Review: Humans (Series 2, Episode 1)

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Promising

With a much larger budget and subsequently larger scope, Humans' Series 2 shows signs of being great - even if Episode 1 was a little slow going.

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With a steady trickle of AI films over the past few years, and the dawn of new HBO giant Westworld, it seems Humans has returned just at the right time. Its stylish and provocative first series was met with acclaim, and the gradual stream of false advertisement for owning your own ‘Synth’ has stimulated our senses and peaked our interest once more. They contained a warning that some of the Synths might be experiencing malfunctions… The symptoms are pretty obviously alluding to consciousness (nudge nudge, wink wink, jab jab), but the publicity is carefully crafted, showing technicians taking apart the synths to remind us, the consumers of Persona Synthetics, of their inhumanity.

The first episode back may not be as thrilling as previous ones, but certainly makes way for one hell of a Series 2. Although all the excitement and secrets surrounding Mia and the gang of motley synths have dissipated, and William Hurt and Will Tudor’s George and Odi are gone, with synths ‘waking up’ around the world, and the introduction of Carrie-Anne Moss’ allusive doctor, the show is clearly just getting started.

A lot of soul searching is going on, for humans and synths alike (or should we not be making that distinction?). Mia (Gemma Chan) and Niska (Emily Berrington) are both beautifully portrayed, with Mia stood feeling the breeze, the grass shoots around her seeming both exhilarating and forbidden. A brief but emotional romance between Niska and Astrid (Bella Dayne) gave the Synth something new and human to experience, while deciding her fellow Synths’ fate. “You’re mine now”, Astrid tells Niska, placing a blue band on her wrist. It’s lust and love mixed up in words of ownership and property, and you half expect Niska to reject this and reject Astrid. But these feelings are all new, and these emotions she and Astrid are sharing are exciting, profound and human. Berlin will be missed.

I thought the charm of Humans may have warn off with the all out extravaganza that is Westworld, but I see now that Humans has something very different to offer. It’s more subtle and very real, a personal microcosm to Westworld’s hedonistic and philosophic macrocosm. The Hawkins family are our anchor to this domestic world where day to day life is taking place alongside the rise of synthetics. It confronts the real what-if issues of a robotic takeover: redundancies, therapy, and growing up in a completely new world. Disenchanted with her parents after the events of last series and awaiting the return of Anita, adorable little Sophie (Pixie Davies) is not as sweet and innocent as she once was. But she certainly has more growing up to do, as do many of the Synths and Humans. This brave new world has set the ball rolling.

Humans airs on Channel 4 on Sundays at 9pm.

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