naturally. He admits that he is consumed by Anna’s betrayal. After Kennex’s next visit to the Recollectionist he remembers the Matryoshka doll that he received from Anna as a gift. He sends it off to a trusted forensic colleague who seems hesitant to help again.
Kennex and Dorian are investigating one of kids that all three girls has class with as the possible hacker, but the trail goes cold. Stahl shows them a chat conversation between one of the recently deceased girls and her father that alludes to the drowning death of Layla. After confronting the father he admits that he had the evidence erased because he didn’t want his daughter to be troubled by what happened to Layla. Julian Wollenberg is confronted with an image stick. Julian states that the stick contains the video recording of Layla committing suicide by drowning herself. Despite his pleas she wanted to be as perfect as her mother though necessary and thus took the drugs that engineered for her. Afterwards she discovered that even with the drugs she could not achieve what she though was necessary and thus killed herself. Mrs. Hoving is confronted by the video and admits to hiring the hacker to up the dosage of the two girls as she blamed them for her daughter’s death.
In the last scene of the episode Kennex is interviewed by internal affairs. the man questions why Kennex would remember details now but Kennex remains evasive. The investigator alludes that it was Kennex’s fault that Anna managed to infiltrate the police department because he didn’t run a background check on her as is protocol. Kennex storms out of the meeting. His friend from forensics informs him the doll contained micro circuitry in its paint which turned it into a bug. According to her the last transmission was sent 7 hours earlier.
As is often the case with TV-shows that have both procedural and serialized story elements is that they get into each others way. Viewers are left with two stories for which 43 minutes is not enough to fully flesh them out. This episode of Almost Human manages to be the exception to the rule as the procedural story of Kennex and Dorian trying to find who spiked the designer drugs deals directly with technological enhancements. This is the leitmotif of Almost Human as is seen with the relationship between Dorian and Kennex, Kennex’s artificial leg and the pressure to perform at one’s peak efficiency. The procedural story thus acts as a support for the serialized part of the episode as Kennex tries to recollect memories from the ambush while using a dangerous addictive drugs.
I have also become to appreciate Lili Taylor as Captain Maldonado as the series progresses. She seems to be able to relate to Kennex more than either Dorian and Stahl can while also keeping him under control and become self-destructive. The banter between Dorian and Kennex is as good as ever but such scenes are fewer in this episode which I didn’t really mind. Previously there may have been too much emphasis on the humor at the cost of drama. Both in this episode and in the last the show seems to have found a better mix between the two.
I hope Almost Human will The Syndicate in its focus from now on. The 7 episode absence this organization and the motivator it is for Kennex was a huge mistake on the part of the shows creative staff.
Score; 9 / 10. I really liked this episode of Almost Human. The procedural part may be its weak point but ‘Perception’ lays the groundwork for a showdown with ‘The Syndicate’.
PS, before I forget don’t forget to check out last weeks episode ‘Unbound’ starring Gina Carano as the deadly Terminatrix Danica and John Larroquette as Dr. Nigel Vaughn, the man who created Dorian. Below you can find some screencaps of the highlights.