Äkta människor, Season 1 [Real Humans] (2012)

(In French, On DVD, November 2017) I’m five years late in watching Swedish TV series Real Humans, and yet taking a look at it today, after 2014’s rush of AI-themed movies and 2016’s similarly themed Westworld, reveals a ten-hour story that still works as a complement to what’s been done since then. Typically Swedish down to the IKEA furniture in the protagonists’ living room, Real Humans takes a refreshingly domestic approach to the perennial issues facing the introduction of humanoids in society. There’s a real sympathy for the robots here, especially as human characters fail to come to grip to their own imperfections in comparison to always-optimal machines. Interestingly enough, this season does spend a lot of time in its first half in making us care for its androids, whereas the second half of the season offers a far more nuanced portrait of everyone involved. Some characters have the luxury of changing their minds a few times, becoming more complex along the way. The domestic approach (in which a substantial portion of important conversations take place around the proverbial dining room table) helps the show remain grounded in its more fanciful second half. Still, this being a Swedish show, don’t mistake “domestic” with “boring”: the series has its share of violent deaths (especially in the last-episode bloodbath), copious nudity and mature themes featuring robosexual characters. While none of the ideas developed here are startlingly original for seasoned SF fans, they are executed well enough, and following characters for ten hours does allow for an impressive amount of character development that may be missing from shorter movies. While there is quite a bit of narrative sleight-of-hand required to keep so many things happening to such a small number of characters, Real Humans does work well, and justifies its running time thanks to deeper engagement with its characters and ongoing ideas. Despite a second series and a two-season English remake, there’s a fair chance that the series will have flown under the radar of most north-American SF fans—get the DVD box sets and rectify this whenever possible!

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