They’re heeere. Not poltergeists, but synths. In the gripping new sci-fi drama, Humans, that premieres on AMC tonight.
Based on the Swedish sci-fi drama, Real Humans (Äkta Människor), Humans is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have device for people with first-world problems is a synth — as in a synthetic humanoid, a robotic servant that looks as human as, well, humans, save for their ultra-green irises, blue blood, and weird, no-arm-swaying walk.
After watching the first two episodes, here are my top ten reasons for why you should tune in to Humans.
1 – It makes you wonder about yourself.
Synths can bring out one’s insecurities. Take Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson, The IT Crowd). She’s a busy attorney, wife, and mum who’s never wanted a synth, but finds herself with one after hubby Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill, Mr. Selfridge) buys the now-named Anita Hawkins (Gemma Chan, Bedlam) to help around the house. Except Anita is very efficient, too much for Laura’s liking, and Laura feels like a crap mum, especially when younger daughter Sophie (Pixie Davies, The White Queen) prefers Anita’s bedtime story-reading to hers.
2 – It makes you wonder about your place in the world.
There are already robotic devices that build cars, defuse bombs, and assist in operations, so the more fatalistic perspective of Laura’s elder daughter Mattie (Lucy Carless, Code of a Killer) is almost spot-on. Why bother studying and getting good grades when synths will be doing brain surgeries soon enough?
3 – It makes you wonder about who’s a synth and who isn’t.
Some synths have gained consciousness and are programmed to feel, such as Niska (Emily Berrington, 24: Live Another Day), who was abducted and sold as a sex worker. She wants out, but Leo (Colin Morgan, Merlin), the leader of a group of sentient synths trying to escape captivity, tells her to stay so she can remain hidden from the people who are after them. The question is, is Leo human or a synth, too?
4 – It makes you question who the good guys and bad guys are.
While Leo is searching for Anita, shady figure Hobbs (Danny Webb, Scott & Bailey) is searching for him and all of the sentient synths. Unfortunately for Fred (Sope Dirisu, The Casual Vacancy), he/it is captured by Hobbs, who is now probing Fred’s memories to find the others.
5 – It makes you wonder why there are so many laws for synths and synth ownership.
It’s like meter maids-meet-immigration officers gone wild. DS Pete Drummond (Neil Maskell, Utopia) and DI Karen Voss (Ruth Bradley, Love/Hate) are Special Technologies Task Force officers, who patrol the streets, shops, etc for violators. And they don’t just write tickets or send synths home, either.
[As a side note, Pete’s feelings about synths are getting personal, since wife Jill (Jill Halfpenny, EastEnders) prefers her post-accident care to be handled, not by him but the buff, sexy synth physiotherapist Simon (Jack Derges, WPC 56).]
6 – It makes you think twice about who’s in charge of whom.
George Millican (William Hurt, Damages), a synth inventor who’s now experiencing signs of dementia, prefers Odi (Will Tudor, Game of Thrones), an outdated synth model that he is supposed to recycle but hasn’t, because Odi is like a son to him. Perhaps more importantly, Odi holds memories of George’s deceased wife. So George hides Odi in the shed after Health Services forces on him Vera (Rebecca Front, Inspector Lewis), an elder-care synth who’s like The Jetsons‘ Rosie meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s Nurse Ratched.
7 – It makes you chuckle.
Speaking of William Hurt, he brings a wry sensibility to his interactions with Odi and Vera, gives viewers comic relief to offset the anxiety evoked in other threads, and is simply delightful to watch.
8 – It creeps you out.
Vera is about as creepy as synths get, what with her ice-cold stare and not-remotely-tender TLC. As for Anita, for all of her assurances that she is programmed to follow the directives of her primary owner, she seems to have a very human mean streak. And Laura experiences it first-hand. More than once.
9 – It makes you remember the things that make us human.
Laura and Joe’s son, Toby (Theo Stevenson, Millie Inbetween), begins feeling the tug of his hormones with Anita’s arrival. ‘Nuff said.
10 – It makes you wonder if Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak might be right about AI and the singularity.
The eminent physicist, inventor, and Apple co-founder see the rise of AI as the downfall of humanity. While there isn’t anything in the first two episodes of Humans to indicate that the synths are trying to take over us and the world, a few of them have mentioned The Master. If their version of The Master is anything like the one in Doctor Who, then the humans of Humans are in deep trouble. Maybe we are, too.
Humans premieres in the US at 9 PM ET tonight, exclusively on AMC.
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