Returning to our screens for season 2 on Sunday 30th October at 9pm is the spectacular Humans. Season 1 seems so long ago, and frankly, I am very excited for the next installment. Set in the near future, Humans shows the viewer what it would be like to live in a world where in-home androids are routine, jobs are given to “synths” and that ethics, bigotry, and hatred all hold new meanings. Many will be familiar with the viral marketing campaign for season 2, featuring the product recall. Responses have ranged from shock through to confusion for the uninitiated, while those familiar with the series simply watch on with amusement. Starring William Hurt, Gemma Chan and Katherine Parkinson, Humans season 2 airs on Channel 4 at 9pm, with the first season available in full on All 4.
Set solidly in the near future, Humans looks at what life would be like with the ability to own a human-like android, or synth, to look after all of those menial tasks in the home. Roles such as cooking, cleaning, taking out the rubbish, looking after children, education…. Sorry, I did say menial, didn’t I? That is the essence of Humans. Dramatizing the line between good and bad, ethical and taboo through the eyes of the future, it allows the viewer to consider for themselves, “where is the line?”. What is the limit to what you would allow your own synth to do? The difficulties in individual lines is shown in all its forms in the central family of the show, the Hawkins family. While father Joe embraces the incoming synth, mother Laura has her reservations.
Another consideration which Humans allows you to face is where should androids be permitted to work? Free labour is an attractive prospect, but would you want them painting your house? How about driving your buses? Flying your planes? How about operating on your brain? Are they human? Are they animals? What about the tabooer roles, for example, the oldest profession? Should that be allowed? Is it ethical? As a viewer you will find yourself falling down the rabbit hole, questioning yourself and those around you. This will continue until the show presents to you its true form. How foolish you were, have your opinions changed? You need to watch it and find out! Following the experiences of the Hawkins family and the comings-and-goings of a handful of synths, the storylines are fresh and engaging, perfect entertainment.
While the production style can have you believing that what you are watching “could be” real, the cast drive that nail home. The entire ensemble is exceptional, with Katherine Parkinson shining brightest of all. The character arc she experiences is tough to portray, but she does it with finesse and talent, drawing the viewer to the edge of their seat. Similarly, the entire ensemble of synths have their work cut out. Gemma Chan, Ivanno Jeremiah, Emily Berrington and Will Tudor stand out as some of the finest performances in the show. Feeling their transformation throughout the first ten episodes simply makes me hungry for the coming season two.
While the above all makes Humans a great entertainment show, there is something else which really sets it apart as some of the best TV in the UK. Nominated for a best drama BAFTA, best fiction editing TV Craft BAFTA and Best Genre Television Series Satellite Award, Humans demonstrates something more than just entertainment. As society pushes ever forwards with technology such as digital personal assistants, smart home, and self-driving cars, we can feel ourselves moving closer to the time where in-home robots are a real prospect. Humans stretches itself a little further. It leaps across the “uncanny valley” and plants itself firmly in the ground on the “virtually indistinguishable from humans” side. It examines what it means to be human and what it means to be not-quite human. It challenges the viewer to ask questions of themselves and others, and develop an ethical base well in advance. It asks you if you could own one of these synths. Could you give it orders? Would you leave your children in its care?
In my original plan for this piece, I planned to proffer some predictions for the coming season. I can’t do that. The proximity of Humans to real life is such that any predictions are pointless. The show isn’t about the result, it’s about the journey. It evokes feelings inside you, drawing you close to the characters. You ask the same questions that they do, you feel part of the story. Humans’ success is down to this real ability to get under your skin. You find yourself anxious to find out what happened, not to further the story, but because you care about the characters. Humans draws you in, you feel comfortable in its embrace. You feel one with the show, part of the story. Humans seduces you, teases you, then almost as though it never happened, it disappears for a week, leaving you craving it once more.