As far as engaging and entertaining television goes, this episode made it to the top of the list. It reminded me of Speed, which is OK because it’s one of my favorite movies. A villain, deluded into believing his own judicial paradigm, seeks vengeance in the most public and humiliating ways for those who wronged him. This isn’t Betty Davis we’re talking about here, this is 2042 where access to surveillance equipment is like buying gum at a gas station.
Before I begin, wanted to give a huge shout out to Allessandro Juliani, who portrayed Dr. Emil Hamilton on Smallville for a number of years. He portrayed Ramon in this episode of Almost Human. Also, Crystal Lowe, who portrayed Jeannie, was a fan favorite on Showcase’s Primeval New World. I didn’t recognize David Dastmalchian, who portrayed Simon, but he has a great career ahead of him as the creepy, revenge seeker archetype.
I’m recovering from the flu right now, and Minnesota is experiencing -20 degree weather, so I am at my parents’ house where I made them dinner on the condition they watch Almost Human with me. This is the first episode they watched and ironically I told them that it wouldn’t be a big deal because Fox is airing the episodes all out of order anyway.
I was wrong.
It does matter.
And I love that it matters.
I will not go on about the out of order airing, but I will say that this episode was so rewarding because of how we’ve seen the Kennex-Dorian relationship unravel. The relationship began with Dorian talking too much and Kennex being cranky (“Synthetic, off!”); it slowly morphed into Kennex tolerating Dorian while still being annoyed with him; and then it came to this episode where Dorian is less than fully charged and experiencing the DRN’s version of cranky (“Humans, off!”). I loved when Kennex slapped Dorian in the face to continue telling the story of his high school glory days as the “White Cheetah”.
There is a false bravado attributed to a lot of television serial killers: They don’t care who they kill. I don’t believe this is true. Quite often, I believe, it is the mentality of the serial killer that they shouldn’t care who they kill, but quite frankly, killing someone other than their target would be a disruption to their purpose, a deviation from their message, and it would ultimately create unnecessary work for them. I believe the vast majority of movie and TV serial killers–Zodiac, Red John, Anson Carr, John McClennan, and that one guy from The Blacklist who killed people by liquefying them and flushing them down the tub drain–they have two targets: their actual intended target and whoever gets in their way during a moment of frustration. It makes them dangerous, but not unpredictable. Not like that guy T-Bag Prison Break or “The Kid” from The Stand who are so deranged that they don’t really have the mental capacity to understand purpose. There is a certain mental acuity required in serial killing that makes the pros unstoppable and the amateurs very dangerous.
Is Simon a serial killer? Probably not. His goal was too narrow. He had this grand idea, a multimedia event staged on “that part of the internet left unpoliced”, but had a narrow, specific scope. He’d been turned down and humiliated one too many times and wanted someone else to feel just like he did. Doesn’t make him any less dangerous, both in style (copycats are going to have a field day), and in execution (putting people in legitimate danger). Like Dennis Hopper’s character on Speed, Simon was convinced he was the victim. He had been wronged, intentionally humiliated or rejected. And this game of justice? As long as he got to make the rules (like bank loaners make up their rules and women their rules), it didn’t matter who was snuffed out in the process.
Both Hopper’s character and Simon have this need for their pain to be recognized. Simon’s need wasn’t as explicit as Hopper’s, by which I mean he didn’t need the world to know who he was in order for his plan to be realized, only by his target in those final moments with the bomb strapped around their necks. He wanted them to know it was him. Serial killers have a way of maintaining their anonymity while still commanding respect and attention (not in the good way, mind you). And while Simon might have been going for that, ready to play the game as long as he needed to, he chose his victims too specifically and they led a trail right back to him.
Characters like Simon help round out storytelling in a lot of ways. I liked him because he was stimulated by his own game; we could tell right off that he was new to the scene, we could tell that a lot of things hadn’t really been thought through to their end, we could tell he was in it for more than money. He was exhilarated by finding such a public avenue to display his vengeance, yet at the same time completely invested in seeing a specific end result. He didn’t want this to be a game his victims could win, even though he made it appear as such. So to me this character is a reminder that even though so much has changed in 2042, still so much has stayed the same.
This episode delivered what was promised to us from the show’s premise, it’s a cop drama set in the future. Remember last season of Castle when Detective Beckett stepped on an explosive plate in that dude’s boobytrapped apartment? Or that season 2 episode of Alias when the CIA agent was forced to sing “Pop goes the weasel” while walking out into public with the bomb strapped to her? We, the audience, are the comments running across the screen of Simon’s viewing party. We want Ramon to die, because it’ll make Simon a villain; we’re torn about Jeannine because she’s pretty and, afterall, Simon has already made his point; we know Kennex won’t die because Karl Urban and turn up the volume so we don’t miss a single word Simon says to bury himself deep into his own jail sentence. So there’s a logical equation to the way the story is devised in order to bring it along to its conclusion, but the way in which the villainous character manifests himself or herself is always different.