Humans offers up important questions
After watching the AMC drama Humans, and then surveying my too-often dishevelled home, I can’t help but think that I don’t have a pretty scene. I don’t have a maid that cleans. I don’t have much of anything. But mostly, Synths, I don’t have you.
Synths, short for Synthetics, are machines that can cook and clean, taxi their owners around and fix a clogged toilet, all while looking more like glassy-eyed neighbours than Rosie the Robot.
They’re the sparks that light the powder keg in Humans, a thoughtful and layered Britain-U.S. co-production starring Katherine Parkinson, William Hurt and Gemma Chan.
From the makers of Utopia and Broadchurch, the eight-part series is based on an award-winning Swedish show and set in a parallel present where a Synth is must-have technology that’s monitored by the government.
The première introduces multiple storylines — a harried family that brings in a Synth to help with chores, an elderly man who treats his Synth as a son, and a renegade group that keeps tabs on Synths that are developing human-like thoughts and feelings.
Chan plays a Synth called Anita, turning in an unsettling performance that infuses the efficient movements of a machine with shades of humanity — a lingering gaze at the moon here, a moment of seeming affection there.
Anita is purchased by busy dad Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill), who’s overwhelmed when his wife Laura (Parkinson) is away for work. Laura reluctantly permits Anita to stay, but she’s alarmed when Anita seems to develop motherly affectations.
Parkinson is perfectly understated as the ruffled mom. Her story raises questions about working motherhood, parent-child bonds and the very notion of family.
Like wise Hurt bring spain ful truth to his character of George Millican, who tries to deny that his longtime Synth is starting to break down and needs to be replaced.
Humans not only asks questions about where our tech-obsessed culture is leading, but its commentary can also be applied to those of any subclass starting to integrate into a group majority. If Synths look like humans, speak like humans and act like humans, should we treat them as humans? Is it morally OK for us to essentially keep a group of slaves, denying any similarities between them and ourselves?
These big-picture questions have been kicking around in film and TV for years. But as tech breakthroughs alter the way we live our lives, the answers — still a long way from being definitive — are becoming more important.