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'Humans' returns to Channel 4 and we are officially obsessed with robots

Ellie Walker-Arnott

Robots, synths, humanoids. We are a world obsessed. Hot on the heels of HBO fantasy series 'Westworld', Channel 4's scandi-noir spin-off 'Humans' is back for second series. That makes two shows, airing simultaneously, both set in worlds where we've created high-tech replicas of our human selves and are now facing the consequences of what happens when they start to think and feel. 

The situation in 'Westworld', the series set in a futuristic western-inspired theme-park where insanely lifelike robots exist to satisfy wealthy visitors' every desire, is still a little murky (Time Out's Tom Huddleston is keen for the drama to pick up the pace, please). Something peculiar has happened to the park's robots – they appear to be remembering their disturbing previous storylines and becoming aware of the artificial world they live in. But how or why remains to be seen.

In 'Humans' the sentient secret is now well and truly out. Where season one introduced us to five synths who had been made conscious by their creator Dr Elster, season two sees the drama go international as Niska releases a piece of code which is making random synths around the world suddenly become sentient. 'Humans' is now a global drama, with episode one having scenes set in Berlin, Bolivia and San Francisco. 

But can it compete with the spectacular, star-studded, big budget 'Westworld'? 

'Humans' shouldn't try to. Showrunners Sam Vincent and Jon Brackley have admitted they were 'gobsmacked' with the reaction to 'Humans', saying: 'We were hoping to garner a bit of cult appeal, and develop a dedicated fan base, but we ended up being something of a mainstream hit. We were never really aware that we’d been making a mainstream hit.' 

The Channel 4 show's charm is its small-scale domesticity. The synths want to be allowed small pleasures, the rights we take for granted – and much of the focus in episode one is how their scrape with the surreal has affected the human Hawkins family. There's lightness too to balance out the sense of dread; a brilliant scene in episode one sees Laura and Joe Hawkins end up sat on a synth counsellor's couch. 

While the scale and setting of 'Westworld' is impressive, so far it's difficult to empathise with the drama's protagonists. Picking out the good guys and the bad guys is impossible in both, but 'Humans' is anchored by the two families – one human, one synth – at its heart. Let's hope it doesn't forget that. 

'Humans' season two airs on Sunday October 30 at 9:00pm on Channel 4.

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