Forget Westworld. Humans is the most compelling, emotionally resonant robot-centric show on television.Jen Chaney writes: Is it unfair to compare the two just because they happen to deal with the ramifications of artificial intelligence? Maybe. Westworld has only completed one season, whereas Humans, which returns to AMC tonight at 10, has delivered a second season that demonstrates a full, imaginative expansion of its narrative. Tonally and visually, they also reside in different realms, with Westworld the slicker and more nakedly ambitious one and Humans the understated, less flashy model. Like practically every current AMC drama, with the exception of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul, Humans has maintained a profile so modest that even its fans may not realize the follow-up to its first eight episodes, which aired back in the summer of 2015, airs tonight. What ultimately gives Humans an immediacy that Westworld lacks, though, is its storytelling structure. Westworld focuses on potentially sentient androids, called “hosts,” who live in a cowboy-themed amusement park accessed principally by wealthy human beings who can afford to visit. But on Humans potentially sentient androids — called synths, or synthetics — are everywhere in regular society: living with families, working in factories, offering couples therapy, riding subways, and acting as companions to people seeking to fill the gaps left by lost loved ones. The world this series depicts doesn’t look so different from the world many of us currently inhabit, except that in the version on our screens, robots with glowing emerald eyes happen to be walk among us. If — really, maybe when — A.I.s become a reality, Humans offers a more realistic sneak preview of what life might actually look and feel like. Or, to put it another way: Westworld is the TV show equivalent of a super-cool robot, while Humans is a more recognizable, sometimes emotional being.
Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill), whose marriage hit some bumps in season one, not least because Joe decided to have sex with Chan’s Mia, have moved into a new home and are attempting to regain a sense of normalcy for themselves and their three children. But every member of the household is still fixated in some way on the manufactured beings in their midst. That includes Laura, an attorney working on a case in which she advocates that synth rights are human rights, and eldest daughter, Mattie (Lucy Carless), who is still assisting the small faction of sentient synths committed to liberating their brethren. Then there’s the youngest, Sophie (Pixie Davies), who has developed Juvenile Synthetic Overidentification Disorder, an increasingly common affliction that causes children to behave like synths. Sophie’s desire to become a bot is so strong that she even Magic Markers two bright blue circles on her bedroom mirror, then lines up her pupils just so, reflecting back a little girl whose eyes glow just like one of them. It’s a moment that is visually striking, poignant, and chilling all at once.