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'Almost Human' recap: Beauty is in the eye of the 'Beholder'

Season 1 | Episode 12 | “Beholder” | Aired Feb 24, 2014

First, a big commendation to this episode for indulging in awesome music. Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover” and Strange Advance’s “Worlds Away” are some of the best songs ever, with the latter being great for anyone’s new-wave, sci-fi, Blade Runner–esque playlist. Another quick suggestion for that list: “Clouds Across the Moon” by the RAH Band. If there was a second season, that song should have made it in.

Almost Human-Beholder-1Now, the actual recap: We enter on a man who’s unwinding after a long day at the office. He’s got his virtual golf course set up and “Worlds Away” blaring throughout his expensive penthouse. Suddenly, an intruder comes in, shocks him and stabs a needle through his neck, killing him.

Cut to some joviality: At the the precinct, Dorian answers a call that John is purposefully ignoring, a call from a woman named Samantha. Of course, Dorian would turn a potentially awkward call into a friend-making experience, jibing with the woman about John’s rude ways. According to Kennex, Samantha took every holo-call she could while they were on their date. Being “holo-blocked,” as Dorian puts it, has grated every nerve John has about the future and invasive technology. John asks why people can’t share meals without technology anymore.

Stahl breaks up Kennex and Dorian’s conversation with some news. Agitated, she says that there’s been a murder of a Chrome; however, it’s been listed as a natural cause—cardiac arrest. But Chromes don’t die young, Stahl says. She’s adamant that it’s a murder.

When the three arrive to the victim’s apartment, the death appears to be by a natural cause. Even Kennex, who usually sides with Stahl due to his crush, says that it’s a possibility no foul play was involved. He even seems a bit annoyed at the possibility that Chromes can’t die like Naturals, which is really interesting. But Stahl is right. The victim—an affluent trader, a swimmer in the 2036 Detroit Olympics—was killed by a device that went straight to his cerebral cortex. Another strange thing: As Dorian injects the victim’s DNA into his neck to deduce who and what killed him, Dorian takes in a sharp breath. What kind of subroutine did Dr. Vaughn install in Dorian that would give him the appearance (or the need?) to breath air? More questions that could have been answered in a second season.

Dorian’s sharp intake of air was at the discovery that seven different people’s DNA are on the victim’s puncture wound. The people are all the killer’s victims. Like this particular victim, all the people died of “natural causes.” Unlike this particular victim, they weren’t Chromes. But every victim was highly attractive.

AlmostHuman-ep112_sc12pt_015Our killer, Eric Lathem, visits a rogue doctor for some odd procedure. The procedure also looks like it hurts something major. Whatever is happening, it’s clearly something that helps change a person biologically, as we can see when the doctor injects the vial Eric gives him—a vial of liquid collected from his victim.

Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Maldonado is having a fit. Someone leaked the murder to the press, and now every media outlet is having a field day over the Chrome murder. Something as outrageous as a Chrome getting killed gets major play simply because they’re supposed to be perfect, and the death of Chrome in his or her prime is so rare. The victim was a member of the Electus Club. It’s a Chrome club, so Stahl elects herself to investigate, even though she vehemently dislikes her kind and their stuck-up attitudes, especially when it comes to her line of work. For some reason, Chromes don’t usually become police officers.

Question: Where are the minority Chromes? The only one I’ve seen in the entire series was one of the girls who was killed in “Perception.” I didn’t see, to use a Southern colloquialism, nan one minority Chrome during the Electus Club scenes. What’s up with that?

Almost Human-Beholder-2Stahl has a tête-à-tête with the club’s hostess, clearly owning her in the verbal fight, before the club’s owner, Jake comes over. All Stahl wants is the surveillance tape, but Jake wants to get to know her. He’s clearly intrigued by the amount of bite she has. Turns out he’s not like other Chromes either; his brother defied Chrome logic and became a wood sculptor. Jake’s parents were disappointed, but Jake’s brother is extremely happy with his life. “He pities us,” Jake says. Jake’s genuine sincerity gets Stahl to let down her guard and, of course, she gets the tape.

As this is going on, Kennex and Dorian are out on their ride-along, with Kennex chatting up a storm about the perils of technology and human connection. He must not like Stahl as much as we all thought, because he says how Chromes are part of the problem that’s separating humans from each other. Tons of murders happen every year, but the one that makes the big headlines is the one involving a Chrome, Kennex gripes. He says Chromes and other advancements have created an “us versus them” mentality. Dorian humors him, saying that he’s excited to embrace an anti-tech lifestyle. He states that instead of using a prosthetic leg, Kennex should replace it with a tree limb or “something useful,” like a shovel. Banter—it’s the spice of any relationship.

When they arrive to Rudy’s lab, Rudy discusses his shock at how they didn’t tel him about the beauty killer. He was once a child model and now he’s afraid that his devastatingly good looks will be his end. Of course, Kennex and Dorian humor him with an apology before getting down to brass tacks. Turns out the other victims were killed the same way as our trader. Rudy discovers that nanobots were injected into them and killed them by clawing at their brains.

Almost Human-Beholder-3Stahl patches through to Kennex and Dorian and informs them that their victim is on the surveillance video, as well as the main suspect. However, the suspect is tagged on facial recognition as two different people. It would appear he’s used their DNA on his face somehow. Enter a trip to one of the city’s premiere plastic surgeons, Dr. Randolph Amir. Dr. Amir was one of the doctors who originally endorsed a new type of plastic surgery involving nanobots. The bots would basically sculpt you from the inside out using genetic material from donors. Dr. Amir uses Dorian’s “perfect nose” as an example, making Dorian puff up with smugness and pride.

The catch, though, was that donors’ hearts would inexplicably stop, and the recipients would become severely disfigured. The trials ended and that idea was scrapped. Except that someone out there is still administering procedures. The question now is to find out where a person would get the device used in this procedure, an actuator. Time for a trip to the seedy side of town!

Almost Human-Beholder-5When Dorian sees what could be described as robot cockfighting, he immediately hates it. But this fight is where Kennex meets his black-market informer, Di Carlo. Di Carlo had to be knocked out of his exosuit—in the shape of a big woman—in order to spill the beans on the rogue doctor who has just completed another surgery on Eric. This means another person has been killed. The rapidity of the deaths makes the case more dire than ever.

Kennex and Dorian make it to the doctor’s lab and as they bust through, the doctor—now hopped up on synthetic adrenaline—attacks Kennex. The adrenaline helps keep Eric alive during the dangerous procedures, but it only kills the doctor, who had intended on fighting his way out of his lab. Dorian uses the doctor’s computer to find Eric’s next victim, a guy named Jonathan who has Eric’s perfect cheekbones. These cheekbones are the final piece to Eric’s face, the face he believes will make his online sweetheart, Judy, love him.

At the precinct, Kennex uses his noggin and figures out that the suspect works at the DMV. All of the victims live within miles of the area’s DMV, and they all have updated 3D turnaround driver’s license pictures, unlike Kennex’s, which is still an old-fashioned still picture. Stahl finds the connection to Eric and a picture of his old face. He was one of the trial subjects, despite the fact that he didn’t look like the ogre he believed himself to be. Stahl rightly categorizes him as having body dysmorphia; he didn’t need the surgery, but he felt like he was unloved by the amount of perfection around him. I would think that in this world, dysmorphic disorders would have spiked exponentially; there should be plenty more Erics running around.

Almost Human-Beholder-7Eric decides to surprise Judy with a visit; he’s certain to get caught, and he wants Judy to see him before it’s too late. The tragic irony is that Judy is blind, and she hoped he would love her despite her handicap! Eric realizes what a fool he’s been, but it’s too late—the cops bust in and he makes a run for it.

Kennex catches him on the roof. Eric makes to jump and Kennex tries to talk him out of it. But Eric’s mind is made up. “Have you ever been loved, John?” he asks. When Kennex answers in the affirmative, Eric says, “Then you wouldn’t understand. We’re supposed to be loved.” He jumps.

Almost Human-Beholder-9Kennex is still shaken up when they get back to the station. Dorian notices this and his perception leads to one of the more intriguing parts of the entire series. He asks Kennex, “Do you think that with all the people in the city and the world, there’s someone out there for everyone?” Kennex answers that he does, and Dorian states—with a smile, no less—how old-fashioned it is. Kennex smiles at him, saying how everything he likes is old-fashioned. “Even my robot’s discontinued,” he says. This leads to Dorian asking, “Do you want me to come to a bar with you and watch you drink?” Kennex says he doesn’t need him to come along, citing how it got weird the last time.

Who knows what happened to prompt Dorian’s big grin. But the mystery of that “last time” isn’t what’s odd to me. What’s interesting is that it legitimately seemed like Dorian, in his own robotic way, was asking Kennex out, with Kennex being blind to the actual intent of Dorian’s offer. Dorian likes spending time with Kennex, but Kennex is so focused on his own issues that he can’t see it.

Almost Human-Beholder-11It gets especially awkward when Kennex’s attempts to ask Stahl out get shut down when Jake comes to pick her up. You should’ve gone to the bar with Dorian, Kennex! Now you’re left sitting at the bay, pondering your life as couples and groups of friends walk by! Shirley Bassey is singing your tune, Kennex, you sad young man.

This is one of my favorite episodes of the season. What did you think about this poignant episode? Give your opinions (and music suggestions) in the comments section!