Humans Recap: Instructions Not Included

By
Emily Berrington as Niska. Photo: Colin Hutton/Kudos/AMC/C4/© KUDOS FILM & TELEVISION LIMITED 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDd
Humans
Show
Humans
Episode Title
Episode 4
Season
1
Episode
4
Editor’s Rating
3/5

Last week I wondered how long it would take Anita/Mia to infringe upon Laura’s role as a wife since she has already proven herself to be a more capable mother. In episode four we find our answer. After Laura rebuffs Joe, he is left alone in the house with Anita/Mia. Joe doesn’t believe Laura has left for a work commitment and uses Anita/Mia to track Laura’s movements, further hammering home the point that most of the human men on the show are utter trash. When Anita/Mia concludes that Laura has stopped her car, Joe asks if a man named Tom lives in the area. Anita/Mia goes through the landline calls to reveal that Laura is indeed at a work commitment. The scene pivots when Anita/Mia affectionately places her hand on Joe’s to calm him down. It only gets worse from here.

“Sometimes I wish my family came with instructions for me,” Joe says when he finds Anita/Mia in the living room looking at her user guide. He finds the pamphlet for unlocking Anita/Mia’s sexual programming. The bright red paper reading “Adult Options 18+” jumps out against the cool colors of the rest of the home. “[This] creates the impression of passion, it’s a simulation of an emotion,” she says as he toys with the idea of activating it out of more than innocent curiosity. He asks her questions he knows she can’t answer about emotion and desire. He looks giddy and petrified over his decision. After her activation, Joe tentatively leans in for a kiss that she returns more passionately.

While Joe continues his sad seduction, Laura meets with a client her firm turned down whose synth was thrown out of a play since they aren’t allowed. The woman believes her synth exhibits emotions. Laura quickly concludes that this is not the case. But the woman provides a monologue that operates as a somewhat on-the-nose description of what the show is trying to portray between humans and synths: “They become part of our lives and our families. They are as close to human as can be and still people insist that forming a relationship with them is perverse. We have created a gray area […] we can’t keep insisting they’re just gadgets […] we’ve made them more than that,” she says.

Jumping between these two scenes cuts the dramatic tension. But Gemma Chan continues to be the show’s MVP, at times softening her gaze in a way that makes me wonder how close she may be to regaining her consciousness.

A look of disgust crosses Joe’s face the moment he finishes his brief, fully clothed sexual encounter. He commands Anita/Mia to erase the tryst from her memory and never speak of it to anyone. What will happen when Anita/Mia regains consciousness? Will she consider what happened to her rape? These themes continue when the teenaged Hawkins attend a house party.

Toby follows in his father’s steps of making narrow-minded, delusional decisions when he rebuffs a cute classmate who makes her crush on him apparent. Apparently, a lack of personality and emotions doesn’t impede Toby’s lust toward Anita/Mia.

Two teenage boys at the party decide to mess with the household synth. One tries to zip down her dress, and when the synth objects he turns her off, picking her up with the help of his friend to have sex with her. This is a very loaded image recalling date rape. Rowdy, alcohol-fueled teenage boys, a crowded party, a woman’s body used as a plaything. But it doesn't quite work. This synth isn’t conscious, she’s a machine. Is she supposed to be treated like a human woman with all the rights and contradictory social baggage that entails just because she looks like one?

“Do you think it’s normal to drag an unconscious woman to a room and rape her?” Mattie asks. She stops the boys from doing anything, going as far as punching one in the face. It’s obvious Mattie and Laura’s interactions with Anita/Mia are making them sympathetic toward synths.

When Laura and Joe take Anita/Mia for a diagnostic check, he’s panicked the sexual transgression will be revealed. Instead, they learn that Anita/Mia isn’t a brand-new synth. She’s 14 years old. When they get back home Joe apologizes to Laura for how he has been treating her, admitting she was right. This is rather casually treated considering how much the show has played up Laura not being believed by her family. Laura decides to keep Anita/Mia in order to find out the truth about her.

Meanwhile, Drummond gets dumped. Jill feels the relationship isn’t healthy for her. She’s right.

“I’m a man! I’m not perfect, but that’s the point,” he screams.

He pushes her synth, Simon, against the wall, ready to pummel him until Jill reminds him of the deposit. Drummond blames Simon for how his marriage has deteriorated. But it is pretty clear that synths are just a convenient target for Drummond’s feelings of inadequacy. Their relationship fails because Drummond is selfish, quick to anger, and puts his own feelings of impotence over Jill’s recovery.

When Drummond hangs out with his partner, Karen, he makes it clear he doesn’t care about trying to fix things with Jill.

“I’m an analog man in a digital world,” he tells her as if to inspire sympathy.

He continues his run of selfish, bad decisions when he meets with the journalist he assaulted. He gives the journalist information on the case so he will drop the charges that prohibit Drummond from returning to work.

Despite the conspiracy-theory plotline gaining momentum, Hobb actually doesn’t figure into much of the episode. He realizes his mistake in who he’s hunting down after interrogating the illegal synth fixer. It is four synths and one human that he’s after (which has been apparent to viewers for sometime). He recalibrates his investigation to make the human of the group, Leo, the focus.

Leo arranges a meet-up with Mattie after reaching out to her on the hacker forum. Grungy and paranoid, Leo looks out of place in the diner. Max makes a misstep when he asks Mattie where Mia is. Mattie quickly sizes him up as untrustworthy, but she’s obviously shaken by the encounter. Before things can go any further, Mattie slips out by saying she’s going to the bathroom and giving him the purse of another woman as insurance she’ll return. She doesn’t. For an augmented fugitive on the run from powerful government forces Leo, gets very easily outsmarted by a teenager. Mattie may have proven she’s quite intelligent, but seriously?

Later, Leo and Max go to the home of Dr. Millican to get some answers. They’re only able to get inside by namedropping Dr. Elster. They discover that there is a message hidden in Anita/Mia’s coding. This piques Dr. Millican’s interest, who suggests hooking up Max to the computer to run the hidden program. Before things can go any further, Leo and Max try to leave. Leo confirms one of my suspicions to Dr. Millican: He’s Dr. Elster’s son.

Dr. Millican is taken aback — “You died,” he whispers. The revelation of Leo being Dr. Elster’s son makes a lot of sense. He treats the synths like siblings and in doing so continues his father’s legacy. His death as a kid goes some way to explain why he is augmented, albeit not to what extent. While these two scenes of converging plotlines give us some interesting information, they feel rather weightless, going by far too quickly to make an impact.

After leaving Dr. Millican’s home, Leo hooks up to a computer to run the program hidden in Anita/Mia’s coding. Which reveals what looks like someone putting their hands on a tree. When Max asks what he saw, Leo responds “life.”

Meanwhile, Niska’s violence escalates when she buys her way into an underground club of humans brutally beating synths. She turns her fury on to the humans around her, who scramble in fear. One human calls the cops, and this news travels to Hobb, who brings a heavily armed task force. Niska tries to free the imprisoned synths, but they stay motionless. Lacking consciousness, they are unaware of the freedom that Niska tries to grant them. Hobb closes in on her, and with only a nail gun as a weapon she barricades herself in a stairwell. Before she escapes, Niska gets a call from Leo, who reveals his discovery of the hidden programming and its potential to give other synths consciousness — but he needs all of them to pull that off (how isn’t explained).

Just when I was thinking that Humans may be falling apart under the weight of all its conflicting themes and story lines, it gives us a bonkers ending. After saying good night to Drummond, who crashes at her place, Karen locks herself in her bedroom. With sickening precision she pulls out a balloon from her throat that is full of all the food and whiskey she’s had this evening.

Karen is a synth. But sent by whom? What is her real purpose? Karen and Drummond have been partners for some time, so this reveal brings up a lot of questions. Even if the answers aren’t thrilling, I am eager to see what happens when Drummond finds out that his beloved partner is the very thing he hates. The conspiracy theory and government-cover-up angle isn’t as sharp as it could be, but at least it has the ability to still surprise.