Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of Humans. To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
Things come to a head in a big way in three different storylines in this week’s episode of Humans, which culminates in the series’ finest hour to date. Episode five allowed characters nuance and emotional crisis, and many of them were put in either perilous or emotional confrontations.
Laura and Joe:
For a moment I was terrified that Joe, aka the worst, was going to be let off the hook completely for his inappropriate tryst with Anita. After Mattie discovers in her coding that Anita’s 18+ options had been activated, she immediately pins the blame on Tobey, knowing that her younger brother has a crush on her. Tobey at first protests, as we all know it wasn’t him, but soon he puts together the fact that it was his father. Rather than open that can of worms, he keeps quiet and deals with the blame. It’s a nice bit of characterization for a character who’s largely been sidelined and further points to the fact that out of the main family, Joe is the odd one out.
This becomes further apparent when, after being approached by Tobey, he finally resigns himself to telling Laura. It’s the idea that he’s only doing it because he’s been cornered, because he’s been confronted by his child, that rings so unpleasant. As someone who is firmly on the side of Joe being in the wrong, I’m glad to see that the show seems to lean that way as well. Laura is understandably mortified by the revelation and kicks Joe out of the house, despite him trying to justify his discretion by partially blaming Laura for her distant behaviour. It’s yet another good moment for Laura, who I at first feared would be written as little more than a “nagging wife” trope.
Katherine Parkinson deserves better than that, and she got it. Now as long as she refuses to forgive Joe, I’ll be happy.
Leo and Anita
In all honesty, Leo’s character has been annoying me more than I’d hoped he would. As someone who has hoped for Colin Morgan to get better roles, this is even more disappointing, as the grumbly, angst-ridden Leo isn’t an easy character to root for. Luckily this week he was given a chance to shine a bit more (while still being grumbly and angst-ridden) as he’s finally put face to face with Anita, the woman he used to love who holds so little semblance to who she once was. He tries everything to get her back, and Morgan and Gemma Chan sell the scene remarkably as two beings unable to make out the other.
I’m more interested in the potential fallout of their meeting now that Mattie has more of a reason to pursue Anita’s background, but for a brief moment Leo was compelling enough on his own.
Niska and George
I really do understand why people may not love Niska. She, like Leo, is rather one-note, and while you can understand and even sympathize with her anger towards humans after what she endured, it’s hard to enjoy just how aggressive she is, especially when she seems needlessly antagonistic towards George. I, however, find her fascinating, like George and the two of them together. Simply discussing the logistics of artificial intelligence, of living a life that’s been programmed be it human or not, is the best writing the show has done to date.
It’s a discussion that faces the potential troubles with artificial intelligence head-on. There’s a genuine curiosity from George when he asks Niska what it’s like being her, but how can she possibly answer such a question when “being her” is all she’s ever known? There’s also a sense that George is teaching Niska so many needed lessons, such as the need for fear of death, something that Niska has never experienced.
William Hurt shines in these scenes, allowed to tone down the bumbling old man character and awaken the scientist underneath.
It’s a wonderful episode from start to finish, and it’s good to see that after a stalled beginning, Humans is racing for an exciting and thrilling home stretch, with only three episodes left.