Being Human: Series 5, Episode 6–The Last Broadcast

“To desire to be human is the end, not the beginning. To want it is to have it. You’ve already won.”

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Well, I’ll be damned – Toby Whithouse has managed to have his cake and eat it.

When I first wrote about Being Human’s cancellation, I was sceptical about his apparently conflicting statements that he’d given the show a definite end, but that it would “keep fans guessing”. That sounded to me like he’d been informed of the cancellation after the fact, and was trying to make excuses for leaving us with an unresolved cliffhanger.

But no – I should have had more faith in the writer who’s rapidly impressing me as one of the best fantasy scripters out there. Not only did both of those statements turn out to be true, this final ever episode managed to fulfil some very tall orders. It served as a capstone to the show’s mythology and themes, gave us an emotional sendoff for characters I really didn’t want to say goodbye to, and provided a real ending – albeit with enough ambiguity to satisfy fans who wanted a happy end and those who wanted to see our heroes go out in a blaze of apocalyptic glory. All of that, and it managed to be a gripping, tearjerking hour of television with more horror, twists and humour than I had any right to expect.

We picked up exactly where we’d left off – Alex was trapped in her own grave, Tom was whittling stakes, and Hal was awakening his newly slaughtered vampire army at a local pub. Of all the things I probably didn’t expect in the show’s last ever episode, I’d rate a musical number pretty high among them; but that was what we got, in a blackly funny scene as the bloodstained Hal danced around the bar singing ‘Puttin on the Ritz’, even while tapping his newfound recruits awake.

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No that they lasted long, as Tom stormed in with stakes and phials of his own blood to put them back down in a Matrix-style action sequence that was pure brilliance before taking on Hal himself. Now that was a fight – kudos to director Daniel O’Hara for making the whole sequence so thrilling.

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And that was just the first five minutes. This was a full throttle episode from the start, which still had plenty of room for depth and introspection even while not stinting on the action. Fortunately, Alex had figured out that she could walk through solid objects and escaped the grave (which, admittedly, did rather undercut last week’s cliffhanger), and was there in time to stop Hal and Tom killing each other. This was fortunate because, as she put it, “shit’s getting real out there.”

Indeed it was, as the newly revitalised Captain Hatch (aka Beelzebub) had been taking a stroll around Barry before heading off into the wider world. I’d been wondering what exactly the Devil was going to get up to if freed; it became clear that, as usual, he was going to start the Apocalypse.

Yes, not very original I know. But it’s hard to dislike Phil Davis when he gets his teeth into a part like this. No longer a decrepit cripple, he pranced around with a fedora and a bright yellow tie, muck to Rook’s surprise, before letting the stuffy civil servant in on the truth. And forcing some info out of him that would turn out to help him spread his suicide-inducing ways to a much wider audience.

The vision of the Apocalypse starting in a place as prosaic as Barry Island was strangely in keeping with this show’s familiar mix of the supernatural and the mundane. It looked a bit low-budget, with the devastation confined to a couple of car crashes and a few bloodied corpses on the eerily empty streets. But the sense of a wider catastrophe was cleverly introduced with a news broadcast of the suicide epidemic spreading to Cardiff as our heroes, forced to ally against the greater evil, learned from the shaking Rook the venue for the Final Confrontation. Hatch (aka Old Nick) was off to take control of the country’s emergency broadcast system and spread his message of doom to the whole of Britain.

Toby Whithouse has never been shy about… er, pilfering from writers he admires. Way back in series 3, that nail-biting confrontation between Nina and the revitalised Herrick (“You know, you were the only one who was kind to me? I think I’ll let you live.”) was taken almost verbatim from an old Alan Moore comic, Marvelman:

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This time, in the first of several instances this episode, Whithouse managed another ‘homage’ to Moore; Hatch’s Address to the Nation was basically a rerun of the one from V for Vendetta: “I think it’s time we had a little talk.”

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But his demonic broadcast was interrupted by the arrival of our heroes, intent on restaging the ritual from 1918, and getting it right this time – to destroy the Devil. Amusingly, Hatch cut to the old Potter’s Wheel interlude while he was otherwise engaged:

“I’ll be right back.”

And here was where the episode got really twisty-turny. “You haven’t told them the fine print, have you?” smirked Hatch to Evil Hal. The ritual – involving a ghost drinking the mixed blood of vampire and werewolf – would kill all three. Except Evil Hal was clever, and had snatched some blood from a dying vampire earlier – just the same way he’d escaped ‘alive’ in 1918.

No dice though – Tom and Alex were still up for it, provided Hal would kick the Devil’s arse next time he showed up. Which was when the Old Tempter pulled his greatest trick, living up to that particular nickname. All three of them found themselves placed – apart – with their greatest temptations.

For Alex, it was never having died, and being with her dad (Gordon Kennedy, marvellous as ever). For Tom, it was being free of his curse and living in Honolulu Heights with the now-pregnant Allison. And for Hal, it was being back in the Belarussian forest where he was turned 500 years ago, and having the choice to die a human, never inflicting his brand of slaughter on the world. For added guilt, Leo turned up to persuade him that his own murders were a direct result of Hal’s decision.

It was good to see both Louis Mahoney as Leo and Ellie Kendrick as Allison; their appearances were vital to the plot, rather than just the sort of fan-pleasing gesture that Doctor Who so frequently does. But Hatch, simultaneously appearing to all three (“I’m not omnipresent, but I can multi-task”) had missed the thing that was so vital to all of them – each other. His temptations didn’t work because he’d missed the bonds of friendship this year’s series has so convincingly established. And so they said no to the Devil, and were back in the Emergency Broadcast studio. With the original blood mix smashed on the floor, even Evil Hal was prepared to die to stop the Apocalypse.

The sequences of the trio being tempted were both funny and heart-rending, and beautifully played by Damien Molony, Michael Socha and Kate Bracken. It was a real punch the air moment as the three were intercut telling Hatch where to get off. As it was when Rook, now rehired by the Home Secretary (Whithouse in one last cameo) unexpectedly blew Hatch’s head off.

It seemed a bit unsatisfactory as an ending, Hal opining that the Devil had “dispersed into the atmosphere”. But it was the first in a series of false endings that kept us guessing throughout. In a nutshell – Rook turned up, turned out to be possessed by the Devil, was cast out by the ritual, which the gang unexpectedly survived, and was then killed by Hal, casting Satan out for good. And as Alex discovered that she’d laddered her tights, the truth became clear; with the Devil gone, so had all their curses. They’d wanted so much to be human – and now they were.

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True, it seemed a little convenient. I could understand Hal and Tom going back to their human selves, but Alex? Being dead already, wouldn’t she just have shuffled off to the afterlife? Still, as the heroes got used to their newly human status (be careful what you wish for) and settled down, as ever to watch Antiques Roadshow, Whithouse sprang the final twist – the origami wolf (shades of Blade Runner) Hatch had left on the mantelpiece in Tom’s hallucination.

And that’s the ending he promised, that would keep us guessing. Did our heroes win, and get to live out natural lives as humans? Or are they still trapped in their greatest temptation, a happy life together, as the Devil spreads his Apocalypse through the world? What Mr Whithouse has done here is – he’s Inception’d us.

Yes, just as the end of Christopher Nolan’s mindbender (itself reminiscent of the original Total Recall) never definitively states if Leo DiCaprio has got back to the real world, so fans can take this ambiguous climax in the way that makes them happiest. If you want a happy ending, fine – they got one. If you wanted the heroes to perish while the world burned, fine – that might be just what happened. Something for everyone.

I can understand that some might find the ambiguity frustrating. But for me it was just right. I can come down on either side of the fence according to my mood! And in the end, this served perfectly to sum up the show’s continuing theme of what ‘being human’ really means. Even when they were ‘monsters’, as Hal pointed out, they were still ‘human’ – with all the flaws, possibilities and drive to improve that make us all human. A fitting capstone to five years of a show that will always be one of my favourites.

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Being Human: Series 5, Episode 5 – No Care, All Responsibility

“You didn’t ask for help because you knew you’d get it. You didn’t want to be clean.” – Alex

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In this penultimate episode of Being Human’s final series, things were expectedly ramping up as the year’s various ongoing plot strands came together. Mr Rook was still unwisely following the self-interested advice of Captain Hatch (aka Lucifer), and trying to promote supernatural conflict as a means of restoring his department’s funding. Having failed with last week’s aborted werewolf attack, he’d moved on to breaking up Hal and Tom’s friendship, forcing them into fighting.

Hal, meanwhile, was still struggling unsuccessfully against his blood addiction, while Alex, curious after Bobby’s unlikely suicide last week, was getting extremely suspicious of the sourfaced Hatch. And for a bit of light relief, Tom’s inner feelings were again being stirred towards romance.

As things are moving towards a climax, the balance was tilted more towards horror than humour this week. Even Tom’s newly discovered interest in the sins of the flesh, comical though it was, fed into the darkness of what was going on elsewhere. For it turned out that the young lady he had a crush in was actually an agent provocateur working for Rook, with a mission to torpedo our heroes’ happy home.

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I must admit, I wasn’t too happy seeing Tom written as a comical imbecile again. Yes, he’s had a very sheltered upbringing, and I can believe (even after last year’s dalliance with Allison) that he’s still a virgin. I find it rather harder to believe that he would be so completely ignorant about “the birds and the bees” (which he took to mean ornithology when Hal mentioned the phrase).

Granted, McNair didn’t seem the type of chap to talk about women in anything more than old-fashioned terms of chivalry; but Tom lives in the normal world now, and he’d have to be astonishingly unobservant to have failed to pick up a few tips from today’s highly sexualised culture. Does he never pick up a magazine, or watch the TV? For that matter, has he never glanced at the front of Captain Hatch’s Daily Mail-alike newspaper? (Headline this week: “Is Health and Safety turning Britain’s Farmers Gay?”)

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Be that as it may, the object of his desire, Natasha (capably played by Skins’ Kathryn Prescott) turned out to be a cuckoo in the nest. Eliciting Tom’s sympathy with a ‘damsel in distress’ turn which resulted in her getting a job at the Grand, she then surprised Hal by instantly spotting his withdrawal symptoms for what they were, and even more surprisingly offered herself as a blood supply.

Alex, who appears to be the most sensible of the gang, had her suspicions of Natasha from the start. And rightly so; she was the little girl rescued from vampires fifteen years previously by Rook, now working for him undercover. Getting Hal back on the blood was only a start, to be followed by sowing the seeds of discord between him and his werewolf best bud.

The ever-watchful Alex was quick to find out that the man who’d, effectively, caused her death was back to drinking that intoxicating red stuff – and she wasn’t happy. It was a payoff to the similar disillusionment suffered by Lady Mary a couple of weeks ago, as Alex too had been deluding herself that she was keeping her sharp-toothed friend on the straight and narrow. She even, this week, succumbed to her own feelings of romance, finally breaking the sexual tension between her and Hal with a kiss; though from experience of the trouble Annie and Mitchell had getting it on, she shouldn’t expect much more.

Not that she’s likely to want to now. Stumbling over the wretched Hal feeding off Natasha, she was disgusted enough to tell him to get out of the house. It felt like a truish depiction of addiction; as she commented, Hal could have asked for help easily enough, but like the true addict he was, didn’t want to give up that last possibility of another hit.

It’s worth remembering at this point that Being Human arose from Toby Whithouse’s attempt to do a less supernatural kind of sitcom, based around three characters who were agoraphobic (which became a ghost), had anger management issues (a werewolf) and was a sex addict. The last of these, obviously, was the one that morphed into a vampire; initially Mitchell and now Hal. The idea of blood being not sustenance but an addictive narcotic has always been central to the show’s idea of vampires, but it’s rarely been portrayed as closely to real drug addiction as it is here.

Very much in ‘suspicious’ mode this week, Alex also recruited her friends in her investigation of Hatch (sceptical though they were). This led to some actually rather tense moments – Alex doesn’t know what she’s taking on here, but we do. So I actually found myself shouting at the screen at one point – “Careful, Alex!”, as she tried to goad Hatch into revealing that he could see her.

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Similar reactions were inspired as Tom stumblingly tried to read her questions from smudged biro on his hand – “what are your views on… the quilt?”, to Hatch’s contemptuous incomprehension. It was only a matter of time, of course, this being the penultimate episode, before Old Nick showed his true face. So it proved as Alex made another foolish attempt to provoke him, with no one else around.

With Tom having learned of Hal’s blood-drinking betrayal, and Hatch having conned Natasha into slashing her own throat to frame him, the vampire/werewolf fight was properly on, and it was made that much more effective and heartbreaking by the emphasis on Hal and Tom’s ‘bromance’ thus far in the series. So, it was a revitalised Hatch, his eyes glowing red, that Alex made the mistake of confronting in his shadowy hotel room. Rising shockingly from his wheelchair in a ‘punch the air’ moment, he roared in true Phil Davis style, “I’m the fuckin’ Devil, sweet’eart!” before waving a hand and banishing her to regions unknown.

Some audacious direction from Daniel O’Hara allowed us to share Alex’s plight, as the screen stayed black for what seemed like ages, the only sound Alex’s panicked breathing. Just as I wondered how long he’d let it play out, we got a bit of light from Alex’s penlight, revealing her to be in a shadowy cramped space with a rotting corpse. I figured it out just before the camera panned up for the big reveal; she’s trapped in her own grave. Nasty stuff indeed from writer Sarah Dollard, but I’m guessing Toby Whithouse will find a way of getting her out for next week’s last ever episode…

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So, with Hatch ascendant, Alex trapped, Tom whittling a stake for his former best friend, and Evil Hal truly back and about to devour a diner full of customers, the stage is properly set for a big climax. This series’ shorter run of six episodes, like the first series, has allowed for less meandering than the show’s more frequent eight episode lengths; it’s been a more concentrated, intense ride. It’s also true that, as a consequence, the show has lost some of its depth, especially noticeable with its somewhat OTT comedy this year. But if this is to be the Final End for Being Human, this was a suitably nail-biting lead up to the Big Finale. Let’s hope Toby Whithouse can give the guys – and his concept – a fitting sendoff.

Being Human: Series 5, Episode 4–The Greater Good

“All we’re doing is marking time till the inevitable happens.” – Hal

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It was another frenetic mix of farce and fear in this week’s Being Human, a contrast that seems to be the default style of this final year. Perhaps responding to criticisms that the show had gone too far towards the Dark Side in series 2 and 3, Toby Whithouse seems to have steered the tone towards a much broader style of comedy in its non-horror moments. Whether it works is arguable; the domestic sitcom setting of that first sleeper hit series was, generally speaking, more believable than the more overt silliness on display here. Nevertheless, it makes for a very shocking contrast when the story does turn dark.

We were also back to the story proper of this final year, with the reintroduction of Crumb, another appearance from Mr Rook, and more manipulation from the grotesque Captain Hatch (aka Beelzebub). And we got another look at Evil Hal as he struggled beneath the surface of the usually likeable stuffy vampire, while the gang found themselves cast in the unlikely role of a rehab clinic for other wayward supernaturals.

The first of these was beefy werewolf Bobby, played by the incomparable Ricky Grover. Usually typecast as terrifying hard men, Grover got to show his softer side as Bobby, an institutionalised werewolf who’s been kept under lock and key in Rook’s Archive since unexpectedly massacring his family as a 12-year-old in 1980.

Stuck in a timewarped world of Kevin Keegan and Burt Reynolds, Bobby was, despite his bearlike bulk, an instantly lovable character. Deprived of his home in the Archive as the Home Office cuts bit deep and stopped the electric, Bobby was handed over to our heroes by the reluctant Rook, who couldn’t think of anywhere else for him to go.

This didn’t please Tom any, to Hal’s amusement (“Oh my God – you’ve become a snob!”).  Thus motivated by reverse psychology, Tom immediately made it his life’s mission to integrate Bobby back into society just as he had been; no mean feat given his tendency to hide under tables and give crushing bear hugs to those he liked. Employing Bobby to work at the hotel was definitely the stuff of broad sitcom rather than naturalistic comedy – “No – it’s ‘Barry Grand, Bobby speaking’. You’re Bobby.”

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Rook’s other supernatural loose end was, of course, the increasingly manic Crumb, now cutting a swathe through Barry’s pizza delivery boys with fellow gamer and Rook’s former assistant Alan. Tasked with bringing Crumb under control, Hal popped over to his house to a marvellously surreal and bizarre scene; Crumb and Alan, caked in blood but done up in Flaming Orc finery, surrounded by bloodied corpses. As a funny/horrific moment, it was up there with the best.

I’ve enjoyed Crumb as a character, with his increasingly desperate attempts to break free of his loser self, only to discover that being undead doesn’t necessarily change your personality. “There is no Ian here, only Crumb,” he hissed manically through the letterbox in an amusingly pathetic attempt to seem frightening. Hal – who can be really frightening – wasn’t impressed.

I must admit, I can understand why some fans might find Crumb too broadly comic a character to be believable, with his ‘Colin Hunt – office joker’ persona. But while it’s obvious that this year’s Big Bad is none other than Satan himself, I thought it might be quite apropos for this show for Crumb to turn out to be the gang’s real downfall. It would have fit perfectly with the show’s original premise of the supernatural meeting the very, very ordinary – epic archetypes like Herrick or Mr Snow can’t defeat the heroes, but a jumped-up nobody would be their end.

Sadly, it seems that’s not to be. Still, Crumb provided plenty of entertainment – and yet more musings on what ‘being human’ might be – before his demise. Unexpectedly keen to follow Hal’s example in giving up blood, he willingly submitted himself to Hal’s rehab programme; returning yet again to this show’s conception of vampires needing blood not for sustenance, but as a heroin-like addiction.

Going cold turkey was every bit as nasty for Crumb as it had been for Hal – and Mitchell before him. Tormented by hallucinations of one of his victims, he unintentionally staked young Alan (a shame, as he was rather easy on the eye for those of us who fancy nerds).

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And he pushed Hal to the brink, as the tactic of leaving him with two glasses of blood – one human, one werewolf and therefore lethal – basically backfired. Having failed to rehabilitate Crumb with his own mantra of repetitive tasks, or a disastrous ‘date’ with Alex, Hal found himself strapped into a chair and engaging in haemophagic Russian Roulette with the pathetic new recruit. At which point, Evil Hal came out to play.

This, I must admit, was an interesting take on Hal’s dark side. While Mitchell always treated it as an aspect of himself, Hal seems to think of Evil Hal as an entirely separate personality; and it’s reciprocated, as each refers to the other in the third person. “He was here, wasn’t he?” Evil Hal was just as scary as he was in the flashbacks to his bloody past, and with Hal finally succumbing to the temptation of drinking the flask of blood Rook left him, I doubt we’ve seen the last of this dark side. Even if we have seen the last of Crumb, who, in a debatable final act of ‘courage’ ended up drinking the werewolf blood and disintegrating. A shame, I was enjoying Colin Hoult as the least cool vampire since Evil Ed.

This was all neatly tied in to the ongoing plans of Captain Hatch, who found another player to manipulate in the form of the disillusioned Rook. And when I say ‘player’,it’s literal; he basically did a deal with the Devil over a hand of three card brag. Rook may have had Jack, Queen and King (“the trinity – a hard hand to beat”) but Hatch could best him with three 6’s – 666.

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Still thriving on conflict, Hatch persuaded Rook that the best way to salvage his department was to prompt some real carnage – and that the way to do it was to let Wolf-Bobby loose in the hotel. After all, as Hatch persuasively argued (the old tempter), better to lose a few lives in the quest for “the greater good”.

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Phil Davis was, again, brilliant as Hatch here. Posing (perhaps truthfully) as a man who’d been rescued from vampires years ago by Rook’s predecessors, he gained the stuffy civil servant’s confidence with yet another set of mannerisms; calm, rational and well-spoken, he only lost his cool when it became clear things weren’t working out as he planned, reverting to his cockney snarl.

Because things didn’t go well – Wolf-Tom came to the rescue in the nick of time. Locked into a room together by the frantic Hal, they fought all night before waking up naked together in another amusing scene. If you’re used to Ricky Grover as a terrifying thug, just watch him and Michael Socha hugging with no clothes on.

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This was an enjoyable episode, highlighted by two brilliant performances of comedy/pathos from Ricky Grover as Bobby and Colin Hoult as Crumb. Writer John Jackson cleverly interwove the various plot elements to come together in a gripping climax, with Hatch’s plan, Bobby’s plight and Hal’s dilemma all neatly intercut in a good bit of pacing.

And yet, while it was never less than watchable, I will admit that the show does seem to be becoming a bit formulaic, with its OTT humour lurching towards OTT horror every episode. Only two more episodes to go; in one sense that makes me sad, but in another it’s perhaps a relief – this concept may have been taken as far as it can go.

Being Human: Series 5, Episodes 2 & 3–Sticks and Ropes / Pies and Prejudice

“You’re too late. The end has begun. Night will fall. And.. he… will… RISE!”

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Well lo and behold, a day after I wrote in my last review that Being Human had plenty of mileage left in it, BBC3 went and cancelled it! Low ratings, they said. Well, it’s bound to have low ratings if you sneak it on with virtually no pre-publicity and shift the HD showing (which lots of people including myself would rather watch) to a week later because of the football.

Commenting on the cancellation, showrunner Toby Whithouse said the series had “a definite end” but that it would “keep viewers guessing”, which to me sounds like two contradictory statements. Still, at least it means he’ll be free to take over Doctor Who when Steven Moffat steps down (fingers crossed). And it is fair to say that Being Human lost a lot of its fans with the loss of the original cast. Not everyone has warmed to the new gang the way I have.

Nor to its rather more broadbrush comedic style this year. In another bumper blog post to catch up with all the shows I missed reviewing while off in LA, I watched episodes 2 and 3 back to back yesterday, and found the same approach of mixing humour and horror that we saw in episode 1. For episode 2, written by Daragh Carville, the balance was once again about right, the darkness of the horror more than offsetting the silliness of the humour. Episode 3, for me at least, was rather less successful, highlighting some of the new gang’s basic implausibilities and saddled with a guest character that, no matter how good Mighty Boosh star Julian Barratt may be, was very obviously a ripoff of Alan Partridge.

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Sticks and Ropes, as the title indicates, was our first sight of the mysterious figures that Saul told Annie lurked in the afterlife, way back in series 2. There’s some truth in the old saw that this sort of thing might have been better left to the imagination; I’ve generally found that Being Human works better with sinister hints than actually showing its mythos. However, the Men With Sticks and Ropes were indeed finally seen, and actually they were pretty nasty. Led by a glowing eyed Martin Hancock (you may remember him from such soap operas as Coronation Street and Holby City), they were aided by some atmospheric lighting and direction from Philip John, which couldn’t quite avoid making them look like low-budget Cenobites. Nice try, though.

But before we got to them, it was time for more comedic fun at the Barry Grand Hotel, which is clearly going to be the major setting for this year (aside from Honolulu Heights, anyway). As we now know the Devil resides there in the form of repulsive pensioner Captain Hatch, things were getting “a bit suicidey”. So, with a little urging from Hatch himself, manager Patsy announced an Employee of the Month contest. Cue Hal and Tom bringing out their competitive sides in a series of fun skits, all of which were underlined by the fact that Hatch actually wants them competing with each other.

For as we learned in ep1, Hatch (ie the Devil) actually thrives on the energy generated by vampire/werewolf conflict, and this is his chance to escape from his incarceration in decrepitude. So, for all the broad comedy of Hal and Tom’s competition (sterilising the till keypad, food fights etc), things swiftly turned nasty with a bit of subtle goading from Hatch himself. “I’ve tried to be shit,” snarled Hal, “but you always find a way to be more shit!”

Since the show has established a (mostly) believable friendship between Hal and Tom, it was actually quite nasty to watch. It also showcased how good an actor Phil Davis is; Hatch may, on the surface, appear an unsubtle grotesque, but there was some clever stuff going on in the performance.

Given some alone time to goad Tom (a pretty gross scene as Tom had to clean him up after his colostomy bag burst), he wormed doubts into Tom’s mind with a broad Cockney accent, playing on his doubts about the ‘lordly’ Hal being his superior. When it was Hal’s turn to be manipulated, Davis took on a more cut glass accent, praising Hal’s florid vocabulary (“Meritocracy. That’s beautiful.”), and opining that there should always be a hierarchy.

It also gave him time to repeatedly allude to the Devil’s relationship with God (“I used to work with a bloke like him once. Stabbed me in the back. Threw me out.”) which is clever but still makes me uneasy about the theology. As I said in my review of ep1, if you accept that the Devil exists, you have to accept that God exists too, and for an atheist like me, that feels weird. And yet I have no problem with the show’s basic premise of vampires, werewolves and ghosts – perhaps because everyone accepts that they belong in the realm of fantasy. Funny, isn’t it?

Of course, that might be because Mr Rook is so good at his job. We caught up with him too, as he continued to try and save his funding from the pompous Home Secretary (Toby Whithouse himself, in an amusingly stuffy performance). Rook’s plan, actually, didn’t make a whole lot of sense; bring in the sister (and, as it turned out, niece) of twitchy new vampire Crumb and let him devour them, then show it to his boss as evidence of what he was dealing with. It came as no surprise that the Home Secretary didn’t consider two deaths a viable justification for increasing public funding. Perhaps Whithouse is straying into Yes Minister territory.

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Still, it was good to see Steven Robertson back as the prim Rook, and Colin Hoult is marvellous as Crumb. He’s a simultaneously amusing and scary portrayal of, as he puts it, what happens when “the victim gets superpowers”. Plainly wracked by blood withdrawal, much like Hal in ep1, he still managed to find time to bang on about his favourite role play game, which, as it turned out, Rook’s disillusioned young assistant also liked. Which was the cue for yet another swerve between humour and horror when Crumb acceded to his request to be “recruited”.

Alex, meanwhile, was dealing with the unexpected appearance of a new ghost at Honolulu Heights – an irritating spoiled brat from the Edwardian era called Oliver, who claimed to have died there as a child. This too swerved between funny and chilling, as Oliver revealed that he’d killed himself from guilt at seeing his crippled little brother drown. It also turned out to be a part of Hatch’s plan; Oliver had been put there to bring out the Men With Sticks and Rope when his Door appeared.

Alex managed to avoid that by getting him through the Door and closing it, as the Men With Sticks and Rope couldn’t survive on our side. But there were some dire warnings, along with the revelation that the Men work for Hell itself – the first indication we’ve had that there’s a worse afterlife in Being Human than Limbo, and again playing very much into the realm of Christian mythology.

This was a very busy episode, capped with a truly nasty scene in which Hatch basically explained his entire plan for our benefit; it might have been unsubtle exposition, but it was intercut with Hatch causing hotel manager Patsy to slowly die in front of us, blood streaming from every orifice until he finally gently suggested she wash herself in the sea. Nasty. He also revealed that, while he liked vampire/werewolf conflict, he didn’t like the idea of them also having a ghost friend, making a Trinity. Definitely Christian mythology there.

With so many of this year’s ongoing plotlines weaving together, it could have been an overcrowded episode. But in fact it was far more entertaining than the more simple one that followed. Pies and Prejudice stuck to a more simple A plot/B plot formula; in the A plot, Tom fell under the spell of incompetent werewolf and former Partridge-like weatherman Larry Chrysler (Julian Barratt), while in the B plot, Alex caught a glimpse of her future with another of Hal’s ghostly victims, the misleadingly prim and proper Lady Mary (Amanda Hale).

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Unlike the previous ep, there wasn’t much in the way of actual horror here, which left the broad comedy looking a bit one-note. I like Julian Barratt, and this kind of role is very much his forte, but it was so transparently Alan Partridge it felt like cheap writing. Plus, we were back to Tom being written as an impressionable idiot rather than a naive innocent; it’s a subtle distinction, but one that writer Jamie Mathieson has managed to avoid in previous episodes.

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It was fun seeing Lady Mary’s transformation from genteel 19th century lady to modern party girl as soon as Hal turned his back, and underlined the episode’s general point about the lies people tell each other and themselves. He was under the impression that she was a relic from another age (much like himself), while she was under the impression she’d been keeping him from killing for 200 years. Both were wrong. In one sense at least, that was clever writing, as it echoes the Jane Austen novel whose title the episode puns on.

Still, the ep gave Mathieson a chance to give a bit more welcome depth to Alex’s character, as she visited her family to see them moving on without her and resolved to let them get on with their lives. She also got to see, in Lady Mary, what she could become if she stayed Earthbound for too long; an aimless shade reduced to seeking pleasure by feeding on the sensations of sad clubbers shagging in toilets.

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No sign of Hatch or Crumb this time, but we did briefly catch up with Mr Rook, as he contemplated suicide after pouring out his troubles to what turned out to be a phone sex line. And Hal was forced to turn to Rook after his fury at Larry for turning Tom into a sobbing wreck drove him to murder. Again, we got the sense of a very strong friendship between Hal and Tom, and it was affectingly played by both Damian Molony and Michael Socha as Hal gently tried to coax him back to the house. Still, isn’t it a little soon after the death of his previous best friend to be telling Tom, “you’re the best man I’ve ever known”?

Of course, the friendship between Hal and Tom, however different they are, is integral to the group’s chemistry. But I also have a feeling, given how strongly it’s being emphasised, that it’s going to be a vital plot point at some point this series.

For all that, I found the arc-heavy, slightly overcrowded Sticks and Ropes a more enjoyable episode than the more straightforward comedy of Pies and Prejudice. Even if it is a mixed bag this year (and hasn’t it always been?), I do still love this show though, even with its new characters. I shall miss it when it’s gone. Though I still have the American version to watch, which is very much its own beast now, and every bit as watchable.

Being Human: Series 5, Episode 1–The Trinity

“The world is on the brink of calamity. We face an enemy of unimaginable cunning and power. So let’s keep cockups to a minimum.”

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And I face a viewing challenge of unimaginable confusion – watching the fifth series of Being Human while also watching the third season of the US version, which surprised me by being every bit as good. Taking the mythology into entirely different directions being a good start. The US version has nine more episodes to go, the British just seven – can I keep them straight in my head?

Well, I’m not blogging on the US version – I have a job now, and there’s Dallas every week, and both Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are back soon, so I’ll be busy enough. So, the real Being Human – the original – it is. And how is our original Being Human shaping up with its new cast?

For me, not too badly. I have my reservations about it, though less than some, and less than my own reservations about the new cast in Misfits. I can understand why a lot of old fans found the new cast impossible to get used to. The schtick of the original concept was that the gang were, on the face of it, normal people who just happened to be supernatural beings; with the new guys, they’re supernatural beings trying, none too successfully, to seem like normal people. It’s a fine distinction, but it sets them apart.

New ghost Alex is the closes we have to a ‘normal’ character – she only died the other week (as it were), and is very much a product of modern society. Hal, on the other hand, is a 500-year-old vampire with crippling OCD; even if he were human, he’d find it hard to fit in. Tom is a werewolf raised in a rarefied, sheltered environment, like a latterday warrior monk crossed with (as Alex remarks) the Amish. It’s almost a reversal of the original premise. Mitchell and George were as normal a pair of lads as you could meet – apart from the whole blood drinking/wolf-transforming stuff. Hal and Tom can barely pass as normal in any circumstance.

Still, I rather like the reversal. But there’s the whole ever-growing mythology thing too. Last year it felt like showrunner Toby Whithouse might have taken that as far as it could reasonably go, with a barely averted vampire-driven apocalypse. But he added that last-minute coda of a shadowy group of Sir Humphrey-types who go around covering for the supernaturals. So you might reasonably expect them to be the main focus of this year, right?

Wrong, as it turns out. Yes, the mysterious Mr Rook (Steven Robertson) is present, and a big player – “our job is to maintain the illusion that man is alone. And it’s been the job of people like us for hundreds of years”. But, as we discover in a series of interspersed flashbacks to 1918, there’s worse out there than anything we’ve met so far. How much worse? Well… it’s the Devil.

Um… yes. At this point, a number of fans may be thinking Mr Whithouse has performed aerial acrobatics over a certain carnivorous fish. That’s understandable; this is a well that’s been pretty much plumbed dry. Plus, it comes accompanied by all the baggage of Judeo-Christian mythology; if there’s a Devil, logically there must be a God, and that’s a whole other can of theology.

Still, Supernatural pulled that off (in its first five series, before the story ended and it was dragged out for another agonising three years), as have various comic series including Hellblazer and Preacher. So why not Being Human?

Indeed, Toby Whithouse still finds ways to surprise me even with the most hackneyed of ideas. In fact, the show’s entire premise – a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost in the same story – seems to come from the fag end of the 1930s/40s horror boom; Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and the Mummy in the House of Dracula. But Whithouse is a good enough writer to make it work.

So it proved here. Unlike a lot of fans, I’d been pretty much won over by the new gang last year. I think Damien Molony as Hal strikes an interesting contrast between the comical (his OCD) and the horrific – the fact that his OCD is actually therapy that stops him turning into an unstoppable killer. And yes, he’s pretty easy on the eye too, as we got to see in a playful prologue where he fought the glamorous werewolf leader Lady Catherine. Logically, there was no real reason for Hal to be shirtless throughout, but I shan’t complain.

We joined the gang pretty much where we’d left them last year, albeit a few weeks later – with Hal still strapped to a chair, doing cold turkey after his first taste of blood in over fifty years. Marvellously, it was his OCD that made Tom and Alex realise he was (sort of) recovered. Clearly, he was traumatised by the sheer state they’d let Honolulu Heights get into without him; “this is going to be a two sets of Marigolds job”.

Most of the episode seemed to be played at a broadbrush comedy level I didn’t much care for. The introduction of office loser Ian Cram was initially too sitcom for my tastes, as was the sequence of Hal and Tom going for jobs at a local hotel. But it paid off when the script turned dark. Doomed by a chance encounter with a pissed-off Hal, Cram ended up knocked over by a car and vampirised by the well-meaning (or was he?) Hal. He then proceeded to turn up back at his office, covered in blood, and devour the boss’ pet employee/nephew Gavin.

Hal’s attempt to deal with that by killing both Cram and himself was a turning point, as Alex and Tom came to his rescue. And then Mr Rook turned up, and for all his ‘comedy civil servant’ routine earlier, was still prepared to do his job by ramming a pen into the office manager’s brain (“I liked that pen”). It worked precisely because it had been played so much for laughs earlier; when it suddenly turned so dark, the contrast was all the more noticeable.

The flashbacks were also well-integrated, so that by the end, it came as little surprise that the Devil unleashed by Hal, werewolf queen Lady Catherine and ghost wizard Emile was none other than potty-mouthed pensioner Captain Hatch, the Fawlty Towers-esque resident of the Barry Island Grand Hotel. Yes, it’s a deal of coincidence that he ended up in the same town as Hal; but we’ll see whether Whithouse comes up with a convincing rationale for that. Besides, I’d already guessed that Hatch would be a major player. You don’t cast an actor of Phil Davis’ stature in a novelty bit part.

Meantime, we have Mr Rook’s mysterious government department to uncover more about; it was amusing that his department is threatened with the axe by austerity-style government cuts despite being around since “the days of Cromwell”. And Alex has had her hopes of passing on dashed by the discovery that her family have already held her funeral and begun to get on with their lives – what’s the unresolved issue that will conjure up her Door? And Cram – now the self-styled ‘Crumb’ – is a bitter, psychotic prisoner of Mr Rook’s department. I hope to see more of him; he’s as interesting and atypical a vampire as last series’ Cutler.

So, yes, I still understand the reservations about the show. And I appreciate that the increasingly complex mythology is in danger of overwhelming its initially simple premise. But I like the mythology. And I like the characters, different though they may be. There’s still a chance that this reinvention might fall on its arse, and it’s entirely subjective whether you think it will; I was very down on the similar reinvention Misfits had last series, but I know plenty of people who disagreed. On this evidence, I still think Being Human has plenty of mileage left in it – but let’s see whether the rest of the series proves me right or wrong.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 8–The War Child

“Leo once said we were on the outside of humanity so that we might guard it. He made it sound like a privilege rather than a burden.”

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And so, the transformation is complete. With this explosive series finale, it’s become clear that this year’s entire run was an exercise in reinventing Being Human, changing the format while still trying to tell a gripping and entertaining story. Did it succeed? Well, that very much depends on how well you’ve taken to the changes. To the new characters in particular, since we’ve now lost the only link to the lineup we came to know and love. The question is, was it those characters that made the show so effective, or the premise and the mythology that built up around them?

From the online comments I’ve been reading since this series began, I think its original fans are still polarised about that one. The mythology is potent, certainly, but in a lot of ways not really very original. So much of the charm of the show was the characters Toby Whithouse created to reject the supernatural world that spawned them. I can accept that ending up with an entirely new trio in the same scenario comes across as a little contrived; but I’m still enjoying it precisely because I do like these new characters. Others aren’t, and I can sympathise. It takes a lot to let go of fictional characters you’ve become so invested in, and these newcomers haven’t had anything like enough time to build up the same kind of fan affection – yet. Still, I think it’s worth sticking with the show, because I can certainly see the potential.

With all that said, how good was the episode itself? Previous series finales of Being Human have been emotional rollercoasters and thrillrides. With Toby Whithouse again on scripting duties, this one was no exception; and yet, somehow, it did have a feeling of over familiarity to it. I was gripped, sure, but there were some nagging nitpicks. And, emotional though Annie’s farewell was, I think tis is the first time I’ve come away from a Being Human series finale without having shed a tear.

There was some good stuff though. In particular, the dialogue was excellent, dripping with Whithouse’s customary dry wit – nowhere more so than in the cutting lines given to Mark Gatiss’ vampire Old One, Mr Snow. I loved his withering putdowns of Cutler’s inexplicably failed plan – “thanks to you, breweries the world over are safe from pissups”.

Mr Snow was the centre of the episode really, which was a good thing and a bad thing. Gatiss’ trademark stylised ‘performance’ actually worked quite well to convey a being who’s literally thousands of years old, and who’s more disconnected from humanity than any other supernatural we’ve seen. The pale, veined skin, stained teeth and dirty fingernails gave him an unsettling appearance that contrasted nicely with his urbane dress sense and sibilant, whispered line delivery.

He set out the stall of his nastiness perfectly in the opening sequence, as a Nazi-like vampire supremo in the nightmare future. His interrogation of hapless resistance agent Isaac was straight out of a war movie (Inglourious Basterds’ opening sequence came to mind), but his method of execution certainly wasn’t. We saw him literally disembowel Isaac with his bare hands, in a truly nasty bit of effects. After that, we didn’t really need to see him kill anyone else. The threat – implicit or explicit – was enough, together with Hal’s fear and deference to him. Their two handed scene in the cafe cemented this perfectly, Snow confident that Hal would come back to him and conveying his immense age by commenting that Hal’s 55 years lying low was just “the afternoon off”.

But while Snow was an effective chief villain, I thought it was a shame that his arrival so immediately put Cutler into the shade. Andrew Gower has made Cutler a much more interesting baddie than the traditional vampire master that Snow basically is. All modernity, self-doubt and shades of grey, he’s been permitted an enjoyable fallibility that most chief villains don’t have. He has, in fact, been so likeable that more than once I found myself wanting his schemes to succeed.

So it felt a little wrong for him to be usurped by such a ‘trad’ vampire, even if Gatiss’ stylised acting made Snow quite interesting. Cutler did at least get a brilliantly dramatic demise, as wracked with hatred for vampirekind after his humiliation at Snow’s hands, he forced his way uninvited into Honolulu Heights to kill Eve and by extension his entire species. “I always knew I’d make history,” was his final, despairing cry – just before Annie poltergeisted a stake through his heart.

Because Cutler had been more or less shaped up as the main baddie this year, this scene actually felt like the climax of the episode. It was marvellously gruesome; now we know what happens if a vampire tries to get in without an invitation. Cutler’s gradual burning as he painfully forced himself to Eve’s crib was a triumph of make up effects.

And with the plot carefully constructed so that Eve’s death is the only way to avoid the vampire-dominated future, the scene was very tense. I didn’t know if the show would have the guts to actually kill the baby, or to find some cleverer, more elegant solution that would allow her to live. But if the baby was going to die, I thought at least that Whithouse would shy away from having Annie do it, and Cutler seemed the perfect way to avoid that. So I genuinely thought – for a moment – that he would succeed. Until Annie’s staking of him left only one option.

Hal and Tom, meanwhile, were running around trying to find alternatives of their own, accompanied by new ghost Alex. I said last week that it looked very much as though Alex was being groomed as a new member of the team, and that as a result, Annie looked to be on her way out. As it turned out, I was right, which many fans may find the final nail in Being Human’s coffin. But, as with Hal and Tom, I found myself really liking Alex. Kate Bracken’s spiky, amusing performance in some ways takes us back to how Annie used to be, before ‘Dark Annie’, and before she ended up with the fate of the world on her shoulders.

I don’t know if I missed something though – after last week’s nailbiting cliffhanger of Hal alone in the nightclub with the transformed Tom, this week we cut straight to the three of them on a hillside, having apparently escaped in a van. The expository dialogue revealing that Hal had somehow lured Tom into the van and driven off felt a little lame compared to actually showing that happening, I thought.

Still, that aside, Tom and Hal got some nice moments this week. Like the tormented soul that every ‘good’ vampire has to be since Anne Rice’s Louis, he was having problems staying off the blood. Snow referred to his ‘cycle’ of being bad, then good, then bad again, as a ‘every fifty years’ kind of thing, meaning that we’re about to enter another ‘bad’ phase. Damien Molony’s almost forlorn struggle against this, contrasted with his hissing nastiness as he occasionally succumbed, was an affecting performance.

Tom, for his part, was knocking up an improvised suicide bomb, completing the last part of the plot’s necessary inventory. Reverting back to his old, vampire-killing ways made him seem less of a comedy fool than he has been at various times this year. Of all the new characters, it’s seemed that Tom is the one the writers have a handle on least; but with Whithouse writing, he gets the balance of humour and drama just right.

Like every Being Human finale before it (see a pattern here?), the episode climaxed with double and triple cross betrayals. First, Tom surrendered Eve to the Old Ones, on the advice of their mysterious werewolf henchman Milo (Michael Wildman, who I think we’ll be seeing again). Aware that the vampires wanted Eve kept alive, Tom was prepared to risk humanity’s future rather than endanger the child he’d come to love.

Then Hal turned up with the bomb, ready to kill all the vampires, including himself (“If you blow anything up, it tends to die”). But he couldn’t resist Snow’s compelling power, and reluctantly took his place at the Old Ones’ side.

So, inevitably, it was left to Annie to sort it all out – just as the plot had been building up to. Annie’s been rather ill-served this season, varying from absence to an exposition repository to, occasionally, bad sitcom character. But this was her Big Exit, and the script did Lenora Critchlow proud. With the blazing blue eyes of Dark Annie, she threw the vampires hither and yon before reminding Alex that she could ‘Rentaghost’ Hal out of there. With Tom already outside (did Milo know what was going to happen?), and with baby Eve in her arms, it was Annie who triumphantly, finally, hit the switch on the bomb, sending the vampires, and the baby, off to real death.

I wasn’t at all surprised, with the hints we’ve had recently, that Annie’s Door appeared, and it was off to the afterlife for her, where she discovered baby Eve waiting. She got an emotional farewell scene with future Eve, who gradually unravelled as her timeline was erased. But I did think it was rather a shame she was hustled off to the afterlife without a farewell scene with her new friends; much as I felt George was rather peremptorily dispatched in episode one. It felt dramatically unsatisfying somehow.

Still, there was a touching moment as another Door – that looked rather like the one from our heroes’ old house in Bristol – appeared in the corridor, and future Eve told Annie, “they’re waiting for you”. Lenora Critchlow’s smile of delight sold the moment; but if, as implied, “they” were Mitchell, George and Nina, I can’t imagine George and Nina are going to be too happy with Annie showing up holding their now-dead baby…

All of which left our new heroes together at last in Honolulu Heights, with Hal strapped down as Tom and Alex prepare to help him resist another turn to evil. And it did feel like a return to the old days when Hal asked Tom why he’d do this, and Tom, having mocked him mercilessly earlier, simply replied, “because you’re my best mate”. That’s a restating of the mantra the show had right from the start – these guys may be ‘monsters’, but they’re also friends.

It’s as much a reboot as anything else, restarting the show from scratch albeit with an established, and ever more complex mythology. This was added to by the late arrival of the mysterious Mr Rook and his grey-suited compadres, who seem to spend their time hushing up the existence of supernaturals. They’re not supernatural themselves, because they couldn’t see Alex. So who are they? Some sort of government agency? (Rook does comment that he’s off to a meeting with the “Secretary of State”)

At least they answer the point I made a few weeks ago, about how supernaturals are still secret despite having shown a lot of ineptitude at keeping it that way. Though it also makes you wonder why Herrick and his successors needed to infiltrate the police to cover up vampire doings; these shadowy men may be unknown to the supernaturals, but they can’t have failed to notice the evidence of their misdeeds repeatedly disappearing.

Still, all of these are questions for next time, I suppose – and it’s been confirmed that the show will be back, albeit with a shorter, six episode run. Whether you’re back with it depends on how much you took to this year’s reinvention, and the new characters that came with it. For me, I think the format has the potential to survive with new ‘people’ – some may not. But I’ll definitely be watching when it returns. In the mean time, I’ll be enjoying the surprisingly good American ‘re-imagining’ of it, now reaching the end of its second 13 episode season – proof that I can enjoy it with yet another different set of characters!

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 7–Making History

“Sooner or later, we always go back to being the monsters we truly are.”

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We’re into the endgame now, and series creator Toby Whithouse is back for the first time since episode 1 to pen the penultimate episode of Being Human’s new format. Not surprisingly, this is a very good thing – good as some recent episodes have been, nobody understands it – and writes it – as well as its creator. And yet even then, I had a few reservations. I’m gripped, sure, but I have an odd, nagging feeling that we’ve been here before.

With the concentration on the Big Plot as the series moves towards its finale, the characters were like chess pieces being moved into place. Cutler’s propaganda plan to use Tom as a werewolf warning to humanity was moving towards fruition, while the Old Ones’ slow boat was now very nearly there, and Hal’s suspicions as to what was going on hardened into certainties as he investigated ‘Stoker Imports and Exports. Meanwhile, Annie took a sidestep in time with ghost-Eve through a convenient Door, to discover a desolate future in which Nazi-like vampires rule the world and humanity is all but extinct.

It’s that latter part, I think, that gives me that nagging feeling of familiarity. Vampires subjugating humanity and ruling the world – wasn’t that exactly the Big Plot of the very first series, with Herrick’s plan to achieve just that being thwarted by Mitchell and George? Here it is again, only this time it’s worked out for the vampires. Whithouse seems to have taken some lessons from Doctor Who colleague Steven Moffat on how to do a twisty turny time paradox to both show a nightmare future and then prevent it.

Not that it wasn’t well-realised.  Future Eve’s chilling description of the events that led to the desolate landscape Annie was seeing was perfectly pitched, and underscored nicely by barely heard echoes of crying and screaming. The focus on little bits of humanity’s detritus – a lone shoe floating in the bay, and a smashed doll stuck in a bush – took on a deep significance unusual for such commonplace found objects, given the context.

There’s an obvious budgetary consideration in simply describing such massive events rather than actually showing them – I don’t think a BBC3 budget would stretch to the scenes of mass exodus, slaughter and genocide that Eve was describing. But it’s a tried and tested dramatic technique for characters to report massive events rather than showing them to the audience; Shakespeare did it all the time, mainly because it’s not really practical to stage a full scale battle onstage. It was done well here, with other nice hints such as the sign over the ‘concentration camp’ gate – “Through me you pass into eternal pain” – and the Obama-like poster of ruthless future Hal subtitled “Show No Mercy”. Though the Nazi-like banners either side of that served to remind us just how much of a long shadow these all-purpose, real-world baddies have cast over genre drama since 1945.

It also worked well to have Annie – nice, conscience-led Annie – as the audience’s identification point in this. She asked all the right questions to prompt the torrent of exposition, but prevented this from being too clunky dramatically by retaining her usual spirit of normality and humour. In the face of all the horror she was hearing about, it was perfectly Annie to focus on whether she’d been a good mother, and what had happened to her friends. Given the show’s weighty mythology, Lenora Critchlow’s an old hand at dealing with this kind of exposition, and so it proved here as well.

It wasn’t just the future we got to see though. In what I think was the best aspect of the episode, we got to see Cutler’s origin story, and how he was intimately tied in with Hal. Turns out Hal was the one who converted him to vampirism in the first place, back in  1950; as a result, Cutler has a peculiar worship/loathing towards him.

The scenes set in 1950 showed us what a nasty bastard Hal used to be – a necessary reminder, I think, as he’s been played so much for comedy that this aspect of his character has been rather neglected apart from one previous flashback to the 18th century. This time we got his forced conversion of Cutler, followed by his sneering contempt when Cutler couldn’t kill anyone, least of all his wife, and lastly a really nasty moment as he revealed the blood he’d been feeding Cutler was actually from his butchered wife, taken care of by Hal personally.

These scenes were cleverly interwoven, line by line on occasion, with the scenes between Hal and Cutler in the present to underline how their roles have been almost reversed since 1950. Now Cutler’s the powerful one, with his big plan, and Hal’s the reluctant killer. And yet Cutler still worships him; he can’t stand to see his former hero begging on his knees, becoming almost physically sick at the sight. But he still can’t let go of his anger. He loves Hal, but he hates him too for making him what he is.

This all culminated in the ultimate cruel reversal, as Hal discovered that his reawakened blood thirst was being slaked by the blood of his butchered prospective girlfriend Alex. These scenes were brilliantly played by Damien Molony and Andrew Gower, each showing how easy it is to lose your humanity and become a monster – and in Hal’s case, how hard it is to get your humanity back. As he spat at Tom, however much they try to ‘be human’, the monster always re-emerges.

With such dark goings on dominating the episode, Tom was left to deliver what humorous moments there were. Unsurprisingly, Toby Whithouse got the balance of his character better than most other writers this series; yes, he’s naive and trusting, but he’s uneducated rather than stupid. His ineptly delivered pre-rehearsed speech to Cutler, and his inability to put on a tie, were nice comic moments, counterpointed by real drama as he realised the victims Cutler wanted him to kill weren’t the Old Ones after all.

Which brought us to the climax of the episode, as Cutler’s plan came to fruition – but not exactly as he’d wanted. With Alex’s ghost having freed Hal from the locked storeroom beneath the club where the slaughter was to happen, she also prevented any actual killing by unlocking the fire exit for the screaming patrons to flee through. But not before, as Cutler planned, the shocked youngsters did exactly what any modern person would do on being confronted by a strange, terrifying creature – got their phones out and started filming it.

Director Daniel O’Hara dealt with the limitations of a low-budget werewolf well, showing us occasional glimpses of it, its own viewpoint, and blurry phone images rather than any lingering shots of the beast itself – a wise move, as it would have been rather obviously a man in a furry suit. Instead, it was a genuinely tense and terrifying scene. With future Eve having told Annie that Tom had never recovered from accidentally killing some humans, you really weren’t sure if he was going to do just that. But with ghost Alex having helped them escape, the only one really in jeopardy was Hal himself.

It was a good cliffhanger for next week, particularly when you remember how werewolf George tore Herrick limb from limb at the end of the first series. But there was one last cliffhanger to pull out of the bag, as the Old Ones finally showed up after what must have been the slowest boat ride in history. As it turns out, they’re led by a pale and creepy looking Mark Gatiss, using his trademark sinister smile to good effect.

And yet I’m not sure about the wisdom of casting Gatiss. He seems to be on a mission to appear on every genre show made in Britain, but I still can’t properly dissociate him from the comic/horror persona he established in The League of Gentlemen. Being Human may be another blend of horror and comedy, but the emphasis here is far more on the horror aspect. Still, let’s see from next week whether Gatiss can be truly scary without also being a little too funny. He tried it in Doctor Who story The Lazarus Experiment, and it almost worked there…

So we’re almost at the end of this radical new series of Being Human, and I’m eager to see how it turns out – and if it works well enough to come back for more. In the mean time though, this episode did leave me with a number of nitpicks. Why would the Old Ones, after hundred and perhaps thousands of years, suddenly change their MO from lying low to conquering the entire planet? Didn’t Mitchell say they’d be pretty annoyed with Herrick for trying just that? And their plan doesn’t really make sense, either; if, as future Eve says, most of humanity has been killed, what will the vampires feed on? After all, predators must always have a vastly greater number of prey in order to survive.

And what’s happening with the ghosts? As I recall, in earlier times it took Annie many episodes to become tangible enough to make a cup of tea. Yet last week, Emrys was able to read the paper and play at poltergeist within hours of his death, and this week ghost Alex could open doors mere minutes afterwards. And after Annie’s traumatic entrapment within the afterlife, why are the Doors now little more than convenient portals to any point in history the plot needs?

Mind you, I did really like Gina Bramhill as the spunky, funny Alex. With last week’s talk of Annie’s Door, and her seeming acceptance this week that she might have to kill the baby, I wonder if Alex is being groomed as a potential replacement? It could be that next week will see the departure of the very last original cast member. If so, will it be the final nail in the coffin for Being Human, or will this new format have taken well enough to survive another cast change? Next week will tell…