Comparisons to stories like “Westworld” and James Cameron’s “Terminator” franchise have come easy for some, when discussing AMC’s “Humans” — and whether or not those are the best or truest comparisons, the show definitely gave us its own version of a “Skynet moment” in its two-hour Season 2 finale.
At the season’s start, only a select number of synths had the consciousness code, and Leo Elster’s (Colin Morgan) group has been doing all they can to hasten that awakening process: Mia (Gemma Chan) and Hester (Sonya Cassidy) have broken into tech giant Qualia and freed a number of the sentient bots there…
But what nobody expected were the lockdown procedures Milo Khoury (Marshall Allman) already had in place. Synths dropping like flies around her, Mia discovers the ultimate purpose of the device implanted in their heads: It’s a remote-control killswitch. One simple electromagnetic signal could wipe them all from existence. Mia continued forward, saving more lives, while Hester’s drive for vengeance only got stronger.
“Is violence not the hard edge of change?”
From the start, it seems, Hester’s plan has been nothing less than the eradication of the human race: To rise up against all who deserve it and create a safe and stable environment for humanit’s children. Mia may have sided with Hester for a moment — the new experience of romantic betrayal still a fresh wound — but ultimately, of course, it’s simply not in Mia’s character to take any life at all, nature/nurture be damned.
The real faceoff in this militarized second season of “Humans” — Professor X vs. Magneto, as our oversimplified discourse tends to separate these two civil rights approaches; MLK and Malcolm X, as inexact and incorrect as that cultural shorthand really is — was always going to come down to this:
A zero-sum argument (we kill them or they will kill us) is more powerful, and easier to understand, and the vastly more difficult understanding of the crinkly edges of complexity and ambiguity in the space between any “us” and any “them.” But “Humans” hasn’t ever let simple utilitarianism be the end of any argument — in fact, that question is usually where the show, setting itself apart from nearly every single one of its genre-mates, starts.
Hester’s motivations are valid, but her methods and behavior are something the show would never approve: Threats toward Laura (Katherine Parkinson), an eventual attack on Leo — killing the synthetic component in his brain in the process — and Mia knows what she has to do: Stop Hester by implementing the lockdown signal… And sacrificing herself in the process.
As the person who has moved, over the course of two seasons, from being a Hester to being a Mia — and transcending both those opposites, into her own kind of unique and wonderful woman — it’s only fitting that big sister Niska (Emily Berrington) would ultimately come to the rescue, convincing teen hacker Mattie (Lucy Carless) of the best solution: To upload the new consciousness code to the global network. Niska’s revolution has come full-circle: Waking Mia up incited a planet-wide awakening. Every robot is now alive.
Moving effortlessly between life and death, Season 2 explored Dr. Morrow’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) grief with grace — finally culminating in a tearful goodbye as “V” transferred her consciousness somewhere offsite. And the synthesis that is the root and heart of everything on this show continues: For Karen (Ruth Bradley), life without Pete (Neil Maskell) could have been too much to bear alone — but in her loss, it seems she finds new purpose through the growing maternal bond with young Sam.
If this is epic finale was the swan song for “Humans,” we’ll take it. Throughout its two-season run, “Humans” has tapped into the complexities of free will and morality in a future world where humanity and technology have merged, and spoken to the politics and revolution of every single person who’s ever been on the outside of the default — a vast and overwhelming majority, which is slowly waking up.
Since computers were invented, almost, stories have been talking about “The Singularity.” We’ve been looking at the endpoint of digital evolution with wonder (and sadly, most often with fear) for decades — but very few have ever given us something to believe in, in the process.
AMC has yet to announce a Season 3 — but hope is not lost by any means. Time to show our support for this wonderful show.