Humans 3.0 Fights For Change And Compassion In A World Where Synths Are Sentient

by Rachel Bellwoar

At the end of season two, Mattie Hawkins (Lucy Carless) released the consciousness code, making all synths sentient. Humans 3.0 picks things up a year later and, as news reports quickly bring us up to speed, 110,000 people and more than 100 million synths died on Day Zero. The media tends not to stress the last part, any more than they acknowledge most of the deaths were accidents, but in the days since life has been hard for the green-eyed synths who survived. They’ve been cordoned off onto compounds, where “random” power cuts make it difficult to charge. They have no legal rights, which means they’re unprotected if a human attacks. Fanning the flames further, a new model of orange-eyed synth has hit the market and since the consciousness code was deleted seven minutes after being released, this new model is completely subservient to humans like the green-eyed synths used to be.

Without the code, no new conscious synths can be born, so while synths are technically stronger, their numbers are finite. Everyone, human and synth, alike has a different opinion on how to proceed and, in order to cover the full scope of the issue, Humans ends up having to separate most of the characters. If it’s hard to take as a fan, it must have been difficult to do as a show writer, because more than anything, you want to see everyone together, but the stakes are too high. For Leo (Colin Morgan), who managed to survive being stabbed but is now completely human, he’s no longer in a position where he can help his synth family and is actually sent away because it’s too dangerous for him. In a way his character is the easiest to identify with, but he’s also stuck with one of the less dynamic storylines this season. He’s directionless and that doesn’t change.

Max’s storyline (played by Ivanno Jeremiah) is difficult to watch as well, because the situation he’s in is so frustrating. Nominated synth leader of one of the compounds, he’s constantly having to prove himself and reconvince other synths that they should be working towards a peaceful coexistence with humans. Humans don’t make it easy, either. Held to a higher standard, if one synth lashes out or fights back, every synth is held accountable and while the whole idea of consciousness is for synths to be their own individuals, they’re not allowed to mess up. On the one hand they have to be better than humans, and on the other, they have to be less, or risk being seen as a threat.

It’s all quite impossible, but the strongest storylines this season go to the characters who take up the fight. Mia (Gemma Chan) becomes a public figure for synth rights while Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson) joins the Drydon Commission in order to ensure there’s at least one human advocating for synths on the board that will decide their fate. The legal victories are small, and they’re fought tooth and nail for, but it’s through these storylines that you can see actual change start to happen.

New characters this season include Stanley (Dino Fetscher), an orange-eyed synth assigned to the Hawkins family for protection, Anatole (Ukweli Roach), Max’s main ally at the compound, and Neil (Mark Bonnar), another member of the Drydon Commission. Even Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill), Laura’s estranged husband, gets a juicy storyline when his synth-free lifestyle is disrupted by Karen (Ruth Bradley) and her synth son, Sam (Billy Jenkins) (which, since most synths were born on Day Zero, it still puzzles me that Sam is treated differently because he has a child’s body).

Niska (Emily Berrington), as always, delivers the most searing lines (and the Hawkins are sarcastic, so that’s saying something) but her storyline is definitely a departure for her, as she begins the season looking into a terrorist attack at a pub but ends it on a much more spiritual journey.

While season three isn’t the reunion you might wish it could be (and episode six is a tough one to swallow), as a consideration of what it takes to bring people around to compassion, it is exactly the kind of TV the world needs. Humans is a show that will be a sleeper hit someday. For now, Humans 3.0 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Acorn.

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