DVD Review: Humans 2.0

by Rachel Bellwoar

What if robots could think and feel the same way humans do? What if they looked like humans, too?

In Humans season one, there were five, original conscious synths, made by David Elster to take care of his human-synth son, Leo (Colin Morgan). Separated for most of the season, the finale brought them back together, if forced them to leave a family member behind (Sope Dirisu’s Fred).

Niska (Emily Barrington) decided she wanted to be alone, but not for the reason she told the others. Last seen with the flash drive containing the code to make all synths conscious, season two starts by dangling the question of whether she’s uploaded it. The answer is not yet, but pretty soon into the premiere, with results that don’t go as she expected.

Niska thought uploading the code would cause a revolution, with every synth waking at the same time, but when she walks outside, everything’s the same. It’s not that the code didn’t work (though she considers it at first) but that it’s been set for a gradual time release. Synths are waking up but in random, isolated incidents, surrounded by synths still programmed to serve, and humans who think synths are man’s machines.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein ran away, leaving his Creature to fend for himself. Niska planned to be around to explain. In the end, conscious synths and the Creature share the same fate. Both wake up alone, grappling with new sensations, and misplaced fears that they’re dangerous.

Led by show creators Sam Vincent and Jonathan BrackleyHumans has an amazing capacity for approaching its subject from different angles. Besides great writing, every character has something to do (except Fred, whose fate remains in question). Nobody’s a benchwarmer, and it gives the series multiple perspectives on artificial intelligence, and whether it’s gone too far.

There are characters the show could’ve phased out, like Karen (Ruth Bradley), whose season one arc seemed final, yet Humans brings them back with more to say.

The same goes for the Hawkins family. Starting season two in a new home, they’re trying to find their footing since learning conscious synths exist, but it’s not long before they cross paths with their friends once more. In one of the best occassions, Niska needs to hire Laura (Katherine Parkinson) as her lawyer, in an unprecedented synth rights case.

Children tend to be a weak point on television dramas, existing to annoy or appear sporadically. Each of the Hawkins children are actively important, from the youngest, Sophie (Pixie Davies), who ids as synth, to the middle child, Toby (Theo Stevenson), who makes a new friend at school. Humans and synths aren’t in competition. Both are equally compelling.

New characters this season include Carrie Anne-Moss’s AI expert, Dr. Athena Morrow. There shouldn’t be enough time for everyone on screen but even storylines that feel unwanted, like Mia (Gemma Chan) leaving her family to try and find love with a human, result in a strong payoff. The idea has always been to gain synths freedom through consciousness, but with that comes more opinions on how to proceed, and not everyone is as noble as the original five. Thanks to Niska and her stolen flash drive, the world’s about to learn conscious synths exist, whether they’re ready to or not.

Bonus Features:

While mostly talking heads and clips, the DVD comes with amble extra content. “The Making of Humans 2.0” goes over some of the main objectives for season two. “Niska’s Escape” gives insight into show-specific challenges, like an action sequence where walking upstairs counts as a stunt. When you’re doing it as a synth you can’t look at the steps or hold onto the railing. These are decisions you don’t regularly consider, but make you appreciate the work that goes into Barrington’s performance and those of the other actors playing synths.

Humans 2.0 arrived on sale October 31st.