Black Mirror: Season 4, Episode 3 – Crocodile


This was a bit of an unusual one, by Black Mirror standards. Yes, it was a dark tale of people doing bad things and suffering in a world of the near future; but this time, the technological innovation on which the tale hinged was portrayed as neither good nor bad. That all depended on the people who used it, and the implication was that, in general, it did more good than harm. Continue reading “Black Mirror: Season 4, Episode 3 – Crocodile”

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 4

“Don’t do this. This isn’t who you are.”


Some surprisingly early answers and a shock development in this week’s episode of Misfits, which turned out to be rather underwhelming given what it set out to achieve. The answers concerned mysterious ‘trainee probation worker’ Lola, a plot thread that I’d assumed was being set up to run rather longer than a couple of episodes. And the shock was the departure of the only remaining member of the original cast – a moment that should (IMHO) have been far more dramatic and emotionally affecting than it actually was.

My previous fevered speculation pertaining to the mysterious Lola turns out to have been both right and wrong. Turns out I was right that she was a false identity, but wrong in my assumption that she’d inherited Curtis’ old gender-swap power and was the alter ego of the tyrannical Greg. Actually I still think that might have been more interesting than what we got here. ‘Lola’ was actually a fictional character created by an aspiring actress, whose encounter with the storm gave her the ‘power’ to remain in character – permanently. Which was a bit of a problem, given that her character was a femme fatale who uses and manipulates men into killing each other, in revenge for previous misogynistic ill-treatment.

To give it some due, Jonathan van Tulleken’s direction pointed us at this in a fairly stylish way, presenting Lola in several scenes initially in monochrome and widescreen, recalling the films noir that presumably inspired her. And the fact that this (and the character herself) was actually something of a cliché was cleverly justified by the fact that she was a construct of a less than imaginative actress.

Given the opportunity to embody such a full-blooded archetype, the actual actress who played her, Lucy Gaskell, gave a broad but spirited performance a la Double Indemnity and other such classic thrillers. As her last male ‘victim’ caught up with her, she quickly established her MO of pretending to have been beaten up by an obsessed ex and setting her current beau onto him to ‘defend’ her.

Nothing wrong with that, really; though Howard Overman has deconstructed similar clichés rather more cleverly than this in the past. But the real point of the story was to give an exit to Curtis, and in that it felt messy, contrived, and dramatically rather unsatisfying for such an important occurrence.

So Curtis found himself manipulated into confronting Lola’s previous ex/victim Jake with a gun the lady had thoughtfully provided, leading inevitably to a struggle and a fatal shooting. Andrew Gower, recently memorable as vampire Cutler in Being Human, felt rather wasted here in the small (even if significant) part of Jake; he was as charismatic as ever, but got little to do before being accidentally offed by Curtis – and then not-so-accidentally brought back from the dead.

Yes, as remarked on last week, Curtis still has the resurrection power Seth gave him last year to bring back his deceased girlfriend. That didn’t end well, with an outbreak of ravenous Romero-style zombie cheerleaders having to be head-smashed by the gang before they spread their infection outside the Community Centre. So it seemed rather foolhardy that Curtis, desperate for answers about the now nowhere to be found Lola, chose to ask the only other person he could – her now-dead (at his hands) ‘ex’.

Well, the gang have been foolhardy before, Curtis as much as any, so that’s not out of character. And it was typical that their planned clubbing of the resurrected Jake when he started to turn ‘hungry’ went so messily wrong, and Curtis got himself bitten and therefore infected. Trouble was, the previous zombie episode had established that there was no cure for that. In the past, it would have been down to Curtis’ old time-rewinding power to change the events, but this time that power wasn’t handy. Leaving us with two possibilities – either Curtis was going to have to spend the rest of the series desperately concealing his invincibility and tendency to snack on small animals; or he’d have to die.

That the latter of these two options was the more likely became clear fairly quickly – I’m not sure whether it was the writing, or the general sense of instability in a show that’s lost all but one of its original cast. The progression had already been uncannily similar to that of Being Human – major character (or two, in this case) killed at the end of the previous series, with another disappearing for contrived reasons before the show returned. After George the werewolf came back only to die in the first episode, and Annie spent the whole series laying the groundwork for her departure, this felt so similar that I was only surprised Curtis had hung on so long.

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett has always given a respectable performance in the role, but in many ways Curtis has been pretty ill-served by the writers after the first series. There, he was given a backstory and issues to resolve; but they were resolved by episode 4 of that series, and from then on Curtis seemed to very much take a back seat to the more involved, emotional Simon/Alisha arc. He’s had a couple of interesting things to do recently, such as his gender-swap power giving him an insight into how the other sex lives, but mostly he’s been relegated to the sidelines making sarcastic remarks.

I’d hoped the Lola storyline might finally give him a purpose this year, but it turns out the purpose was just to write him out. I’ve no idea whether that was the decision of writer or actor, but his ultimate death, inevitable though it had been made, felt like a bit of a cheat for such a longstanding character. Having been shot by Lola’s latest dupe (with little effect in his zombie state), he gave up on helping Lola and gave in to the urge to chow down on her, then blow her brains out when she too revived as a zombie. That left him with only one thing to do – use the gun on himself to spare humanity from (another) zombie outbreak.

Fair enough, that’s actually rather heroic. But the circumstances – Curtis alone in an abandoned warehouse shooting himself in the head – felt a bit too bleak for this show. Especially with none of the other characters around to witness it – the best he could manage was a quick chat to a choked-up Rudy over cellphone. True, we haven’t yet got to know Finn or Jess enough for them to have any sort of bond with Curtis, so Rudy it had to be. But even then, exchanging last words over the phone lacked the kind of impact the scene perhaps should have had.

Still, at last there were a fair few laughs on the way to such a bleak ending. The lion’s share, as usual, came from Rudy, with a subplot about him having sex in the room he shares with Finn leading him to try and find somewhere new. ‘Somewhere new’ turned out to be an even seedier storeroom in the Community Centre, leading to an unfortunate slug infestation (“Can you help me shit out this slug?”). As ever, normality was restored by Rudy learning his lesson – in this case, don’t keep shagging people while your less than keen best mate is in the room with you.

For Finn does seem to be being shaped into a kind of ‘best mate’ scenario with Rudy, who’s (ineffectually) trying to help him get together with Jess. This week’s effort, with Finn ‘borrowing’ the imaginary disabled dog Rudy used a chat up technique, was amusing enough; but I have to say, I haven’t built up enough affection for either Finn or Jess yet to really care very much.

Even with a bleak ending in wait, Curtis too got some good comedy moments, most notably with Greg. Shaun Dooley continues to be hilarious/terrifying in the part, and you never know quite what’s real about him. This week, he initially asked Curtis whether he was on crack, making you wonder if he was some kind of racist, before (apparently) responding in a most unexpected way to Curtis’ desperate pretension of being attracted to him: “You’re a very attractive young man, but…” So is Greg gay, or is this yet more bizarre obfuscation? It remains to be seen, but he’s certainly the most interesting addition to the new cast.

Farewell, then to Curtis, finally given a strong plot just to write him out in a scene that should have been, and wasn’t, a tear-jerker. I’ve always felt this show to be rather like Being Human, another sleeper hit that began at the same time on another backwater digital channel. Perhaps Howard Overman’s of the same mind, casting both Andrew Gower and Lucy Gaskell from that show here. But while Being Human managed its difficult cast makeover with some aplomb, I have the feeling that Misfits is rather struggling with its ‘reboot’. I’ll carry on watching (as ever), but I’m beginning to wonder if the show is joining the ranks of those who carried on long after their stories had reached a natural end.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 7–Making History

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


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…