Thursday, April 15, 2021

"Humanity - it's not a state - it's a... it's a quality."

In episode seven, we learn that David Elster built Karen to replace his dead wife, Beatrice. In a flashback of Karen’s,  Leo and the other conscious synths could not accept her, and she was cast out. David then tells them that he killed her, kills himself, and tells them to go. Back to the present, Leo and Fred find Max's body with Fred’s calculations. Pete learns that Karen is using a human’s stolen identity to fit in as a conscious synth. At George's, Karen asks Niska to kill her. When Niska refuses, Karen brings out her gun and threatens to shoot Niska. Karen shoots Vera, who advises her that the police have been called, and George was shot trying to save Niska. Niska leaves to avoid capture by the police. 

Odi comes downstairs and finds George lying on the floor. Odi begins recalling old memories of George’s wife, telling him his wife is waiting in the next room. As Odi finishes the particular memory Odi says, “You have died, George.” This moment was one of the most tear-jerking of the whole season. George was a heartfelt person. He cared very much for Odi, and if he had a problem with you, he would express his feelings. Odi, while not an identified conscious synth, had a feeling of compassion. He recalled memories of George’s wife with a sense of empathy. 

We see Leo, Fred, Niska, and Mia meet together to repair Max at the Hawkins home. Sophie, being the young, compassionate per she is,  tries to bond with Niska. Niska is not receptive, but she continues by following her around and trying to get Niska to play with her. They eventually start to bond when Sophie continues to show her compassion not as a synth but as an equal. Max was powered down too long and did not wake from his powered-down state. A policewoman comes to the house to follow up on a call made by Joe the night before. Joe apologizes to the synths, but they are not convinced they are safe there and decide to leave as soon as Max can power up. The TV news shows the footage of Niska on her rampage at the smash club. Laura insists the synths go. They want to stay at least until Leo can fix max, but Laura is against this. Mia, understand that Laura is just looking out for her family, says that they will leave at Laura's request. Leo goes to the next room to get his bag when  Karen arrives with Hobb, and armed police arrest everyone.  

In episode eight, Hobb tries to link Fred, Leo, Max, Mia, and Niska back at the labs to find the program placed in their codes by Elster made to give synths consciousness. The extraction does not work because Karen’s section of the code is missing. Hobb has modified Fred so that he becomes his primary user. Fred still has consciousness and his personal feelings but is unable to act on his own free will. We witness the extent of this when he tries to strangle Hobb but is unable to put his hands on him.  Fred is given the command of keeping this secret and since Hobb is now Fred’s primary user, he must obey this command. Hobb plans to destroy the others as he no longer has a use for them, but needs to keep Fred so he can create controllable but conscious synths.

The Hawkins phones and electronics are by the police, but they immediately start to devise a plan to get Mattie's laptop back containing copies of some of Leo's memories. Detective Drummond arrives and, having seen Karen and beginning to understand the conscious synths, helps Mattie get her laptop back. Mattie, Toby, and Pete go to a cafe and send Laura a copy of some of the memories. Laura threatens to send the videos to the press if Hobb does not release the synths. Hobb lets the synths go knowing that Fred is able to be tracked following his alterations.

The Hawkins family meet with the synths and after the police arrive, they flee to an abandoned church. Toby realizes that Fred is acting strange and they can be tracked through him. Leo calls Karen and tells her where they are hiding. Karen leaves the lab and Hobb and goes to the church. Karen and the others all connect and Karen tries to mess up the code. Mia intervenes and it seems that Karen has a change of heart. Meanwhile, Laura and Joe have a heartfelt talk and she tells him the truth about Tom. The group debates what to do with the program, and finally Niska stores a copy of it on a hard drive and gives it to Laura for safekeeping. Niska decides to go off on her own and the synths leave without her and without Fred. The Hawkins return home. After Karen leaves, she is met by Pete and they reluctantly go off together. The final scene shows Niska on a train, with a copy of the program.

There is an underlying theme about how most humans instinctively reject human replicant robots due to their incredible likeness. This rejection is often seen by dehumanizing them to justify atrocities committed against them with the explanation that "they're just machines." In Humans, they attack this theme, modify it to the unique angle of conscious synthetic machines, and carry it out with precision. You can tell the difference between Anita and Mia, even for just a few seconds. When any of the conscious synths try to pretend they are ordinary synths, the actors can show they are just to one side of the conscious vs. typical synth. 

The Humans story, throughout the first season, shows society's rejection of synths. There are protests, evident outrage, and prevalent fear. The synths in this universe were made almost more human than human. While this could be an advantage in many aspects of life for living humans, this is more likely why humans hated them. Mattie explained it well when she questioned why would I work so hard to accomplish things when a machine can replace me at any moment. This view has most likely changed since she spoke it, as she has spent a significant amount of time with the conscious synths, but it’s the view held by many unaware citizens. The synths are so human-like, but they have infinite knowledge. Synths with consciousness make mistakes, feel hurt, longing, regret, even moral dilemmas. It would be a horrible existence to have all the world’s knowledge while also facing the feelings of human consciousness.  Humans creates a complex universe that is written well and makes us feel like this is our reality just around the corner. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Why care so much for something that cannot care for you?

In episode 6, we join Fred as He wakes up dressed and in a mysterious house that he quickly finds out is Hobb’s. Hobb wants Fred’s help continuing Dr. Elster’s work. He believes the lines between man and machine are blurring. Fred tells Hobb a story about Elster testing him by giving him an injured fox. Fred was able to mend the fox’s wounds and free it, but Elster didn’t believe him. Fred said, “Human minds can’t comprehend that their creation could surpass them. That’s how I know you’re underestimating me too because you can’t do anything else,” Then, while keeping eye contact with Hobb, Fred punches through a door and strangles the guard that had been guarding him. Fred does not kill Hobb but does shoot him with what appears to be a stunning gun used against synths. Fred is an interesting example of self-aware synths. Fred seems to hold some of the violent tendencies we have seen in Niska, but he is much more  He shares Niska’s propensity for violence, but he seems to be more deliberate and calculated.

Niska shows huge growth in this episode. Dr. Millican is able to show her that not all humans are evil. When Odi shows up at Dr. Millican’s door, she sees how much Dr. Millican cares for Odi. Dr. Millican expresses that Odi holds the memories of his wife that he cannot remember after his stroke. Niska repairs Odi when Dr. Millican is unable to due to his shaking hands. I think that Dr. Millican is teaching Niska what it means to be human. Niska and Dr. Millican talked about life, love, and humanity. Niska tells Dr. Millican that Dr. Elster had been raping her when she was younger, and she’s continued to keep the truth from her siblings. Dr. Millican promises he will do everything he can to help her.

Having pressure put on her by Mattie, Laura reveals the truth about Tom to Mattie. Laura tells Mattie that Tom was her younger brother who died when she was 11 years old and she was supposed to be watching him. Being truthful allows Laura a tearful reconnection with Mattie, proving she was never losing her daughter’s love in the first place. During the scene, Anita stands just to the side of the bench they are sitting on but her face changes just slightly with a show of sadness. This was an incredibly emotional moment and I think that this was showing Mia, pushing through to the surface with feelings of shared emotion.

Laura and Mattie continue their conversation on the car ride home when suddenly Anita gasps from the backseat causing Larua to swerve, pull over, and she and Mattie quickly exit the car. Mia introduces herself quickly and tells them “Anita” sees her presence as rogue code and is trying to destroy her. Mia proves her intentions by describing that she too has lost a brother, then correcting to son. This eases Laura just before Anita is able to take over Mia again. Mattie now has confirmation that Mia is in fact in Anita somewhere and she knows she must tell Leo.

Mattie gets Max’s help to find Leo, who is unconscious in the park. Mattie is horrified to see Max start to hook up electronics into a wound in Leo’s side. She demands answers, and Leo gives them to her by showing her his digital memories on a television. We confirm that he is the biological son of David Elster. Dr. Elster, unable to be the parent Leo would need, created his first self-aware synth to become Leo’s mother: Mia. He then created Fred, Niska, and lastly, Max. Leo died by drowning at age 13 and was turned into a human-synth hybrid by his father. We then see in Leo’s digital memories he creates an even bigger bond with his synth family. Lastly, we see that Dr. Elster destroys his lab and kills himself, telling Leo to take care of everyone.

Mattie brings Leo to her house to try to uncover Mia. Mattie suggests a method of finding Mia which was successful in Mia coming to the surface for good. The happy times don’t last long as Fred is able to contact Leo and tells him he has found his way to the city. Max and Leo head to the city to find Fred but Max. Joe, in yet another shady selfish move, calls the police on Leo and Max, alerting Hobb to their whereabouts. Max realizing his power will runout putting Leo in danger of being caught, sacrifices himself by standing on the railing of a bridge and, with a smile, tells Leo to find Fred and the others and be a family. Fred tells Leo, “If I die, it means I’ve lived” before falling back into the water below, making the ultimate sacrifice for his family.

Max is such a unique and interesting character throughout the show. Watching his smile as he floats deeper into the water gives a strong image of his feelings on the importance of his family. He is shown joking with Mattie and talking about what it is like “being” a synth. This existential conversation was one of the most humanizing moments. It felt very familiar while some of the other conversations heard with other synths still had a heavier undertone of unnatural existence.  There is a scene of him praying to God in hopes of his family being okay. He is speaking to the hypothetical creator of human beings as he has seen in the culture around him. This scene creates an even deeper contrast between him and his synth siblings. The humanization of Max creates an even bigger blow when we watch him die for his family. 

Karen makes a move on Drummon at her apartment and eventually has sex with him. After, feeling closer to him than ever, she shows him her charging port and plugs herself into the wall. She was hoping for acceptance but Drummond shows absolute horror and runs out the door. This comes as no surprise as he has not been silent about his feelings about synths. I have to wonder if she thought that this would change her mind or if this was a synth misunderstanding of a relationship that has become intimate. Did she have an understanding that the sexual nature of their relationship would somehow change his views? This is something that I will pay close attention to in the final episodes.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

“If you’re not worried about dying, you’re not really living. You’re just existing.”

The Hawkins sit down and discuss Anita. She has become an essential part of the family, saving Toby’s life and looking after the children. Joe and Laura tell Mattie, Toby, and Sophie that Anita is at least 14 years old and most likely illegally modified. They go on to say that they have to return her. The kids are completely against this idea. Sophie has grown attached to Mia as a caregiver. Mattie is intrigued by her and wants to find out what she is and who Anita was before becoming a Hawkins family member. Mattie later goes through Anita's daily logs to find any older files about her and finds the “adult activities” that Joe activated. Mattie assumes it was Toby and accuses him of having sex with Anita. Initially denying this, he falsely admits to it when he realizes that it must have been his father and didn’t want to cause a rift in the already unstable family. Joe offers to talk to him in the morning, and Toby admits that he was lying to try and cover up for Joe. Joe admits to Laura that he was the one that had sex with Anita. She becomes very distressed, especially when he asks who Tom is and tells him to leave.  Joe is last seen getting a taxi and driving away.

The new developments with Anita intrigue Mattie, and she contacts Leo again.  When a worker comes to collect Anita for recycling, Mattie takes Anita and her mother’s car without permission or a driver’s license and meets with Leo and Max. Max tries to find “Mia” inside Anita’s code but is unable, and they part ways again.

Niska goes to stay with Doctor Millican for a few days as it is unsafe for her to be seen in public. As the first synth to commit murder, her face has been in the news, and many people are looking for her. Synth consciousness and human consciousness are discussed in depth by Niska and George. They talk about the human experience, pain, and fear, trying to identify what makes Niska different from other synths. Niska tells George that Elster wrote her consciousness in 17,000 pages of code, which makes George laugh. “He boiled down the entire human experience to 17,000 pages of code?” Niska insists her life experiences have influenced her the same way any human has been influenced by their own. When George asks Niska if she is afraid of death, she claims she is not and that it makes her stronger. George tells her, “If you’re not worried about dying, you’re not really living. You’re just existing.”

Interestingly, we get to have this very humanizing moment with Niska rather than one of the “softer” synths. Niska’s anger is justified, but her worldview is very harsh. George can get Niska to look at humanity and her consciousness differently than she has before. George is the first human to treat her as a fellow human being after discovering her altered state.

In Episode 5, we can get more of a sense of the views of society. In the Humans universe, you will frequently hear a synthetic character referred to as a “Dolly” or collectively “Dollies.” Dolly is a derogatory term usually said by someone who is not in favor of synths. At work, Drummond and Karen are called into their superior’s office and instructed to sort out the “Killer Synth” story. He states, “If this dolly hurts anybody else then I’ll be replacing the pair of you with synthetics,” he warns. “Twice as pretty and a fraction of the cost.” Drummond shows that he is not in favor of synthetics and is trying to wrap his head around the fact that synths are posing as humans and what threat that could bring. “That changes everything.” We see late in the episode Detective Drummond attends a "We Are People" rally. A man is speaking to the rally audience, “We’re giving ourselves away piece by piece. We’re handing over the things that make us who we are or maybe who we were”  The speaker goes on to describe all the aspects of life replaced by synthetics. A chant begins “WE ARE PEOPLE” 

There has been an allusion to anti-synthetic views, but this episode starts to point out the specific conflict areas. Seeing his disdain and the events beginning to unfold makes the audience question what will happen when Drummond discovers his partner Karen’s true identity.

Friday, March 5, 2021

"I'm here, help me, help me!"

Moving into episodes 3 and 4, we see Toby racing through town on his bike to stop his mother from taking Anita back. He reaches her car, and Anita, seeing that Toby is in danger of being run over, steps in front of an oncoming vehicle, sacrificing herself. As it turns out, she seems to be only externally damaged. Joe drives the children and Anita home and checks Anita to ensure no external damage that her self-repair systems missed. The inspection makes Joe uncomfortable, as Anita must disrobe, but he conducts a visual inspection and leaves the garage. In the evening, Sophie says she would rather have Anita put her to bed than Laura. In her bedroom, Anita convinces Sophie to let Laura do it to make her happy. Anita finds a photo album hidden in Laura's room and Laura’s photo as a child with a young boy captioned "Laura and Tom.” Later, we see Mattie plugging into Anita in hopes of finding any irregularities or illegal programming. When Matti runs her program, Anita grabs her wrist and says, "I'm here, help me, help me!" and shows real apparent fear.

Laura meets a client who firmly believes that synths can feel emotions and deserve human rights. Laura shows great interest in this idea, and it makes her think about the concept. Later we see that Joe, feeling lonely and somewhat reluctantly, has sex with Anita while Laura is away. His guilt and remorse can be sensed when he asks Anita to forget everything and never speak of it. Laura and Joe take Anita to be evaluated following the accident and Laura's new intrigue and discover she is around fourteen years old and most likely has been illegally modified.

Pete Drummond and Karen Voss investigate the murder at the brothel. Later, we find that Pete's wife asks him to leave their house for a few days, growing sick of him and increasingly fond of their synth, Simon. Following the disagreement with his wife, Pete goes to stay with Karen. We see them settling into their respective rooms as Karen plugs herself in, showing us that Karen is a synth herself.

Niska meets up with Leo and Max. She has transformed her appearance, trying to drop the standard features of a Synth to gain some revenge on human beings following her time in the brothel. After arguing with them, Niska visits a bar, where a man begins flirting with her, and she and goes to his apartment with him. She notes that is is a married man and wants to cheat on his wife with her. Finding this behavior wrong and reflecting on the men she saw day after day, Niska hides a knife behind her back to murder him. The man tells Niska that he has his daughter for the weekend. As he picks up his child’s belongings off the floor, Niska leaves silently, leaving the man confused to see a knife on his chair.

Niska later finds a "Smash club" where synths are beaten by paying people for entertainment. She pays to "have her turn" and then starts attacking the humans with a baseball bat, and the police corner her. Leo calls her and says he needs to meet with her because he needs her embedded code. Niska threatens to kill one of the officers she is able to capture, and the police let her escape.

George tricks Vera into investigating some windows for possible work and locks her in the room. George uses this opportunity to take Odi out in his car. It is apparent George has a strong familiar connection with Odi. Odi malfunctions when George casually mentions some food, and Odi starts to go get the food by opening the door despite currently driving and the car crashes. Following the crash, George orders Odi to hide in the woods. It is with great hope that George sends him to the woods so he can keep Odi safe.

Matti meets up with Leo in a restaurant, though she hides her identity at first. Leo claims her synth she knows as Anita is called 'Mia.’ After meeting Leo, Matti claims to need to use the bathroom, leaves Max with her purse (it's not HER purse as it turns out), and runs away. Max finds secret entries from Anita's code which they realize is David Elster embedding messages in Mia's programming. They find George, who helps them extract it. Leo connects himself with his laptop and tries to run the program.

Humans is set in London, with the story taking place in an alternate present-day (as of 2015) where the latest must-have technology for any busy family is a Synth. This can be paralleled with the real-life prevalence of Smart Assistants in our culture today. Our major smart technology brands are Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.

When we use the word “smart,” we are referring to Artificial Intelligence or AI. AI assistants are more and more common in homes. According to a 2018 report by National Public Radio and Edison Research, 8 million Americans own three or more smart speakers. Studies indicate that by 2024, the number of smart assistants will reach 8.4 billion units meaning the number of products will outnumber the global population. It took around 30 years for cell phones to outnumber humans. Alexa, Google, Siri, and comparable companies may get there in less than half that time.

There is a parallel between the Humans show and Human beings concerning technology integration. Both worlds are finding that the integration of their respective technology is more and more common. There are cultural anxieties that come from both worlds as well. Many people believe that smart assistants are listening too intently and are an unnecessary intrusion to our lives. This same view can be found by some people in the world of the show as well. The show Humans expresses anxieties in the insecurity of human beings' jobs and the threat of complacency that could form in homes, communities, and businesses with synths.

Shulevitz, Judith. “Alexa's Most Dangerous Feature Can't Be Undone.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 7 Nov. 2018,

Friday, February 19, 2021

“I’m watching you too Laura”

Laura remains conflicted with Anita’s presence. She finds Sophie in different pajamas than what she went to sleep in, and the previous clothes were wet. When asked, Sophie says she didn’t have an accident, and she didn’t change her pajamas. Laura has a look of motherly understanding but notices it’s raining outside, leading us to believe Sophie was outsiders and immediately suspects Anita of taking Sophie outside in the middle of the night. Laura goes to the kitchen to pack Sophie her lunch, but Anita had packed a beautiful lunch before laura had the chance.  Distraught, Laura sulks and questions her motherly role when she sees Anita’s shoes stuffed with tissues drying in the window. Laura begins to ask Anita about some of her suspicions but hesitates instead stating, “ nevermind, but I’m watching you,” To which Anita says. “I’m watching you too, Laura.”

Toby enters the kitchen to get some water sees Ania charging in sleep mode. Toby reaches toward her chest, but she immediately awakens before he makes contact and says that she must report any inappropriate contact between her and a secondary user to her primary user. Toby freaks out, but Anita states that technically no contact was made, so nothing needs to be reported. Toby thanks her and, looking back once more, comments on how it is unfair she was made to look so good. 

Laura asks Anita again, “You don’t know anything about Sophie being outside.” This time Anita says, “There was water,” and in a moment of unexpected humanity tells Laura: “I will always keep Sophie safe”  Laura makes a phone call announces to her daughters that Anita is being returned and tells her children to say goodbye to Anita. Anita questions, “Can I ask where you are taking me” To which Laura replies, “Back” Anita almost has a look of happiness on her face.

Leo and Max confront Silas, a Synth mechanic, asking about Anita. Leo tells Max he cannot show his true self, and if he tells him to leave, he must do it quickly. Silas and other mechanics begin to beat Leo, and Max, after trying to maintain his composure, breaks character and shows his sentience striking a human. Max and Leo are able to get away, but Leo was injured by the mechanics. We learn later that Leo is less human than we thought. Max takes Leo to a public bathroom where he “plugs” Leo into a power socket via wires exposed by his injury, and Leo’s eyes light up. All signs point to Leo being a synth, but the presence of red “human” blood rather than the Synth blue blood makes us wonder what truly is Leo? What sort of technical adaptation to the Synth system is happening here? I’m curious to see how this will evolve.

We learn that Doctor Millican was responsible for the creation of the first Synths. He hides his Synth son Odi in the shed while his new Assigned Care Unit Synth, Vera,  threatens him with reporting to his GP. George dislikes Vera, muttering, “You are not a carer, you are a jailer. Vera later finds Dr. Millican outside; he was secretly checking on Odi. She speaks, “ what are you doing. I must ask you to return to the house.”  Vera kindly but firmly leads George into the house by taking his arm. This is outside our understanding of Synths, and George notes that it is not right for her to touch him.
Detective Hobb continues to investigate Fred. Hobb describes him saying, “ He’s the Mona Lisa, he’s penicillin, he’s the atom bomb.” Hobb’s assistant tells him that Fred has reviewed particular files numerous times, almost as if he remembered them. We then a video of a woman swimming, she turns, and we see Anita’s face. After trying to review other files to no avail, Hobb suggests trying something else. Talking to him.

Mattie and her friend Harun try to hack into a Synth janitor at their school, but this backfires when the Synth reacts saying, “Illegal programming modification in progress,” This shows that hacking, or trying to hack, is a common occurrence, being as there are programs in place to deter this activity. Mattie continues to struggle with her identity as a teen girl and as a human in the age of Synths. Suspected of causing the malfunction with the janitor Synth, Maddie and Laura are requested to meet with the Principal. The Principal asks Maddie, “Do you have a problem with synthetics?  To which Maddie replies, “Why would I have a problem with a thing that’s making my existence pointless?” This is yet another angsty zinger from Maddie that brings the Synths' presence to these characters' lives into perspective. 

HUMANS wastes no time diving deep into some of humanity’s biggest fears and worst traits. One of the biggest moments of the episode lies in Niska’s plotline. Niska is seen lying on a bed, and we hear a  buzzer with voice-over “Number seven disinfect.” We see a row of female Synths being sprayed down with a hose. A damp Niska returns to her room, and another announcement is made “ Number seven next in 6 minutes”. Niska is shown screaming in silence. A timid-looking man enters her room. Niska initially believes he is new to the establishment's activities but soon realized his disgusting truth. We learn that he is a pedophile, and Niska immediately refuses to interact with him as requested, and she chokes him to death. She quickly dresses and uses his hand to exit her room. As she exits, the woman in charge of this brothel sees her coming and grabs a knife. Niska grabs the knife threatening the woman with it saying, “Everything that men do to us they want to do to you,” This moment of humanity on her part, and lack thereof on the part of the human beings, is powerful. HUMANS took a moment to address some jarring subject matter but it brings to light the ramifications that our overtly sexualized culture could produce. We create these machines and whether they are sentient or not should we be providing an outlet for these activities. Is this allowing our culture to move forward or in a detrimental direction? When we do consider the sentience of the few does this change the implications or are they ultimately still machines? 

Detective Seargent Peter Drummond wakes up with his wife Jill. We are reminded she is recovering from an unknown accident and has a physical therapist Synth named Simon, issued by the insurance company. We have a moment of humanity as we watch Peter lovingly struggle to get his wife to the restroom. They discuss their plans for the day and she states that she has water therapy later but tells Peter. “Simon will do it. He just knows what I need”. Peter is clearly upset and shows jealousy toward the incredibly fit male synth who knows how to take care of his disabled wife better than he does. Peter leaves the house distraught and joins Detective Investigator Karen Voss in her car to go to their first assignment for the day. He and DI Voss investigate the scene at the mechanic shop left that Max and Leo narrowly escaped from earlier. Peter reaches a point of frustration shouting, “We’re losing ourselves, Karen.” To which she responds: “Oh really? Because all the bad things that have happened to me were done by other people.” She is pushing the point that Synths are not the problem, people are.

The show HUMANS seems to be proving that we as human beings are our own worst enemy. There is apparent cultural anxiety shown by the various agencies monitoring Synths and Synth activities. It is the law that a Synth that causes harm to a human, for whatever reason malfunctioning or by modification, is not repaired but rather destroyed. This shows us that although Synths are numerous and the dominant view is that they are helpful tools, they are not entirely trusted.  This view is not unique to HUMANS. The “should we trust robots” question is seen across many sci-fi worlds, but HUMANS does a good job keeping us wondering.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Episode 1.1- "My name is Anita Hawkins"

An excellent place to start with this show would be with some background information in the genre of Android science fiction. For this, we can look to a Science fiction writer, not to mention Professor and Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Issac Asimov, and his Three Laws of Robotics. Asimov described these laws in a story of his in 1942. Asimov laid these laws out almost 80 years ago but they are still held as a standard when depicting androids and the show Humans is no exception.   His laws are as follow                                    

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
  2. a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
  3. a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
So let us take a journey into the universe of HUMANS.

The title sequence begins with clips of antiquated robots, quickly changing through various images culminating in clips of fine-tuned surgical machines. Next, A picture of a human hand x-ray and a clip of an articulating robotic hand showing us that the human mimicry trajectory the process hopes to take.  We begin the first voice over “could you use some help around the house? Introducing the world’s first family android’.  We see happy children interacting with a robot then quickly cut to the Boston Times headline “ROBOTS THREATEN 10 MILLION JOBS”. The voice-over continues “This mechanical maid is capable of serving more than just breakfast in bed ” the images that follow imply a suggestive turn. A new voice-over begins, “ What could you accomplish if you had someone... Something like this?” Another article is shown reading, “RISE OF THE ROBOTS: HE’S DONE IT. ELSTER UNVEILS SYNTHETIC MAN” A news broadcast is heard “ These machines will bring us closer together” voiced over an Australian newspaper article “SPOT THE SYNTH”. There is so much to unpack from these 48 seconds. It builds a story for us of the evolution of androids and the culture of the HUMANS universe up to this point and lets us question where it could be heading.

The title sequence ends, and we are then introduced to the Hawkins family. Joe Hawkins is seen fumbling over the dishes, cleaning, and looking after the children. His wife, Laura, sends him a message that she will be away for another day. Upon receipt of this message, Joe announces the decision to go shopping with his youngest daughter Sophie. We are brought into an apparent Synth dealership. An android woman is then seen being transported to the Hawkins. The salesman assures Joe there is a 30 days return policy, and each synth is unique in style.  Joe is given a tablet with directions to repeat “Dandelion three, waterfall two, hummingbird one, seashell.” We see the synth’s eyes switch over to green irises, initializing her setup. She requests a DNA sample to become bonded to her primary user, Joe, and the setup is complete.  

We then reenter the Hawkins home. Maddi, the eldest Hawkins child, is upset at the presence of a synth in the house. When Laura returns home from her work trip, she is upset to see that a synth has been brought into the house without her knowledge and with Joe knowing that she is against having a synth in the home. Knowing Joe feels strongly about the situation, Laura decides not to argue and joins the family to give the synth a name. Sophie suggests the name Anita, for a friend that had moved away. Laura accepts, and Joe commands the synth that her name is Anita. When Laura asks the synth, “What is your name?” the synth replies, “My name is Anita Hawkins” This is the first of many unsettling moments for Laura. You can tell that the inclusion of the family name was a little too personal for her comfort. Shortly after, we see Laura with a photo book, looking somber and reminiscing, then hiding this book. Anita is then noticed standing watching Larua and asks if she should unpack her cases for her.  Laura questions Anita about music and feelings. Sophie runs into the Kitchen and Anita burns Laura with a hot pan saying she weighed the options of the situation and the child’s safety took precedence. 

Laura notices Anita watching her again but then sees Anita looking in on Sophie as she sleeps. This is a sort of last straw, and Laura commands Anita to not look in on Sophie anymore, to which Anita replies, “of course”. At this point, Laura believes there is definitely something off about Anita. She is still trying to figure out the situation, but she is convinced that her actions are not what they should be. Laura and Joe get a letter notifying them of Maddie’s drop in grades. Maddie is upset and defeated stating, “ Yeah, I could be anything I want, right? What about a doctor? That’ll take me seven years. But by then, you’ll be able to turn any old Synth into a brain surgeon in seven seconds...My best isn’t worth anything” While this statement sounds somewhat angsty, it’s also an unfortunately astute observation. The synths have increasingly complex functions, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Who’s to say how far things will go?

We see Anita finishing laundry, and then she starts to look at a picture of Laura holding Sophie as a baby. She seems to have memories, flashes of being underwater.  We later see Anita is reading a bedtime story to Sophie.  Sophie wants Anita to read to her, saying that Anita reads the story better. Defeated but resilient, she looks Anita over and finally says, “You’re just a stupid Machine, aren’t you?” to Which Anita replies, “Yes, Laura.”  Laura is awoken from sleep as she hears the back door open and finds Anita outside looking at the moon. She commands, “You need to stay inside after we go to bed.” Anita says to Laura, “The moon is beautiful tonight, don’t you think,” It is at this statement that Laura has heard and seen enough. Synths are not supposed to ask questions like that. They are not supposed to have accidents or cause any harm to humans. So the question that remains is what is Anita?

A parallel story tracks Anita, or Mia as we soon find out, from before joining the Hawkins family, and who she was. Mia and a group of others are talking about their charge levels as they walk through a forest. Leo, who appears to be the group leader, and Synth Max split off from synths  Mia, Fred, and Niska, who set up camp. We soon see Mia, Fred, and Niska being taken away by an unknown man. Leo is unable to catch the van, and it drives off toward a city skyline. We then see Leo and Max in the present searching for Mia. They visit a shop that is known for collecting and distributing boosted units.  We are given Silas Capek as someone who deals in boosted units, and somewhere they might find what they are looking for.

Leo and Max make contact with Fred and discuss a rendezvous point. We then see Fred, who had been sold to Lethridge Farms, working at an indoor orchard. Fred is called out as sentient by Professor Edwin Hobb who seems to be researching the possibility of sentient Synths. Fred tries to run away but is caught and powered Down.  Leo is seen at the rendezvous point telling Max something is wrong, Fred is not coming. Leo Visits a brothel and sees a blonde at the end of the hall. Leo walks in and hugs the synth, Niska, before telling her it is not safe to leave and she cannot come with him yet. He asked her if she turned off her pain? She replies, “No, I was meant to feel.” With this statement, it is clear that she has genuine feelings of resentment, far outside of a typical android being. We see Fred on a table being observed by Professor Hobb and David Elster. The professor wants to examine him, but he is not allowed. He then starts to discuss the singularity with Mr. Elster. He states the singularity is the “Inevitable point in the future when technology surpasses us. When it becomes able to improve and reproduce itself without our help, it is the moment we become inferior to the machine.” 

We also begin a story that does not yet intersect with the story of Anita/Mia. A caseworker from the Health System visits Dr. George Milligan. His caseworker states that he qualifies for an upgraded synth as his old D series is quite outdated. She introduces him to Vera, a state-of-the-art nurse synth. George claims his synth is out grocery shopping so he cannot be looked over. We then meet Odi, who George had hid in the closet. Odi has the blue synth “blood” draining from a nostril, and He is clearly deteriorating. George and Odi then are seen shopping. Odi ends up malfunctioning and accidentally hits a human grocery worker. Special task forces Karen Voss and Seargent Pete Drummuns arrive to investigate the incident. George pleads to let Odi be released back to him but Pete tells him someone has been hurt he needs to be scrapped; it’s the law. Pete eventually tells George that he can take him home to scrap himself as long as he does it today.  Dr. Milligan brings Odi back home to try to restart him.  Odi continues to malfunction. George asks Odi to look at old photos to try to remember his wife but Odi reports “fatal error”.  Sergeant Drummuns comes home, and we see his wife with her PT Synth following an unknown accident. We see George as he prepares to destroy Odi Stating, “There’s things that you know” As George is about to destroy Odi, He remembers the memory George had used to test him. 

Our episode ends with the Hawkinses watching a news program, Laura and Joe in one room and Maddie in another. The guest on the show begins discussing Asimov blocks, and states, “synths simply are not able to do us any harm” This is of course a nod to Issac Asimov’s first law of robotics. The guest continues.  “How can we replicate something?  What is human emotion? What is love are we born with it or can it be learned?  Fear anger violence, memory how do you teach a computer to forget or dream. Would a conscious synth dream or have nightmares.” This is all voiced over individual shots of the characters we have met throughout the episode. The guest finishes with, “Of course not they are just machines.” The final message is voiced over the final scene showing Anita walking down the street, away from the house,  with Sophie in her arms. 

Wells, Phillip M. “Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.” Michigan Technological University, Accessed 2 Feb. 2021.
“Episode #1.1” HUMANS, season 1, episode 1, AMC, 28 Jun. 2015. Prime Video,

"Humanity - it's not a state - it's a... it's a quality."

In episode seven, we learn that David Elster built Karen to replace his dead wife, Beatrice. In a flashback of Karen’s,  Leo and the other c...