Written by Scott Clifford
FOX has decided to show most of Almost Human’s first season out of order so they can fix perceived problems with its story arc and to stabilize ratings. I suppose that this is why we have barely seen any development of the female characters of the show. As of right now, both Captain Maldonado and Detective Stahl have been flatter than a single piece of cardboard. “Perception” tries to rectify that with an episode that highlights Detective Stahl’s genetically enhanced background and the people that she used to exclusively hang out with. It’s a darker episode as it highlights a group of people who look a little too much like stereotypical Nazi Aryan youth to be comfortable with. It’s a darker turn for the series as we also go back to Kennex’s pain-popping, memory recalling addiction as he solves the case.
Two young women (Eleanor and Scarlet) doing different things in different locations appear to be tapping into a higher level of consciousness that most humans do not possess. The intensity of this act reaches to a point where the women can’t handle it anymore. They drop to the ground and die. Cue Kennex waking up from a flashback of his ex-girlfriend killing him as he is put on the case along with Detective Stahl. A meeting at the police station reveals that the girls were taken some sort of drug that may have killed them while attending Mendel Academy. The academy is a prestigious institution that is primarily attended by the genetically enhanced (called Chromes”). Stahl is miffed at the fact that Maldonado put her on this case because she is a chrome and went to this school while Dorian finds out that the girls died due to an unknown drug that people are calling “Verul.”
Kennex and Dorian visit the mother of Lila, one of the girls who died due to the same drug in a previous case in order to find information. She explained that her daughter was one of the few natural human beings who were allowed to go to school with the chromes. Lila’s friends denied all knowledge of the girl and Kennex decides to find out more in order to get some clues. Stahl interviews one of the other few natural girls who can immediately tell that she is a chrome. The girl didn’t know Lila well and she’s too worried about her own problems to have noticed anything suspicious. John meets up Stahl as they interview another student named Marshall. They realize that another student from behind the glass is somehow commanding him to not say anything and they get nowhere. This place isn’t weird at all.
Dorian finds a suspicious container among Scarlet’s possessions. The container reveals a pill that was designed specifically for her DNA. Rudy deduces that a pharmaceutical grade printer was used. There are only so many that exist in the city and they find a printer that was shipped to a private residence just outside of the Mendel Academy. It turns out that the dead owner’s son still lives there and he was recently expelled from the institution. Dorian tries to put the pieces together when John gets distracted by a flashback and almost crashes their police car. They get to their destination anyway and Julian lets them in. The drug designer explains how he is seeing their conversation from the future. Dorian points out that Julian is just on the drugs that he makes right now. Julian ignores Dorian’s observation and denies the crime because he claims that he would’ve killed them in a smarter way. He thinks that someone hacked his machine to make lethal versions of his drugs instead. John doesn’t believe him.
John lets Dorian finally drive as they head back to the station. Stahl recovers a text between Scarlet and her father telling her not to say anything just before she died. We then get to see Maldonado in an evening dress at a bar as she asks John if he is using illegal drugs to remember the ambush in his past right before John goes back for more illegal treatments. John then remembers seeing a specific item that his ex slipped in a Matryoska doll that is in his apartment. It’s empty but he runs the doll for prints anyway. John and Dorian then meet up with Julian’s father who appoints a holographic lawyer in order to defend him. John explains that Scarlet’s death wasn’t an accident but an integral part of a triple homicide. The father turns his lawyer “off” when he learns of this and explains that he had the evidence “taken care off” because he didn’t want Scarlet’s drug use to ruin her academic career. The father explains that Mrs. Hoving, the first woman they interviewed threatened that they would “pay for all of this”. John and Dorian go back to Julian with a new container that Detective Paul found. John offers Julian to cut a deal if he tells the truth. He agrees and explains that it’s the last thing that Lila said to him before she was murdered.
Julian gets emotional as she explains that she took the drug due to the immense pressure from the school. Everyone, including Mrs. Hoving, watches as her daughter committed suicide instead of being murdered like she thought. Her refusal to acknowledge reality leads to her confessing to hacking Julian’s machine in order to give lethal dose to the girls who denied being her friend. Mrs. Hoving is arrested while a man from Internal Affairs questions John about the ambush. The agent finds it convenient that John can’t remember everything that happened relating to it. The not so subtle accusation upsets John and he leaves. The last scene reveals that the Matryoshka doll is actually a listening device that has been uploading data to an unknown person this entire team. Awesome.
It’s a shame that the possibility of learning about Stahl is just a diversion to get viewers to watch the episode. We still learn nothing about her and I wonder if a lot of her scenes were cut in this episode in order to make room for John and Dorian. I can also point out that this episode is a series of suspects being interviewed by cops with no action in-between. I can also point out that many novice screenplay tropes are used in this episode such as John waking up from a flashback-induced nightmare and Mrs. Hoving giving emotional monologues to explain her motivation for murdering Eleanor and Scarlet. All of these things are true and yet I find myself loving the episode anyway. The acting was spot on, the cinematography was surprisingly varied, and it was great to finally learn more about the world of Almost Human. Maybe FOX rightly deduced that “Perception” would receive more positive reviews from fans who are desperate for any information about the characters of the show. Maybe I’m just in a really good mood today. Either way, this episode needs to be watched by anyone remotely interested in this show.