‘Humans’ Episode 7 review: Superlative sci-fi drama

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It’s taken me until the penultimate episode of Channel 4’s superlative Sunday sci-fi drama to realise something.

Have you noticed how big the Hawkins family kitchen is?

It’s massive. A wipe-down hangar for cooking and conversation. A space that’s fortuitously big enough for kitchen sink dramas, the impromptu Synth triage of Max, and an awkward dinner between an awkward family made of flesh and an awkward family made of metal and blue goop. For many of us the kitchen’s the centre of much domestic interaction with family and friends. In Humans it’s practically a theatre for it, with the extractor fan doubling as a proscenium arch.

But as cavernous as the Hawkins’ cooking-cathedral is, it still doesn’t distract you from the smaller moments. And there really are some wonderful small moments this week, in amongst the massive, kitchen-sized drama.

Humans 1 2 Laura (Katherine Parkinson)

From the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action where Laura takes two coffee cups from the cupboard, only to remember she threw Joe out, to Leo crying at the simple family sight of toothbrushes, to Toby kicking the ball to his dad as a sign of semi-forgiveness; Humans proves there’s just as great a power and profundity in the unspoken action as there are in a the beautifully-worded sequences.

Turns out that Pete’s police colleague Karen isn’t just a Synth, she’s a Synth that David Elster created in the image of his dead wife, Beatrice. To the rest of Elster’s sentient Synth family Beatrice proved to be as popular as the Microsoft Zune, and now she’s got both a grudge and a death wish; tracking down Leo and his friends in exchange for her own swift death.

Humans hasn’t really had a villain, has it? Maybe Hobb was an antagonist when we saw him as just a beard with an opaque purpose. But if there’s been a true antagonist it’s the mystery and the unease that society feels about having a sexy robot.

Now if we can paint ‘baddie’ on anyone, it’s Beatrice, with her belief that ‘consciousness can only bring us suffering’. Ruth Bradley brings such a cold, near-psychotic presence that it’s hard to remember she was once Pete’s police banter buddy.

Humans 1 2 George (William Hurt)

It’s a belief that brings her into direct conflict with everyone she meets, often with fatal consequences, particularly for Dr. Millican. Millican’s death (nooooo!) is sudden and economic on melodrama, which is a crafty piece of scripting because it means it leaves you the viewer to bear all the emotional significance. And if you loved William Hurt’s character as much I did, it’s significant. Not just because it’s an end for him, but also for his beloved ‘son’ Odi.

Odi kneels by his body and tells George that his wife Mary is ‘in the next room’. Yeah yeah, we know it’s just a corrupted memory core burping out old data to a dying man, but because we’re human, fallible, we’d like to think there’s a greater spiritual significance to that. We’re all off to ‘the next room’ when we die, and we hope it’s a nice room. (William Hurt’s off to Marvel for Captain America: Civil War, which is a pretty damn good room indeed. Say hi to Steve Rogers for us.)

Millican’s passing is a kick to the guts, but for the stalwart Humans audience it’s softened by the double reuniting of the Elster family and the Hawkins family. With both nuclear units together we’re on the verge of a happy ever after, which is enough to get your Synth-senses tingling in anticipation of danger. Don’t let those truly adorable scenes of Niska and Sophie playing together distract you: everything’s going just a bit too well.

Humans 5 Leo (Colin Morgan)

So it proves as Beatrice turns up. The horror and confusion that Colin Morgan puts his lovely face through is terrific; a contorting diagram of muscles revealing about eight different emotions at once. Suddenly all hopes are dashed. In storms Hobb and the men with guns. The Hawkins family is broken apart again by Joe’s actions, and so too are the Elster Synths.

It is the cliffhanger-iest of cliffhangers, even with Hobb’s supposed good intentions for them, and it’s at such a moment where you realise just how much you’ve invested in these characters and their fates over the past seven weeks, and how interminable the week-long wait for the finale will be.

And after the finale? Well, until there’s a second season we’ll have to find something else to watch. Preferably something with a nice big kitchen in it.


Aired at 9pm on Sunday 26 July 2015 on Channel 4.

> Order Humans on DVD on Amazon.

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