Being Human: Series 4, Episode 5–Hold the Front Page

“He’s not the Nemesis. He’s far too much of a nob.”

BeingHumanAdamYvonne

Yay, Adam’s back!

After last year’s endearingly obnoxious portrayal of the 47 year old vampire forever caught in a teenage boy’s body, it was great to see the excellent Craig Roberts return to Honolulu Heights this week. With his charmless innuendo, teenage awkwardness and outdated 80s pop culture references, Adam was an instant hit last year; as a result, you couldn’t help feeling that bringing him back was something of a fan pleasing move, when the show still seems a little uncertain with its new formula.

Nonetheless, this fan was pleased to see Adam back. After his enjoyable reprise of the role in last year’s webseries Becoming Human, Craig Roberts slipped back into the role as comfortably as an old pair of shoes. The 80s references were present and correct from the outset as, on first meeting Tom, he instantly referred to him as “Littlest Hobo”. There’s an amusing interview with Craig Roberts in SFX, in which the actor confesses (with much the same sweariness as his character) that he didn’t know half the references himself. Thankfully the interviewer is able to fill him in on who exactly Suzi Quatro is…

Adam was accompanied by his latest conquest, an ever-so-proper girls’ school headmistress called Yvonne Bradshaw. Selina Griffiths as Yvonne gave the character an amusing comedic rapport first with Adam and then with the rest of the household. Her initial, rather kinky, teacher/schoolboy relationship with Adam was genuinely funny, as his crudities were met with a clip round the ear to which he responded, “sorry, miss.”

But there was obviously something a bit odd about Yvonne from the outset, signalled pretty clearly by the fact that she could see Annie. Mind you, Annie was being a little careless in her assumption that she was invisible to Yvonne – if she actually had been, Yvonne would have been confronted with the image of a baby floating in midair.

Yvonne was obviously something supernatural then, and as soon as she began telling her seemingly exaggerated stories of her irresistibility to men, the penny must have dropped for any fan of horror stories. When Tom started to make puppy eyes at her after she touched him, it was obvious – Yvonne was a succubus. The offspring of a demon and a human, she was cursed to bewitch every man she touched, then kill them with the act of what Annie tactfully whispered as, “s..x”.

Now, granted, not every casual viewer is likely to be as aware of succubi as they are of vampires and werewolves, so for some Yvonne’s identity may have come as something of a surprise. But, I have to say, not for me – even The X Files once featured a succubus chasing poor old Walter Skinner. And even if the viewer didn’t know the name of what she was, I have to say that we’ve seen this plot before in all manner of genre shows – mysterious female inveigles her way into ensemble cast, setting all the men against each other by bewitching them with desire. It’s been done on shows as varied as Red Dwarf, Deep Space Nine and Futurama. It is, in short, a cliche that’s already been richly parodied.

The fun to be had in this episode, then, was seeing how  the Being Human gang reacted in a situation which is already familiar to your average fanboy. And, fair enough, there was some fun to be had here. Hal’s reaction to first Adam and then Yvonne was pretty amusing; Adam being less than impressed with Hal’s status as an Old One was soon followed by Hal’s Lestat-lite courting of Yvonne once she’d finally touched him. Recalling his conquest of a girl in the 17th century (“I gave her a thousand tulips”), he followed it up by quoting one of Keats’ love letters, which Adam could only counter with, “there was a young girl from South China…” The whole scene was a spot on parody of lovelorn, Twilight-style vampires, nicely skewering that particular cliche which is still being mined by True Blood. It was almost a shame that it turned out to be a fevered dream of Hal’s, though that was pretty clear from the moment he appeared to have killed Tom.

Tom, for his part, was once again the broader comic relief. Not only did he moon after Yvonne for most of the episode (his sexual fantasy of her as a barrister quoting nonsensical Latin was a highlight), he also again proved himself utterly useless at dealing with the wider world in his doorstep ‘interview’ with the scandal-hungry journos camped outside the B&B. “Piss sticks!” was his response to a query about Adam’s non-appearance in photos as he mindlessly repeated everything the unseen Annie said to him.

I must admit, I’m really starting to get irritated with using the character as this kind of comic relief. I get that Tom is meant to be an innocent, with a sheltered, old-fashioned upbringing that can sometimes cause social awkwardness. That’s kind of cute (as was Michael Socha appearing in nothing but his boxers initially). The trouble is, the show’s writers seem to be interpreting this as ‘Tom is a complete moron’. While that does make for some good comedy, it doesn’t make for a believable, sympathetic character, something Tom certainly was last year. Michael Socha is capable of more than broad comedy, and I’m hoping the writers give him something a bit more serious to do soon.

The strengths and weaknesses of the characters were, if anything, magnified by the fact that the story took place almost entirely within the confines of Honolulu Heights. In some ways, that was a good thing; I like that we’re truly beginning to see the new gang as a proper household, with Hal doing the washing up (“marigolds”) and all taking turns to mind the baby. It was also (as usual in this kind of story) the lone woman who spotted something was amiss.

Lenora Critchlow once again got many of the episode’s best scenes and lines, alternating between comedy moments (“I could have been in catalogue when I was 16. But you don’t hear me going on about it”) and more of last week’s darkness. As she nudged Hal on to terrify the persistent journalist who’d noticed that Adam was invisible to cameras, you wondered where this new, bloodthirsty Annie had come from. It was chilling when she told Hal that after ‘killing’ Kirby, she was hungry for more – “it’s addictive”. Hal, who knows a thing or two about killing, got to nicely reverse roles as he tried to teach her something about restraint.

The Big Plot was threaded through all this, if a little lightly, intersecting with events at the B&B with intrepid journalist Pete (Sacha Dhawan out of The History Boys, who isn’t on TV enough in my opinion). It turned out that staking out lecherous schoolteachers was just Pete’s day job; he’d been building a case file on vampires. To his misfortune, this led him, via Adam and the police footage of Tom, to Cutler, still working on his big werewolf reveal propaganda.

Having already mocked up the corpse of a werewolf ‘victim’ in the woods, Cutler was more than happy to use his newfound press acquaintance to further his aim, posing as a ‘reliable source’ about vampires to show that werewolves were worse. Pete, it turned out, wasn’t quite taken in, managing to hoodwink Cutler into a trap by inviting him in to the hotel room then drawing a crucifix on the door.

That Cutler managed to outwit him using a ploy Hal had used once (killing him then using his body as a shield from the crucifix) was a shame; Pete was an interesting character we could have done with more of. But it also provided a chance for a bit of exposition to explain away the inconsistencies in the show’s vampires. Hal, as an Old One, has no fear of crucifixes, though it wasn’t always so. We can also extrapolate that, as an Old One, he has other powers not shared with your run of the mill vampire, though I seem to recall he still had to be invited in when he first showed up at Honolulu Heights.

Indeed, the show’s mythos was (perhaps unintentionally) expanded considerably this week. Up till now, we’ve only been aware of three kinds of supernaturals – vampires, werewolves and ghosts. There was the ‘Type 4’ zombie we encountered last year, but she only existed because of Mitchell’s tinkering with the afterlife. At the time, Mitchell himself seemed surprised that there was another kind of supernatural being.

Now, we not only have succubi in the mix, but also, by extension, their demonic parents. You could charitably assume that Hal was aware of these while Mitchell wasn’t because Hal is so much older. Nonetheless, if the show’s supernatural universe starts becoming too cluttered, it might be less believable that it could be kept hidden from the normals; indeed, give the incompetence of Adam, Tom, and last year Mitchell in staying ‘off-camera’, it’s already looking implausible that their secret wasn’t out years ago.

Be that as it may, this was a mostly amusing romp, with an unexpectedly sweet ending as Adam realised that he really did love Yvonne, spell or no spell. His contention that love is always out of fear of being alone was mournful and surprisingly mature; thankfully he was back to obscene hand (and tongue) gestures as he climbed into Yvonne’s car to leave for happier climes. The Big Plot was mostly to the background this week, only apparent in Cutler’s manipulation of the hapless Pete; Hal did have a dream that his ‘destiny’ was to kill Baby Eve, but he was bewitched at the time, so who knows how much of that to believe?

As watchable as ever then this week, though some may have been put off by the over-familiarity of the plot’s basic premise. Still, great to see Craig Roberts back as Adam, and as he made it out ‘alive’, I’m hoping it’s not the last we see of him. Hal continues to work well as a markedly different replacement for Mitchell, but as I said, the temptation to use Tom as ‘comic relief idiot’ is one the writers would be well-advised to steer clear of. This episode was fun, but not one of the show’s classics.

1 thought on “Being Human: Series 4, Episode 5–Hold the Front Page”

  1. Agree with what you say about Tom (well, all of it really, but particularly Tom). He seems to be suffering from “Leela syndrome” – writers not seeing past the character’s one-line description (and costume) to the potential within.

    On a different note: Hal is a “nob”; Adam, I fear, is just a “knob” 😉

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