AMC’s new television series, “Humans,” is set in the near future. Many menial jobs are now performed by very human-looking robots known as “Synths.” As the show opens, Joe Hawkins is purchasing a female Synth to be the housekeeper and cook for his family. His wife thinks it’s creepy, but she goes along with it because she knows her extensive traveling leaves the responsibility of day-to-day life solely to her husband, and he is growing weary. Anita, as the Synth is named by the family, keeps the household running smoothly and efficiently.
But there’s something more going on, though the first episode only gives us hints as to what lies beneath the surface of the family and even Anita herself—or should I say itself? Anita has escaped from something, along with a handful of other Synths. Beyond the sleek production, the pilot episode suggests deeper questions. What does it mean to be human? Are there downsides to handing off the basic work of life to someone—or something—else?
There is also a dark edge to the show that makes the show unsuitable for young viewers. It’s an edge that seems consistent with the darker side of humanity. One of the Synths connected with Anita’s escape is stuck working in a brothel; while the first episode wasn’t graphic, it was not for children (rated TV-14). However, given the way pornography has proliferated due to technology, it may be a logical conclusion that robots would be used this way. Again, this gives rise to the question of what it means to be human, when even the most intimate human connection can become a transaction with a machine.
On the other end of the spectrum, George, one of the pioneers of Synth engineering, is having a hard time decommissioning his outdated Synth, Odi, because Odi is the only one who shares his memories of his late wife.
It’s hard to know where this show will go, but the first episode held my interest and had me asking questions. It’s not as tight, tense, or intense as the current feature film Ex Machina, which deals with robots and many of the same questions in a more profound way, but it has the potential to take a longer view. It remains to be seen if all the different threads lead to a cohesive story arc or a series of dead ends.
“Humans” shows on AMC on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m., Eastern time.