Detective Stahl is caught between two worlds when the team investigates a killer targeting "chromes"

By Nick Nadel
Updated February 25, 2014 at 01:39 PM EST
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Katie Yu/Fox
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  • TV Show
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  • Fox

Welcome back, Human-iacs!

If all you Stahl/Minka Kelly haters out there were hoping that the show would sideline everyone’s least favorite perfect specimen of genetic engineering after her spotlight episode a couple weeks back, well, have we got bad news for you. Get ready for more Minka Kelly-heavy action with another plotline revolving around “chromes,” the genetically modified class of beautiful people that Stahl is a member of.

This week we start with a man playing a nifty interactive golf simulation. He’s interrupted by a hooded creeper who looks a bit like The Arrow after a few botched plastic surgery attempts. The hooded man electrocutes his victim and extracts something from his body.

At the station, Dorian takes a call for Kennex from a woman named Samantha. They commiserate over how annoying Kennex is, which is always hilarious. Kennex went out with Samantha and got “holo-blocked” after she took calls from her mother and several others during the date. (There’s some amusing discussion here about the bro code that sadly fails to use the phrase “robro-code.”) Stahl comes in and spoils all the fun by asking our duo to investigate the supposed heart attack death of Mr. Golf Guy. Turns out he’s a chrome and as Stahl boasts, “We don’t die young.”

The deceased, Brian Barrow, is a typical chrome in peak physical condition. Dorian notices the puncture wound where the killer injected Brian and pulls the DNA of seven people, all of whom died of seemingly natural causes. However, Maldonado notes that all the victims are attractive. (Easy, tiger! What happened to Maldonado’s possible lawyer paramour from episode five?) This looks like the work of a serial killer who kills hotties. (Look out, Stahl!)

Next, we find the killer receiving facial procedures from a doctor in a shadowy lab. (This show really makes use of its shadowy lab sets.) The press is all over the beautiful people being killed thing, so Stahl decides to follow a lead to Electus, a club exclusively for genetically modified types like herself.

At Electus, Stahl receives quite a bit of shade thrown in her general direction from the hostess who thinks it’s weird that a chrome would become something as pedestrian as a police officer. (Everyone’s surprise over Stahl being a cop doesn’t quite track — are chromes really so advanced that becoming a criminal behavior specialist is something to be looked down upon?) The owner, Jake Bowman, steps in and charms the admittedly easily charmed Stahl. (Hey, she’s a sucker for Kennex’s gruff witticisms. It really doesn’t take much.)

NEXT: Na-no Na-no bot! Back at the precinct, Rudy is mad that he wasn’t warned about “The Beauty Killer.” He was a child model and has a “Rothschild nose,” after all. It looks like nanobite robots injected into the victims are the culprits. Surveillance footage spotted the killer by the club, but facial recognition brings his identity up as that of his victims. Rudy reveals the nanobites can reconstruct facial tissue. In a futuristic spin on the old “serial killer wears his victim’s skin” trope, it looks like the killer is attempting to construct the perfect face from his victims’ handsome mugs.

Kennex and Dorian visit Dr. Randolph Amir, a plastic surgeon specializing in futuristic nanobot facelifts that reconstruct the face from the inside. The trials didn’t go so well in that the nanobots were stopping people’s hearts. The nanobots are injected with an actuator, the same device that is being used by the killer.

In the car, Dorian tells Kennex that, hey, it’s okay to have flaws, and promptly lists his partner’s many shortcomings. (I love that Dorian communicates with Kennex’s smartbed.) They visit an informant named DeCarlo, who Kennex finds hiding inside of a larger robot X-O suit body in what has to be one of my favorite visual gags in the show’s brief history. DeCarlo sets them up with Dr. McCann who specializes in facial reconstruction surgery. Turns out it’s the same doctor working with our killer!

Kennex and Dorian visit Dr. McCann, who injects himself with synthetic adrenaline, fights Kennex, and then promptly dies from cardiac arrest. Dr. McCann lost his license during the nanobot trials and Eric was one of his patients. Eric has gotten most of the facial features he wants, but there’s one left — he wants the cheeks of a chrome named Jonathan Gettes. Unfortunately, the cops scare him off. Back in his apartment, Eric listens to”Crimson and Clover” and watches a woman in a nearby building.

Stahl notices that all the victims live in the Lower Term area. Kennex notices that they’re all in the same DMV district. Could it be that the killer works at the DMV??

Meanwhile, Eric is chatting online with Judy, a woman who lives in a nearby building. It seems that they are online paramours and have never met in person. (He’s pretending to be from Arizona.) Judy is anxious to finally meet face-to-face. Eric touches his unfinished face and says he has to go.

NEXT: Warning — ironic twist ahead! Stahl has found Eric, a DMV employee who was part of the nanobot trials and has undergone numerous facial surgeries. There’s no record of him ever having been disfigured, so Stahl figures he has dysmorphic disorder and has become warped by all the images of beauty all around him. Way to use those criminal behavior skills, Stahl! That’ll show those snooty country club chromes!

The team descends on Eric’s apartment, but he’s bailed. Dorian finds the correspondence with Judy, but there’s no need to track her down because Kennex spots her across the street. (So these two met online and just happen to live across the street from each other? Or did Eric rent a place within earshot expressly for stalking purposes?) Anyway, Eric shows up at Judy’s place to surprise her. He apologizes for the bandage, but he won’t be wearing it for long. (Because he’s going to kill someone for their skin? Ewww!) Judy reveals she has a secret — SHE’S BLIND! IRONIC TWIST ALERT! NICE JOB KILLING ALL THOSE PEOPLE AND OBSESSING OVER YOUR PHYSICAL APPEARANCE FOR NOTHING, STUPID!

Yeah, so this episode just turned into The Twilight Zone, and not the classic one, either. It’s a twist worthy of the early ’00s Twilight Zone hosted by Forrest Whitaker.

Crazy stitch-face Eric and Judy share a touching moment before Kennex and the cops burst in and ruin everything. Kennex chases Eric to the roof and he threatens to jump. For once, Kennex attempts to reason with him instead of just shooting. Eric asks Kennex if he has ever been loved. Yes, Kennex says. “Then you wouldn’t understand. We’re supposed to be loved,” Eric says, before plummeting to his death. Nice job, Kennex. Another one in the “loss” column of your already storied police career.

During the wrap-up, Dorian asks Kennex if he believes that there is someone out there for everyone. Kennex, old softie that he is, does believe in love. Passing up Dorian’s offer to sit and watch him drink, he asks Stahl if she’d be interested in knocking back a few after work. Enter Jake, the handsome club owner from earlier, who is taking Stahl out for drinks. CHROME BLOCKED! But don’t worry, Stahl and Kennex shippers (if any of you actually exist) — Stahl gives Kennex a wistful look as she goes to spend time with someone who is actually straightforward about his feelings for her.

After a string of strong episodes, “Beholder” was a mediocre outing with a supremely dumb twist that was mostly saved by Kennex and Dorian’s reliably amusing banter. We just had a chrome episode a couple weeks ago which also attempted (and failed) to further develop Stahl’s character. I can’t say I care that much about Stahl being caught between the perfect chrome world and the blue collar goings on at the precinct. Outside of a few jokes made at her expense, we haven’t seen her struggling all that much with being a model of perfection in a world of flaws.

It’s also hard to get invested in Stahl’s storyline when Dorian’s increasingly human traits brings up many of the same points about the struggle to maintain humanity in an increasingly technologically advanced world. Really, would the show be all that different if Stahl was, say, a MX instead of a chrome? Or even just a human with impeccable cheekbones? I’m not convinced that the chromes have added anything to the show’s world other than offering a nod to the underrated Ethan Hawke/Uma Thurman sci-fi flick Gattaca. With one episode left, I can’t help but wish that the writers had delved further into other dangling plotlines (the Wall, Dr. Vaughn, Dorian’s memories) rather than dipping back into the chrome well.

Next week: Season one draws to a close with a serial killer and some revelations about Kennex’s dad.

Episode Recaps

Almost Human

In a not-so-distant future, human cops and androids partner up to protect and serve
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  • TV Show
seasons
  • 1
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status
  • On Hiatus
network
  • Fox

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