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