Review by C.J. Bunce
If the third season of AMC’s/UK Channel 4’s sci-fi series Humans had a single theme this year it was sacrifice and heroism. After Lucy Carless’s Mattie set off the course of events to give sentience to the show’s thousands of cyborg servants, who knew what direction showrunners Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley would take us? Mattie had the series’ greatest crisis of conscience–her actions resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans and synths–yet she brought freedom to her friends and so many others. With the shocking events at season’s end, she became poised to have an even more significant role next season. As the lawyer and sole voice for synth rights among the humans, her mother, Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, became a symbol for the oppressed and a metaphor for civil rights struggles beyond the television screen.
The cyborg characters were no less powerful, coupling strong acting with a talented group of writers, to create what may be the most thought-provoking look at the “life” of borgs yet–showing a sympathetic and dramatic view through their eyes. Gemma Chan’s Mia stepped forward to be the target of hatred among those trying to eliminate all the “damaged” green-eyed synths. Defying all sense she became the figurehead for synth rights and brought on attack after personal attack. From another approach, Ivanno Jeremiah’s Max stepped forward as leader of a gated community of synths, clinging to the vision that peaceful cooperation was the only solution to bridging the gap with humans. This left Emily Berrington’s Niska in the role again as vengeance seeker, and more violent means to assist both synths and her human lover (Bella Dayne’s Astrid) harmed by ant-synth activity. With these three characters the writers provided a mirror of society from different approaches, only to introduce other levels of modern reality: terrorism via new synth Holly Earl’s troubled Agnes and the covert acts of Laura’s newly assigned orange-eyed synth, Dino Fetscher’s Stanley.
But the writers didn’t leave out the impact on humans of a society divided, and that was most poignantly revealed through Laura’s flawed ex-husband, Tom Goodman-Hill’s Joe and his encounters with a familiar synth in hiding, Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss. Karen discovers a young boy synth (Billy Jenkins’ Sam), an experiment left behind by the synth inventor, and she chooses to live in the open as human with the boy as her son in the heart of the anti-synth area of town. Her performance and her character’s choices result in the most powerful and gut-wrenching segments of the season.
It doesn’t take long before viewers are reeled in, removing all sense of disbelief because the portrayals of the green-eyed, then orange-eyed, then purple-eyed synths are meticulously acted and filmed. Laura pleas emotionally for the synth rights with a small government leadership team. Mattie wrestles with her affection for the human-turned synth, Colin Morgan’s Leo. And Gemma, Max, Niska, and Karen, must convey the same desires and needs, but more dispassionately.
But as the synths’ passions begin to break through, first via Niska, then Mia, and finally Max, only then are we convinced they may very well become the “Humans” of the title. Perhaps next season? A Season 4 has not yet been announced, but the success of this season will hopefully allow the series’ fans to see the results of all the new directions the cliffhanger leaves them with. If the series is picked up again, look for a new season no earlier than the end of 2019 from AMC and UK’s Channel 4.
The best season and the best series of a television story about borgs we’ve yet seen, Humans’ third season is available for free, streaming now at AMC.com for the next 13 days. The season is also available as part of subscription services streaming on iOS, Apple TV, Android, Windows, Fire Tablets, Roku, and Xbox One.