As much as the slow-burning narrative of Humans has been integral to setting its eerie tone and atmosphere, there’s another reason that such a pace has worked so well. It’s allowed the back half of this season, including this week and last week’s episode, to feel important and manic in contrast to the earlier episodes.
That methodical pace of the first three episodes stands in stark contrast to the more action-packed and tense episodes of late. Tonight’s “Episode 5” strikes a wonderful balance between being meditative and brisk. We get a better sense of how and why the synths are rising up against the humans, but also get a more philosophical look at the themes integral to Humans, embodied in those scenes with Niska and George.
With Anita having saved Toby’s life, and the results of the diagnostics test in, Joe and Laura sit their family down to talk about their synth. Joe tells them that Anita is at least 14 years old and that they need to return her. After all, they paid for a new synth, not some used and illegally modified one.
The kids balk at the idea. Toby likes having her around for eye candy, Sophie finds comfort in her, and Mattie sees her as an experiment of sorts, wanting to find out more about who Anita was before she became a member of the Hawkins family.
Mattie’s curiosity leads her to contact Leo again, despite thinking that he, in her words, is weird. When a worker sent to recycle Anita comes to the house, Mattie takes off with Anita and meets up with Leo and Max. In some sort of abandoned warehouse Leo tries to find “Mia” inside Anita, looking through her code for the conscious synth she once was, and also the woman he loved.
The idea of conscious synths, and what the human condition consists of, is a constant theme in this episode. When Leo sends Niska into hiding, telling her to go to Dr. George Millican’s house, Niska and George find themselves in deep existential conversation. They chat about human experience, pain, death, pleasure, and fear, trying to analyze what it is that makes Niska more “human” than other synths.
Niska tells George that David Elster made them conscious by composing 17,000 pages of code, to which George responds with a laugh. “He boiled down the entire human experience to 17,000 pages of code?” he says incredulously. As he admits though, it clearly worked in some way, as Niska is able to discuss Nietzsche and politics with George and also feel pain when she’s fixing her wounds.
Most of their discussion, and much of Humans in fact, comes down to the argument of nature versus nurture. When George proposes that David made her “hard” and combative, she refutes the claim, saying that she’s been shaped by her experience, just like him. “What experience?” he says, as Niska grows silent.
We know what those experiences are, and it’s an emotional way to get across the idea that these synths deserve the sympathy of the viewer and the human characters within the show.
NEXT: Joe comes clean about getting dirty[pagebreak]
If there’s someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the synths, it’s Pete, who’s not only chasing the “killer synth” along with Kate, but attends a rally organized by humans against their robotic brethren.
Despite Pete’s seemingly fervent hate of synths, he’s clueless as to Kate’s status as one. He barges in on her in the morning with a newspaper and coffee. When she tells him about privacy and boundaries, he says, “sorry, sometimes I forget you’re a woman.” I’m starting to think the dissolution of Pete’s marriage may have had more to do with him than his wife’s synth.
Pete even pays a visit to George’s house after a jogger stumbles upon Odi, who mumbles something about a murder, in the woods. Again, Pete’s a bit clueless and distracted, not managing to find Niska and relying on Vera’s word that nothing strange is going on in the house. Back to the case with Kate it is then!
It’s unclear just how Kate is connected to the other conscious synths, but the general idea is that there are a few of them out there and that Leo has found the code to perhaps produce more of them. Then there’s Hobb, who we find out was on the same team of scientists and engineers as George and David, who’s being forced to kill Fred (maybe!) in order to keep the conscious synth population under wraps.
Leo, who’s also trying to track down more conscious synths, has some other stuff to deal with right now. He’s doing what he can to hack into Anita and find “Mia,” but he can’t do it. He gives up, exasperated, lamenting the fact that she’s gone and that he failed. He lashes out at Mattie and sends her back home with Anita before abandoning Max as well.
“Episode 5,” along with last week’s episode, sees a changing of the status quo. Now that the battle between the synths and the humans has been established, it’s time for the Hawkins family to start falling apart.
That begins when Toby takes the fall for his Dad, admitting to his Mom that he had sex with Anita. It’s Mattie who notices the activation of the “Adult Options” in the log and she immediately berates her brother for being a perv.
When Joe talks to his son about it, basically testing the waters to see if he’s going to be able to get away with it, Toby lays into him. He criticizes his Dad for not working on his marriage, for letting things get this bad. When Joe doesn’t answer, Toby loses it. “You’re my Dad, you’re meant to say something!” he says. For the first time, Toby is more than just a horny teenage caricature.
That blowup leads Joe to admit to Laura that he was the one who had sex with Anita. She’s devastated, obviously, and the two trade blows. She says he’s despicable for trying to rationalize his act by saying that Anita is just a machine, while he still thinks she’s hiding something related to this mysterious man named Tom.
In the end, they settle nothing. Laura throws a bag at him and tells him to get out. Joe packs some stuff and takes a cab away from his home. For many of the characters on Humans, the status quo has changed. They’re all headed in different directions, meaning the future is unpredictable. It’s an exciting place for the story to be with only three episodes left in the season.