‘Humans’ Episode 6 review: A beautiful piece of storytelling

With its reunions, partings, and moving backstory, Episode 6 of Humans is basically a national televised Voight-Kampff test for viewers of Channel 4.

If you got through the whole hour without any of the standard human emotions trickling across your brain and toward your face then you shouldn’t be reading this. You should be plugged in and recharging, or swabbing your joints with a WD-40 soaked rag.

Filling us in with answers to questions we’ve had since Episode 1, Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley’s script is as electric and emotional as one of Dr. Elster’s conscious Synths. It is a thing of laughter and beauty and sorrow.

Like life, it moves from the sublime to the ridiculous to the terrifying within a few carefully chosen words. That it manages to do that while shading in so many characters’ backstories makes it even more impressive. It is a beautiful piece of storytelling through many voices.

It’s always difficult to dump a load of backstory into drama without feeling like you’re being forced into an update – a dramatic sync between you and the story – but Humans fills us in on the past(s) without ever slowing down.

Humans 6 Mattie (Lucy Carless) Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson)

There’s the small but uncomfortable truth that Dr. Elster used his creation Niska as something other than a daughter, the truth about Leo, and the emotional heave of Laura explaining that Tom is/was the childhood brother she couldn’t save, but it never feels like the show is stalling for time.

Katherine Parkinson wallops us with such emotion that you can hear the tintinnabulation of stacking TV awards, but it also serves the purpose of reactivating Mia within Anita. It’s a bit weird seeing Gemma Chan being allowed to pull expressions after weeks of growing accustomed to her automated ergonomic monotone – like if your fridge started singing show tunes – but it’s nice to see. And even nicer to have her reunited with Leo, especially now we know his backstory.

In a scene that Colin Morgan plays just right, we discover that Leo died, then got better, and is now part-human, part-android; a FrankenSynth. He’s the future that Hobb tells not-dead-Fred about when he says the lines are blurring. Like a pacemaker keeping a heart alive, it’s going to be some Asimovian war, but a coming together between man and machine.

Humans 6 Hobb (Danny Webb)

Speaking of coming together, we continue to watch Pete and Jill’s post-break-up story and them both making the classic mistake of finding solace in the arms of a rebound shag. Except this time it’s a robot rebound shag. And like all spur-of-the-emotion flings it starts out as amusing (‘The angle of entry was optimised’) and then quickly becomes something to regret. ‘If you power me down now I’ll no longer be able to penetrate your wife’, Simon Synth says; a sentence which becomes more horrible the more you think about it.

The most horrible thing in Episode 6 is the thing you can see coming from a mile off: Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) sacrificing himself to save Leo from Hobb and his Synth recovery squad. There’s something to mourn in Jeremiah’s wonderful performance and Max’s sacrifice.

Humans 1 1 Max (Ivanno Jeremiah)

Perhaps because, like Millican’s view of Odi, Max is ‘a reflection’ to the audience. He’s everything we’d like to believe we as humans are: kind, honest, hopeful, naïve enough to get by in the world. Throughout the episode he’s raised up as a reflection of our better sentiments, only then to have all that sunk. Literally.

‘If I die, it means I’ve lived,’ he says, which is the kind of mixture of sentiment and logic you could only get from a robot. But it’s beautifully, succinctly put, and another hallmark of a script which, this week more than ever, felt like it had the confidence of an original series, rather than an adaptation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go power-down and mend my eyes. They appear to be leaking fluid.

5star

Aired at 9pm on Sunday 19 July 2015 on Channel 4.

> Order Humans on DVD on Amazon.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…

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  • CM

    Why you don’t speak about the outstanding performance of Colin Morgan ?

    • Nimueh123

      I highly appreciate Colin and his amazing talent, but there are lots of excellent actors in this serious (Gemma Chan for one is wonderful). I don’t think every review has to mention Colin. Apart from that the author does speak about him: “In a scene that Colin Morgan plays just right, we discover Leo died and then got better and is now part-human, part-android”.
      Just saying…

      • CM

        I know and yes all the actors are good but I ask me why in the majority of reviews, they just mentionned Colin and don’t talk about his outstanding performance in the 6 episodes 😉 And what they say is not much and it doesn’t mean anything.

  • Aiko Daisuki

    It was wonderful! I’m still crying!

  • Nimueh123

    Really enjoyed it. There is this feeling of doom hanging over the ‘feeling’ synths. I can’t see how this can end well for Leo’s little family. And what happens to the secret they are holding, now that Max is dead. Or is he?

  • timmy

    A very nice review, though for one which over and over belabours the point about emotions, it’s a bizarre blindness to say Gemma Chan’s performance as “Anita” didn’t show expressions, or that she used an “automated ergonomic monotone”. “Anita” clearly was expressive and emotional, just in a very presice and limited way, more like a very innocent person then a “fridge”. The reviewer should return to his memory files and watch again before recharging tonight. Was almost convincing as human until that cock-up.

  • MAY

    Leo was so poignant in that episode again! He made me shade some tears! Colin Morgan is outstanding once again. Love his sotry arc. Very well played especiallly!