review   |   weekend

'Humans' is beautiful to watch and contains a deeper message



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Sometimes, we all need a little help. Life gets busy. There are meals to cook, dishes to wash, kids to look after. Then there’s work and cleaning. It becomes too much, and we need some help.

AMC’s new show, “Humans,” introduces a modern-day world where you can get that help through Synthetics — robotic servants designed to look like humans. These Synths cannot feel or think independently and are created purely to serve humans.

Meet Anita, a Synth recently purchased by Joe Hawking, a father of three with a wife whose job often requires her to be away for days at a time.

Joe and the kids fall easily into the routine of owning a Synth. But Joe’s wife, Laura, isn’t as accepting of the new helper.

Laura is clearly uncomfortable around Anita. She expresses a fear the Synth might mess with the kids’ heads or Anita will replace her. She feels a need to test Anita throughout the first episode. She asks Anita about music and her interaction with kids, always deciding Anita is nothing more than a “stupid machine.”

But Anita is so much more.

Anita is part of a special group of Synths with a conscience. She can think and feel and move independently. Flashbacks reveal she had friends, and she was in love with a Leo, a human male looking after her and the other special Synths before they were stolen.

Back in present time, Leo is searching for Anita and two other missing Synths, one of whom has been sold into prostitution and the other of whom is found out while working in a factory.

“Humans” veers into another storyline with George, an old man with one of the first Synth models named Odi. George doesn’t treat Odi like other Synth operators. Their relationship is akin to that of father and son.

The trouble is Odi is starting to malfunction, and George is threatened with having Odi taken away or being forced to recycle him.

“Humans” is stunning to watch, blending a good amount of futuristic features with a modern setting to keep it in the present.

The acting is phenomenal on behalf of the Synths, particularly Gemma Chan as Anita. She manages to maintain the expected rigidness of a robot in her physical gestures while promising something deeper just under the skin.

But it’s the underlying moral message of “Humans” which really kept me watching. It is mostly explored through Laura’s relationship with Anita.

It is the issue of having servants who look and sound just like you while treating them as if they are less than human.

This conflict is blatantly addressed in a breakfast scene in the Hawking household when one of the kids is being difficult and Laura barks, “She’s not a slave.”

Her daughter replies, “That’s exactly what she is.”

It’s a blunt parallel to historic events in our world and looks like it will be addressed several times in episodes to come.

Nothing about this show gives me the impression it’s just here to entertain. “Humans” is asking important questions, ones alluding to our past and expressing fears our future which have existed since the beginning of sci-fi.

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