Public Service Announcement 7 of 2013: Being Human

Being Human – or the latest iteration of it, at least – returns to British screens tonight (Sunday) at 10PM on BBC3, and l don’t really know what to do about it.

After a woeful start, season 4 did improve as it went on, ending with an episode so strong and bold that I thought I’d be back for season 5. A year down the line, though, I’m a lot less sure.

I’ve always thought the show should have ended when we lost Mitchell (whom I adored, hopelessly and completely, in case I haven’t said it 17 million times already), and now, a season on, Annie and George are gone too, and I’m finding it impossible not to hate the idea of this new flat-sharing “ghost, vampire and werewolf” even trying to replace the original ones that I loved. Which I know sounds utterly mad, but, sweet though Hal and Tom may be, they can’t ever be Mitchell and George, and I can’t bloody bear Alex; the show returning tonight is now really “Being Human: The New Class” with a group of knock-offs I don’t care about stepping into the roles of characters I loved so much that it was (ok, still is) borderline unhealthy.

Sigh. I think that’s probably my decision made but it’s late, I’m tired and it’s been a very long week. If I lighten up, change my mind and tune in to the new season, I’ll let you know. If you give it a shot meantime, tell me if you think I should.

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Being Human s4 ep 8

“All you had to do was save the world.”

No pressure, then.

Yes, after weeks of chat about it, the Old Ones have finally arrived.   Led by the unspeakably evil Mr Snow – in a spectacularly frightening turn by the brilliant Mark Gatiss – they’re here, not just for the end of the season but for the end of the world, and it’s up to our trio of reluctant heroes and Alex (really?) to stop them.  The question, however, is whether they’re prepared to sacrifice Eve to do it.

Everyone deals with the dilemma in different ways.  Tom and Hal try to find other ways to save humanity, and there are some funny, sweet scenes as their friendship continues to grow, bomb-making, blood-drinking and all.  Alex flits about taking orders and making forced wisecracks, setting herself up as the new ghost on the block.  And much is made of poor Annie’s agonies, once again forced to choose between the person she loves (Mitchell, Eve, whoever) and the rest of the world (the gruesome scene involving Cutler’s attempt on Eve’s life is particularly uncomfortable to watch, if not entirely convincing). 

But, agonies notwithstanding, of course it’s ultimately up to the only original character left, Annie, to her usual end-of-season thing: set aside the ditziness the writers saddle her with when she’s not saving the world, dig out the warrior queen under the grey cardie and Ugg boots and kick some bad guy ass.

I think I made clear from the start that this wasn’t the story I wanted this season to tell, but I can’t deny that this episode told it incredibly well. Very few other shows would dare to have Annie do what she did — I still can’t believe Being Human actually dared — and finish her story that way.  It was controversial, but, as an episode, it was also exciting, compelling and fitting for a show that hasn’t shied away from dark themes and desperate choices in the past, and looks like it doesn’t intend to start now.

Is Annie gone, though?  I hope so.  I still think her story should have finished with Mitchell and George’s, but now it’s come to another (super)natural end, and I hope that, her business finally finished, her boys are waiting for her behind that door.  Dragging her back like they did George would be a further slap in the face of the sacrifice she made; the two codas at the end already took enough away from it.

Regardless, it has been confirmed that the show will return with a 5th season next year, with, I’m guessing, the new ghost, werewolf and vampire battling the world’s clean-up crew.  It’s definitely not the show it used to be, and this season started dreadfully, but I’d say it’s still, for now, a show worth watching.  I think I’ll be back for the 5th season too.

Being Human s4 ep 7

Not really my cup of tea, but much better than I expected, this week’s episode found each of the main characters going off down separate roads, setting things up for next week’s big finish. 

We began with a flashback to the 1950’s and how Hal and Cutler met.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of Being Human flashbacks, and nothing in this changed my mind, but I have to admit their story and the 180 degree shift in their relationship between then and now was well-plotted, well-played and quite chilling.  I still don’t want to see it again, but they made it work. 

As we visited Hal’s past however, Annie visited his future and everyone else’s with Ghost Eve.  Particularly impressive given the low budget they’re working with and the unimaginable horrors they managed to suggest using little more than voices in the background, this was, again, well-plotted, well-played,  and quite chilling, but a quasi-Terminator story is really not what I watch this show for and, to be honest, I don’t think Eve’s plan to avert the apocalypse makes any sense.  This is of course always the trouble with time travel – if Annie kills Baby Eve because Grown-up Eve tells her to, then there is no Grown-up Eve to tell her to kill Baby Eve, so then Annie doesn’t kill Baby Eve so… if people start talking about alternative timelines and this turns into Fringe, I will not be responsible for my actions. 

Anyway, with Hal and Annie pondering past sins and future ones, Tom was left largely to his own devices, clearing the way for the good-natured but gullible McNair Junior to be coaxed into Cutler’s trap.  Clever stuff here, with a fair few shocks and surprises.  I am a bit annoyed that, when we should have been averting carnage, we were wasting time hanging about with the ridiculously annoying Alex – SHUT UP, ALEX! – who is a complete irritant no matter which state of existence she’s in, but at least, apart from the weird DT’s or whatever it was he was having, Hal mostly kept his head.  For this week.  Whether he’ll still have it for the finale, given the cliffhanger, is another matter.

Being Human s4 ep 6

Oddly, the song “Puppy Love” came up in conversation at work a few days ago.  I hadn’t heard it in years, mention it once and suddenly there’s an entire episode of Being Human built around it. Suppose I’d better not say anything about “Crazy Horses” in the next wee while, just in case..

Enough with the Osmonds, on with the review: now our core trio have settled in to the house, it’s time for them to venture out into the world around it, so this week’s episode has Tom and Hal dipping their toes in the dangerous waters of supernatural dating.  There are a plenty of good things about this storyline – the increasingly sweet and funny relationship between the two of them being the main one  – but sadly that doesn’t include the girls they’ve picked.  Allison, Tom’s fellow werewolf, debating coach and um, “Puppy Love” (yes, I see what they did there) is clearly supposed to be quirkily charming but I found her quirkily annoying.  However, at least Allison has a personality, grating though it (and most of her strained dialogue) may be; Alex is a barely-written-at-all plot device whose sole characteristic is an inexplicable determination to go out with Hal despite there being absolutely nothing about his behaviour around her that suggests he’s a) interested or b) sane.  We know the poor boy is scared and out of practice, but she doesn’t know that – come on, realistically, she’d have run a mile.  And not come back again.

Those issues aside, the storyline is still fun, though, albeit not as fun as Annie’s: she accidentally kills grumpy old neighbour Emrys and spends the rest of the ep trying to help him sort his unfinished business and cross over.  Emrys is obnoxious, pervy and hilarious and that sub-plot is great – funny, sharp and very Being Human.  I was sorry to see him go, and even sorrier when I saw who came in after him; after a few episodes where it’s been background rather than anything, it looks like the Special Baby rubbish is about to come back to centre stage.

Being Human s4 ep 5

Look, I watch all kinds of weirdness.  Vampires, werewolves, witches, whatevers, it’s not like I’m wedded to gritty realism.  But this episode of Being Human was a step too far even for me.

The B-plot was pretty good, in fairness: the journalist searching for proof of vampires’ existence made perfect sense, and is probably overdue as a storyline.  Their massive secret can only get harder to keep in an age where everything anyone ever does or hears about is on film and all over the Internet, and the “Gotcha.” moment was quietly great.  Even that story wasn’t perfect though; the show badly fumbled Annie and Hal’s reactions to the threat of exposure – especially given that Annie was all about letting the truth come out and the chips fall where they may last year – and I’m really not sure where we’re going with her sudden appreciation of the yen to kill.  Erm, what?

However, none of that was the main problem with the episode for me: no, the main problem was the story of Adam and his schoolmistress lover.

I loved Adam’s last visit to Honolulu Heights, and Becoming Human was a lot of fun, so I was happily looking forward to the hilarious wee toerag’s return. When I heard it would be on the run with his middle-aged girlfriend, I thought they’d navigate the minefield of challenging issues inherent in student-teacher relationships with finesse and humour, because Being Human has a long history of negotiating all sorts of challenging issues that way, but, sadly, they didn’t manage it this time.

Regardless of Adam’s “real” age and, um, nature, he’s a teenager in every way that counts: he’s defiantly adolescent and immature, and the show did nothing to address the power imbalance in what was essentially far too close to a parental relationship to be an entirely comfortable source of comedy.  If anything, they played that aspect of things up with her threatening him with the naughty step and the like, making the undertones to the whole business slightly unsettling. Giving us a supernatural explanation for why Yvonne captivates every man who crosses her path was a good idea in theory and could easily have diffused the ick factor, but taking the story down that route should have had a completely different ending, if you ask me, rather than the sappy rubber stamp for the Oedipal dynamic between the pair. Yes, it was played for laughs, and yes, I’m taking this way too seriously, but in this show, the character’s supernatural issues have always been metaphors for various aspects of human frailty and I do wonder what they thought were saying with this week’s.

Being Human s4 ep 4

Oh, Annie.

For a girl who lived with and loved a guilt-ridden, brooding vampire for so long, you don’t understand them at all, do you?  Did you even listen to Mitchell? You kept your head resolutely in the sand about his problems, you didn’t let him tell you about the Boxcar murders when he needed to and now you’re making the same mistake with Hal….

But then Annie’s total inability to read people and her completely appalling judgement – was Hal joking when he said it was good? – in them were the key factors in this week’s plot as the clearly evil Kirby effortlessly manipulated the entire trio because she’s still too gullible, Tom’s still too hot-headed and Hal’s still too craven for them to trust each other fully yet.  It reminded me a little of the Tully story from season 1 except George was the only numpty in that story, while everyone was a numpty this week.

It did all work out in the end though and there was a lot to like getting there, even if this wasn’t quite as good as last week’s.  Tom and Hal’s completely hilarious scene with the GP was the absolute highlight, but guest star James Lance did a good job balancing the Being Human villain trademark mix of comedy and psychopathy too, and I am warming to the new cast, even if Hal really is just Mitchell-lite with a stilted accent. 

However, it’s disappointing that four seasons in, the only remaining original character remains so easily led and so easily vanquished when it suits the plot.  We know Annie’s more powerful than this: she knows she’s more powerful than this yet the writers are holding her back again while others develop around her.  Her strength is still tied up in her need for validation and that was fine when she had faith in and love from her old friends but it’s still early days for her new ones.  Especially if she hasn’t learned any lessons from the heartbreaks of the past.

Being Human s4 ep 3

Oh, thank goodness.  That’s much more like it.

An unpromising start (I was never a massive fan of the “Remember when I was a MONSTER” flashbacks, even when Mitchell was in them) aside, this was the first episode this season I’ve actually enjoyed, largely because the Special Baby rubbish wasn’t allowed to overwhelm the characters and they all started to engage properly with both the real world and each other.

So Hal and Tom got jobs working in a greasy burger bar, and bickered their way into an Odd Couple-style friendship.  Annie, after doing what may be the stupidest thing she has ever done  – honestly, girlfriend, taking Eve OUT INTO THE PARK in full vampire view?  What were you thinking? – sought out Regus, who spent most of the episode being hilarious.  And as well as all the comedy, there was a genuinely sweet callback to The Real Hustle and all those scenes of our beloved original trio sitting in front of the TV.  Aw.

Mark Williams’ Regus was definitely the episode’s MVP, with his Team Edward t-shirt and mix of heroism and seediness, but Laura Patches’ Michaela also helped maximise the comedy count, and while Tom and Hal will never, never be George and Mitchell, their chat-up challenge and complete bewilderment in the face of Nuts magazine, was still super-fun.  All in all, this week’s episode was about a hundred times better than the past two.  Hurrah!