Humans Finale: What's at the Heart of This Man-vs-Machine Drama?
Humans, AMC’s creepily intriguing sci-fi drama about the uneasy coexistence of human beings and robots known as Synths ends its first season on Sunday. We talked to executive producers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (who joined us midway) about the Season 1 finale and what to expect when the show returns for Season 2 in 2016.
Your show is one of the most thought provoking of the summer. Did you want viewers’ sympathies to be torn between man and machine?
Sam Vincent: We actually did. We watched the original Swedish show [Real Humans] and thought this territory , which had been done many times , was told in an entirely fresh way. It wasn’t a straight thriller but a domestic story about what a world with Synths would do to our lives.. We wanted this to be an emotional story because technology is encroaching ever deeper into our emotions. We wanted to explore what this tech would do to a family. We’re very interested in this idea of a machine that looks exactly like a person and acts somewhat like a person and yet human don’t think it’s a person and so treat it however they want. So we put one, who’s called Anita [Gemma Chan,] as a housekeeper in a family, the Hawkins [pictured above,] that already has fault lines in its emotional dynamic to see what happens. We’ve always said this is, at heart, a show about two families. One’s a very ordinary human family and the other’s a completely extraordinary synthetic family. The Synths have a very deep bond and obviously it’s unusual because they’re machines.
Having Anita and the other Synths in their lives changes the Hawkins, doesn’t it? Once you know the so-called “other,” you see their humanity.
Vincent: It was fascinating. For example, Toby [Theo Stevenson,] the teenage son, lusted after Anita and thinks he can treat her as a thing, but then finds a much deeper respect for her.
Things didn’t look too good for that conscious Synth family last week. They all wind up being captured by unfriendly forces. Where are they when the episode opens?
Vincent: They are finally all together again, but not in a place where they want to be.
Hardly! They’re in a lab run by Synth scientist Edwin Hobb (Danny Webb). He seems a hateful anti-Synth zealot. Is he the show’s villain?
Vincent: You’ll find out what his real game is in the finale. We didn’t want an out-and-out villain, but there won’t be much sympathy for his final plan. The Synths will probably not have a lot to look forward to in his worldview, but maybe not the humans either.
One of the captured Synths, the sweet Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) is badly damaged after drowning himself. Will he be able to be fixed?
Vincent: His mind is dying and beyond repair unless something new and drastic can be done. Certainly, they’ll keep trying to save him.
What’s the theme of the season finale?
Brackley: It’s the culmination of the themes we’ve run throughout the season. Particularly motherhood.
Vincent: And reunion.
This season’s big shocker was that the cop Karen (Ruth Bradley) is a self-hating conscious Synth herself!
Brackley: We were very taken with the idea of an intelligent machine who thought her existence was a mistake. It’s such a compelling idea. The finale’s big question is whether she will fulfill her ambition of dying and bringing the end of conscious Synths, or can her mind be changed?
How did you get your Synth actors to move in that signature slightly robotic but graceful way?
Brackley: These battery-powered machines take up an enormous amount of energy so they need to conserve their power. We decide there would never be a single wasted movement. The actors went to a Synth school with a theater movement company here in London to develop a uniform language of movement. Human movement is very messy.
Speaking of humans, just how human is the Synth protector Leo (Colin Morgan), the son of the Synth creator?
Vincent: His father saved him from brain death by implanting the synth affect into his brain. So mentally he has some Synth mental abilities and he needs to charge that hybrid brain. Otherwise, he has the desires and needs of a human.
How did William Hurt, whose empathetic former Synth developer George Millican died last week, get involved in the project?
Brackley: First off, he brought everything that one would hope an Oscar winner would bring. William was attracted to the material; he has a computer science degree and he’s fascinated by artificial intelligence. He said he was really connected to the relationship between George and Odi [Will Tudor] his damaged, outdated Synth. They made their story very special.
Usually on these humans-vs-robots projects, one side wins and one side loses. How do you see that dynamic?
Brackley: We want to sympathize with both views: characters who think artificial intelligence means the end of everything we know and love and characters who believe that if these machines exist, they have rights too. We imagine a couple watching Humans and one person saying, "We should have Synths. This is the future." And the other responding, "No, this is the end of human race." We try to tell the whole story and not just one side.
The formula must be working: Humans is coming back to AMC for a second season set for 2016.
Humans, Season finale Sunday, August 16, 9/8c, AMC