Unlike a certain high grossing erotic film release, Humans continues to make great use of its grey subject matter. The opening episode defined the divides of Synth and human culture while teasing the blurred lines in between. This continues to be the main well-explored theme as the show reveals more about its characters.
Episode 2 – Laura’s suspicions over Anita’s behaviour grow despite the rest of the family embracing her. George’s attempts to hide the defective Odi see him issued with a new and decidedly stricter model synth carer, Vera. Peter still struggles with his wife favouring her physical therapy Synth and Leo learns more about Anita’s reprogramming.
The central focus stays on Anita, her unexplained actions and how Laura perceives her. Yet again she shows signs of at least subconsciously trying to muscle in on daughter, Sophie. The writers find great subtle ways to allow the remaining cast to perceive it as accidental behaviour, such as the spider encounter. By the same logic, Laura believes she knew all about her phobia, it is entirely possible for Joe and the others to conclude she could not have known, and this was a simple mistake. Then, there are the subtle details like beating Laura to making Sophie’s lunch box because she knows the association Laura places on that as a mother. The biggest mystery is still over why Anita has these feelings breaking through her programming only for Sophie. Maybe before she was captured she was an experiment into creating artificial maternal instincts? Or similarly with the transfer of human memories and her donor was a mother? It’s the end confrontation between the pair that teases Anita’s possible awareness of her actions. Not just the direct character break but how she responds when Laura asks her if she’s lying, “I cannot lie Laura”..... It’s a statement of defaulting the question is it not a denial and could be perceived as evasive deflection.
The George and Odi story continues to impress via the more permanent introduction of Vera as his new care giver. Last time, she came across as more matron than companion but the episode takes this a surprising deeper extent by implying higher level intent. In George’s own words, she’s not a carer, she’s a jailor forcing prescribed dietary and behaviour requirements upon him whether he likes it or not. In her actions, we see the best argument yet against the expanded use of Synths in society. There are some jobs and occupations that require more than knowledge and skill. By lacking human empathy, Vera cannot fully assess and cater to George’s emotional needs as well as physical so despite her best intentions she’s making him miserable and reinforces the loving bond between George and Odi. This also serves as good counter argument to Mattie’s rebellion based on Synth’s taking the purpose from her life. Until a machine cannot only think but feel as human, there will always be jobs that only we can do (although that might also be on the way). Finally, George drops a curious little bombshell that suggests his connection to the bigger picture; he was one of the original architects of Synth technology. He even directly appeals to Vera as a parent to a child, “There are bits of you that have hardly changed since my original designs, I helped create you”.... though all the good it does him.
The searching exploits of Leo and Max have a lot to offer this time around. First, there’s Max’s character who now feels like a more interesting incomplete version of the developed consciousness we’ve seen from Niska and Fred. It’s like he’s still fighting off the last traces of his programming as he speculates with Max whether or not they were all meant to be a family. Like something he can’t explain is teasing him back to conforming. Yet mere minutes later, he shows a human like inability to set aside his emotions when Leo is in trouble. However, it’s Leo’s surprise revelation that asks the most questions with what should be some intriguing answers. Niska still plays a more minor role but hopefully her break out will see her uniting with the boys. Her final customer is a wonderfully played scene. At first, it feels like her nervous and over-polite patron will see her opening up in compassion only to flip in snap when his sick Ser Meryn Trant like fantasy is revealed. You have to love her defiant departing remarks to her lady captor as she reminds her she’d be treated no different by their customers given the chance.
Only two episodes in and Humans has already offered plenty tantalising hooks to keep us watching. It’s smart and insightful in its approaches to AI society integration. Mattie‘s attempted Synth hack delivers the best line in her continued resentment, “Why would I have a problem with a thing that’s making my existence pointless”, and Max gets the biggest laugh for his moment of horny teen weakness (but serious, what was he expecting to feel there?). Hopefully, soon we’ll start to see the isolated stories develop more connections. The best case scenario seems Leo and Max going to George for help (presumably he’s a friend of their “father”). In a week, where a trusted AI film franchise has delivered a clanger, it’s good to have shows like Humans delivering