November 26, 2014

What I’ll Miss Most About Almost Human

We’ll never get to see how the plot threads Almost Human was developing will come together, and that’s too bad because on top of great chemistry between the leads and what seemed to be an interesting mythology the series was revealing, what I think I’ll miss most of all is how it was revealing that mythology.

There’s a fair amount of traditional exposition throughout the show, world-building on the order of understanding the Blade Runner-esque relationship between humans and their robot servants. But the larger society was always hinted at more than explained (hell, we don’t even find out what city we’re in until the finale). And no better example of this arose than The Wall.

Somewhere toward the end of the show’s brief run, there’s mention of a wall. It’s not brought up in a briefing. No one asks, “Hey, what’s that?”, followed by a lengthy explanation. It is simply a given of this world. Context lets us know that the world on the other side of this wall is a place to be feared. But who or what is on the other side of that wall is not explained. Or why or when it was built. It just is. And it’s been there the whole time the show has been going. And the only reason we didn’t know about it until now that it hasn’t been relevant.

One of the shows final aired episodes involves an inventor seminal to the creation of the robots that drive the show, and it is [spoiler alert - does that even apply to a canceled show?] only at the end of this episode that we even see the wall. And even then we’re only left to guess at why the show’s heroes are shocked to learn that a particularly pernicious piece of code originated on the other side of the wall, or why they think it’s impossible that the criminal they’re chasing would even consider going to the other side of that wall, which is exactly how he evades them.

We’ll never find out where all that was going, but that it was going there without a clear sit down and explain the world session is rare. If it was happening that way because no one in the world of the show knew what the wall was or how it got there or what was on the other side, that would be one thing (essentially, that’s almost all of Lost). But that we were left to the task of discovery on our own, with no character to ask “Hey, what do you mean ‘The Wall’?” was refreshing, and displayed a certain level of faith in the audience, and assumed return of that faith that all would be answered organically, not by Basil Exposition.

I hope other shows take that risk. Of course, given that Almost Human got canceled, I don’t think that’s likely.

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