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.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sleepy Hollow: Jeremy Spoke in Class Today.

We learn the name of Ichabod Crane's mysterious son in the last episode of Sleepy Hollow, "The Golem".  His name is Jeremy and it took me a few beats to couple the fate of that star crossed youth with the tragic story of "Jeremy" of Pearl Jam fame. Here's how the song opens.

At home
Drawing pictures
Of mountain tops
With him on top
Lemon yellow sun
Arms raised in a V
Dead lay in pools of maroon below

Daddy didn't give attention
To the fact that mommy didn't care
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today.

The stories of the two Jeremy's are not dissimilar, nor are they identical.  Crane's son, Jeremy, didn't get attention from Daddy much like the youth that Eddie Vedder wrote about.  With each, tragedy ensued and death was just a step behind.

The fact that "Mommy didn't care" doesn't apply to the Sleepy Hollow Jeremy.  Katrina certainly cared and went to great lengths to protect her son.  I find that it interesting that Katrina throws her arms up into a V during the opening credits much like the Pearl Jam Jeremy does in the songs lyrics.
Here, Katrina seems to be casting a spell and the (family) trees bloom around her.  Her son, Jeremy, is the progeny of the "Witness" and a overt Witch and this has endowed him with certain powers.  Sadly, these powers go unchecked and he is quickly demonized.  (Obvious "Firestarter" homage.) The powers of the Pearl Jam Jeremy grow unchecked also, yet his demons were internalized causing him to act out in a self destructive way.

Watching Jeremy Crane's life play out before us saddened me.  There is something about a youthful life wasted that pushes my buttons.   The Jeremy of Pearl Jam infamy ended up taking his own life.  He couldn't reach his parents and they in turn ignored him.  He built a fantasy world that he lorded over high above the rest.  But it was steeped in the blood of the people that didn't appreciate him.

Jeremy Crane suffered from a lack of guidance also.  Something that now haunts Ichabod Crane.  If only he had been there for his son.  His wife would not have been banished and his son's heart wouldn't have been silenced.  Note the Coven said his heart was silenced, not dead, silenced.  My feeling is that he is being held in stasis somewhere.  Either for his own protection or for the protection of others.

(It was done with Ichabod why not Jeremy?)

This may be a stretch but I think "King Jeremy" of Sleepy Hollow is the key to defeating Moloch.  Moloch is the pagan god of child sacrifice. A sacrifice that demanded the children be given to fire.  Unsettling to be sure but it is interesting to see the Sleepy Hollow Jeremy command fire.  Control it no,summon it yes.

Perhaps Moloch fears Jeremy's power.  While Jeremy is out of the picture Moloch can flourish.   Should he be found it may mean the end for Moloch's gambit.

King Jeremy ruled the world in the Pearl Jam song.  Albeit a one that existed only in his head.  I wonder if the King Jeremy of Sleepy Hollow has a higher calling.  He may just a MacGuffan, something tantalizing but always out of reach.  The writers don't want to outshine Ichabod and Abbie with a larger character so I think Jeremy will be left to the periphery.  Sought after yes and oh so close but a promise never quite fulfilled.

Elsewhere in the creepy department, Irving's daughter Macey was reintroduced and we learn she is being shadowed by the forces of evil.  With Moloch being the god of child sacrifice this is truly ominous.

Irving had a great run in this episode.  His character has matured so much that it is hardly recognizable from it's original iteration.  I think the writers see the value in Orlando Jones and decided to fill him out in a different way.

Will Macey's fate be intertwined with that of Jeremy?  I believe so.  I offer no proof as of yet but the lines are being drawn.  We all know it is impossible to escape your fate from Fringe.  The dark shadows of fate were referred to again in this episode. 

From this, I'm reminded of the old saying,"Suffer the children."

The King James Bible quotes Matthew as saying, "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

So are Jeremy and Macey doomed to die but their sacrifice brings hope to the world by defeating Moloch?  It makes me wonder if Sleepy Hollow would take a world view of children in this way.  We've gotten a lot of talk of family and generations.  And we've seen our major characters be connected by lineage and fate.  So where does it end?  

Certainly a war is coming.  But when Moloch referred to war I think he was specifically referring to "War" one of the riders of the apocalypse. The Sleepy Hollow Scooby gang will have to supply a counter-punch.  Now that Henry Parrish (John Noble acting a little too much like Walter but so what I still love him) is on board I think they will use his powers to summon Jeremy.

Eddie Vedder sang of his Jeremy and spoke of, "Unleashing the lion".  Jeremy Crane will be that lion.  Maybe the role of Macey in this confrontation will be to tame the lion.  She'll be the one to direct his fury.  I'm just afraid it will cost her dearly.  Or rather, cost her father dearly.  Irving openly asked what God's role in all of this was. 

God's role will be to send an Angel and then call her back.

(I  free associated a little with this post.  If you have a problem with it sound off below.  That's what comments are for!)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Almost Human: Bloody Brothers

Sometimes I wonder if I am too forgiving of a TV show.  There are certain shows, like Almost Human, that I give a pass to.  Things like, plot holes, poor dialogue or rushed story lines don't bother me because I am predisposed to liking them either because of their pedigree or their format.

I read a review of "Blood Brothers" the most recent offering from Almost Human, on io9 today authored by Rob Bricken.  (You can read that review here.)  To put it mildly, he hated it.  Not just a little, but a lot.  You know when the F-bombs start flying there is a problem.

I like Rob's work.  He does a mailbag column for io9 where he answers a variety of questions mostly dealing with popular culture and science fiction in general.

Apparently he has been stuck with the assignment of reviewing Almost Human and God knows how long that will last given the tone of today's review.

I tried to leave some feedback for him, basically coaxing him back from the ledge.  The site only accepted part of my comments and drew the line when I tried to link to my own blog. 

Basically, I urged him to seek out the things Almost Human does well instead of fixating what they do poorly.

For example!

I had recently wondered aloud in these pages where Dorian sleeps.  Answered!

He sleeps with all the Ken dolls!  (Nope, I'm not going to post an image of that.  Too creepy.  Funny.  But creepy.)  The writers correctly assumed their viewing audience wondered the same things I did and answered it promptly.  Nice.

Dorian complains to Kennex that he is "miserable" with that arrangement and appeals for help.  This is where my personal antenna went up.  Recently, I posted a review of the episode "Are You Receiving?"  In it, I wondered about Dorian's state of mind and whether he was going to suffer from depression or not.  (Read that post here.)  Since he confesses to a state of misery in this episode I can only assume that his mental state is indeed vulnerable.  I think this will happen incrementally so let's not get too excited but it worth watching for.

Here's what Michael Ealy went on to say about Dorian's state of mind in an interview with Buddy TV. 

"We're gonna find out. Right now, the chemistry is so good now that we're starting to grow on each other. And he sees my value and I see his humanity which wasn't there in the pilot. I'm starting to see his humanity now. For Dorian, his range of emotions - depending on what they show — it can go from very, very emotional to pretty stoic. And that's been kinda fun to play, especially in the action sequences when he's just unstoppable."

I'm excited about the "range of emotions" Ealy speaks of.  This is the type of thing Almost Human does well.  I only wish Bricken and the other detractors of Almost Human could see this.

Dorian's humanity shone through when he spoke of family in the context of his relationship with Kennex and the rest of the police squad.  He displayed tenderness when he reached out to comfort the wounded psychic, Maya, as she lay recovering from her wounds in the hospital.  Another nice touch by the AH writers.  It must of been difficult for Dorian to hear Maya say "We all know we are going to lose our parents some day."  Not having parents must add to Dorian's state of "misery" but he handled it well.

Here's where Dorian makes a mistake.


Dorian chases down the van full of Ethan Avery's "brothers".  In a fit of anger he catches the van and flips it over.  Kennex and Stahl look on in amazement.  "Why hasn't he done that before?" Kennex stammers.

I'll tell you why John, it's not something humans can do and this is the type of thing that separates Dorian from the rest of humanity.

It's a little depressing.  Dorian acted out and proved he is not one of "us".

These are the types of things Almost Human does well.  I'm guilty of pumping the show up but it is not nearly as bad as Bricken and the rest claim. 

I think we can give the writers a pass here.  After all, they're only human.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Almost Human: Who Shot First?

I promised at the end of my last blog post to get to the numerous TV and movie references the Almost Human episode, "The Bends" paid homage to.   I'd better hurry up as the newest episode begins in about 30 minutes!

Much was made of the scene where Kennex tells Dorian to wait outside because, "They don't take kindly to androids" in there.  Once again, Kennex quotes Han Solo from Stars Wars.  This caused tremors of excitement across the Geek internet for those obsessed with the minutiae of such things, myself included.

I think we can take this a step further.

Tremors were also felt because, by the end of the episode, Kennex kills the suspect in cold blood that he easily could have apprehended and brought to justice. 

New police procedure for the future?  Summary justice or an act of vengeance?

Nope, I say it's Han Solo once again.

God knows there was a huge controversy after the first Star Wars movie that Solo killed Greedo in that same bar where androids aren't welcome.  He quickly became a fan favorite but it was rightly pointed out that he shot first, murdering Greedo.  This was quickly retconned by George Lucas.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying Kennex is fashioned after Solo.  He's quoting him and now he's shooting like him.  Lucas may not be happy but Wyaman and Abrams are chuckling with glee.

Let's get to some more homges...

I posted this picture of Bridget Fonda in my last blog entry as a clue.  I thought I caught a homage to the Fonda flick, "Point of No Return" as the girlfriend of the dead undercover detective looked remarkably like her.  See the photo below.

Damn close I'd say!

Speaking of dead ringers (no pun intended) don't you think the actor that played the dead undercover detective looked like Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad?

How about a salute to "The Shield"?

Benito Martinez played David Aceveda on that series and he returns as a cop here albeit a little dirtier (and a little heavier.)

I think we got a salute to the "Bone Collector" also.

Remember when Angelina Jolie's character was prowling the subterranean depths of the city in search of the killer?

It looked a lot like John Kennex's search for his killer!

Here's one of my favorite homages from "The Bends".

The cops aren't the only ones using androids.  Here, the disembodied head of the criminal android dangle in space.  What does that remind you of?

The Borg Queen of Star Trek; First Contact of course!  If you are going to pay homage to Star Wars you have to throw in a little Star Trek too!

That was rather a dizzying array of salutes.  Did I miss any?  Let me know!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Almost Human: The Bends

Almost Human takes on the serious subject of racism.

But first....

Rudy Lom nervously passes some gas when confronted by the bad guys.  Yes, Almost Human did  a fart joke.  I think I did a double take and thought to myself, "Did he just fart?"  Yep, he did.  Here's what the gang behind  Almost Human said about their sense of humor.

From JJ Abrams,

"With something like 'Almost Human,' the challenge of creating something that feels new is not in even the case of the week, or the look of the world. It goes down to how do these two interact. There's some really funny and sweet exchanges between these characters as the relationship develops. That is what's taking you through the event."

From Karl Urban,

"It seemed to me that there was a huge potential for fun, for comedy. What I realized was at the heart of the show, both these characters are learning from each other. They're learning about what it means to be human, and that was really quite an interesting and exciting concept."

And from Mr. Wyman himself,

[Fringe was] heavy at times for me. This is lighter, more fun, I'm trying to make it a little bit more of a fun pill.

Okay, I get it, Almost Human is hilarious.

This avalanche of quotes came right before last night's laugh out loud episode (thanks to io9 for the quotes).  I don't have a problem with the humor.  Some of it is pretty funny and some of it is clever.  But after the day's avalanche of quotes I thought some of it was forced.

Please don't tell me your show is funny, I can figure it out for myself.

Was it funny when the android head called Rudy a male anatomy part?  Yeah, a little.  But I wouldn't take that jive from something that doesn't even have that part yet.

It's a little too bad that AH is forcing it's humor a bit.  Humor is at it's best when it is subtle and takes advantage of timing.  That's when you know it is pure.  

What is also too bad is that Almost Human takes on some very serious subjects and exposes them for what they are but sometimes they get lost amidst all the hilarity.  In these pages I've written on how AH exposes the pain behind objectifying women and even worse the subject of slavery.  Recently, I feel, they imbued Dorian with a possible state of depression.  I hope they aren't afraid of exploring this further.

Last night it was racism.

I know what you're thinking, "Calm down Dave, don't take it all so seriously."  I'm not, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  One of these days Almost Human is going to devote a full episode to the taboo subjects they explore.  Until then, we'll have to settle for the odd and ephemeral references here and there.

If you blinked you may have missed the reference to racism and the agony it caused African Americans, especially in the modern era of the fifties and sixties when civil rights was at the forefront of American society.

In the scene above which comes at about the 25 minute mark of the hour long time run, Kennex tells Dorian he has to wait outside before he goes into a bar because they don't take kindly to Androids in there.  He may as well be telling him to go around back and use the kitchen entrance because that's where people of color are supposed to enter.

There is no mistaking this quick tableau.  When you tell a Black man he is not welcome somewhere because of he is of  a certain type, it is racism.  Just because they substituted "Android" for Black doesn't mean they don't know what they are referring to.

I say good for Almost Human.  Once again they pointed out how Dorian is different.  In their  future world it may be "post-racist" but that doesn'tmean we shouldn't read between the lines and realize they are once again shining a harsh light on today's society and forcing us to look into the mirror.

Good for them.

Like I said, one of these days they won't be so subtle and the hammer will come down and force us to confront the wrongs of today's society.  Perhaps they are slowly working us into it before they come up with some apocalyptic episode that people will be talking about for weeks and months to come.  

I look forward to that day.

Until then, fart and prick jokes will salve our uneasy collective conscience.

There was a ton of TV and movie salutes in this past episode.  So many so that I will have to devote a separate blog post to them all.  Look for it soon.

Here's a clue!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Sleepy Holllow: Family Tree

I hope everyone is having or has had a Happy Thanksgiving.  Would I be typing away on a holiday?  Yea merrily I would'st!  (That was for Ichabod.)

Much like Almost Human, Sleepy Hollow followed it's last weeks effort with a rather average episode.  There was a lot of sturm und drang but not much of substance happened at least until the end that is!

Our fine feathered friends made a big show of themselves once again.  The featured bird was the crow.  Here's what the website "Shamanicjourney" says about the crow...

 "Many cultures consider crows to be the keepers of the Sacred Law, for nothing escapes their keen sight. To have a Crow as a power animal is extremely powerful stuff. When we meditate on the crow and align with it, we are instilled with the wisdom to know ourselves beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking and laws. We are taught to appreciate the many dimensions of both reality and ourselves, and to learn to trust our intuition and personal integrity."

The key parts of this statement, at least to us "Sleepy Heads",  (Yes, that's what they call us) would be the references to "Sacred Law" and the "Appreciation of the many dimensions of both reality and ourselves."  

There has been numerous, numerous allusions to the many religions of the world in Sleepy Hollow In fact, so many that you can virtually trip over a sacred law and break it without knowing it.  Does this over complicate things?  I don't think so but I do wish they would pay particular attention to the spiritualism of the American Indian.  Its mysticism would greatly serve this show and and distinguish itself as the religion that came before the white man and the battle between good and evil runs deeper than just the Colonials sense of worship.

When the quotation mentions "dimensions" it's clear we have seen several already.  Examples of which would be the "mirror world" or "Purgatory" that Katrina is trapped in.  Or the land of Sleep that the Sandman lords or over.  We even had the world of the  restless dead where the Roanoke colony drifted about.  These dimensions act as a contrast to the land of the living where Sleepy Hollow resides but that doesn't mean they are less important or vital.

Here's another nice entry from the "Shamnicjourney"....

"Throughout history there have been many (unnecessary) conflicts and wars between humans due to differing moral and religious beliefs. To truly create a new age of love, peace and harmony it is of high importance for us to be able to transcend our particular cultural limitations and to hold in our hearts and souls what we share as spiritual beings in human form. We are all connected, infinitely and composed of the same 'stuff'. We need to realize that hurting others only hurts ourselves. Crow is the bird which represents this transcendence"

Now that statement hits the nail on the head of this show.

We are certainly embroiled in conflict.  As to it being unnecessary,  I would wager the battle between good and evil is as necessary or imperative as it gets.  No getting around this battle.  They do refer to the battles between humans and this seems to be a battle that involves human versus the spiritual world.  However, when the forces of evil turn humanity against itself we are left with nothing but to fight against ourselves.

Crow representing "transcendence" is interesting for us.  This show reeks of the several players and groups seeking to make better of themselves.  And not always in a good way.  The paragraph states we are all connected and in hurting others we hurt ourselves.  This was never more true than for the characters of Ichabod Crane and the Horseman.  For a while one could not hurt the other or allow harm come to either without severe consequences for themselves.  Unfortunately. this link was broken. (A mistake on the part of the writers I feel.) 

You could even make the case this applies to the Mills sisters.  If Abbie had treated her sister better then they wouldn't have spent the rest of their lives separated, distrustful and alienated.  Jenny grew bitter and betrayed while Abbie was left lonely and guilt ridden.

The harm that we do to each other is felt across dimensions too I feel.  There seems to be a spiritual "Newton's Law" in effect.  "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  For instance, this applied to the people of the Roanoke Colony.  When they reached across the spiritual world to Ichabod and Abbie, it was the actions of those two that allowed the Roanoke people to peacefully continue their spiritual journey. 

I feel as though I've spent too much time on "Brother Crow" and while the symbolism behind all the birds is rich and varied the title of this blog post is "Family Tree".

The biggest revelation to come out of this episode was that Ichabod has (had) a son.   This may provide us the biggest clue as to why Moloch has Katrina trapped in purgatory.  It may also explain why Brooks ordered the Horseman to stop attacking Ichabod.  Me thinks Moloch needs Ichabod and Katrina alive in order to discover the whereabouts of the Crane heir.  Let's examine a few questions this raises.

  • Is the son in the land of the living or the dead?
  • Has he fully matured or is he still a timeless child?
  • What power does the boy hold and why is Moloch so interested?
  • Does the Crane offspring offer the solution to forestalling the apocalypse?
If we consider the aforementioned points we may find ourselves in another "The Boy Must Live" scenario that was fully explored in the TV show, "Fringe".  To me, this would be tiresome.  Been there, done that!  It seems inevitable though.  I hope they put a clever twist on this revelation.

So, you may have guessed I named this post, Family Tree, because we have found out that Crane has a son and Ichabod ended up fighting a tree demon whose roots encompassed the house and trapped the long lost relative to the Fredericks line.  It also once housed Grace Dickinson that turns out to be a distant relative to Abbie Mills.  Now that is some home.  Family Tree indeed!

Do you think the Tree Demon is actually Crane's son rooted in this prison forever more?  And now, Ichabod has put a severe beating on what may be his son and hacked away at every bleeding root that was once the Crane family line?

Yeah, probably not.  Too twisted, too gruesome.  I'd like it but I don't think the writers are prepared to go there.  I hope the tree demon turns out to be some we know or will come to know.

So what are your thoughts on the episode "Sanctuary".  Any more family business I missed?

(Sorry this post was a bit late.  Darn the holidays!)