The Rogue Robot
I’m a real sucker when it comes to sci-fi, with my favourite sub-genre revolving around killer robots and androids. Ever since Classic Doctor Who’s story, The Robots of Death, I’ve been enthralled by this idea of technology rising up and overthrowing humanity. Detroit: Become Human remains one of my favourite games of this modern era while Humans, AI and iRobot did well to produce compelling android-centric stories.
Better Than Us is Netflix’s latest Russian Original Series, one that takes these tried-and-tested concepts, adds a unique Eastern-European flavour and a 16 episode arc to boot. It’s not the most original narrative out there, but certainly has enough to whet the appetite in the wake of Humans’ recent cancellation announcement.
Episode 1 begins with an introduction to divorced Dad and medical examiner Georgy Safronov, who awakens to find his robot looming over him. After a brief exchange together, he hurries over to pick up his kids, Sonya and Egor, but his Son isn’t there, rebelling during his teenager years. Unfortunately, he runs into problems with some bullies outside, narrowly escaping a beat-down thanks to a spray-can blast to the face.
Meanwhile, Sonya and Georgy fly a kite outside before she lets slip that the family is moving to Australia. Heading home, he gives his ex-wife an ultimatum regarding their kids, which doesn’t go down too well with her.
Is sleeping with a sex bot cheating? It’s certainly an interesting concept and one that brings Cronos, the company responsible for the creation of bots, into the fold. Company executive Viktor feels the pressure of competition and acquires Arisa, an advanced A.I. prototype. Unsure on any potential issues, thanks in part to 20 pages of documentation missing, they charge the bot up while one of the workers, Sergey, arrives intent on having some fun with the android alone.
Arisa defends herself mid-charge though, strangling the man and violating rule 1 of robotics, leaving him crumpled in a heap on the floor. Gunshots ricochet around the room as Viktor hurries back to his office where he finds Arisa gone and the worker on the floor in shock at his comrade dead. Viktor immediately calls Gleb and goes on the hunt for his bot.
Figuring out Arisa would head to a nearby charger, they shut off power to the city as a way of bringing her out of hiding. It works too, as she’s picked up by two bots in a portable van en-route to the morgue with Sergey’s corpse. Meanwhile, Yury is warned against saying anything about Sergey’s death, but he lets slip the truth to his pregnant girlfriend, Gorla.
As Georgy straps Sonya in the car to take her home, he notices the van arrive with Sergey’s body. He speaks to the driver inside while Sonya inadvertently finds herself becoming a first-level user to Arisa, whom she speaks to in the back of the van. As she heads inside to learn more about Sonya’s family, Georgy drops his daughter home and apologizes for the early hostility between them both.
As he heads back to the morgue to check on Sergey’s body again, he notices bruising around the neck and his spine broken. Sensing something is up, he tells Cronos to get the body out of there. Before he can follow up on this request, Egor arrives demanding his paper-work to fly to Australia. After much deliberation, the children are left in Georgy’s care for two weeks prior to leaving for Australia; a final goodbye send-off before heading off to the other side of the world.
Meanwhile Viktor comes under fire after losing the AI, made worse by Igor showing him some incriminating footage of Arisa as a killer-bot, having strangled one of the workers in the factory she was created in. As the episode closes out, Arisa shows up at Sonya’s house.
As the first episode closes out, Better Than Us does a good job bringing us into this cyber-centric story with androids living among us. The episode is well-paced, with some good practical effects used throughout which is certainly a welcome change from the usual slew of CGI you’d expect from a series like this. Although Georgy’s back-story feels a little cliched, given the number of different shows that have portrayed this in the past, there’s enough here to make for some interesting developments to grow his persona.
Better Than Us certainly piques the interest though and it’ll be intriguing to see what direction the show goes from here.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When Every Episode Has Been Reviewed!