Review: Humans, Season 1, Episode 4 (Do Androids Dream Of Drowning?!?)


“Was he human?”

With Episode 4, Humans became must-watch TV. And I don’t say that lightly! Revelations and plot developments came thick and fast, with a most unexpected twist at the episode’s end. If the line between humans and synths was fuzzy before, it’s all but smashed now. Niska appears like a normal human being with the aid of contact lenses. Laura takes interest in a case of synth/human rights violations. The emotion of fear not only runs through our humans, but also our synths as well, apparently. But is it merely a simulation, or a real feeling?!?!?

Spilling over from last week’s episode, Matty continues to interrogate Anita over her outburst of emotion after Matty hacked her source code. Anita’s outburst of fear looked real, but it was merely a simulation? We see Anita simulate another emotion, that of passion, in an awkward moment with Joe. Joe activates Anita’s erotic mode, but it’s clear that Anita is simulating passion. Joe’s sexual intercourse with Anita may as well have been with his own hand, as Anita looked disinterested at best. The difference between her outburst of fear and her simulation of passion was stark. The former seemed like the genuine article; the latter looked awkward. Of course, it’s the old question of whether an android could actually ‘feel’ or merely replicate feelings. But if Anita is in fear, does it matter if it is real or simulated?

The issue of sex and androids was brought up at a house party that Matty and Toby were attending. Toby rejected a girl’s advances, saying that he was with another women…meaning Anita! It’s a very peculiar teenage crush! However, the humour was more than trampled by a drunken lad trying to take advantage of the household synth. After the synth tried to stop the ‘inappropriate touching,’ the lad turned her off and boasted he was going to take her upstairs. Matty saved the synth. But was the lad any better than Joe, using a synth to satisfy his sexual urges and curiosity? Anita had no choice but to have sex with Joe; there is a programme inside her software that orders her to fulfil her primary user’s sexual desire. And, knowing that Anita was one of the five advanced synths capable of emotion, doesn’t that make Joe’s awkward fumble a sort of rape? His order that she delete the sex files added to the moral uncertainty. It was the most disturbing aspect of Humans to date.

“I’m an analogue man in a digital world”

My main issue with Humans is that we have not seen the economic/social consequences of synths taking over blue collar jobs. The synths are everywhere, in cafes, shops, the NHS…but where are the underclass forced out of low-paying jobs by the synths? We may have seen a little bit of this undercurrent in the story of Drummond, but the main focus has been that of the impact of the synths on the middle classes. Of course, Laura has been metaphorically ousted by Anita. In this episode, Drummond is thrown out by his girlfriend. Her synth, Simon, sits next to her as she tells Drummond the relationship isn’t working. “I’m a man, and I’m not perfect!” he screams to her. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Man isn’t perfect…but neither are synths. In a humorous aside, Drummond’s girlfriend tells him not to hurt Simon because of the deposit…

The first rule of synth fight club is...
The first rule of synth fight club is…

Anyway, back to my main point: the lack of depictions of underclass resentment. Episode 4 showed a little bit of this with Niska’s storyline, which was enjoyable to watch. She walks past a man looking at an anti-synth rally poste, the WAP (We Are Humans) rally. He tells her to join them, because they need to win the war against synths. She then goes to an underground synth fight club, where humans take on synths with various weapons. There’s a pile of battered synths on the sidelines. It’s natural to assume that underclass anger at synths would bubble underground, in hidden violent scenes. Niska enters the ‘ring,’ but assaults the humans rather than the synth. Of course, it wasn’t the raging, revolutionary working class that I thought we might see in Humans, but it is a start. But why isn’t there more about this theme? Just think, UKIP have built their political base on people’s fear of foreigners taking their jobs. What about a political party that takes advantage of people’s fear of synths taking their jobs? A fear that is a reality in the Humans universe?

It’s a niggle, but whilst there was so much going on in Episode 4, it was easy to push to the back of my mind. Leo and Max’s story collided with Dr. Milligan’s, which added a further twist to the story. Drummond’s story not only fell in with the overall theme of the episode, but also gave us a great twist. It’s the best episode of Humans yet, and like I said before, I don’t say that lightly! Issues of synths having equal rights to humans, of human and synth emotions, and of human sexuality all mixed together in a great melting pot of an episode!

VERDICT: 9/10. Humans found its feet last time, and is almost at running speed this episode! Full of deep philosophical issues and great twists to the story.

(Click here for my review of Humans, Season 1, Episode 3)

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