Humans: Series Three Review
The real world has changed somewhat since Humans series two ended with the activation of synths worldwide. Misinformation, distrust, paranoia, racial divides, political turmoil - these are unfortunately all aspects of society today as well as themes employed throughout the third series. The stakes were certainly raised and with it the politics of that world amplified ten dozen.
But that isn't to say, Humans series three was grim viewing. Sure there were some harrowing moments, including the deaths of two key characters but there was also humour and heart warming character moments amid all the turmoil of this much more dangerous world.
Picking up one year after Mattie activated the code that made Synths aware, the third series lived in the aftermath of 'Day One', an event largely viewed as a terrorist attack. Humans delves deep into the consequences of what that meant and the death toll that ensued; synths had been so incorporated into society that waking up and breaking free of their roles meant that thousands of humans died as a result. Many of these moments were reflected in the opening credits - the catastrophic crash on the motorway, the 'nanny' synth abandoning the baby in the push chair; the romantic idealism of synths becoming more human only makes them more removed from society.
Humans series three is a world where the 'aware' green eyed synth's are living in camps, where many of their kind have been beaten in the streets and ripped apart by angry mobs. There are hints at the global scale of the change, where some countries have eliminated them altogether and the UK we see is one filled with unease and distrust. It was a grim but narratively exciting direction for the show to take and it more than delivers, without sacrificing the heart and quasi-realism that it has employed so far in the majority of the storyline.
The gap between series allows us to see characters in new light. One of the most changed is Katherine Parkinson's Laura Hawkins, who deserves to win many awards for her performance this series. Now separated from Tom Goodman-Hill's Joe, she is balancing her life at the beginning of series three between raising her children and campaigning for synth rights. It's a role that leads her to the Dryden Commission where she facers hostility and isolation as she battles against the demands for synth segregation and eradication.
The political debates in the series are some of the most fascinating aspects of the show. It's a role that sees her strike up a connection with Mark Bonnar's Neil, a man haunted by the death of his son in Day One. Friend Neha (Thusitha Jayasundera) tows the line of moral duplicity, Matthew Marsh's Lord Dryden acts as the voice of reason while revealing his distrust of Synths and Neil D'Souza's is the perfect foil as high ranking police officer Steve Covell who views every synth as a threat to humanity's safety.
What makes synths more than a machine? It's a question that hangs heavily over series three with the majority of the human characters ready to write them off altogether, This makes Laura a lone crusader, the only human offering any hope to the likes of Max and Mia. There is a point mid-series where Laura seems to actually convince the Dryden Commission to see her side during a visit to Max's camp before a Synth attack inevitably changes everything for the worse.
There are reduced roles this time for the majority of the Hawkins family, though they continue to represent the human heart of the show. But like Parkinson, Lucy Carless gets a much bigger role as Mattie, haunted by the deaths she caused activating the Synth code. Her role this series is someone haunted and directionless, living in fear of what might happen and guilt of what she has done. Her relationship with Colin Morgan's Leo Elster deepens, as he recovers from his coma, more human than ever. At the same time, there is a sense that she is ultimately a plot point - her pregnancy which is revealed at the end to be a miracle creation of synth and human feels ultimately more important than her own journey. The storyline with the undercover reporter ultimately goes nowhere, lost in the climatic events of the final episode.
Another character that gets plenty to do this series is Ivanno Jeremiah's Max, who has risen to the leader of a synth camp. Faced with insurrection from within and distrust and violence by humans outside, he is forced to make a number of tough choices, most notably his stance on no violence. Max faces not one but two villains, the first in Holly Earl's Agnes, who demands retribution after a particularly horrific backstory and then in Ukweli Roach's Anatole, who spends much of the series as Max's closest ally before leading the uprising in a shocking twist that sees Agnes act as a suicide bomber on Anatoly's orders, sacrificing any chance of peace.
Roach is a particularly strong presence in series three, acting as a soft spoken noble character, even when his villainous self is presented. It is what makes Max and Anatole's final fight so emotional; they are literally two opposing sides that could prevent or ignite a war between Synths and humanity.
Caught up in all of this is Gemma Chan's Mia, the other star in a bleak, dramatic and thought-provoking series. If Laura is the heart of humanity, than Mia is her counterpart among the synths. Her journey to make the world aware that synths are non-violent is perhaps series three's most fascinating storyline; facing adversity as she lives among them in her crummy flat and then spearheading talks with the Dryden Commission before Anatoly and Agnes' action undo the peace talks. Her and Max's 'hold the line' as Project Basswood was unleashed made for a dramatic and heroic last stand, her demise, literally beaten to death as the world watched in the finale, was a harrowing climax to the series and one that is sure to have ramifications when Humans (hopefully) continues.
The other shocking death was Ruth Bradley's synth Karen, who after the events of series two has been hiding in a non-synth community with 'son' Sam (a continued adorable performance by Billy Jenkins). Her attempts to teach him how to be human and have friends made for a lovely first part of the series, making her death, sacrificing herself to save Sam from exposure, a shocking twist mid-series. It is her death that urges Tom (who had started to develop a surrogate family relationship with Karen and Sam) back into the fold as the fight to save synths from extinction increased.
The final new player in the third series was Dino Fetscher's Stanley, a new 'orange-eyed' synth model given to Laura as part of her role in the Dryden Commission. At first his innocent demeanour as he integrated into the Hawkins household reminded of the simpler series one journeys of Mia and Odie, making his turn as a traitor all the more shocking. And yet even when it is revealed that he is an undercover green eye, the good nature of the Hawkins family and Laura's passion for Synth equality is enough to persuade him from his cause and become a hero at the very end. The series ended with Stanley and Sam - the show's too most innocent, good-natured characters - left together and I would love to see what happens with them next.
Finally we have Niska. Emily Berrington is one of the strongest performers in Humans so I was a little frustrated that - like series two - her role felt second fiddle to much of the events taking place. The hunt for the 'Synth who dreams' added plenty of mystery but ultimately felt too much like set up for a fourth series. There was a nice little reunion with Mia early on and some lovelty banter over the phone with her lover Astrid( Bella Dayne), injured after the bombing that sets off events in episode one. But ultimately, her role is disconnected from everyone else.
But perhaps that is the point. It wasn't until the very end of the series that her counter with God-like V in Odi's body, that revealed her truth path. While it was a great tie in to the Dr. Athena Morrow's story from series two, it was also the point where Humans abandoned realism for spiritual sci-fi and Niska becoming 'the one' felt a little too out there in the end.
Still, I am excited as to where the series will go next and am hopeful that Humans will get a fourth series. It ended with many synths dead after Project Basswood was enacted, Laura imprisoned for treason and Mattie's action about to be exposed to the world. Even greater, is Niska's confrontation with Lord Dryden and the death of Mia spearheading a possible change in how humans and synths interact in the future. And what does Leo and Mattie's half human, half synth baby mean? It seems Humans has moved beyond the political ramifications of series three into something altogether more 'out there. There a lot of questions to be answered but as one of the best sci-fi drams out there (and certainly one of the UK's current finest TV productions) it deserves to keep telling its fascinating story...