If “Episode 3” saw AMC’s Humans pausing, really slowing down to focus on the domestic drama at the heart of its sci-fi-tinged story, “Episode 4” is the completely opposite, a thrilling and haunting hour of television that shows what Humans is truly all about. Up until this week, the show has largely been focused on small personal matters, looking at how technology, in the form of synths, influence the day-to-day lives of Laura, Pete, Dr. Millican and others.
With “Episode 4” though, Humans tips its hand, showing off a mystery and a mythology that’s deeper and more sinister than the first few episodes suggested. This week, there’s talk of war between the synths and the humans. There’s an underground fight club where humans pay to clobber synths. There’s shame, secrecy, and hidden intentions. Humans has boasted an eerie tone since its premiere, but only now has it truly turned into a dark and twisted sci-fi thriller.
This is by far the heaviest episode of Humans yet, one that shows just how broken everyone on this show is. The episode opens on Pete, who’s trying to work from home while on suspension after injuring that reporter last week outside of the synth brothel. His conversation with his partner Kathy is lighthearted, but he quickly lashes out at his wife, who’s eager for him to put work away and just eat breakfast with her.
Not long after, Pete takes his anger a step further. After returning from a grocery run, Jill sits him down to tell him that she needs space, that she doesn’t think Pete makes her happy anymore. Pete hardly bats an eye, instead angrily explaining that he can’t go anywhere else because of his suspension. When Jill fails to accept such an arrangement, Pete takes out his anger on Simon, nearly punching the synth before turning his anger on the wall instead.
Pete’s feeling alone, and it’s loneliness that pervades the episode. Joe is excited to have a night at home with his wife, the kids off to a party and work finally settling down. Laura dashes those plans though, heading out to visit with a woman who says her synth feels more than the average bot.
Joe is convinced she’s having an affair, so he gets Anita to track the GPS on the car. He’s about to leave the house and confront her when Anita tells him about a call Laura made to a potential client. It’s proof enough for now, though the idea of an affair, and the man named Tom, still lingers.
With that settled, Joe can now go full-on creep. He jokes with Anita about activating her Adult Options, saying he just wants to see what happens. After he activates them, he has sex with her on the couch. Gemma Chan is haunting during the scene, a slight mist filling her eyes despite being a synth. It’s moving and terrifying all at once, a complex exploration of sexual dominance, gender, and power.
After the act is done, it’s clear that Joe feels shame (too late, Joe, you gross man!). His reaction, coupled with Anita’s, is an interesting look at how technology has changed relationships in our culture. The scene, which sees Joe track Laura before having sex with Anita, suggests that technology may exacerbate the anxiety we already feel in relationships. Technology may contribute to our paranoia and our insecurity, therefore robbing us, and our relationship, of important components like trust and empathy. It’s poignant, insightful stuff.
NEXT: Not a bottle or a box, but a bag of wine