WARNING: This review discusses sexual assault and rape and could be triggering for some people.
It’s getting harder and harder to keep these reviews brief. There is just so much to talk about with this show. After the pilot episode aired, I spent much of my review delving into the moral quandaries raised by the idea of “owning” such life-like robots. This week’s episode re-introduced a lot of the questions that arise in this alternate reality. Our main synths Niska and Anita exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. Niska, finally out of the brothel and apparently hell-bent on leading a synthetic revolution, seems to be taking her agency back one baseball bat at a time. Anita, who is literally trapped in her own programming and has already basically been stripped of her agency, saw it dwindle even further when Joe turned on “adult mode” and more or less raped her.
This opens up a discussion as to whether or not synths can be raped. Synths are not “real” people – an argument we heard at the party both Hawkins children attended, when one of the kids tried to forcibly remove a synth’s clothing, and when she stopped him, he turned her off so that she couldn’t fight back. Mattie likened it to dragging an unconscious woman up to their rooms. They may not be “real” people, but they’re built to look and act human, and if a person is the kind of person who will act that way with a synth, is it so much of a stretch to believe they will act that way with a human? Niska said as much when she broke her way out of the brothel – everything the men do to synths, they want to do to humans.
Not to mention, we know that Mia is somewhere inside of “Anita”‘s head, which makes Joe’s actions even worse. The “adult mode” Joe unlocked was meant to make her passionate and feeling, but Anita’s face was just as blank and expressionless as it always is. (Gemma Chan is fantastic at acting like a robot. It’s actually quite freaky.) This makes me wonder if she – Mia – was conscious of what was happening to her. Even when in her usual mode, Anita seems to be more aware than other synths. She seems hesitant to spy on Laura and only reveals that she took a work-related call when Joe voices his assumption that she is cheating on him. Does Anita know what’s going on? Is she capable of understanding the situation that she’s in? (Isn’t it confusing, constantly bouncing back and forth between “Mia” and “Anita”?)
We can also bring up the question of whether or not sex with a synth is cheating. As far as I’m concerned, if any person in the relationship considers it to be cheating, then it’s cheating. Laura would certainly consider what Joe did to be cheating, and Joe himself was obviously ashamed of what he did, which is why he ordered Anita to delete the record of it and tell no one what had happened. I never really cared for Joe, and I totally saw this coming, but using Anita to keep tabs on his wife, and then having sex with her despite knowing that Laura truly was doing something work-related, is a whole new level of despicable.
An interesting thing is brought up by the woman doing the diagnostic check on Anita: she refers to Anita as “unique” as opposed to mass-produced. However, we have yet to see any duplicate synths – they have all looked different. How different the story would be if Peter’s wife was saddled with Vera, or if George had received Simon instead.
It’s also important to mention that all of the storylines are now thoroughly intertwined, thanks to Leo and Max’s visits with both Mattie and George. After Max discovered some sort of code in Mia’s programming, they tracked down George because he is one of the last remaining people who worked on the synth program with David Elster – their “father”…in more ways than one. Leo seems to be the reanimated, presumed dead son of David Elster. (Hobb gets a DNA match that seems to prove Leo’s story.) We know his body is human because he bleeds blood, but we also know that he’s not quite human because of the wires. He is able to connect and communicate with his laptop the way a synth would. So what exactly is going on with Leo? Hopefully time will tell.
Niska, meanwhile, has stumbled on some sort of underground fight club where people for some reason beat the crap out of synths. I’m not quite sure why such a place exists, but it may hearken back to Mattie’s remarks in the pilot about how synths will eventually take whatever job she wants to have by the time she gets out of college. Niska seems to hope to spark a revolution with her fellow synths. Niska must know that she is different, so I’m not sure what she expects, but she treats the rest of the synths as though they were sentient, like her. She tries to set them free and puts the damaged ones out of their misery. Leo’s timely phone call inspires her further. (Also worth mentioning, whatever Leo has discovered has caused him to do an abrupt 180 when it comes to tolerance about Niska’s violent behavior.)
Speaking of, did anyone else suspect that Karen was a synth? Talk about a revelation! How has she been able to masquerade as human for so long, especially with a partner who seems to hate synths as much as Peter does? (Even more so now that his wife has thrown him out.) Also, did you guys get the sense that she’s in love with him? Could she be another one of our special synths (which seems unlikely because none of the others have mentioned her)? Where did she come from?
Did you guys watch episode 4? What did you think? Do you have any theories as to what exactly Leo is? Do you agree that Niska is trying to start a synth revolution? Do you wonder why it is that there are only two black characters – both synths – who only exist to prop up other people’s storylines?
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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