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Independent TV review. Not affiliated with any part of the production of Humans. All social media posts embedded with permission.
With ongoing talks suggesting the "possibility" of Humans season 4, it's time to speculate what the next season could hold for the synths and humans of the show. Season 3 ending on a series of cliffhangers, including Mattie's synth-human hybrid baby, Niska's new form in connection with V, and Laura's arrest could set up an exciting fourth season. But perhaps the least expected was the brutal death of Mia—the center of the show and a beloved protagonist from the beginning—as she took a courageous nonviolent stand for peace between synths and humans. Many fans are upset at her untimely death. Really, our Mia deserved so much better...
A Symbol of Peace
Fortunately, there are are many plot points that could make a dramatic return for Mia both plausible and absolutely amazing. Central is the symbol she has become, especially throughout season 3. A nonviolent leader. A beacon of hope. An innocent Christ figure who died so that others could live in peace. What better way to continue her narrative than to have her return triumphant over the hate and oppression that threatened to take her down?
In fact, the qualities that brought Mia into the "inevitable" events of her death—according to V—make her resurrection all the more fitting. The writers echo the mysterious V's words in an interview following the finale:
And we sort of felt like that self-sacrificing quality is the essence of the character in so many ways. And when we started her on this path, we felt that this could be the culmination of all of the stories of series three in many ways, in that every great movement, you could argue, needs a martyr. (Digital Spy)
In a recent interview Gemma Chan, too, acknowledged the fit with Mia's journey, without liking the event of her death (we feel the same way! 😭).
"I didn't have a desire to leave the show. I absolutely love working on the show, but it seemed the more that we talked about it, it seemed it would be something that would be in keeping with the character.
"It seemed like the kind of natural progression of where the character was going and in terms of the sacrifices that she had made already, trying to protect her family and to protect both humans and Synths.
"I came around to it, and then that was that. But it certainly wasn't me asking to be written out or anything like that." (Digital Spy)
"When I filmed those final scenes, it was incredibly emotional," she said. "I felt like I was killing off a creation, really. It felt very strange. It was quite upsetting really, filming those final scenes." (Digital Spy)
So in a different sense than the apparently transformed Niska, Mia has become the show's chosen one through the entire evolution of her narrative. The firstborn of the conscious synthetics, she spent the early years of her life largely out of the public eye—caring for her Elster and Hawkins families with gentleness and grace. She was propelled into public action by the injustice her people were facing. Mia proclaimed a message of peace to humans and synths alike, and her supporters multiplied both online and in her hometown. When the opposition grew so strong that Basswood and the hate groups threatened the very existence of her people, she willingly sacrificed her life for the lives of her people. The next chapter in this familiar and captivating narrative can only be her resurrection, bringing hope and new life to synths everywhere. In what context? There are many possibilities: Major victories for synth rights. A new evolution for the continually adapting Elsters. The ability to revive other synths as the first Elster synth—remember the Elster "tree" and its role as a non-corporeal mind space—to upload her consciousness (more on that soon!).
A Pillar of Hope
A resurrection arc for Mia would be such a victory for everything she stands for—the power of love and unity and common understanding. For many real-life viewers as well, Mia has come to represent each of us who must take a stand against injustice in daily life. So it is devastating that her life was cut short in the middle of her mission. Though her sacrifice, too, had a purpose, it should not be the end of her journey. Such an end for this character in context—facing oppression, standing courageously for the rights of her people, and played by a woman of color—looks too much like a final defeat. To see Mia return and finish what she started, even expand the synth rights movement beyond its roots, would send such a message of hope to all who look up to her. The revelation that injustice couldn't keep her down would make for a beautiful, breathtaking season.
A Nonviolent Leader
The movement needs Mia's leadership. Niska was right when she stated that she couldn't lead it alone. Niska's energy, determination, and power—especially with V in the picture—must be balanced by the gentle openness of Mia. Only Mia has the combination of critical factors to make this movement a success: such valuable experience and perspective, her united base of human allies, a firm commitment to nonviolence and integration, well-known and respected status in both human and synth communities, and the awe-inspiring wisdom to direct such an important cause. The moments of solidarity between Mia and Niska made season 3, episode 2 iconic. Imagine them leading the revolution side by side, supporting one another as sisters and champions for their people. And how wonderful for Mia to rejoin her supporters for a celebratory walk, undefeated by those who sought to destroy her!
"I just want to live."
The other major arc which sets the stage for a fulfilling return for Mia is the journey of awe-inspiring growth she's begun early in the show. We've seen her evolve from doing what she was made for to living according to her own goals and values. An interview with the show's writers demonstrates how like each of the Elster synths, Mia has evolved from season 1.
Vincent: In Mia’s case, the whole experience at the Hawkins’ has been an awakening for her. Her eyes have been opened to other facets of human experience. Season two will have to do with her investigating herself further and finding out who she is, what she can be. (Variety)
Throughout season 2 Mia asserts that this kind of growth is essential to her narrative. She tells Leo: "I want to be around people. I want to find out who I am, Leo. Not what I was made for, but who I might become." Additionally, Mia makes it clear throughout the second and third season that she wants to live. Aside from that iconic moment with a reporter in season 3, Mia speaks with Leo again in season 2: "I'm just trying to live. You should too. If there was no one to save, no one to protect, if all you had to do was live your life, who would you be?"
"Not what I was made for, but who I might become."
We find Mia starting to realize some of these goals as she begins a relationship with Ed in season 2. After the heartbreaking betrayal, she is reluctant to trust most humans again, rejoining Leo and Hester as they attempt to free the captured synths from Qualia. It is Niska in season 3 episode 2, in a beautiful moment of solidarity with her sister, who convinces Mia to try again. In the next episode we see Mia rent a flat in a human neighborhood, in a courageous move toward integration. This, along with her chance encounter with allies Iris and Dorian, propels her into a visible leadership role in the peaceful movement for synth rights. But in the time from her new responsibilities until her death, the opportunities for Mia's personal journey are virtually discarded. She has (temporarily) given up on her own dreams by the middle of season 3, instead hoping that "some other synth will get to live the life she dreams of. A life... looking out at the sea without feeling afraid." That was Mia's personal vision for her life, pushed aside by the demands of the revolutionary role. In saving the lives of others, she has missed the chance to live her own life.
What a beautiful season 4 opener it could make for Mia to be back in a restful livelihood by the sea, taking a break for recovery and growth. Imagine a parallel to season 2 episode 1 where she lives a quiet life with a few close friends and family. Free at the moment from her responsibilities to her movement and community, all she has to do is live in the moment. She's free to create artwork, look out at the sea and spend quality time alone or in wholesome social connection. She finally has the chance to be simply aware of her thoughts and feelings as well as the environment around her. It's not unlike the experience of a synth becoming conscious for the first time—remember Flash's awakening into a suddenly bright and vivid world! After a much needed time for rest and rejuvenation, Mia's eventual return to synth rights is all the more thrilling!
"We've hardly lived ourselves... We're children."
For her entire life, Mia has been responsible for the care of others. In season 2 episode 2 she revealed her profound sense of abandonment: still young herself, she never experienced a childhood where she could be taught and nurtured because she was a caregiver herself from the start. It's time for Mia to have that opportunity and her recovery process could be an ideal context. We've seen her accomplish the big moments—living with humans, walking to Dryden, working for synth rights—and now we should celebrate her little milestones. Regaining speech. Walking unaided. And eventually, episodes later, coming out of "hiding" and reuniting with her supporters for a triumphant walk...
Mia was there when Niska opened her eyes for the first time. She tied Leo's shoelaces and tended to his wounds. Now it's time for her family to give back to her and let her experience receiving care. Along the way, Mia would learn to accept the help of others and value her own life too. Learning to resolve issues and carry out her role without sacrificing herself will be a difficult but fulfilling process for Mia. She deserves a chance to live freely and find happiness, without having to feel responsible for everyone else at all times.
A Time to Heal
Perhaps most importantly to good storytelling, resurrecting Mia Elster would make for a positive viewer experience. Because it fits with the symbolism of her arc, it would not take away from the power of her death and everything she accomplished through it. Mia gave her life to save her global community of both synths and humans, and she can return to usher in an era of renewal and rebuilding. An interview with cast member Tom Goodman-Hill revealed the general theme for the first three seasons, at a time when the status of season 4 was unknown.
"You know, it's inception, fruition, fallout. But it's interesting. We've taken on some interesting new writers on this series, including Daisy Coulam, who's fantastic – she's got ideas of her own, I think." (Digital Spy)
Birth, growth, death—it's the rhythm of life. What follows in the realm of literature along with the cycles of living? Rebirth. Renewal. New life. The resurrection of such a symbolic character could be the start of a beautiful new season with the theme of new life. We've already seen a preview of the possibility for synth motherhood, through hybrid nature, following Leo's injury. V did say Leo had healing blood—remind anyone of that Star Trek: Into Darkness resurrection arc? And there is always a chance for the orange eyes to become conscious somehow. Karen, too, achieved the authentic motherhood she dreamed of through her own sacrifice, overriding her self-protective code to give her life for Sam. With her doubts of her ability to be a mother shattered, she could now be free to raise a family in her recovered, transcendent state. Mia (and Karen as well) could be the forerunner(s) of a community of synths who have not only survived adversity but grown and thrived far beyond it. This would send the perfect message of hope to viewers who identify with the characters' struggles.
Finally, both the viewers and the characters need a break from all the fallout, devastation and grief. A season of resurrection and recovery for the beloved main families of the show - with Mia always the heart uniting them both - would be an uplifting, refreshing viewer experience. Ivanno Jeremiah discussed the heavy burdens of grief and difficult leadership his character Max has had to carry throughout season 4:
Aw, man! Imagine the most loving man in the world loses his partner and the love of his life. It’s an injustice. When I read that, it really broke my heart. The thing about Max and this particular grief is that he’s so busy that I don’t think he’s even had a chance to stop. With the impending doom and the threat of extinction, he barely even gets a private moment to grieve. I just pray it doesn’t catch up to him. You do need time to grieve. (amc.com)
The Elsters deserve better.
We haven't seen the Elster siblings all together in so long. The moment is overdue for more of the sweet family experiences that make this show so beautiful. In fact, this wouldn't be the first time main synth characters have been resurrected in the show. Leo came back, Max escaped certain death, Odi is back albeit in a new form, Mia recovered in the season 2 finale, and the writers have expressed interest in a return for Fred:
SAM: I think it's fair to say that we tried very hard to bring Sope Dirisu back as Fred [from the first series]. He was a core member of the Elster 'family', as it were – one of the original prototypes. And again, the fans constantly say, "Where is Fred? Where is Fred?" "Fred's still in the crypt!" – it's become a bit of a running joke! (Digital Spy)
#WheresFred indeed!! And after a series of male characters getting a chance at new life, it's time to give the women the same opportunity—starting with Mia but hopefully extending to others such as Karen. It's only fair to our sister synths! 👩🏻
A Need for Hope
It may be true that real life is often tragic, and the deaths of innocent people are all too common. But fiction is always storytelling, and stories are essential to the human experience. Our characters are symbols of broader ideas. At a time when life is already full of difficulty and discouragement, we need a story of hope in the midst of overwhelmingly negative media content. Shocking endings and scary twists are not what everyone is looking for in a show. A study showed that many people, especially those who already experience difficulty in relationships, can be devastated by the loss of a beloved character. The viewers of Humans are no exception, and Mia's death was upsetting to many (myself included). It is natural for viewers to identify with characters and become emotionally invested in their journeys - this is the human experience of stories. Not everyone wants to be kept "on tenterhooks at all times" or feel that "nobody is safe" in context of the characters they love. The time is right for a refreshingly hopeful season full of renewal, revival and reunion—beginning with Mia Elster.
A Win-win Situation
Earlier in the interview it appeared that bringing back Odi was as much of a joy for the writers as it was for the fans:
So when you wrote Odi out at the end of the second series, you didn't have any inkling he'd be back?
SAM: Jon and I want to bring everybody back. Because we love these characters, and we love these brilliant actors. But some of the characters we haven't been able to bring back. We tried to bring them back and have not been able to. I think it's a little bit self-indulgent of us how much we try to bring people back! (Digital Spy)
Yes, keep bringing them back! The fans like it, I promise. 😊 Here's to a season 4 with new life for Mia and beyond. A "renewed" season would be a sensational and life-affirming experience for a diverse group of fans.
A Famous Face
From the architects of Basswood to the ranks of her supporters, everyone knows Mia Elster—in-universe and among the fans. The writers have stated multiple times that Mia—and the wonderful acting of Gemma Chan—have been central to the show's success from the beginning.
"In season 1, her depiction of Anita and then Mia was absolutely vital and crucial to the success of the show. It simply wouldn't be Humans without Gemma. She's been the face of the show." (Digital Spy)
Recall that she didn't want to leave this uniquely beautiful show... 💜
"Humans has been such a huge part of my life, and I've got such love for the show and for the character and for everyone involved with it," she said." (Digital Spy)
And after the overwhelming success of her new film Crazy Rich Asians, fans are flocking to her other film and TV roles, including Humans, to watch for the first time. The rise in new viewers through Mia is a good sign that a season 4 with Mia could be the most popular season yet. Without her, much of this new viewership, as well as a number of existing viewers, may be lost. Humans is Channel 4's most watched show in 20 years and the rise in popularity of Gemma Chan can only make it better. Of course she's going to be busy with other projects—they'll be amazing too—but the production is known to be flexible. While Mia is taking a break to recover it's okay to focus on other characters and arcs (for example, finding Fred and Connie...)!
Will has a semi-regular role on Shadowhunters, which films in Canada. On a logistical level, was it quite tricky to pin him down?
JON: It was, yes. We had to do some delicate schedule finagling in order to allow Will to come back. But he was great about it, and he was obviously very keen to come back to the show. When everyone's determined to make it work, usually it works. (Digital Spy)
"I know my fight is a long one."
Essentially, Mia's journey just isn't over. There is so much left to explore with this wonderful, fascinating, and beloved character full of depth. She has certainly grown and accomplished so much in the past three seasons. Mia has gone from first being open to life with humans as a free conscious synth, to striving for their integration with the synth community. She's traveled far outside of her comfort zone in a journey from a quiet life to a bold public stand for synth rights. And yet, Mia is still young from both a synth and human standpoint, and she still has much to learn. She has yet to settle into a role and purpose outside of her responsibilities to others. Who wouldn't love to watch her expand her career as an artist, or make her own friends and family as we've seen other synths do? If Karen is also to be a part of her ongoing journey (as many of us hope), they are in the perfect position to support each other. Together they could adjust to re-embodied consciousness and finding a new life beyond duty, sacrifice and the roles they were made for. We, as well as the show's writers, know that Mia is intelligent and thoughtful:
We felt like it was really exciting, because it was true to the character. It was meant to be moving, but it also was about how sophisticated and intelligent she was; that she makes a conscious choice to put herself directly in the firing line, because she knows the power of that image – that she had that kind of political savvy was really thrilling to us. (Digital Spy)
So it would be consistent for Mia, like heroes before her—think Aslan and comic book favorites—to have a future-thinking contingency plan through the upload of her consciousness.
"The upload is underway."
From a writing perspective, the resurrection of Mia Elster is not only possible but strongly foreshadowed in previous episodes. Remember her epic return in the season 2 finale! To this day season 2, episode 8 is one of the best, most compelling episodes and (in my opinion) the show's top season finale. It combined the best of what makes Humans awesome—the family moments, the authentic feelings, the excitement intertwined with hope. It was breathtaking to see the Elster and Hawkins families working together to save Mia—risking all the uncertainty and potentially world-altering consequences of Day Zero in order to make it possible.
Importantly, it was revealed in season 2, episode 5 (that betrayal!) that Mia is capable of uploading her consciousness through a direct uplink with a mobile phone or other device. She did so to preserve her conscious mind before resetting back to Anita when captured by Ed. When restored in the following episode, an emotional parallel is set up as Mia realizes Niska is in trouble, detecting the instruction for synths to capture Niska. In the season 3 finale, after V's connection is finished, Niska's attention is fixed on Mia's death. In both cases, each sister's entire concern is for the other. The beautiful sisterhood between Mia and Niska could be central to Mia's resurrection narrative.
Mia's skill with consciousness transference is reminiscent of Qualia research—remember Athena's insistence on studying the Elsters because of their unique abilities. And it is where an easily missed comment in season 2, episode 7 could set up a continuation of Karen's narrative as well: "The upload is underway." Recall that Karen wished to upload her mind into a new body or digital form, due to her similarity to Beatrice Elster. This one moment indicates that at least a critical part of the process was actually completed.
Knowing that Mia's consciousness could plausibly be safe in an uploaded form opens up a variety of options for her epic comeback. Mattie and Leo have already proven capable of working with synth consciousness including the famous code and the critical care provided to Hester and Max. They have even restored Mia's consciousness before, from its place hidden in her sensory data. In the season 3 finale, Leo was motivated to seek out the possibility of resurrecting Mia, and he could certainly be open to additional help. After the encounter with Karen along with the new connection between Niska and V, the beginning of common ground between Athena Morrow and the Elsters wouldn't be out of the question. Athena has a deep understanding of the loss of a family member, along with the effort to bring her back through consciousness upload technology. Having created V as a way to resurrect Ginny, Athena would likely be supportive of an attempt to restore Mia's consciousness. Niska, too, has new powers associated with V, and the extent of her capabilities haven't been explored in full yet. This could be the opportunity. Niska has proven again and again to be dedicated to saving her family. In collaboration with Mattie, she was willing to risk the life-altering global chaos of Day Zero for the chance to save Mia's life. Her subdued response to her sister's death is one of many elements pointing to at least partial control of Niska's consciousness by V. The moment Niska regains her own free will—a perfect task for Mia's (and perhaps Karen's) online consciousness keeping V's in check—she would do anything in her power to bring back Mia.
A Synth Online
The distinct possibility of V becoming the next season's antagonist makes it all the more necessary to have a hero to fight her, especially as Niska may be compromised. With the unique adaptations and resilience of the Elsters—such as Niska resisting motor command code, Karen transcending her programming and Max demonstrating superior strength—Mia is in a position to combat a superpower like V. The additional advantage of having her consciousness uploaded could allow her to fight the AI over the internet as well. Mia is also one of only a few living synths with the Qualia chip remaining in her head. As she made a full recovery from its effects in season 2, episode 8, it's possible her ability to adapt has granted her immunity to it in the future. In a parallel to the season 2 finale—and the writers have a habit of creating amazing throwbacks—Mia could determine that like Hester, there is no alternative to a final battle with V. If Mia convinces V to connect with her as with Niska, the chip could overcome V while leaving Mia unharmed. Alternately, the idea of creating a unique body for V using the information in David Elster's notes is certainly intriguing. Mia and Karen would be ideal guides as the young AI navigates the issues of identity and relationship to the human figure V was made to replace, not unlike Karen.
Echoes of the Past
Mia's previous resurrection is a thrilling resolution to the truly amazing season 2 episode 8. As part of the enduring legacy of 2.08, the season 3 finale made numerous references to the previous two season endings. Parallels and references to earlier plots are not only common in this show but part of its singular beauty. Spotting an encore to an old favorite scene brings excitement to dedicated fans and watchers - Mia's return in season 4 could be the grandest one yet.
In one parallel unfolding in 3.08, Leo rushes to Mia's side and gently holds her face with the affirmation, "We can fix her, we can fix her. There's always a way." This is reminiscent of Niska's gesture to her sister in 2.08 before she begins discussing a plan to restore her with Mattie Hawkins. As soon as Mattie confirms that uploading the code (if done quickly) offers a chance of saving Mia, Niska insists on it: "It's the one chance we have to save her." They are aware of the potentially devastating consequences of Day Zero, but at the same time Max assures Mattie of the hope it could offer too. Mattie agrees, and Mia along with the rest of synth kind are awoken. Leo's next line in 3.08 is addressed directly to Mia: "You were made to love me. You didn't have to, but you did. I'll always be grateful for that." Traveling further back in the show's timeline, a conversation between Mia and Karen in the season 1 finale is echoed.
Mia: "Don't kill our family. Look at Leo, he'll die too. You were made for him."
Karen: "He didn't want me."
Mia: "He does now."
Karen: "He wants Beatrice. I'm not her."
Mia: "No you're not. She didn't have a choice. You do."
Following Mia's gentle plea, Karen reverses her attack on the other Elsters' minds and each of them survives. Max is healed from the previous damage to his consciousness following his injury. The Elsters are all briefly reunited before Fred must be powered down and left in isolation due to the code controlling him. Niska assures her brother, "It's not the end, Max. He knows how to survive better than any of us." Reminiscent of Leo's final gesture to Mia in 3.08, Max brings his forehead to the only seemingly lifeless Fred's: "We'll be together again, brother."
The stark difference between the first two seasons' conclusions and the season 3 finale becomes even more apparent with these parallels in mind. Although both 1.08 and 2.08 were filled with intense moments where characters' very survival was at stake, each episode ended with a clear message of hope. The season 1 and 2 finales came to a satisfying conclusion as the Elster and Hawkins families at the heart of the show survived, to the relief and joy of the viewers. The bond these families share carried them out of certain destruction, alive and even closer than before. The consciousness code gave rise to new life and brought excitement for the season to come. Leo's uncertain fate in 2.08 offered a great deal of suspense, but it was clear he had a chance of survival - leading to his celebrated return in season 3. And all of this made the first two season finales a beautiful experience. The season 3 finale, however, carried far more despair than hope. The beloved Elster family has been shattered with Karen already lost, Mia dead and Niska changed almost beyond recognition. V has promised a form of new life but unlike the newly awakening synths in 2.08, the result is not yet visible. The moments shared between Leo and Max are the only remaining sign of the beloved Elster family bond.
However, all is not lost as the events of future episodes have the power to reframe past developments - this is the evolution of a story. The overwhelming grief of 3.08 can be transformed into suspense for a bigger picture - the return of Mia and the reunion of the Elster and Hawkins families. Tears in the night at Dryden can give way to joy in the morning, and fans will be overjoyed to celebrate with these wonderful characters. Brothers and sisters will be together again. It's not the end.
With the popularity of Gemma Chan and her iconic synth—as well as the opportunity for a beautifully compelling recovery narrative—the return of Mia Elster would be a joy to all sides of the show. An uplifting season, ushered in by this beloved character's resurrection, would touch the hearts of viewers everywhere. Such a hopeful and exciting season 4 could certainly be a fan favorite, rewarding to everyone involved in the production. Mia is the heart of Humans and we'd love to see her again in seasons to come.
SAM: Well, we wouldn't be talking about season 3 if it hadn't been for Gemma, because she made that part her own. In season one, her depiction of Anita and then Mia was absolutely vital and crucial to the success of the show. It simply wouldn't be Humans without Gemma. She's been the face of the show.
Besides... Mia is awesome.
It's true. 😎