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TV Review: Humans (Series 2, Episode 1)

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Channel 4’s hit drama Humans has returned to make us question every human interaction we’ve ever had in our lives.

Is that weird fresher actually a robot? Is that deadpan lecturer actually a robot? Was your last boyfriend actually a robot? Because if so that would explain a lot…

Anyway, I’m sure the whole nation was as glad as me that the ‘previously on’ section was pretty thorough because, let’s be real, although we all lauded it as the best show ever last year, the end of the season was complicated and nobody remembers what happened. Basically the only important part was that Niska (Emily Berrington), a.k.a the blonde one, ran off with the code which has the power to wake up all the synths.

Before uploading the code into the synth network, she attempts to experience human life by hanging around in grungy Berlin nightclubs, hooking up with a hot girl, and reading philosophy books. We all know someone like that, right? I’m trivialising, but it was actually pretty sweet. For the first time, we got to see Niska acting and interacting simply because she wanted to. It’s still clear that she’s a work in progress kind-of human, and Berrington does a solid job at convincing us that she's a robot pretending to be a person.   

As for the rest of the gang, Mia (disguised as Anita) has a job at a cafe where it looks like she’s developing feelings for her boss, which is awkward because regular synths aren’t supposed to have feelings at all. Gemma Chan is as stunning as ever, but for last season's lead, she isn't really given all that much to do beyond awkwardly pining. It's pretty disappointing.

Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) and Leo (Colin Morgan) are busy trying to round up the synths that are becoming sentient, and once more Max is reduced to a smiley prop while Leo does all the important stuff and anguishes over it. Morgan has shown in the past that he can deliver an impressive level of emotional intensity, but for the start of a season, the stress level is already weirdly high. This new series also introduces a cute new Bolivian miner synth and a white lady factory synth, but for what was an impressively diverse show, they're doing well sidelining their POC characters and introducing more exceedingly un-diverse characters to the main cast.

On that note, the whole sinister subplot with Dr Morrow (Carrie-Ann Moss) and upstart billionaire Milo Khoury (Marshall Allman) is only a little bit fun and very predictable. Morrow has a mildly intriguing secret, and Allman pretty much plays Lex Luthor but with much less charisma than Jesse Eisenberg. It’s all vaguely menacing and not particularly innovative.

Even less entertaining, we also haven’t left the boring Hawkins family behind. Lucky us! We get to witness such scenes of domesticity as them settling into their new house, the dad losing his job to a synth and couples' counselling. What a treat. Even Katherine Parkinson can't save those scenes. Literally their only redeeming factor comes in the last moments of the episode, when Niska shows up on their doorstep out of the blue and asks for help to be tried for murder as a human, with human rights. Hopefully Parkinson will get some powerful courtroom scenes to make up for the painful counselling ones.

Overall a pretty up and down episode, season premieres do have to carry the weight of exposition a little bit, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now. The court case is sure to be gripping, and the show’s certainly going in the right direction by broadening the scope to an international level. 

You can catch the next episode on Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4.

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