Humans S1E1 - "Episode 1" Review

Channel 4 just debuted its latest series, "Humans," an adaptation of the Swedish program "Äkta människor" and it's offering up so much of what we look for in our television programs.

The Nonhuman Element

A common staple of good science fiction programs is the presence of some strange creatures, be they robots, aliens, or some other form of living being unlike the regular human ones we've grown accustomed to seeing in other media genres. "Humans" introduces 'Synths' which bear much similarity to robots in their technological make-up, also bearing a perhaps too-perfect humanoid appearance. Their function is to be of assistance to humans in whatever form they're needed, be it a housekeeper, factory labourer, or even most insidiously, a sex worker.

Science fiction has often used these wild and fantastical fiction elements as allegories for very real human issues, often reflecting the political and social climates of the time. In "Humans," we see this manifest on the work/home conflict faced by working mother Laura. One hot social issue of today is the struggle many women face when trying to maintain their careers and have a family, when the social climate is not often conducive to having both. Laura's husband and children seem to resent her to varying degrees for being away so long for her job, and when Laura's husband Joe purchases a synth they later name Anita to help around the house, more problems really start to kick up. Anita's primary purpose is to serve. Her very design is to help in the most efficient manner. It's not long before Laura begins to feel less adequate in her motherly and domestic duties. We hope that this commentary won't be about Laura's need to choose one or the other, but perhaps to strengthen the family unit and create more open communication and improve their cohesion.

Many fans have expressed their glee at seeing Colin Morgan back on their screen, and understandably so given his unwavering intensity and the impressive emotionality in his performances. But even more exciting than this is the fact that Gemma Chan has finally been given a leading role in a show that could truly propel her recognition-level upward like never before. There's an incredible mix in her performance, from the slight eeriness of her too-long laugh at hearing a joke, the cool delivery of her robotic speech pattern, and the warmth of the bond shown between Anita and Leo (Colin Morgan's character). To have a WOC lead on what may very well become our next British genre-show obsession is exciting to begin with, but the fact that her character introduction is so deeply shrouded in mystery with only slight hints of the plot developments to come, we are positively hungry for more.

Humans airs on Sundays on Channel 4 at 9PM.


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