Humans season 3, episode 2: Series co-creator Jonathan Brackley reveals if Max could be the show's next villain

Following last week’s explosive opener, the new series of Humans delivered more intrigue and, yes, more heartbreak tonight, as Leo (Colin Morgan) woke from his coma, Laura (Katherine Parkinson) joined the Dryden Commission and Mia (Gemma Chan) and Niska (Emily Berrington) took a road trip.

Is new arrival Neil Sommer (Mark Bonnar) to be trusted? What is ‘Basewood’? And, perhaps most important of all, is the bromance between Leo and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) really over?

Digital Spy spoke to Humans co-creator and co-writer Jonathan Brackley for an exclusive deep dive into series three, episode two. Spoilers, of course, follow.

Episode two delivers more heartbreak, with Max rejecting Leo not once, but twice! Why drive a wedge between those two characters?

It’s part of the theme of division this series, and it’s something that would, again, test Max’s resolve. He has to make extraordinary decisions for the benefit of his people. In order to lead these people, he has to show that he’s not biased in any way. So he has to make these appalling decisions.

The last shot of episode two, the last little sequence, Jill Robertson – our director of the first block – she shot that so well. I absolutely adore that scene where Leo puts his hand up and he’s waiting. He’s waiting for Max’s hand, but Max’s hand comes into frame and just taps the side of the truck to say, “Off you go.”

Yeah, it really is heartbreaking.

Leo is alive and seems to be back at full strength – will the specifics of his ‘miraculous’ recovery be explored in future episodes?

There’s a mystery surrounding exactly what’s happened to Leo. Obviously he’s woken up now. The synthetic part of his brain has been taken out, thanks to the injury he received from Hester at the end of series two.

So he’s now functioning fully as a human again. But can he really be said to be doing that if he’s spent so much of his life as a hybrid? He’s been able to have perfect recall of all his memories for so many years, and suddenly he’s thrown back into a situation where he can only have the vaguest hazy ideas of his memories – things that come and go. He’s remembering things like a human.

It’s quite a shock for him and something that he’s got to come to terms with, and really work out who he is again – having had to do that for the first time when he was rescued and repaired by his father in the distant past, now he’s having to do it for a second time.

Max is becoming increasingly ruthless – could he become the tragic villain of this series of Humans?

Max has to make some really difficult choices, and I don’t think…. we never characterise them as good choices or bad choices. They’re impossible choices that are necessary, that are essential, that he must make in order to carry on trying to protect his people.

So absolutely. There’s a certain amount of darkness to Max’s storyline as we go through the series. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

In previous series, groups of characters have been more silo-ed off, only coming together for the grand finale. In these first two episodes, you’re mixing the characters up a lot more…

It’s certainly something we wanted to do a bit more of. As you say, series one and two, the characters have been quite fractured. They haven’t actually spent a lot of time together as a unit, except towards the end of the first series.

One of the things we really wanted to do is get Mia and Niska back together, the two sisters. Their scenes in episode two are fantastic. They’re funny and warm and emotional. Just being able to spend a bit of time with them is great for the characters, but it’s also so enjoyable for us to write and hopefully for the audience to watch.

Gemma Chan is great in that scene where Mia poses as a junker. Was that something you wrote as a demand of the plot, or were you looking in particular for the chance to let Gemma do something different?

It’s a bit of both. As we were thinking about that scene, it made sense to us that Mia is the one who’s had the most interaction with humanity, really, out of all the original Synths. So she’d be sort of capable of emulating them with a lot more ease.

So yes, when that logic came into our minds, it then becomes a lot of fun to write a scene for Gemma where she could snap into a little human walk, little human gestures, the little salute she gives the doctors as they walk off. It’s a particular favourite.

There’s some hints in this episode that Synths are continuing to evolve. Is that something we’ll see followed up?

Yeah, that’s something we wanted to explore in this series as well – how Synths could potentially evolve. Because, really, the conscious Synths, their birth wasn’t that long ago. Even our original Synths, let alone the ones that only awoke on Day Zero.

So it was always in the back of our minds, the idea that, could they become something more than their own programming, just by the virtue of having existed longer on the planet? Having experienced more, having felt more, would that in turn mean they became something different? That they became more?

That’s definitely something that we’re going to expand upon in the rest of the series.

The seed was sown in episode 1, but in episode 2, Karen (Ruth Bradley) and Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) finally come face to face. How did you decide where to take Karen’s story next after Pete’s death?

Well, that’s all borne out of what happens at the end of series two in terms of Sam (Billy Jenkins) becoming conscious. Karen was originally built as a replacement for Leo’s mother, and was supposed to be a carer for him. But obviously she was rejected by Leo.

But now with Sam, she can fulfil that role – the role that she was destined for,

You’ve got the new character of Neil coming in… what was the inspiration behind that character?

We wanted to have someone join the Dryden Commission alongside Laura, someone that was not just going to be a romantic interest, but someone to be an intellectual equal – not that Joe isn’t, of course! But someone who could converse with her about Synths and about those sorts of ideas surrounding the ethics of Synth interaction…

So we wanted someone who was not only smart like that, but also very charming and disarming. It was an absolute treat to get Mark Bonnar in, because he is in fact extraordinary charming and very funny! So that was a big help for the character. There’s a lot of really great stuff coming up with Mark in the rest of the series.

There’s the new mystery surrounding ‘Basewood’ as well. It’s hinted that it’s some sort of anti-Synth initiative – how long are we going to have to wait to find out the truth?

[laughs] Oh, that’s a good question! Not that long. Little bits will be revealed piece by piece over the series. I can’t say anything more about that without ruining it all!

Humans continues next Thursday (May 31) at 9pm on Channel 4.

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