30th Oct2017

‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams 1×06: Human Is’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

human-is-bryan-cranston

Just what is it that makes us human? That is the question that is asked in this episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. With Bryan Cranston starring in this episode, a lot of expectation had built up around it. Does it live up to the hype that the Breaking Bad actor brings?

When Silas Herrick (Bryan Cranston) returns from a disastrous mission to Rexor IV he comes back a changed man. When Vera (Essie Davis) notices the changes, she likes the new him. When it seems that he could be a Rexorian though, will she give up the new better husband?

In Human Is we see Silas as an abusive husband in an unloving relationship. Emotionless and cold he pushes Vera to find comfort by other means. This is why his return from Rexor IV is so strange. He comes back as a loving man who gives her everything that she ever wants.

When a colleague of Silas’ is revealed to be a Rexorian, he is arrested and accused of being an alien too. The twist here is that the Rexorians are meant to be cold heartless creatures that have no morality. With Silas already being like that, it complicates the problem of just who he is.

This is the conundrum that his wife goes through, is it that he is an alien or has he just had a change of heart and is actually giving her the marriage that she always wanted? Or is it that he truly is an alien who may actually be a better choice than the man it replaced?

The scenario that happens in this episode has been seen before, but in the context of androids. What makes a person human? In the context of an android it is about being a sentient being, in Human Is, it is about alien. The fact that Silas is showing emotions doesn’t prove that he is human, but it does prove that there is something strange happening with him.

If you were a hopeless romantic you could go down the road of Silas being a human, and that could work. You do get the answer at the end of the episode, which I won’t give away. It is interesting though that the episode does play with the audience’s emotions somewhat, almost like we are the judges in the court deciding just what Silas has become.

What makes this work of course is the acting, which is a tour de force in this episode. Bryan Cranston does well as a character with two sides, and Essie Davis is very good as his wife. It is the supporting characters though that add that much-needed spark, and paranoia. Liam Cunningham and Ruth Bradley do well here.

Human Is works well as a Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams episode because it invites us into the private little world of Silas and Vera, and actually makes it better. It starts off in a claustrophobic abusive atmosphere and turns into somewhat of a love story. Then when outside forces put that at risk, we see the two characters willing to fight for each other, even if one is an alien. So the question is, what is a human and what is a human anyway?

The episodes of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams have been at such a high quality that it isn’t a surprise that Human Is continues the trend. Cranston is as good as expected, though I’d say Essie Davis does steal the episode from him. All in all though no matter who was the better actor, they both worked to make this a good episode.

***** 5/5

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams airs in the UK on Channel 4, 9pm on Sundays.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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