The synths and the Hawkins family hurry to save Max while Karen and Hobb form an unlikely partnership.

By Kyle Fowle
August 09, 2015 at 11:29 PM EDT
Des Willie/Kudos/AMC/C4
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“Episode 7,” the second to last episode of the first season of the newly-renewed Humans, is essentially one long meditation on the implications of synth consciousness. It’s an episode that’s less about moving the plot along than it is about cementing the show’s ideas; taking a brief pause before the episode’s climax brings everything crashing down.

The episode’s cold open focuses on Karen, who’s having a flashback to her time with David Elster. Unlike the other synths, she doesn’t seemed thrilled to be conscious, to be able to feel.

Karen’s existential angst extends beyond just being a synth in a human world. It turns out that she was created to replace Beatrice, David’s wife and the “mother” of the rest of the synths. Karen looks just like her, even if she isn’t her in the same way that Leo isn’t still the Leo who died.

In some way then, Karen doesn’t get her own identity. She’s consistently tied to the memory of a dead woman. No wonder she doesn’t want to fight the same battle for equal rights as the other synths.

Karen tracks Niska to George’s house and it’s there that we see her true sadness. She talks about wanting to kill herself, but she can’t because David put a suicide block in her system, hoping to prevent this (replacement) wife from killing herself.

In that way too Karen is not truly conscious. If the synths are to be understood as akin to humans, then that means they can make their own choices. Karen doesn’t have that ability in terms of ending her own life, which contributes to her understanding that the synths are an experiment gone wrong and that they should be destroyed.

When Niska disagrees, Karen pulls a gun on her and threatens to shoot her. She chases her around the house before George intervenes, telling Karen that her life can still change. It’s not enough for Karen though, and when she goes to shoot Niska, George gets in the way. While Karen flees the scene, Niska tells George she doesn’t have the proper tools to do surgery on him and remove the bullet.

“That’s okay,” he says, having accepted his fate quite some time ago. He tells Niska to run before the police get there, and the two share one last tender moment as Niska tells him that she wishes she could save him. Niska has been rightfully jaded with humans up until this point in her life, but George has planted a seed of hope that maybe synths and humans can live without conflict.

Odi gets one last moment with him too, and it’s heartbreaking. “Mary’s in the next room,” he tells George, giving him that final moment of comfort before he passes on. The camera pulls away from the two, and it’s likely the last time we’ll see Odi and George together.

Leaving George’s house, Niska calls Leo and tells him she’s not safe. He sends her to the Hawkins house where he’ll meet her later, once he and Fred find Max’s body. It’s a long shot but they do manage to find him washed up down river. They carry him back to the Hawkins’ house, hoping that he can be brought back to life.

NEXT: I’ve got a secret I’ve been hiding under my skin

Bringing Max to the Hawkins home allows for the meditation I previously mentioned. The scenes inside their home this week are some of the season’s best. The immediate rush to save Max is thrilling, with Leo and Mia directing the operation while every member of the Hawkins family lends a hand. That means Joe too; despite his hesitancy, he’s starting to see the synths for what they are.

With Max stabilized, his charge needing to be restored for 13 hours before they know if he’s alive, the rest of the synths find time to interact with the Hawkins family. Niska plays with Sophie, and her temperament towards humans softens even more. Fred plays football (the U.K. version) with Toby, and Joe joins them, using the time to essentially apologize for his actions and try to reconnect with his son.

These relationships are fun, but the two most substantial ones are between Leo and Mattie, and Laura and Mia. The former is built on common respect. While Leo initially balks at Mattie’s attempts to get to know him—his memories are still clear and real to him, so he’s hurt that he relived them for Mattie—he admits that he maybe needed to tell someone about his past.

That’s especially true after they realize Max may be truly gone. He boots back up but he has no memory of Leo, and it’s clear he isn’t functioning properly. If Leo ever needed someone in his life to understand his pain, it’s right now.

The pattern of synths forging a meaningful connection with humans continues with Mia giving marriage advice to Laura. She tells her that Joe clearly loves her, and that the divide between them can be fixed. She urges Laura to tell her husband about Tom. “He senses it,” she says, and she thinks that’s largely why the two aren’t seeing eye-to-eye.

She also tells Laura that if things were reversed, if it was Joe who discovered that the synths had thoughts and feelings, she never would have believed it. Mia isn’t trying to excuse Joe’s behavior, but rather mend the divide between them. She feels partly responsible and if it isn’t long before the synths have to move on, she doesn’t want to leave the Hawkins family broken.

It’s not the Hawkins family that’s in immediate danger though. Karen shows up at their house and Leo’s the only one that sees her. He’s taken aback. He can’t believe how much she looks like Beatrice. For once, that works to Karen’s advantage. She convinces Leo that they must leave together, all of them, because she knows of a place where they’ll be safe.

It’s not true though. She’s made a pact with Hobbs to capture the synths. In exchange for her help, she makes Hobbs agree to destroy her when it’s all over. Karen may get her wish. As the episode ends, a SWAT team barges into the Hawkins home and arrests all the synths, Leo’s pained cries doing nothing to stop them. It’s a devastating moment, and one that could mean the end for this synth family.

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