After teasing a robot uprising for seven episodes, Humans take a wrong turn with its season finale.
Let’s bitch it out…
Well that was a bit ho-hum, wasn’t it? I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly expecting an all-out war between the humans and the Synths, but I certainly expected a little bit more than what we got. It seems to me that this finale mostly called back to previous episodes without adding much new aside from teasing an exciting development for series two. In my books it’s hard to get too enthusiastic since the cliffhanger essentially covers what I had hoped we would be getting in this finale. Too much of ‘Episode 8’ is a deferral and whether that’s a deliberate attempt by the writers to draw out the narrative or a reality determined by a small series budget, the result is that Humans ends its first season with a whimper.
After the shocking ending of last episode, I expected that the finale would consist primarily of Hobb (Danny Webb) trying to crack the Synth code for sentience. Initially it appears to do just that as our initial images are of Leo (Colin Morgan) and the Synths incapacitated in Hobb’s laboratory. The Hawkins household is still being searched by police and their gadgets have been confiscated – including Mattie’s (Lucy Carless) laptop with Mia’s (Gemma Chan) code and the projected images from Leo’s family slideshow. Laura (Katherine Parkinson) quickly deduces that those images can be used to blackmail Hobb into releasing the Synths (the code is immediately dismissed because it is too high-level for the average person). Laura’s thinking is on the right track, but her rationale is far too simplistic – why would Hobb agree to release the Synths in exchange for scattered images on a laptop? It’s one of several plot holes in the finale that rely on smart characters making dumb decisions and it has the unfortunate effect of pulling the viewer out of the narrative.
The fact that Hobb may have tweaked Fred’s (Sope Dirisu) code while he had him imprisoned never occurs to anyone until the Synths and Hawkinses are nearly apprehended (kudos to Theo Stevenson’s Toby for recognizing the tell-tale glitch in Fred’s hand). Powering Fred down to keep Hobb off their track is frustrating because it continues the regular pattern that has developed over the last few episodes wherein the plot dictates that one of the male Synths is disabled (and, by extension, prevent the group from moving or uncovering the sentient code). First Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) needed to be rebooted and now Fred has to remain unconscious. There’s a definite sense of been there, done that pervading these developments.
When Beatrice (Ruth Bradley) arrives at the church, she carries the hope that something exciting will happen. She agrees to work with her brothers and sisters to discover the root code, but once they’re connected, each of them begins to shut down. The effect is mildly chilling – their bright-coloured eyes shift to a dull silver until only Mia (Gemma Chan) remains. With Leo unconscious in her arms, Mia pleads with Beatrice not to let him die. It could be construed as a mother to mother plea, but Beatrice has always made it clear that she does not consider herself a copy of the late David Elster’s wife. And yet she heeds Mia’s request; for no apparent discernible reason other than to spare Leo. It’s an anticlimactic development that rings false, just as so many of Beatrice’s recent developments have. Her fear about granting autonomy to other Synths has never computed with the logical, rational approach she had in the early episodes; it’s far too personal and emotional. Here, the same sudden turn-around applies: her change of heart feels so swift, it’s as though Beatrice simply gives up and offers the others what they want so that she can leave. Even Laura’s recommendation to Leo to let Beatrice go doesn’t make sense: why not go after her considering all that she’s done for them?
Similarly Pete’s (Neil Maskell) sudden acceptance of “Karen” comes out of nowhere. Simply overhearing the Hawkins family discuss how sentient Synths are real people is apparently enough to sway Pete’s seven episodes of intolerance so that by the time he discovers Karen on the street, he can admire her as her own (real) person. It feels far too simplistic and idealistic a resolution, particularly when the potential for violence and confrontation has percolated the hour, what with repeated references to a 1000 person march for the “We Are People” movement. Teasing the rally (even having the group run through it) and harking back to Pete’s attendance feels like a bait and switch; why bother introducing it if it doesn’t end up contributing to the events or decisions of characters?
It’s entirely possible / likely that these developments – Fred’s slumber, Niska’s (Emily Berrington) swap of the hard-drives to procure the sentient code and the continued threat of persecution by humans – are all seeds for S2 plots. If that is the case, however, the finale is nothing more than a summation of what we’ve already seen and introduces nothing new aside from the set-up for the next series. It’s a slow, mildly frustrating finale for a show that started strong and then seemingly lost its way. Sorry Humans, this was not a great way to go out.
- We can make assumptions about how much Hobb trusted Beatrice/Karen, but I found it hard to believe that he would simply let a sentient Synth out of his sight, especially when he was paranoid enough to put a tracker in Fred. Perhaps he thought coverage of one was enough, but Karen’s surprising amount of autonomy seemed really artificial.
- As Den of Geek speculates, it’s possible that Fred was able to taze Hobb in the leg last week as part of a ruse to let Fred escape so that he could be tracked, but it would have been nice to get confirmation of this since we see that he is unable to harm Hobb as his primary user in the finale.
- Possibly my biggest grievance outside of the inconsistencies is how much this finale sidelines the Hawkinses, as well as Mia. Considering how much we invested in their interactions in the first half of the series, their diminished roles in the last few episodes have definitely contributed to the sense that the writers lost sight of their best assets. The most emotionally compelling part of the episode is when Mia and Laura hug. We needed more of that kind of relevancy.
- When the code is finally revealed, it (and the Synth connected dream state) takes the form of a large tree. This is, in all likelihood, a reference to the tree of knowledge, as well as the “family” tree from which they all hail. It’s a little bit on the nose.
- Finally, as I mentioned way back in the first review, I’m a big fan of the original series, Äkta Människor. Now that we’ve seen the first year of the adaptation, I encourage anyone interested by the concept (or feeling slightly let down by this finale) to seek out the Swedish version. Here’s a fun rundown that compares the two if you’re on the fence (be advised it contains some mild spoilers).
Your turn: what did you think of the finale? Did you wish that there was more focus on the Hawkins and Mia? Did the inconsistencies in Beatrice’s actions affect your enjoyment of the episode? Did you buy Pete’s sudden change of attitude? Do you think that Niska made a second copy on Mattie’s hard-drive or did she give Laura a fake? (I think it’s the latter) Where do you hope the series goes when it returns? And will you watch the Swedish original? Sound off below.
Humans has finished airing its first season. It has been renewed for a second by Channel 4 and AMC and will likely return next summer.