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October 07, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT

The war between humans and the artificially intelligent synths is loading.

The upcoming second season of AMC’s Humans will go “darker” than before, star Gemma Chan (she plays conscious synth Mia, a.k.a. Anita) tells EW. “On the whole, we delve deeper into the themes you saw in season 1,” she says. “What I found really interesting in season 2 was how it explored morality and how we learn right from wrong… Even though we covered quite a lot of ground in season 1, it’s still such a rich subject area. What makes us human is infinite, really.” 

And as seen in these exclusive images, Mia and Niska (Emily Berrington) take the spotlight in two of the interwoven stories. After leaving the Hawkins family behind in the season 1 finale, Mia — along with Leo (Colin Morgan) and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) — has settled down in a quiet seaside town, hiding under her “Anita” persona. “For the first time in her life, she’s got a chance to find out a bit more about who she is,” Chan says. “She’s determined to try and live her own life.” There, she gets the opportunity to do so thanks to Ed (new cast member Sam Palladio, taking a break from Nashville), a struggling cafe owner who employs her and with whom she forms a bond.

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Niska, however, isn’t as careful as Mia with her new life — especially after she ran off with the hard drive containing the code that could turn synths conscious. “Niska’s view of humanity is still developing, and there’s always going to be that element of danger with Niska, but she goes on a very interesting journey in season 2,” Chan teases. “I think she feels remorse for some of her actions in season 1.” That journey, she adds, includes a human who Chan says “affects her quite deeply.” 

Of course, humans themselves also matter on Humans. As writers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley promised at the end of season 1, the Hawkins family will be roped back into the conscious synth business, but of course, not in the same way as they were before — and Chan is reluctant to divulge any more intel. “It’s really tricky going into a second season,” she admits. “You want to build on what’s gone on before, but you don’t want to just repeat what you know works. You want to say something new, and I think [the writers] have done it very well.”

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Check out the exclusive first look images above. Humans — which will have a panel at New York Comic-Con Friday at 8 p.m. ET, moderated by yours truly — returns in 2017. 

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