Surpise, Surprise - HUMANS Episode 6 Review

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Tony Fyler jumps out from behind the couch.

Spontaneity - the ability to act irrationally or unpredictably – is key to both the human condition and the response of surprise. It’s what makes us human, and fallible, and prone to emotion and whim. Humans, Episode 6 had plenty to surprise us, and much of it revolved around this special skill – and why it might not be so special any more.

Surprise is ultimately the point of transference for Synths – the ability to be unpredictable beings in their own right would make them unfathomable, unplottable, and uncontrollable. In a sense, it’s what the whole series has been about – Niska the intensely violent broke free of her ‘role’ in the human-directed society when she unexpectedly killed a horrible, small-minded man to protect others. Anita, the Hawkins’ Synth, has always been the perfect avatar of service docility, the acme of no-surprise, no spontaneity or irrationality, except when it has come to protecting the Hawkins children. DI Drummond has previously said that at the point where Synths can pass themselves off as humans, ‘we’re all fucked,’ but what he means is that that happens at the point where a Synth can have the idea of doing it, because that makes them unpredictable. It’s particularly, sweetly ironic he should think that, given his relationships with his wife Jill – who has chosen her plastic pal Simon over him, and with DI Voss, who has chosen him as her favourite human in the world.

Both those Drummond-related storylines reach a peak in this episode, and surprise is at the heart of both of them. Jill and Simon finally get it together, and we learn that surprise, or at least the potential for surprise, is a key element in a fulfilling sexual experience, because while Simon is sure his ‘angle of entry’ was ‘perfect,’ Jill needs more spontaneity in her partner, leading to an unfortunate modification-job that makes Simon go about spontaneous as The Shining. Voss too, having crossed the line with Drummond, reveals her greatest secret to him and, perhaps understandably, given everything he knows, it doesn’t go especially well.

We also learn that Laura Hawkins has been carrying a secret of her own since childhood – a secret that not even husband Joe knows. When it’s revealed to daughter and anarcho-hacker Mattie, it bridges a gap between the two, but it also starts a ball rolling that helps reveal several more of the series’ key secrets and surprises, one falling after another like a treasure trove of Easter eggs.

If surprise and duplicity weren’t clear enough as the keynotes of this episode, there are more instances – all of them subtly different in their emotional texture. Hobb, the conscious-Synth-hunter turns out to be a very different character to the one we’ve seen over the past five episodes (or, conceivably, his new self is itself an act of duplicity – personally, I’m waiting for him to go Blade Runnertastic and bleed blue), leading to both a first and a final act in this episode that reveal the extent of our conscious Synths’ capacity to surprise, and to think outside the box in which they came. Fred, who’s been strapped to a lab table for much of the series… well, let’s just say that Fred is now fully rested and not laying down any more. And Max – perhaps the intrinsically sweetest of the conscious Synths, takes us on a very special journey here. In Philip K Dick’s superlative novel, the source material for Blade Runner, we’re asked the question: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? It would be glib to ask if Synths pray to an electric god, but Max puts us straight on that – no, not unless they’re programmed that way (satirical much?). They pray to the same ones we do, while simultaneously that their existence is ‘unproven, and seems extremely unlikely.’ Nevertheless, Max, a surely soulless Synth, makes the classical prayer-bargain: help me, and I’ll help you, and I’ll try really hard to believe in you too. It’s an act of very human humility, only underlined by the events of end of the episode.

Humans has so far been an absorbing British do-over of a modern Scandinavian classic show. The performances from some of the best character actors in the game have been superbly on point (a tiny shout-out here for Wil Tudor as Odi, one among many great performances), selling some of the best TV writing for geeks. Here’s hoping it continues for many seasons, teaching us more and more about what it actually means to be human.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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