For as long as there’s been technology, there’s been a pervading worry about the effect it’ll have on our lives.
In the Victorian era, people worried that terrifying speeds of 30mph on the railways would cause organ failure. At the dawn of radio, some naysayers proclaimed it was a distraction for young minds. And in the 1990s, my parents worried I was spending too much time playing Tetris, and listening to the Spice Girls’ debut album on my Walkman.
Nothing ever changes. Except the batteries.
So this week, in an episode that feels less densely-packed than previous, Humans takes a longer glance than usual at the psychological effect that technology has on we fleshy folk. It’s a chance to slow down and ponder the question of ‘who do you think you are?’ when technology is such a pressing influence on your life. Are you in control of it, or under it’s control?
As you probably suspected from the first episode of this season, when you saw all her shoes neatly arranged, Little Sophie ‘Potato’ Hawkins seems to have been influenced greatly by all the Synth-y shenanigans, and Toby inviting wannabe Synth Renie (Letitia Wright) over for Maths and teen awkwardness doesn’t help. Nor does having Odi wandering around with his broken arm and adorable face, showing her how to fold tops quickly (someone’s been on the YouTube).
Week after week, Humans keeps finding new ways to make me fall in love with Odi. Will Tudor’s outdated model exudes such an innocence that when he encounters Sophie the result is so adorable it’s a 98.6% on the ‘Bag o’ Kittens Cuteness Scale’ (if you’re not familiar with that measurement system, it’s equivalent to a Magnitude 7 SqueeQuake). Watching them, it doesn’t matter who’s a Synth and who’s human.
It’s two beings, connecting over the laundry. And of course that sounds daft and pretentious when you say it aloud, but watching it feels special. I could watch the two of them fold laundry all day.
Most parents would love for their kids to keep their rooms clean and their clothes crease-free, but Mama & Papa Hawkins see it differently. Perhaps that’s because they’ve each got their own different Synth issues. Joe seems to have been fired by a Synth chain email, while Laura is still trying to get Niska to prove there’s some humanity in there among the wires and blue goop, even if that means breaking someone’s heart.
A bid to prove that she is conscious means that Astrid learns that her last-time lover Niska is a Synth, and the look that plays out on Bella Dayne’s face as she struggles to come to terms with it is quite excruciatingly beautiful. She’s fallen in love with a commodity. It’s one thing to voluntarily imitate technology, but it’s quite a different thing to have your heart tricked by it. It’s like if your partner turned out to be a sexy fridge. Actually that would be quite useful.
Quite the opposite of frigid, but another example of the psychological and physiological effect of technology on humans, things are getting hot between Ed and Mia. Lying naked in bed after engaging in some sort of love thing, Ed may not quite have come to terms with Mia’s state, but he’s taking advantage of it.
I don’t trust Ed. Never have. There’s something kinda funny about a man that handsome who can’t attract a single customer to a prime beachside locale with cappuccino-making facilities. And that distrust turns out not to be unfounded, as he deactivates Mia and his clearly anti-Synth chum Danny looms in the background. Are they about to take an Allen key to her? Or sell her to those Seraphim Synth dealers that Pete’s investigating/having the crap kicked out of him by?
Oh Mia, oh dear. Maybe she should’ve listened to Leo. Although he’s not doing too well either, what with him losing Max after arguing over just what the hell they’re doing. Leo doesn’t seem to know what the cause is, beyond rescuing Synths from The Silo, but if you can’t dance to his tune then you may as well go be adorable elsewhere.
Though Humans admirably juggles a large cast without actually looking like it’s in danger of dropping balls, it does feel like Leo is being made to tramp around until the inevitable point later in the show when we get to open the Silo.
Meanwhile, owner of said Silo, Milo Khoury, has a luxury luncheon with Dr. Morrow, and as they enjoy sea bass we get to chomp on a side order of juicy plot advancement. Khoury knows about Morrow’s attempts at consciousness transmission: a chance for Human and Synth to merge, for two to become one, albeit only if conscious Synths are available. Is this the ‘pure’ future Khoury breathlessly mentioned several weeks ago? Looks like it.
If a Synth with a consciousness is the dawn of the Singularity, then a Synth with a human mind downloaded into it is the midday sun of techno-human relations. Which means that Humans is only going to get more interesting, at a point where it already ably commands our attention. And in that revelation it certainly lays ground for a third, if not even a fourth season.
Whatever direction it takes, based upon the quality of this season alone, it’s easy to say you’ll be there for more. And if technology is going to have an effect on our lives, then an urge to tune into Humans every week is no bad thing. Unless you’ve got clothes to fold.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 20 November 2016 on Channel 4.
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