The female robot that the Sydnicate was after is finally released and causes chaos all across the city. Dorian meets his creator, Dr. Nigel Vaughn, and teams up with him to help stop the robot.
Kennex and Dorian take a group of school children on a tour of the precinct. Dorian wants to educate them, but Kennex wants to entertain them. He shows them some pictures of what happens to bad guys, which makes one of the kids throw up.
A woman buys some flowers from the stand and then gets mugged by a masked guy. She gives up her purse, but he shoots her anyway. The mugger runs from the police, who eventually surround him and shoot him down. He turns out to be a droid. They take him back to the precinct under the assumption that the threat has been neutralized. Once they leave the droid in the evidence locker, it reactivates, finds an evidence case with a female droid’s head in it and reactivates the head. It takes off its own head and puts hers in its place, allowing her to walk out of the precinct.
Later, Kennex, Dorian, Stahl, and Maldonado review security footage of the incident. They recognize the droid as an XRN, which seems to upset everyone but Dorian, who has never heard of an XRN. When Dorian asks Maldonado what’s going on, her only explanation is to say that there will be a lot more deaths until they can bring in the XRN. They are concerned that the XRN might try to create a breach between them and “the other side” of The Wall.
Meanwhile, the XRN kills a cab driver and steals his taxi.
Kennex tells Dorian about the XRN and how it was created by LumaCorp to be a more soldierly model after the DRNs were decommissioning put the company in danger of failure. At the public demonstration of the new XRN model, the droid went crazy and spent three days shooting up everyone in sight until it could be deactivated. Its head was salvaged and put in police evidence.
Rudy calls in to say that the head of the mugger bot was much more technologically advanced than at first thought and that its inner workings are incredibly innovative and cutting edge. However, the body which was taken by the XRN is extremely crude and she’d be in the market for a new one. Meanwhile, the XRN shows up at a robotics repair shop and gets herself a better body. As she prepares to leave, an older gentleman (John Larroquette) walks into the shop and recognizes her, calling her Danica. She points her gun at him.
Kennex and Dorian arrive at the scene later to investigate. The older gentleman is still alive, only knocked in the head a little. Dorian instantly recognizes him as his creator and the founder of LumaCorp, Nigel Vaughn. Nigel is overcome with emotion at seeing Dorian and impressed that he is still a police officer after everything that happened.
The XRN knocks a guy out in a parking garage and takes his lab coat and one of his eyes.
Back at the repair shop, Nigel says that Danica (the XRN) wanted him to take her to his lab, but that he hasn’t had a lab since his license to practice robotics was revoked. Nigel has no idea what Danica wants, or even what she wanted back when she destroyed the public demonstration. He says that there is a chance that if he were allowed access to his old lab equipment that he could track Danica’s whereabouts. They get his equipment and take him to the precinct to set it up.
Meanwhile, Danica uses the stolen eye to infiltrate a lab of some kind. She shoots up a bunch of scientists and steals 500 ZNA processing cores, which could be used to power one robot each. Back at the precinct, Rudy is overwhelmed by having his hero, Nigel Vaughn, in his lab, and things get predictably awkward. They search Nigel’s old equipment for a specific case, but in the process Dorian finds a case that holds a number of “synthetic souls”. He talks about how it was his greatest achievement and how he was trying to create life – not just technical life with DNA and data – but real, intangible life. When Dorian asks him how Danica is different from him, Nigel tells him that they both have the same synthetic soul technology and that he doesn’t know what makes Danica the way she is.
Kennex and Dorian ask one of Rudy’s robotics contacts about the design of the mugger bot’s head and where it might have come from. He tells them that a lot of the designing is still theoretical and that it likely came from someone young who wasn’t restricted by conventional laws of robotics. Dorian asks if it could have come from over The Wall, but the contact says that there wouldn’t be enough resources for anyone over there to build the robot, and that anyone that intelligent wouldn’t be over there anyway.
Nigel prepares the tracking device to find Danica while he and Rudy have a heart to heart. When it’s finished, they put the tracker into action and find Danica’s location. Nigel gives Kennex an EMP device that should stop Danica if he can stab her in the back of the neck with it. Kennex, Dorian, and a detail of MXs move to intercept Danica, who is infiltrating a high profile fundraising event. Danica’s main goal seems to be to kill James Hart, a politician who pushed for the DRNs to be decommissioned and caused the downfall of LumaCorp. Meanwhile, Nigel disappears from the precinct as the action at the fundraiser goes down.
Kennex eventually stabs Danica with the EMP device, but nothing happens. When Kennex gets knocked out, Dorian keeps Danica from killing Hart and they have a cool robot fight. Dorian gets impaled on a metal pole, but Kennex intercedes before any real damage is done. He and Danica fight for a while until Kennex is able to pull the pin from one of the grenades on her ammo vest. He kicks her out of the building with his synthetic leg and she explodes in the street.
After destroying Danica, they realize that it was all planned by Nigel Vaughn in order to get the synthetic souls and the ZNA Processors. The death of James Hart would have been a bonus, but his main objective was to restart his robotics work, and the firefight at the fundraiser was a diversion so that he could get away. Kennex, Dorian, and Maldonado brainstorm possible locations for Nigel to set up his secret lab, but when Dorian suggests that if he wanted to really remain hidden that he would go over The Wall, both Kennex and Maldonado think that Nigel couldn’t be crazy enough. However, we see that Nigel does indeed have his equipment and that he does indeed go over The Wall.
In a long line of random, seemingly unconnected episodes, this major plot turner has been one of the best of the season so far. It’s nice to see the larger story arch finally making some progress. However Nigel Vaughn may be connected to the Syndicate or what, if anything, he has to do with the ambush that put Kennex in the coma is unclear. Maybe he has nothing to do with it. Either way, John Larroquette’s Nigel Vaughn has been the most interesting and philosophically stimulating presence in the show so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the character.
Now this show is certainly not Fringe, but it’s nice to see that there’s some semblance of a plot coming together in a way that is reminiscent of what made the Fringe mythology so fascinating. There’s something about that mix of exploring the role of technology in society, watching character relationships and interactions, and investigating the moral and ethical issues inherent in the study and advancement of science that made Fringe such a smart and watchable show, and it goes a long way to making this episode of Almost Human the best to date. There’s something about it that makes it feel more like a TV show than a collection of one off episodes that just happen to feature the same main characters. There is a world forming around the show that begins to feel real and recognizable, with cultural issues that we’re just becoming aware of. This just became a show I want to keep watching.
And what’s this Wall business all about? I want to know more about this scary place on the other side, why life there and the people who live it scare the people on this side so much that they can barely speak of it, and why only the truly desperate or the insane would dare breach it. There are so many historical parallels to make concerning walls, the separation of people, what sounds like a criteria based selection process for deciding who belongs where, and the occasional defection of citizens from one side to the other. Rudy’s scientist friend comments that anyone intelligent enough to design sophisticated robotics wouldn’t even be on the other side of the Wall – so what kind of criteria is it that determines who belongs where? Is this leading to a eugenics storyline? Selective breeding? And depending on how long the Wall has been up, is it possible that there is a complete misunderstanding of both sides about the other at this point in history?
I would say that this is the defining episode of the series so far, the one that tells you what the show is all about. And if the series has seemed jumbled and non-directional up until now, it might have something to do with FOX showing the episodes out of order – something for which FOX is notorious. Remember way back when Joss Whedon’s beloved cult show Firefly was first airing on FOX and the network sabotaged the show by airing those episodes out of order, ultimately contributing to the series’ cancellation after 14 episodes? Yeah, its a little like that, but a lot less heartbreaking. Get it together, FOX! As it is, Almost Human still has hope of being renewed. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a long shot.