‘Life cannot merely be preserved. It must be lived.’
Following on from the chaotic day in which Mattie Hawkins (Lucy Carless) unleashed the consciousness code on the world, waking all synths with some devastating consequences, series 3 of Humans sees the world recovered, but fragile.
Jumping forward one year, we see Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson), now a synths-right lawyer, taking her place on The Dryden Commission to determine the fate of the UK inhabiting Green-Eyes, with Mia (Gemma Chan) becoming a leading pro-synths activist to prove co-existence is not only possible but also profitable.
Max (Ivanno Jeremiah), having been chosen as leader of the Railyard Synth Compound, does all he can to ensure the safety and future of his brothers and sister, but as terror acts on both sides rise, who can he trust? Back at home, a newly awoken, and human, Leo (Colin Morgan) searches for answers about his father with Mattie, who struggles with the guilt of causing Day Zero – together they strive to understand how they fit into this new world. All the while, Niska (Emily Berrington) follows a vision on a journey of faith, hoping to find a new way for the synths to live on.
All in all, it’s a pretty busy series.
Whilst the first and second series of Humans were rather self-contained in their themes, the former centred around family, and the latter around wider relationships, series three spreads itself much wider, casting a look over our modern society and how we might adapt in this new, synthetic world. And it massively profits from this, particularly after the somewhat patchy second series. There is a new conflict in this series, and its based in a world not too far from our own – give or take a couple of AIs.
“I shouldn’t have said dolly, that’s robo-phobic”, chides one character after the derogatory term so often heard in the shows setting slips out. With details such as this, it’s clear to see how innately linked the narrative and its setting are. The synths nation-wide presence of synth compounds and methods of segregation are reminiscent of very modern issues despite its sci-fi genre. In fact, it’s because it is sci-fi that it can carry across the message that we should be angry over injustices without feeling shoehorned in.
In my post about the best TV shows I’ve been watching (which you can read here), I mention how the character development really grounds this show in a sense of realism, and that is certainly the case in this series. It may be a sci-fi show centred around robots, but it’s the humans and the humanity of these bots that really takes the focus. And with each episode developing a sense of urgency and pertinence, throwing the characters further out to sea, you can’t help but sympathise and struggle alongside them as they strive, make mistakes, and ultimately grow.
Max’s rival, in Agnes, raises valid points about how they ought to lead their people; keeping them safe is important but at the cost of really living, is it worth it? We see Max struggle to find this balance between security and striving for more, and he doesn’t always get it right. In the same way, Laura’s pro-synth position on the commission table at times hardly seems to make any waves at all and her actions there, as well as at home, rarely have the desired effect, sometimes in very dire situations. But it’s the failures and the learning of these characters that make them, well, human.
It is a shame that not all the characters were given enough time to neatly round off, or develop their character arcs; as the series went on and twists were revealed certain characters, namely Anatole, Stanley, and Sam, felt a little rushed off their feet, undercutting some of the powerful moments of the later episodes. However, although Channel 4 has yet to confirm a fourth series, we’re likely to have these guys return and will hopefully take centre stage.
The twist appearing in the last couple of episodes is certain to divide people; I myself am not sure where I stand on it. Thrilled as I was to see an old favourite of mine from series one return, the nature of their character not only relied on a subplot I had almost entirely forgotten from series 2 but also felt rather a stretch. More Pokémon than provocative. Moreover, the final sequence itself borders on the melodramatic although lends itself for an interesting continuation if done with the right humanity and realism this series, mostly, profited from.
This series moves at a thrilling pace; episode after episode had shocks and secrets that are successfully brought to conclusion by the finale. Broadening the focus in this series was certainly a risk, but it feels more like the first series in its intensity and its humanity.