Shiny Unhappy People [Review: Humans episode 1]

Synths - synthetic humans - are the new iPhones. They're cheaper than a car (with the discount), anyone can buy one, and they can do more or less anything. They're the perfect addition to your family. Watch the advert here - they're not creepy at all, are they?

Channel 4's new drama Humans is based on the Swedish drama Real Humans. The first episode revolves around Joe Hawkins and his family. Laura, his wife, is a lawyer and spends too much time away from home, so Joe buys a synth, Anita, to tidy up at home and help him look after the children. The fun begins when Laura gets home... but meanwhile, sinister events are occurring elsewhere, and Anita may not be quite the first-hand, new model she appears to be.

Humans is well written, produced and acted. The synths are brilliantly almost-human with perfect skin, shiny eyes and expressions that are slightly too slow and controlled. Watching synth Anita (Gemma Chan) freak out Laura (Katherine Parkinson) is compelling. Predictably the plot revolves around whether the synths are machines or sentient slaves, and Channel 4 does take some risks here - one scene, where a synth is challenged by a sinister investigator and runs away from his position in a poly tunnel farm only to be shot and recaptured, evokes very strong imagery of the plantations, including the racial appearance of the runaway.

However, the "reveal" of the first episode is pretty tame, and so far in plot terms there is nothing we haven't seen in AI, Blade Runner or I,Robot. I'll continue watching for the drama but I'm hoping that conceptually there is a lot more to come during the series.


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