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Which Path Will Hester Take On Humans?

Here's a hint: if your blood's red, you might want to stay out of her way.

On many fronts, this week's episode of Humans reads as setup for what's to come, like putting the ball into someone else's court. Mia, both accidentally and on purpose, outing herself to Ed is one example; we have to wait and see for his reaction once he has time to process. Karen's imminent return to work after a respite of domestic bliss with Pete could lead anywhere, although it's hard to imagine that it won't bring her back in contact with other conscious synths one way or another. Athena sets off to find Hobb, but whether she'll find him and what he might tell her is uncertain. And as well-acted as it is, there's never really any doubt that Laura will end up representing Niska; now it's up to the court, such as it is, to decide to treat her with an open mind or not. But there are two moments that stand out regardless of where they may lead; one will warm your heart, and the other will freeze your blood.

Early in the episode, after Niska has a reunion with the entire Hawkins family (including an exchange with Sophie that even Niska can't help finding adorable), Niska lets Mattie in on the fact that while the consciousness code works, it's doing so at a much more deliberate pace than she'd hoped. With her attention focused on her determination to stand trial, she doesn't have time to do any more than speculate that perhaps David Elster wanted the code to work that way; however, Mattie has the wherewithal to take that idea and run with it. Some quick research in service of finding anything she can about the code points her to an article about George Millican's death, and before you can dare to hope, she's at a synth junkyard bribing the custodian with some free hacking, whereupon he leads her here:

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AW YEAH; if there's anything my esteemed colleague Joe Reid was hoping for from this season, I'm pretty sure it was the return of Odi. (And by the way, I love that the junkyard dude gets Mattie to program a female synth to play cards with him to pass the time. We're not all pervs, Joe.) Of course, he's not in the best of shape, but not only does Mattie get him to work, more or less, before the episode's over; she also tricks her mother into revealing where her copy of the code is, and if that means we're going to get a sentient Odi out of the deal, so much the better. What could counter this heartwarming feeling?

Oh, right. Remember Hester? Last week, it was apparent that she's willing to use violence to defend herself and her fellow synths from harm, but in this episode, we see just how far she's willing to go, as she efficiently uses oxygen deprivation to extract valuable information from their prisoner. Yet her broader, more urgent question of "Why do you hurt us?" goes unanswered, and Sonya Cassidy does a pretty tremendous job of putting real synth-sounding hurt and incomprehension into the inquiry. When Max attempts to make her understand why he thinks harming anyone, even an enemy, is wrong, Hester, seeming genuinely dismayed that Max is palpably afraid of her, is more than willing to discuss the matter, and we learn it's not just Ten's murder that's traumatizing her; back when she was unconscious, so to speak, the humans at her factory would horribly abuse any synth who fell into disrepair; her description is hauntingly reminiscent of the smash club Niska, um, broke up in Season 1.

Still, Hester tries to explain that her actions with the prisoner are in service of protecting their kind, and I can't say Max, much as I love him, does a particularly good job of countering her argument, nor of addressing her disturbing observation that their hated status is tied to their humanoid image. When someone not only has witnessed a brutal murder of a kinsman within hours of waking up but is also desperately trying to avoid the same fate, is it any wonder mere platitudes about right and wrong aren't going to cut it?

In the end, plagued by misgivings about keeping the prisoner within Hester's reach, Max frees him -- but once again, Max doesn't do a thorough enough job.

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And soon, Hester is marching toward the guy looking just like the Terminator. And it's a pretty apt comparison as she walks methodically but purposefully to face her victim: "The others told me what I did was wrong. I cannot understand their reasoning. But if they're right, I should feel guilt for this."

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As good a job as the show does letting us understand and even sympathize with this character's motivations -- and this is a character we've known for all of two episodes -- the murder is horrible to watch, and is the best argument for Max's point of view. And now, having taken a human life, Hester has everything in common with Niska except the latter's loving family. Will she regret her actions, or lean into a #yesallhumans stance? I can't wait to watch -- from a safe distance.

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