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Monday, February 24, 2014

Almost Human 1.12: If Guy de Maupassant Had Been a Science Fiction Writer

A really fine Almost Human 1.12 tonight, with touches of O'Henry and The Twilight Zone, all wrapped up in nanobot plastic surgery for love story.   Nanites are making their rounds in science fiction television this season, appearing in Intelligence as a separate episode last week, and as one of the foundations of this whole season of Revolution.

But Almost Human brings them to bear in a love story worthy of Guy de Maupassant and the classic short fiction mentioned above.  In de Maupassant's "La Parure" ("The Necklace") published back in 1884, for example, a young woman borrows her friend's pearl necklace, accidentally loses it, borrows a huge amount of money to buy a replacement, and works like a dog for years to earn the money back. At the end of the story, she learns that the original necklace she borrowed was made of paste, and not worth much at all.  Or, in The Twilight Zone's "Eye of the Beholder" (1960), a woman undergoes repeated plastic surgeries to improve her appearance.   We see the doctors only from behind, and the woman's face only in bandages.  At the end of the story, the doctors inform her that the surgery has failed.  The camera finally shows us her face - she's beautiful - and pans around to show the faces of the doctors and nurses, which are grotesque in this alternate or alien world.

In tonight's Almost Human, the villain kills beautiful people to improve his appearance - he injects nanites into the victims to harvest the desired facial characteristics, but the injections leave the victims with fatal heart attacks.   He does this because he's in love with a beautiful woman - they have fallen in love online and have never met in person - and he doesn't want her to be disappointed with his looks, which were ruined in an earlier experiment.   He finally meets the woman near the end of story, only to learn that she is blind, can't see what he looks like, and loves him for who is - that is, the person she got to know online.   So, all of his killing was for naught.

All of this yearning for love ties in with Kennex and his loneliness.  And in a very nice final touch, he asks Stahl to go to a bar with him, just as her date - a Chrome - shows up to take her to that very bar.

Almost Human has shown itself to be completely human in the richness of the stories it has given us, a rarity in science fiction television, more rare than nanites.   The season finale is next week, and I hope Fox gives it at least another year.

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