Tag Archives: Ex Machina

Humanity of ‘Humans’ is what makes series work

Anita is a Synth fresh out of the box ... or is she?

Anita is a Synth fresh out of the box … or is she?

I wanted to like Humans more.

At the family level, it works so well. When we’re with the Hawkins clan and their human-like robotic caretaker, Anita, Humans is in top form. The five Hawkins work well together and form a believable, likable and flawed family. Anita’s insertion into the tense marital relationship of Joe and Laura, new “mom” for little Sophie, ideal female form for horny teen Toby and constant reminder that humans are becoming obsolete to the oldest Hawkins kid, Mattie, all make for incredibly well-acted and crafted scenes and explore what the introduction of synthetic humans would mean at the personal level for real humans. You get more touches of that with William Hurt’s Dr. George Millican, a once leading scientist in the Synth field now losing his memories, relying on his Synth and de facto son Odi to remind him of events from his and his wife’s life together. Another ripple is added when we meet Pete Drummond, a detective whose ailing wife is cared for by a Synth that makes him feel worthless as he simultaneously draws the loving attention of his partner, Karen. These three storylines nail the impact of human simulations being released in the real world. It’s a unique mix of awkward, horrifying and touching drama.

Had the first season mostly focused on that, it might have become my favorite show on television. The problem is the dramatic sci-fi storyline, that a handful of synths were created to have consciousness. Humans who already fear the impact of synths on unemployment and the world in general would now have to be concerned that they could be replaced entirely. This part of the story doesn’t flow as well and feels uncomfortable next to the more personal side of the tale. The ending of the first season was clearly also planned to be the ending of the series, just in case. Things get wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly.

Following in the wake of Ex Machina probably doesn’t help me appreciate Humans as much, either. Ex Machina was a taut, quickly paced and intense drama that delved into the impact of AI on our world. Humans is broader, sometimes for the better, other times not so much. Its pace is slower and occasionally uneven, with tension lacking when the danger should be felt most. Where Ex Machina was lean and furious, Humans is too often top heavy and overly earnest.

Will I return for a second season of Humans? Humans hasn’t blown me away like the AMC dramas Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Hell on Wheels did. I may do something I don’t usually do and read advance reviews of season two to get a sense of where Humans is going and then decide. Until then, I’m firmly in the maybe column.

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Wrapping my head around ‘Ex Machina’

Ahead be spoilers. You were warned.

I’m not going to go in-depth into Ex Machina. I enjoyed the movie, and I was pleased both by the fact that it wasn’t predictable and that I was able to see some things coming. But a couple of things happened that threw me off, and those I’d like to share.

What are the AI plotting?

What are the AI plotting?

I THOUGHT THE ROBOTS WERE RUNNING THE SHOW. The premise of the film is that a programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), is selected to spend a week with the brilliant tech billionaire, Nathan, who owns the company he works for. When they meet, Nathan (Oscar Isaac) explains this will be more than just a week hanging out. Nathan wants Caleb to interact with his new AI, to perform the Turing Test, which is an attempt to determine whether artificial intelligence can fool a human into believing that the AI is also human. Early on, it becomes apparent that Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) is an AI herself. Kyoko never speaks and allegedly doesn’t understand English, but slowly it becomes apparent that she does have a certain level of awareness about what’s going on around her and her own creation. At one point while watching Kyoko, a light clicked on in my head: Nathan isn’t running the experiment. The AI are. And, for a while, it looked like the might be the case. It wasn’t, but it’s just one example of how Ex Machina mind fucks you to the point where you’re no longer entirely sure what is reality.

THE FINAL CUT. The audience isn’t the only one being screwed with. As days pass, Caleb starts getting sucked further and further in to Nathan’s ego trip and his interactions with the AI, Ava (Alicia Vikander). His head gets so twisted that he’s not sure who or what to believe, to the point where he takes a razor and cuts open his own arm, to make sure he is human. It was an eye-opening moment to me, as I hadn’t considered the idea that maybe Caleb was the AI being tested. Caleb bleeds red, but it was another moment that created doubt for viewers about the path Ex Machina was blazing.

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