After Humans first premiered in the summer of 2015, few knew what exactly to expect. The show clearly had significant acting clout behind it, and its subtle marketing campaign was quick to pique the interest of the viewing public. Sure enough, the series managed to live up to, and even surpass, its hype: an increasingly uncommon feat these days. It rapidly became one of the powerhouses of Channel 4’s prime-time arsenal, and a second season was soon in the works. felix had the opportunity to watch the first episode of season 2, ahead of its airing this Sunday. You might be wondering how we managed that. Well, it’s a long and fascinating tale involving laughter, adventure, and signing lots of NDAs. Anyways, how does it hold up? Well, from what I’ve seen, season 2 raises the stakes without compromising the quality.
Episode 1 picks up the loose plot threads from the first season, as both the Synths and the Hawkins family attempt to construct some semblance of normal lives following their ordeal. The Synths stop running and begin to discover the complexities of both the outside world and themselves. On this front, the writing is subtle and layered. Experiences and exchanges are constructed to evoke memories and a realisation of what the Synths are entering; adolescence. The poignancy of these moments comes precisely from the fact that tropes are leaned into gently, and the point is not shoved in your face. The performances on this front, as you might expect, are by-and-large beyond reproach. The Hawkins family plot-line, for its part, brings from season one the undercurrents of human resentment for increasing workforce mechanisation into the limelight. To the show’s credit, it uses quite a variety of plot points, some quite insidious, to address these concerns. However, it does stray a bit into cliché when dealing with this storyline. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and given the overall strength of the writing, I’m willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt. In addition, certain events towards the episode’s close ensure that Laura Hawkins will have a major part to play in events going forward. It seems as if Katherine Parkinson, who by the way is fantastic in person, will have ample opportunity to flex her acting muscles. Lucy Carless, Pixie Davies, and Theo Stevenson don’t, unfortunately, get much to do this episode but turn in typically high-calibre performances, regardless. Pixies Davies in particular, considering her age, is one of the strongest child actors I’ve seen, right alongside Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka or the stars of Outnumbered. Considering that Humans was a joint production between AMC and Channel 4, season one was relatively UK-centric. Its excellent performance last year has clearly bolstered the financiers’ faith, as the series plays out on a much more global scale this time. The ever-versatile Carrie-Anne Moss takes on the recurring role of Dr. Athena Morrow, a leading AI researcher. While her plot-line was certainly engaging, and shows much promise, it was a bit lower on the philosophical metaphors than the others. None of that is to knock Moss herself, who conducts herself with enough duplicity and flexibility to ensure that Morrow will be someone to keep an eye on this season.
It’s a long and fascinating tale involving laughter, adventure, and signing lots of NDAs
The sublime and heavy on synths (no pun intended) 80s retro-futurist soundtrack makes a triumphant return. There’s also the great cinematography and direction to mention. The imagery in this episode is rich and makes extensive use of visual metaphors. One particular such metaphor near the beginning, involving a mine-shaft, is particularly worth praising. The first episode of this season throws up a number of balls into the air for the series to juggle alongside those still left from season one. It is fast-paced, interesting, and manages to successfully set-up and tease even bigger things to come. If you’re a fan of Humans, or just considering checking it out now, you will not be disappointed.