This week’s Almost Human 80’s Acton Film References are pretty much all wrapped up in a Die Hard bow. But where previous episodes used visual and thematic references to create a sense of the world in which these characters move, this time, writer Justin Doble pretty much just lifts the heist plot of Die Hard wholesale, leaving behind most of the wit and charm.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t jokes scattered throughout the script, but they are a pale shadow of the clever writing that marked the first two episodes. Karl Urban and Michael Ealy do what they can with the dialogue, but even they can’t make a joke about Dorian putting his finger “someplace else” (ewww!) funny. And his magical ability to heat coffee just by holding a couple of wires is nonsensical. Even the bickering that worked so well last time just seems forced, and slightly annoying, this week.
It doesn’t help that for most of the episode, our heroes are slowly making their way up a stairwell to the 25th floor — isolating them from the futuristic setting that is one of the strongest features of the show — and instead of talking to each other, most of the dialogue is between Kennex and a frightened hidden hostage, which forces Urban to stay in comforting nice-guy mode, sharing childhood scares and his embarrassing middle name, which I honestly found tiresome and unconvincing. One of the strengths of the character is his weakness in relating casually to normal people (see: scaring the children with his knife to the leg trick) until he finds an awkward middle ground (see: giving away the toy robotic giraffe).
This week, however, he dives right in with the sharing and the comforting while Dorian just fades into the background before taking a bullet to the head (during a shootout in what are apparently bulletproof office cubicles). This forces some artificial drama as Kennex patches him up with a piece of chewed bubble gum and he is as good as new.
As good as new.
It’s a funny scene, one of the only humorous moments in the episode to really work the way it was intended, but given that there are no actual repercussions to both the wound and the makeshift fix, there’s really no narrative purpose for the scene except to provide some fake tension and maybe justify the “50 shades of purple” joke and the later “Your head’s full of bubblegum” joke. Both are funny, but pointless overall.
As with the previous episodes, Lili Taylor is being horribly misused spouting cliché-ridden dialogue that has me hoping she’s getting well paid for this waste of her time. At least it’s an easy gig and she’s doing the best she can with it. There’s something to be said for job security, after all, but it makes me sad. As does the sidelining of Minka Kelly‘s Detective Stahl.
All in all, this episode was a misstep that lacked just about everything that made the first two episodes appointment TV.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.