Review: Humans, Season 1, Episode 3 (Robot Supernanny!)


“Why don’t you share?”

Humans is slowly becoming must-watch TV. It isn’t quite there yet, but there’s the impression that the slow build of the first two episodes is starting to pay off. Laura’s fear of being replaced by Anita became a reality. And, as Anita became a parent-figure, the personhood of another synth, Niska, was denied. Her murder of the client was treated like an accident in in a factory; the result of human error, not a conscious synth decision. And the difference between humans and synths is getting ever more obscure and abstract…

At the opening of the episode, Anita pushes a bike riding Toby out of the way of a van. The van strikes her instead. Toby raced to catch up with his mum to prevent her from taking Anita back to the shop. In that one move, Anita proved that she is the ultimate guardian for the children. Would Toby’s parents do the same? Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t, but it would mean the end of their lives. Anita had a few ‘injuries,’ but carried on as normal. The kids are unenthusiastic about Laura taking Anita’s place playing a video game, even though Anita is easily beating them through her superior knowledge. Anita’s dominance reaches a peak when Sophie asks if Anita can read her a bedtime story, instead of Laura. Joe immediately acquiesces, to the chagrin of Laura.

Eyes on the road, Laura!
Eyes on the road, Laura!

Coming off a viewing of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the question of androids/cyborgs being superior carers of children than human adults has been playing on my mind. Sarah Connor says that The Terminator “would never leave [her son John], and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him.” Anita states that she can “take better care of your children, than you,” to Laura, in a frank and brutal assertion. Of course, just as The Terminator knows why people cry, but it’s something that he cannot do, Anita lessens the blow by saying that she “cannot love them.” The connection and love between a parent and child is two-way; the connection between, say Anita and Sophie is one-way. Anita can feel nothing for Sophie (or can she?!?!?), but Sophie adores Anita. It’s the slow teasing out of this theme that gives the ‘family’ story of Humans so much power.

“You took someone’s life”

Niska’s story introduced the other major theme of this episode: can an android be held responsible for its actions like a human can be? The Superintendent investigating the crime scene where Niska murdered a client portray the murder as an accident. In his view, it’s the result of illegal modding of the synth. For him, it’s like a machine malfunctioning, not a sentient being willingly committing a crime. It leads us to ask the question of the degree of Niska’s responsibility. Does her ‘consciousness’ (in whatever form that takes) make her responsible for the murder? When Niska meets up with Leo and Max, Leo is disgusted with her. “You took someone’s life,” he spits. Knowing that Niska made a conscious decision to kill, Leo believes that she is responsible. In defense, Niska says that she will only hurt people if they deserve it. Does Niska have a sense of justice? What does that even mean?!!??!

Humans finally came hit its stride in episode three, balancing the questions of synth morality and personhood with plot developments. The time for exposition seems to be over, and it’s time to explore the differences and similarities between synths and humans in greater detail. My eyes rarely left the screen, and my mind rarely turned to something else. The episode also gave Drummond something useful to do as well, in his investigation of the murder scene and subsequent suspension! All in all, it was more thought-provoking than its predecessors, and boasted intriguing plot developments as well!

VERDCIT: 8/10. Humans has found its feet…let’s hope it doesn’t lose them!

(Click here for my review of Humans, Season 1, Episode 2)

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