Being Human (Series Five)

beinghuman5

CONTAINS SPOILERS

The series with a completely different cast to the one in the first series turned out to be the final one. But it also turned out to be one of the best of the lot.

The new cast, werewolf Tom, vampire Hal and ghost Alex all arrived at different times and this series was their first time together as the main trio, but it felt like they were well established from the word go. It was amazing how all three gelled, worked well together and were able to bounce off each other. In fact, arguably I’d say that they fit with each other better than the original trio. That’s not a criticism for them as such. Part of the initial storyline in the first series was the characters all getting to know each other, but with this new cast they had to get there much quicker, and as it turned out they did.

In the first episode, Trinity, each of the three main characters got a moment to shine, all of them getting at least one great line, which served both to provide humour in the episode and show something about each character. Hal’s neat freak nature gave us this quote; “Fill a bowl of water and washing up liquid. This is a two sets of marigolds problem”. Tom talking about the old fashioned chivalry he was raised by adoptive father figure McNair, saying if a lady walked into a room you should stand up and take off any hats, and if she was a vampire you staked her. Alex got some lines to show how quick-witted she is, “I’m not going to let a good man die of grief just to protect the fucking Twilight franchise”, and there was this exchange.

Tom: “There’s some weird people out there”

Alex: “Says the werewolf spoonfeeding mashed banana to a vampire”.

The episode also showed another vampire/werewolf/ghost trio in flashbacks, and we discover a possible reason that there have been so many variations on that lineup throughout the series. A vampire, werewolf and ghost trinity are able to perform a ritual which involves mixing the blood of a vampire with the blood of a werewolf and a ghost drinking it, the result of this is it can destroy the Devil. In 1918 such a trinity included Hal, Lady Catherine, who was the leader of an army of werewolves, and a ghost necromancer named Emil. Unfortunately, the ritual is said to kill all three participants, even the ghost, and so Hal chose not to use his own blood. This meant it was not a proper trinity, so the Devil was only being weakened and trapped in a human body, which he escapes in.

The body the Devil has possessed was of a madman and he has adopted the alias of Captain Hatch, who is one of the main villains of this series. Hatch has been staying in a hotel coincidentally one where Hal and Tom get jobs. While of course you have to suspend your disbelief in a programme about the supernatural, this whole thing is a little contrived, the Devil staying in a small hotel on Barry Island for nearly a century is a little small scale. But Hatch is still a great villain, and Phil Davis appears to be having fun, showing how sinister and horrible the character is. Even though he is in a weak human body he can still wield power, summoning the often mentioned Men with Sticks and Rope through death’s door, who as we see for the first time, are rather like zombies. Hatch’s more direct way to cause horror is to whisper in people’s ear which causes them to lose control of their actions and thoughts and commit suicide. One of his victims is the hotel manager Patsy who had mostly been comical with her having a crush on Hal and blatantly allowing that to influence her work decisions, but her death which features her bleeding from her eyes is very unsettling. He’s also able to manipulate, trying to drive a wedge between Hal and Tom, playing on their insecurities and that they are on opposite ends in terms of social class and education. At first the wedge mainly results in them having a food fight and throwing jam, cream, scones and lettuce at each other, but as we will see it becomes much deeper as the series goes on.

The other major villain of the series is Dominic Rook. Last series I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of a secret government agency cleaning up evidence of the supernatural being a main plot point in the series. But in this series we find out the agency has been shut down due to government cuts and the focus is on an individual trying to keep the work of that department going. Rook is creepy, uptight, cold, snake-like, and single minded in his cause. He has no problems killing or in some other way causing the deaths of anyone who stands in his way. He truly believes that he is keeping the world safe and so anything that they do for that cause is justified. There has been fan speculation that Rook’s anger at his department being dissolved might be a meta reference to Being Human itself being cancelled by BBC Three, as well as the Devil later commenting that he “never understood why you lot are so proud of being human”. Whatever the reason for this change, Rook is an interesting villain and far better to watch than a full staff of a secret government agency would have been.

The series had another recurring villain, Crumb. He didn’t work as well as the other two, and indeed he doesn’t quite last the full series. One of the problems with Crumb was it felt like they were trying to do three different things. Sometimes he was presented as vaguely sympathetic, certainly as a human he is ignored at his workplace and his boss treats him like rubbish, and  basically tells him he may sack him and give his job to his own nephew, who seems an archetypal “nepotist shithead boy” like the one portrayed in a  Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe sketch about working in television. Crumb ends up getting run over after an encounter with Hal, so Hal turns him into a vampire. Which is clearly a terrible idea, so you wonder why he did it really. However he may have been in life, Crumb as a vampire is a legitimate threat, and he kills the bosses’ nephew, and later Rook manipulates things so Crumb kills his own sister and niece (this is an example of Rook not caring if innocent lives are lost as long as it proves a point).  But the thing is, Crumb is mostly presented as a comedy character. It works more when it is black comedy or cruel humour. We get some absolutely gross comedy out of him having a beerhat to drink blood. When he hallucinates Hazel, one of the girls he has killed as a vampire, she taunts him. “Do you really believe Alex would go for someone like you? Forget me, that’s the real delusion!” He does go on a sort of date with Alex and he’s not exactly great company, naming his eleven favourite cheeses, and when Alex tells him as a ghost she can’t eat he tells her that’s good as “No one likes a fat girl. Believe me, they aren’t all jolly”. But the comedy nerd stuff, like the alliance he forges with Alan, a geeky ex-employee of Rook’s, doesn’t work as well because it comes off a bit awkward after he has become a killer. It was similar to the Nerd Trio villains in the sixth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. They came off as annoying and a pathetic initially, but after one of them committed murder they mostly dropped that for him even if they carried it on with the other two. Comedy nerds don’t make good villains. To be honest  Colin Hoult, the actor who played Crumb, chewed the scenery quite a bit, which didn’t help much. Crumb eventually decides he’s better off dead and drinks werewolf blood to kill himself in the second to last episode. Overall it comes off as them creating the character but not really knowing what to do with him. He might have worked better as a one episode character, and there were a few of those series.

Most of the episodes had a “quirky supernatural guest of the week”.  In Sticks and Ropes it was a Little Lord Fauntleroy-esque ghost of a Victorian boy who was still mentally stuck in the 19th century (almost saying the racist version of Eeenie Meenie Miny Moe at one point). In Pie and Prejudice there was also a ghost, Lady Mary, who was an ex of Hal’s and had been around since the 18th century. She had moved with the times, although it didn’t exactly make her well adjusted. She now talked like a gobby chav bird and hates having to wear a dress that makes her look “like a cake decoration”. She goes clubbing and shit stirred by using her ghost powers to read the minds of people who were having affairs and dropping glasses to start fights. In the same episode there was also a werewolf called Larry, played by The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barratt. He bullshitted about his business success when he was actually a failure, and was bitter about his ex-wife. He owned Michael Fish’s biography and a book called I Want All The Pie, which he claimed was life changing but he hadn’t even read. He gives away his old suit to Tom, then asks Tom to lend him £150 as he needs a new suit now (and it’s unlikely he ever intended to pay Tom back). While he was brilliantly smarmy, he didn’t really do anything particularly werewolf-ish, which makes him being a werewolf something of an Informed Attribute. It’s not the fact that we don’t see him transform, we didn’t see Lady Catherine transform either, but the fact that she was a werewolf did have an obvious influence on her life and how she behaved, and we didn’t get that with Larry. Then again, that was kind of the point. Larry blamed being a werewolf for things going wrong in his life which were his own fault.

In The Greater Good, Crumb and a werewolf called Bobby both come to stay in the Being Human house. Bobby has been imprisoned in “the archive” of Rook’s government department for 33 years, and has become institutionalised,  but he had to be let out as the department was closing down. Bobby is a bit dense. “Last time I ironed something my legs got burned very badly”, but it allows Tom to be a mentor-like figure to him, a change from usual where people mostly try and teach him. Bobby tragically becomes another victim of Hatch, who gets him to commit suicide.

One of the best one episode characters of the series was in No Care, All Responsibility when we were introduced to Natasha, played by Kathryn Prescott, probably best known for playing Emily Fitch in Skins.  She arrives at the hotel seemingly on the run, and Tom takes a shine to her. She has a cut on her hand which Tom bandages up. The blood however attracts Hal’s vampire instincts. Natasha is aware of this and tells Hal that she will allow him to feed on her. It turns out Natasha is working for Rook, and has known him since she was a little girl. It seems he has become sort of a surrogate father figure for her after finding her when her family were killed by vampires. But Natasha genuinely likes Tom and feels guilty about manipulating him, moreover she no longer trusts Rook as he sent her there as bait being more concerned for the cause than her safety. Unfortunately Hatch manages to control her before she can do anything to set things right, and we get the most disturbing death scene in the series when she walks in a trance to the house and cuts her own throat in front of Hal. This is followed by Hal trying to save her by turning her into a vampire, and Natasha begging him not to. Tom seeing Hal with Natasha’s body naturally jumps to the obvious, though incorrect, conclusion that Hal killed her, and after a fight between them which Alex stops, Natasha’s ghost tells everything to Alex before passing on. In contrast to Crumb, I think Natasha should have lasted longer. It could have been a decent twist for the audience if she had been introduced earlier before her true agenda was revealed, and she worked very well with the characters of Tom, Hal, Rook and Alex. It might have been interesting to see her stick around in her ghost form for a bit longer, although it would have made the final episode a bit crowded. In any case, she was a good character.

There are developments of all three of the main characters over the series. Alex is a relative newcomer both to us and to her status as a ghost. With Hal we have a sort of Angel/Angelus thing where his evil vampire side is more or less a separate person to how he is normally. This is a bit strange in all honesty, as it’s not something that has come up in Being Human before. Tom probably goes through the most though, an overall arc for him is his attempts to better himself and a sort of coming of age story. For all three it was the main series premise, trying to deal with life with their conditions. Hal at one point says that there’s little point in them doing it and they are just delaying the inevitable. Alex replies “Isn’t that like life? We have to grab every scrap of normality we can”.

Before we get to the last episode, a few random highlights from the series;

*Hal disinfecting a computer keyboard using a cotton bud and alcohol.

*The Daily Mail/Daily Express style newspaper headline “Have the unemployed stolen the memory of Diana?”.

*The eerie effect of a water tap dripping saying “Alex” instead of a drip sound, and when Alex turned the taps on instead of running water there was a cacophony of screams.

*Alex’s interpretation of Rook saying they should deal with Crumb as they see fit. “We both know that was posh boy talk for kebab him!”

*The card game between Rook and Hatch, which saw some symbolic cards drawn. Rook draws A king, queen and jack (a Trinity) vs Hatch drawing three 6s (the Devil).

*Tom at a restaurant seeing “soup du jour” on a menu. “I’ve had that type before. It’s good”, and then talking about always wanting a rabbit for a pet, but that obviously wouldn’t end well with him being a werewolf.  Later he and Natasha arrive with a toy dragon which they got from trying to get a toy bunny from a fairground claw crane.

hatchnewsreader

The final episode, The Last Broadcast opened with a musical number by Hal in a pub after he had recruited some new vampires, Alex has been thrown into a mirror by Hatch and wakes up trapped in her own coffin, and has to claw her way out a la the Bride in Kill Bill or Buffy in season six of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Tom spitting werewolf blood on the camera. We later see that the streets are deserted and littered with corpses. The Devil has returned to power and is planning to broadcast a message to the world via television. He gets some of the best lines in the episode “I’d turn water into wine, but it’s copyrighted”. The television broadcast speech has some nice touches, such as the Emergency Broadcast interrupting the episode itself and using the old Potter’s Wheel interlude film. In his speech the Devil claims God made humans so he could retire and get back to gardening and wordsearch puzzles and talks about the human race making a mess of it (“you became my tribute act!”) and electing “leaders who despise you”, polluting the planet, being anti-intellectual, knowing beauty to be an illusion and still chasing it and finding the lowest common denominator and then try and dig down even lower.

His plan is to make the world into the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Kingdom of the Dead in the North (Europe), the Kingdom of Disease in the East (Russia and Asia), the Kingdom of Famine in the South (Africa) and the Kingdom of War in the West (the Americas).

As our Trinity are about to do the ritual the Devil gives them each a bargain. All at the same time (as he puts it,  “I’m not omnipresent, but I can multitask”) he tempts all three with an alternative life where they wouldn’t have their curses. He takes Hal back to 450 years ago as he was lying wounded on a battlefield before being made a vampire. There also appears to be his werewolf friend Leo who tells Hal that it isn’t just his victims directly, it’s the victims of people who he  recruited over the centuries that will be spared if he never becomes a vampire.

Alex is taken back to the night she died. Alex’s scenes with her father are very sad, where she tearfully recollects the last conversation she had with her father, which was about the spelling of her brother’s tattoo, and these scenes echo the understated but still very moving scenes from earlier in the series when she visits her brothers.

Tom is given a chance for the werewolf to be removed from him, the Devil representing it with a small origami wolf, and to be in a loving relationship with Allison, who is presumably also cured of being a werewolf, and is pregnant with his child. But Tom figures out that it is too good to be true, and all three ultimately decide to leave, saying that the Devil missed a trick and should have put them together. They try and fail to perform the ritual, but then the Devil leaves Hatch’s body, and Hatch is shot in the head by Rook.

Later on Rook comes to visit the house, and it is soon apparent that the Devil has possessed him, which is worse as Rook is younger and healthier so the Devil is more powerful. They decide they must do the ritual for real, which is a dramatic sequence which expels the Devil from Rook’s body. Hal tells Rook as the only human the Devil will go back into his body and Rook decides to sacrifice himself, telling Hal to kill him and thus kill the Devil once he is back inside his body. When this happens, we have the big ending of the whole series.

Hal, Tom and Alex all become human. Getting rid of the Devil gets rid of their curses. Hal sees his reflection in the mirror and later Alex celebrates by changing her clothes and binge eating, even saying that feeling sick is a sensation she’s missed. Then all three settle down on the couch to watch The Antiques Roadshow on TV, mentioning that the Devil failed because he should have put them together.  Then we pan of the mantelpiece seeing items belonging to all the previous regular cast. Mitchell’s fingerless gloves, Annie’s teacup, George’s Star of David, Nina’s sonogram, Eve’s bib, Hal’s dominoes, Tom’s stakes, Alex’s phone number on a piece of paper, McNair’s wooden wolf and… the origami wolf which the Devil gave Tom in his illusion.

The finale is ambiguous as to the end. The ending is very moving and satisfying that the three have been freed from their curses, and it’s nice to see them watching TV together. The final shots of the mantelpiece are a poignant way to end the series as a whole, remembering the past characters and ending the era, and it has a final sting in the tail with the possibility that this is all just an illusion by the Devil. It was deliberately left ambiguous to leave it up to the fans. For me while watching it I thought that it was a little “too good to be true” and was expecting some twist, but I know that I would much prefer the characters to have a happy end. Apparently an extra scene on the DVD may answer the question conclusively, but either way it was a great finale, I’d even go to say it’s one of my favourite TV show finales ever. A great send off to a fantastic show.

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