Tag Archives: Sleepy Hollow

‘Almost Human’ feels familiar despite futuristic trappings

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy star in J.J. Abrams' futuristic cop drama 'Almost Human' on Fox.

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy (from left) star in ‘Almost Human’ tonight and Monday on Fox.


Almost Human, J.J. Abrams’ new police drama premiering tonight on Fox before moving to its regular Monday timeslot tomorrow, takes place in a very bleak near-future where violent crime is running so rampant that the police force has become heavily augmented by androids, one for each human officer. As the series opens in 2048, we see Los Angeles police detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his team in the middle of a deadly firefight with one of the criminal syndicates that have taken over their city. Kennex emerges as the lone police survivor, but his wounds are grievous enough to send him into a 17-month coma, from which he awakens with an artificial leg.
Now, nearly two years later, Kennex’s captain (Lili Taylor) orders him back to work, although he bristles at her directive that he must be partnered with the latest android model, a soulless officer completely lacking compassion or any other emotion. After Kennex “accidentally” disables his synthetic partner, tech guru Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook) reactivates the only other ‘droid currently ready for service: the DRN, an older model that had been designed to be as human-like as possible but was subsequently discontinued.
Dorian (Michael Ealy), as this revived life form is dubbed, takes an almost childlike joy in being reactivated after a four-year nap, but his excitement at being back on the force is dampened by realizing that he has been teamed with a partner who hates “synthetics” so much that his body is trying to reject his artificial limb. Kennex treats Dorian curtly and dismissively, but during the first hour, as this seemingly mismatched duo tries to solve a nightmarish new threat, Dorian repeatedly demonstrates to Kennex that when it comes to droids, newer isn’t always better.
Some viewers with long memories may pick up on similarities between Almost Human and another Fox series from 25 years ago, Alien Nation, which followed a Los Angeles cop reluctantly teamed with an extraterrestrial partner. The visuals for the world of Almost Human also don’t seem very different from a number of other sci-fi TV shows and movies.
It’s the chemistry between the two lead actors that makes this new series look fairly promising. The show’s title is deliberately ambiguous. Dorian, of course, is literally “almost human” since he is a creation of artificial intelligence, yet his buoyant generosity of spirit in many respects makes him more truly lifelike than Kennex, who for all intents and purposes is dead inside. Urban’s edgy performance (think early Bruce Willis) is good enough to make Kennex more than just a generic Damaged Maverick, but it’s Ealy that viewers are likely to fall in love with. His is just a wonderful, absolutely endearing performance.
Almost Human marks the third time this season that Fox – with apparent success – has tried to reboot and/or reinvent a stale TV genre, the cop show. Like this new series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine relies on the odd-couple chemistry between Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg for much of its delightful comedy juice, while the spooky Sleepy Hollow has attracted hordes of loyal fans chiefly through the mercurial relationship between fish-out-of-water Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and his plucky “leftenant,” Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie).
It’s too soon to tell whether Almost Human has real staying power, but for now, I’m more than ready to ride along with Urban and Ealy.
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Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison
Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) meets Washington Irving in Sleepy Hollow, a thrilling, loopy funhouse ride of a fantasy series premiering tonight on Fox. Co-creators and executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci from the rebooted Star Trek movies have taken Irving’s beloved 1820 yarn about a timid schoolteacher’s encounter with a terrifying wraith and pumped it full of storytelling steroids that carry the Colonial American action into the present-day.
The story opens in the heat of a Revolutionary War battle, where history teacher-turned-spy Ichabod Crane (Brit hunk Tom Mison, HBO’s Parade’s End miniseries) finds himself confronted by a masked, ax-wielding Redcoat on horseback. After shooting his adversary proves ineffectual, Ichabod beheads the Horseman, but not before he sustains a grievous wound himself. At the brink of death, Ichabod sinks into unconsciousness … then awakens, gasping for air as he digs himself out of the floor of a cave. Finally breaking through to muted daylight, Ichabod finds himself on the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow, in a strange new world of asphalt roads and roaring metallic conveyances.
That night, as wind blows and lightning flashes, Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie, Shame) and her mentor, Sheriff August Corbin (guest star Clancy Brown), are investigating an incident at a nearby farm when Corbin is attacked and decapitated by the Horseman as Abbie watches in horror. Back at headquarters to report the murder, Abbie encounters the peevish and disoriented Ichabod, who has been brought in for questioning. When Ichabod clings to his far-fetched insistence that he is a spy for George Washington who has been asleep for 250 years, Abbie’s tough-minded captain (Orlando Jones) orders her to take him to a psychiatric facility for evaluation. She spends their long car ride together sizing him up.
“Did you get up to pee?” she asks Ichabod about his long nap, smiling. “I don’t know about you, but I’d be getting up to pee every 75, 80 years.”
Soon, however, Abbie realizes that, nutty or not, Ichabod seems to have special insight into the psychopath who beheaded her former boss. Still haunted by a paranormal experience she and her sister shared as girls, Abbie quickly bonds with Ichabod as their investigation starts to turn up indications that this eerie case may involve a secret society that stretches back for centuries, witchcraft, the Book of Revelation, Ichabod’s dead wife Katrina (Katia Winter) and, of course, “an ancient evil.”
Clearly, Kurtzman and Orci are building a mythology for their show that could sustain years of storytelling without a sweat, so my only worry – as with most high-concept shows – is whether Sleepy Hollow might meet the ratings ax before fans are able to get closure with this epic narrative. That’s out of my hands, though, and the pilot is so much fun, and looks so gorgeous, that I was pretty much in by the first commercial break, although I hope future episodes may inject a little more humor.
It obviously doesn’t hurt, either, that Mison and Beharie are a real dream team in terms of chemistry. He recently topped a poll of my colleagues in the Television Critics Association as this season’s most likely new breakout star, but it’s Beharie who’s the real find for me. Beautiful, confident and radiating intelligence and humor, her Abbie is a lovely creation and a perfect foil for Mison’s intense and often testy Ichabod. I’m looking forward to spending Monday nights with this duo for a long time to come.
Favorite Line: Deputy (shouting to Horseman): “Put the weapon down and put your hands on your … uh … .”
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