Karen’s origins are finally made clear in episode seven. Not only is Karen the shadowy figure we noticed behind Dr. Elster in Leo’s memories, but she was modeled after Beatrice, his dead wife. The more we learn about Dr. Elster the worse the man gets. Modeling a self-aware synth after your dead wife who killed herself (and Leo) adds even more texture to an already prickly portrait. Karen’s desires are revealed once when she tracks down Niska to Dr. Millican’s home.
Karen wants to die. She’s unable to kill herself because Dr. Elster included a fail-safe in her root code so she wouldn’t commit suicide like the woman she’s modeled after. More important, she wants Niska to kill her. Dr. Millican sits between this awkward family reunion. He acts as the calming presence between Karen’s vehemence and Niska’s hopefulness about their future. “There’s no place for us here. Consciousness can only bring us suffering,” Karen says. But when Niska won’t kill her and reveals the chance of more conscious synths becoming a reality, things turn dark for everyone involved.
Karen walks through Dr. Millican’s home, gun in hand, ready to kill Niska. But, when given the chance, she hesitates, and Dr. Millican stands between the two women. While Karen thinks of Niska as a fatal mistake, Dr. Millican gently offers an alternative. “Maybe she is the future of humanity,” he says. But he gets too close, and Karen accidentally shoots him. With Niska unable to save him, Dr. Millican orders her to leave before the police arrive. Poor Dr. Millican, he was too gentle and kind for this world. But at least he gets to spend his tender last moments with Odi. This bittersweet interaction is undercut with Hobb showing up later and ordering Odi to be scrapped after his memories are extracted.
Afterward, Karen goes to Hobb. It takes him a moment to recognize her as Beatrice. She promises to help him stop the plan for widespread synth consciousness if he will kill her afterward. Her yearnings may be clear, but I’m still unsure what Hobb’s endgame is. Does he want to stop their plans or use them to his advantage?
Plotlines continue to converge as Fred and Leo reconnect. They end up spending time looking for Max, despite Leo’s dire outlook. With a brief sidebar of Leo taking a call from Niska, who needs a new place to hide out given Dr. Millican’s demise (you can guess where that is). They find Max, but things don’t look so good. At the Hawkins’ home with all the major players present, everyone makes a concerted effort to save Max. He’s de-powered and lost a lot of (synth) blood. With Mattie on the computer hacked into his system and the others focusing on fixing the wounds of his body, we get brief glimmers of hope. But they need to charge for 13 hours before attempting a reboot.
The Hawkins household is crowded with unspooling mysteries and shifting allegiances. Niska confesses to Mia that not only is Karen alive, but she’s not to be trusted. Niska convinces Mia to keep Karen’s reappearance in their lives a secret from Leo since his mind needs to be clear to handle things. But this decision ends up blowing up in their face.
Meanwhile, Fred doesn’t seem like himself. While playing soccer with Toby and Joe, he freezes and looks to be murmuring to himself. Inside his hands move rhythmically as if typing up code. Looks like Hobb tinkered with him.
Despite coming together to help Max, you could cut the tension in the Hawkins household with a knife. Much of this is because of Mia’s regained consciousness and the specter of Joe’s violation. Joe may have squirmed his way back inside, but his overtures of wanting to be there for his kids and fix things don’t go over well. After all, he didn’t think about his kids or the familial fallout long enough to not activate Mia’s adult programming. Joe spends a considerable amount of time looking sad and guilty whilst making very pathetic overtures to get into his family’s good graces. None of which work.
Laura asks Mia the question that’s been on my mind: “You were inside Anita the whole time, watching us?” Yes, she was. Which brings up even more questions. With Mia’s renewed consciousness, and knowing she was always aware of everything happening, would she look at what happened to her as rape? If you were hoping to learn a bit more about Mia’s own beliefs and emotional state, you’re out of luck.
Alone with Joe, she says, “I was there the whole time — you started to hate yourself before we even finished.”
It gets worse. When a cop arrives to follow up on Joe’s call (which led to Max sacrificing himself so Leo could escape), everyone else is rightly pissed. But guess who defends him? Mia. Apparently because she believes Joe was just defending his family, and Leo would do the same thing. This line of thinking absolves Joe of having to take a closer look at his exceedingly selfish actions. Thus far, Gemma Chan has proven to be the strongest actor and gives Mia a mix of thoughtfulness and vulnerability. But not even she can sell me on this.
At no point in episode seven do we learn how Mia feels about anything that has happened to her or how she feels about her rape, besides feeling guilty about the Hawkins’ wrecked marriage, which was on the chopping block long before she arrived. This is disheartening, because the show has been very interested in the ideas of consent and autonomy elsewhere like in Niska’s story line. These synths are supposed to be set apart because of their emotions and rich interior lives. It’s a shame Mia isn’t given any after all this buildup.
Instead, we watch her try to pick up the pieces of Laura and Joe’s marriage. We’ve seen nothing to make us root for them to be together. Do the writers want us to care about Joe and the Hawkins staying together? Because at this point I would be more than fine with Joe being nuked off the face of the Earth.
Overall, episode seven is a bit of a letdown, but there are some touching interactions, including Niska’s failure to play dolls with Sophie, Leo’s prickly conversation with Mattie explaining the burden of never being able to forget, and seeing everyone interact with the Hawkins family around the dinner table. Some of the most emotionally explosive moments on Humans happen in domestic spheres. Episode seven continues that tradition when the others reveal to Mia the chance of other synths becoming conscious because of a secret message hidden in their coding by Dr. Elster. Away from the Hawkins, they discuss the potential fallout of such a monumental decision. Meanwhile, Joe flips out and Laura defends the synths. Of course, they still need Max for this to work.
But, will Max be his old self? The answer to that is complicated. After rebooting him, hope is quickly dashed. While Max retains his warm smile, he was de-powered for too long, and his root code is degrading. In essence, he’s dying. But Leo thinks that if they power up their secret code, that may be a way to bring Max back. Before they can test out that theory, a news program appears with footage of Niska’s smash club attack on humans. This understandably scares Joe and Laura, who want them out of their house. I guess this will bring these two back together.
Episode seven feels like the writers needed a lot to happen to get to where they needed to be for the finale. Unfortunately, this cut down the dramatic potential of Mia’s story along with the inherent sadness of Karen’s suicidal desires and Dr. Millican’s death. These great moments just don’t have room to breathe.
Things get worse when Leo is confronted by Karen when he’s grabbing his things to leave. You’d think the Hawkins would be smart enough to lock their doors, considering they’re housing fugitives. Alas. His surly demeanor cracks when he sees her. She promises to get everyone to safety and wants to reconnect. Here, Leo looks like a scared kid. The others try to get Leo away from her since she shouldn’t be trusted. All their hopes and plans crumble when a tactical team bursts inside with Hobb quickly behind. The home is in complete chaos as everyone is arrested.
While the Hawkins family has had some close calls with the law, it was only a matter of time before things got real for them, considering their home is a nexus of self-aware synths. This explosive ending opens up a whole new realm of narrative possibilities. But I’m still focused on the one we don’t have an answer to: How does Mia feel now that she has regained her consciousness?