UK TV review: Humans Season 2, Episode 5
Ivan Radford | On 28, Nov 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
It’s all kicking off in Humans, as Season 2 enters its second half – and, just in case it wasn’t clear before, it’s more obvious than ever that things aren’t going to have a happy ending.
Episode 5 doesn’t waste any time pointing that out, as Ed promptly does what everyone feared he would: attempt to sell Mia off to Milo’s Qualia, so he can pocket the cash. It’s the perfect demonstration of Humans’ knack for balancing emotion and action; it spends so much time drawing its characters in detail that even the smallest shift has weight. When you get to a big betrayal like this, it’s a seismic wallop to your midriff – and so Mia snaps, throttling Ed with her hand, as he tries to tie her up in a van. Gemma Chan is ferocious here, displaying an anger that’s a shocking contrast to her usual, gentle self (compare this to her compassionate treatment of Ed’s mother last week), but the really disturbing thing is that we’re on her side; yes, Humans is the kind of show that makes you cheer on the robotic uprising that will usher in humankind’s doom.
But the show isn’t done there, oh no. Because she stops – and, just when you think he’s about to succeed, she does something even more devastating: she wipes her hard drive using a phone to leave Ed with nothing more than Anita, a smiling, conventional synth without any trace of consciousness (something that’s worthless to Qualia). It’s a not a trick, or a ploy; it’s a sacrifice, fuelled by heartbreak and a need for survival. We’re betting the phone Ed has still holds her personality in some form, but Chan once again adopting the restrained, polite tones of Anita – but now with no hint of anything else beneath the surface – and the van driving off to leave her alone is a tragic sight.
It’s just one of several turning points the writers gracefully pivot around in a tightly-structured hour, as we also reach a climax in Niska’s (Emily Berrington) examination. With the trial actually taking place, Laura is desperate for her to show some sign of emotion, but Niska lip-reads those around her and works out that, like Ed, they only plan to betray her anyway. The response is inevitable, but no less exciting, as she efficiently explodes her way out of captivity – another necessary act of survival, but also one that, like Mia’s reversion to Anita, marks a cutting-off point for a human-synth relationship; her actions are the kind of thing that will lead to war. That was, we suspect, her intent all along, but not like this.
More fracture points occur with good old Toby, who makes it all the way to Renie’s bedroom. Her swift hiding of sweets as soon as he enters makes its clear that she’s a human, but his attempts to break through that facade still don’t work; her producing of an Adult Mode synth code to give him private access to her is a wonderfully vulnerable metaphor for the growing pains of a teenager looking to explore the other sex, but, of course, Toby wants more than that. And so they part ways; another bad omen for the future.
Sophie, meanwhile, is only more enamoured with the “Synthie” lifestyle adopted by Renie – painting blue eyes onto her mirror, she poses so it looks like she has the same synth-esque contact lenses, imitating the eye colour of a non-human. You worry that she’ll go one step further in future episodes – and evidently, Joe does too, whisking the family away to a village where there are no synths at all. All the while, though, Mattie has tinkered with Niska’s code for consciousness, changing it from a slow, random upgrade to an instant awakening – a move that only makes Joe’s act seem more pointless than ever. Mattie sends out a signal that she knows will get Leo to find her, but it’s only a matter of time until someone presses that button.
That may well be Hester (Sonya Cassidy), judging by what Leo’s up to: while Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) has been sent away and is still recruiting for his peaceful movement, Leo (Colin Morgan) is being seduced by Hester’s darker path, letting her torture and interrogate leads (without him in the room), while, at the episode’s end, succumbing to her desires to, like Renie, explore her sexual side. Cassidy is brilliantly unreadable, not unlike Emily Berrington’s Niska, which makes her impossible to trust, so the prospect of Leo under solely her influence is troubling indeed. Should he go to Mattie, you can bet Hester would rush to snatch that code.
But it might already be too late even for that, as Pete (Neil Maskell) finds himself hot on a fresh lead that takes him – via a gripping car chase – to a playground where he encounters a synth child already blending seamlessly in with the humans: a Seraph. At the same time, Athena (Carrie-Anne Moss) gets access to Milo’s Silo, where she finds a room full of Seraphs. Just how widespread are they? True to form, both twists carry emotional consequences: Pete’s fight to let Karen be herself is sadly at odds with her own wish just to pretend to be normal, while Athena’s urge to bring her dead daughter’s consciousness back – “I can do things,” her disembodied voice exclaims, after hacking a locked door. “Yes, you can, baby,” comes Athena’s proud maternal reply – should be something worth rooting for, but Moss plays it with a sinister, nasty edge. The result leaves us brilliantly unsure about who’s doing the right thing. As Humans Season 2 prepares for a thrilling final stretch, whose side are we on? All we know for sure is that things are about to go very wrong.
Humans Season 2 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also stream it for free on All 4, or buy and download it on pay-per-view VOD, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play.