What is human?

Based on the award-winning Swedish Science-Fiction drama Real Humans, this central question serves as the platform upon which British writers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley introduce their adaptation -- a premise as relevant as it is timeless.

Humans opens in eerie fashion, as viewers catch a first glimpse of what can only be described as a fully-operational Robot manufacturing plant.

It's not just the sheer number of uniform machines that's instantly unsettling (though there are many) nor is it the fact that they're systematically situated in perfect single-file, what's most disturbing of all is the cold, calculated, mechanical manner in which the human characters interact with these machines, as though purchasing a new iPod or upgrading a computer. This illustration is a telling one: When the machines are acting like humans and the humans are acting like machines, what is "human" after all?

We first see this interaction when Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill) takes his daughter Sophie (Pixie Davis) with him to go pick out a Synth (robotic assistant) which is later named Anita (Gemma Chan). They go through the process of "unpacking" Anita and designating Joe as primary user, along with bonding her to Joe and his daughter (akin to unpacking and setting up a new computer, only, this computer can cook, clean, read, and even drive).

We quickly learn that owning a Synth has become the new normal in this environment, and not only is it a status symbol of sorts, but it's also a highly efficient, cost-effective extended member of the family. Not everyone in the family shares Joe's enthusiasm, however, particularly his wife (Katherine Parkinson) who views Anita not only as a burden, but as a threat.

Through a flashback, we learn that there's more to Anita than following commands and playing house.

There exists among the Synth population a small fraction who are more than they let on: behind their seemingly empty gaze lies the ability to feel, to think, to transcend their programming and become something more...human (and perhaps even more than that). This small band of rogue Synths, led by Leo (Colin Morgan) is on the run, and after being ambushed in the forest by what seem to be Black Market traders that sell captured Synths to "chop shops" for profit, these traders manage to capture two Synths and drive off in an unknown van, leaving Leo and his Synth Max to pursue them on foot.

We are also introduced to Dr. George Millican (William Hurt), a once brilliant scientist (and mechanical engineer on the original Synth project) now living in isolation with only his outdated Synth Odi as company. Millican's Synth continues to deteriorate and malfunction (injuring a grocery store clerk while out shopping) but, despite being urged (somewhat forcefully) to get a government-mandated Synth upgrade, Millican refuses.

As damaged as his operating system is, Odi is still able to recall memories of Millicans' late wife, and that seems to be the root of his unwillingness to part with it.

The fact that select Synths are transcending their automata and becoming something else entirely is not an unknown phenomena, and there are those who are not only aware of this, but those that seek to eradicate it entirely. One Synth in captivity has his cover blown as he attempts to rendezvous with Leo and Max, setting up a conflict to be explored in greater depth in the episodes to come, and leaving us all with the cliffhanger of Anita walking off into the night with little Sophie in her arms (and the rest of the Hawkins family asleep in their beds).

Humans expertly blurs the line between human and machine, which is a direct parallel to what we now face as a society in this rapidly advancing digital age. It produces an uncanny valley-like response in viewers as it forces us to ask the question: what is human? At what point does creation surpass creator en route to a James Cameron-esque Judgment Day? Will technology lead us into the future, or lead us into the annihilation of it? Just because something can be done, should it?

To get these burning questions answered, tune in to Humans Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.

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