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Almost Human Review: “Blood Brothers” (1.05)

December 11, 2013  |  12:02pm
<i>Almost Human</i> Review: &#8220;Blood Brothers&#8221; (1.05)

After last week’s venture into the unmemorable (seriously, I really had to struggle to remember what last week’s plotline even was), “Blood Brothers” proves to be a more engaging hour of Almost Human while, at the same time, providing deeper insight into the show’s more peripheral characters—for better and for worse.

First, there’s the positive. After weeks of being confined to the police station merely to assign cases or provide exposition, the episode finally incorporates Lili Taylor’s Captain Sandra Maldonado into the show’s fold. Her personal connection to the week’s case is established almost right off the bat when we find our normally buttoned-down authority figure giving heated testimony at the trial of Ethan Avery, a man being accused of murdering a fertility doctor. While there is no DNA evidence to indict the accused, Maldonado has the eyewitness testimony of two unrelated woman who saw Avery commit the crime. That is, until a mysterious man invades the witness safe house and takes one of the women out. The surviving witness, a jittery girl named Maya with genetically implemented psychic abilities, is promptly located and taken into police custody by Kennex and Dorian. From here, the precinct investigates how Avery could have engineered such an assassination from prison. (The answer is nicely sci-fi in nature.)

A part of me wants to credit “Blood Brothers” for taking on a story that, compared to ones from the past few weeks, seems genuinely intriguing in its melding of procedural and sci-fi gimmickry. And, for a good portion of the episode’s first half, it’s an exciting mystery to boot. After a while, however, you begin to wonder why a man like Avery would employ the very personal means he does to murder someone as opposed to employing a paid goon to do so. It’s certainly established in the opening trial scene that Avery is a wealthy and powerful man. If he had the proper intel, certainly there would be avenues available to tie up loose ends rather than risk exposing himself? The whole situation, frankly, feels a little forced.

Speaking of forced, Minka Kelly’s Valerie Stahl continues to be the show’s weakest link. While Kelly proved effective as a conflicted cheerleader throughout the first three seasons of Friday Night Lights, nothing here in her performance as Stahl screams “police woman” to me. What further fills me with dread is the prospect of her “blossoming” romance with Kennex. For one, the chemistry between Urban and Kelly remains virtually non-existent, with the show relying on other characters flat-out telling us that the two have something rather than working on crafting believable flirtatious scenes to show any sense of sexual tension.

These weaknesses, however, are balanced out by the great performances of both Lili Taylor and guest star Megan Ferguson as Maya. Although Maldonado’s character conflicts are far from original—a captain who has had to compromise personal happiness to achieve career success—Taylor tackles the role with gusto, and her final scene with Avery, where she outlines how he will rot in jail a “forgotten” man, stands as one of the show’s more chilling, well-written moments (even if it is a bit on the nose in explaining how he used science as an extension of his own vanity).

Likewise, with her wide eyes and propensity to muttering to herself, Ferguson’s Maya provides a nice jolt of electricity to the proceedings. What’s more, her monologue about developing psychic abilities in order to communicate with her dead parents is nothing short of heartbreaking. So much so, in fact, that I can even forgive the overly convenient method in which the writers have Dorian help fix this issue by the episode’s end.

“Blood Brothers” is the type of episode that, while admirable enough on the first viewing, diminishes a bit with hindsight. Next week, the show airs its final episode, “Arrhythmia,” before the mid-season break. Five episodes in, Almost Human has yet to truly prove its worth as an original sci-fi series. Here’s hoping the writers have saved the best stuff for last and leave their audience (this reviewer included) eagerly awaiting the show’s return in January.

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