As RoboCop prepares to make its way back into theaters next year, Fox's new drama series from J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman (Fringe) approaches the idea of a cyborg police officer from a different angle by introducing a not-too-distant future where humans and androids are forced to partner up to fight crime.
After a police raid goes terribly wrong, Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) wakes from a coma with pieces of his memory missing and a synthetic leg replacing one that was blown off. The bad boy cop is displeased when he's forced to take on a robot partner after he returns to the force. The standard issue "MX" unit—a cold and calculating machine—questions his actions while on assignment; Kennex throws him out a moving vehicle in frustration. It's then that he's introduced to Dorian (Michael Ealy), an older model android that was removed from active duty due to unpredictable emotional responses. In short: Dorian's line was deemed too human for police work.
In addition to adjusting to working with an android partner, Kennex and Captain Maldonado (Lilli Taylor) are on a mission to determine who leaked information about the raid that left him injured and his colleagues dead. They suspect that there may be a mole in the department working for a crime organization known as Syndicate, and Maldonado insists that Kennex is the only one she's certain is trustworthy.
Part Demolition Man, part I, Robot, part buddy-cop film, Almost Human re-invents the standard police procedural by throwing a bit of science fiction into the mix. Urban's Kennex is a fairly stock surly cop, but the actor's charismatic enough to make this thinly drawn character into someone you can't help but like. His friendly dynamic with Taylor's Maldonando is a welcome change from the antagonistic relationship that often occurs between the rebel detective and his captain. But when Ealy's eyes first open 19 minutes into the pilot, he owns this show. As a machine who had been deemed too human for the job he was designed for, Dorian is a fascinating character. He wants to be cop, is offended when Kennix refers to him as a "synthetic," and now goes to work in a building with the machines that were designed to replace him.
As a simple odd-couple pairing of the technophobic cop and his android partner, Almost Human is a perfectly enjoyable sci-fi action series. The more serialized plot about Syndicate's attempts to destroy the police department is far less interesting. Syndicate is nothing more than a band of black-hat bad guys on a mission of death and destruction with no greater motivation. Given the great lengths that they go to in terrorizing the police department, they would be better served by some kind of higher mission. As it stands, they do little to add to the futuristic world of the show, which could be fleshed out a lot more.
The show has some blind spots but Ealy and Urban lift Almost Human out of mediocrity and elevate it to solid popcorn entertainment.