Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Almost Human - An Angry God?



Philosophers have wrestled with the question "What is worse than an angry God?"  And the most popular answer has been "An indifferent one."  At least the angry God is paying attention!

Almost Human introduced us to the "Angry God" in the most recent episode, "Arrhythmia."    Well, we didn't get God per se but we did get someone playing God and that would be the mortician, Karl.  (Was his name Karl?  I've checked several listings and the actor seems to be a ghost.  I'll call him Karl until corrected.)  

A benevolent God certainly wouldn't allow people to regain their much needed hearts only to extort them into keeping said heart.  An Indifferent God wouldn't care either way.  But the Angry God, he wants his pound of flesh.

The mortician's assistant had set up a nice little side business in second hand hearts.  If they're still  good why throw them away? (Which was DRN 494's cue to enter.)  He seemed like such a nice man.  But a nice man he wasn't.  He held the fate of every person that was beholden to him.  Even as far as running a death clock on each of them.

Almost Human had a slight paradigm shift for this last episode.  Yes, it was mostly another police procedural.  The humor was there and we had some nice futuristic techno gadgets.  But instead of asking the question what it is to be human we get what it is like to play God.  The TV show Fringe made a lot of bacon out of that question and there were many, many candidates.  First and foremost the beloved Walter.

I suppose the question of playing God hasn't been too far off the table for Almost Human.  When we get an episode like "Blood Brothers" and the conundrum of cloning people has been wrestled with, (and outlawed in the future) then rolling dice with humans becomes almost god like.

Another way of looking at the Angry God question is to look at his frustrated counterpart, Satan.  



Satan has many ways of tempting people and, purportedly, his main goal is to get you to sell your soul.  If we look to the fallen angel then we see he is alive and well in this episode of Almost Human.  Karl literally got people to sell themselves to him and the price for not meeting his demands was eternal damnation.  Oddly enough for the people willing to do this it actually gave them hope.  The elderly couple that embraced each other as time ran out knew they were on borrowed time and when it ran out they just shared a quiet moment with each other knowing it couldn't have lasted forever.

Satan wouldn't have like that.  People at peace with each other is not good for business.

So if not God and not Satan then who?  Man?  Are we the worst of the bunch?  If we follow the pattern that Almost Human has laid out before us then Man is potentially the worst master of fate.  The Bible tells us to love one another.  To be custodian of the Earth and the animals within.  Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

In the future we are cloning people, synthesizing them, prostituting them and treating them as property which by all accounts is slavery.

We're pathetic

Where's Walter when you need him?  At least his God was paying attention when he proffered his white tulip of forgiveness.


So it all does come back to us doesn't it?  If we are to answer the question "almost human", are we speaking of ourselves?  It seems so.

Are we that incomplete as beings?  We strive to reach the fullest potential of our humanity yet we often fall short and fall victim to our sins?

Let me give you some hope.


One of the sweetest notions to come out of this past episode was the concept of being someone's "wake up person."  That is what Dorian told Kennex he was to him.  When he came out of his forced slumber the first person he saw was John.  It filled him with hope, notions of family and the most essential antidote to loneliness, another being.

Dorian wanted to be that for DRN 494.  That first person you saw that would take you by the hand and lead the way.  The greatest of human gestures.  Is that god like?  Your mother is usually the first person you see when you are born.  Is she god like to you?  (She did give you creation!)  

If you believe that God made us in his own image then perhaps you believe that we have his eternal spark in all of us.  We live for our eternal reward in the everlasting afterlife.  

I think that is what Dorian was referring to when he said in the episode,"Skin" that being remembered is the most important thing we can do for one another.  Then we are truly immortal after we pass on because we live in the hearts and minds of those that follow us.

Almost God?  Almost Human? 

"Almost complete" but never there.  Well, maybe that's the best of both worlds. We endlessly struggle to perfect our selves.  We even make clones, synthetics and robots.  We hold them as we would a mirror and reflect upon ourselves.  Are we doing right by ourselves and the things we create? (Insert the harsh lesson of Frankenstein here.)


I led off this piece with a picture of DRN 494 looking through the car door glass and we see the reflection of Dorian and Kennex, a great cinematic touch.  He looks a bit sad.  Does he see the beings that created him, that care for him that will remember him? Are they his brothers or higher beings?  Reflection also means contemplation and these are the things that make 494 almost human.

Or perhaps more.

2 comments:

  1. This episode seems to really have connected with you. Indeed, the idea of playing god was strong... Though I saw the episode (in pieces because of family issues) also as a statement of what some people will do with progress, meaning - some will unfortunately just try to make a buck out of it.

    I liked the counterplay of watching Dorian and DRN: they are made of the same parts part are very different, one being considered faulty. Contrasted with what the mortician was doing with the artificial hearts (I never would have thought of doing that... I've made a rotten crook)

    I liked this episode almost as much as the Cyndi Lauper one...

    Really well thought out post, David!

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  2. Hi Dave,

    This is probably my favorite episode of AH so far. Watching Michael Ealy play 2 different DRNs was a treat and my favorite part. Although it was originally filmed as the 3rd episode I thought it bookended thematically with the previous episode, Blood Brothers, rather well.

    As you outlined very nicely above there is a lot of "playing God" going on in this episode and in the series as a whole. To what end? Here it's all about the $. It is pretty bleak that in this future people are literally paying for more life. (not that we don’t do this now to a lesser degree) While criminals are exploiting them illegally, the medical corporations are also in a more insidious way by preventing artificial organ recycling to keep prices high. Arrhythmia is a great title, not just for the direct heart reference, but also to indicate a society with priorities out of sync.

    One of the key quotes from Blood Brothers was "What would you do to save yourself?" We see that played out in Arrhythmia in a number of ways. The desire for "more time" was brought up more than once. (Another Blade Runner reference, along with one light stick umbrella sighting.) Even though the woman patient was told of the scam she still wanted “in” just for a little more time. I believe the creep in the crematorium (sounds like a Bones episode) was named Henry. Henry could have done the right thing and reset the timers. He chose not to and killed his accomplice just to buy himself more time. I found it interesting that Henry seemed jealous of Dorian's longevity. And why wouldn't he be? Part of being human is facing death. Humans have tried to cheat that finality, but a synthetic actually can.

    Another thematic tie-in to Blood Brothers was individuality. I honestly had not seen the preview for this episode when I wondered in my comment last week about how Dorian would react to another DRN "clone". Kinship was clearly the answer. No surprise that Dorian would sympathize with another DRN demoted to maintenance work. One thing their interaction illustrated is that like humans, their choices and actions have consequences and shape who they are. The Rube Goldberg-esque destruction of the MX on the street was a humorous way to illustrate this. (What is the MX scrap heap toll now? Somebody must be keeping a running count.) DRN494 was both proud of and scarred by his past actions that saved a young boy. He is now "terrified" to carry a gun, he broke protocol once and was demoted, no matter how noble the reason. Dorian selectively restores the memory of the boy, DRN494 will be remembered and the memory of that human connection will be a comfort to him. It reminded me of Dorian’s parting gesture with Maya last week. So do humans have another reason to be jealous of the DRNs? DRNs can make mistakes and get a clean slate, a memory wipe and no guilt.

    Finally, coffee is OK, but chewing gum is not OK.

    Impatiently surviving the winter hiatus, Lynne

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