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 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…

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 4–A Spectre Calls

“Might be useful, having another feller about the place.”

BeingHumanAnnieKirby

“I don’t mean to cause any trouble between you guys,” beamed newly arrived spook Kirby, and straight away, you knew that was exactly what he was going to cause. After last week’s slightly frenetic mix of comedy, action, and Big Plot exposition, this week’s Being Human was an altogether smaller affair, an intimate psychodrama with the focus tightly on our new trio, and the mysterious cuckoo in their nest.

This kind of thing is something the show’s always done well, but that, if anything, may have been its biggest flaw – it felt like we’d seen this before. Kirby’s poison whisper mindgames were a good deal less subtle than those used by the amnesiac Herrick last series, and it might also have helped to ratchet the tension a bit higher if the script and direction hadn’t made Kirby out to be a wrong ‘un from the outset. His first appearance at the end of last week’s episode, shoving his foot into a Door to re-emerge from the afterlife, had him lit and portrayed as a bad guy; how much more interesting might this episode have been if we’d genuinely believed, at first, that he was there to help?

Not that it was unenjoyable. The tight focus on the main characters was welcome at a point when we’re still getting used to them as a new ensemble; and even if we have seen this kind of thing in the show before, we haven’t seen it with these characters. After bonding so well last week, it was a useful reminder that those bonds are still new and very fragile, nothing like as strong as those between the original trio.

Necessarily, then, we got a lot of attention paid to how well Tom and Hal are settling in at Honolulu Heights. Apparently they’re not working at the cafe any more (though this went without comment), as Annie has set up a detailed and complex rota of how they’re all going to attend to baby Eve. This upset Hal; as the king of OCD, he had of course developed his own rota which looked nothing like Annie’s. Tom, continuing to be the faux-teenage son of the family, just didn’t like all the martial organisation. “This must be destroyed,” was the pair’s verdict.

But before it could be, there was a ring at the doorbell as Kirby arrived. A precredits flashback had showed us Kirby’s death in 1975, and even here he seemed very dodgy. The attention he was paying to that little boy before he strode fatefully into the road to rescue his ball was somehow very unwholesome, and I’d fully expected that, by the episode’s end, he’d be revealed as a child molester. At least here I was wrong, though not as wrong as the production for having Kirby hit by an R registered (1978) car in 1975. And for the true car geek, the other R registered car in shot, a MkIV Cortina, hadn’t even been introduced in 1975.

Still, not everyone pays that much attention to the period details, and the sequence did at least give James Lance a chance to show off his skill at pulling off unwholesome smarm. I like Lance, having enjoyed him in varying comedies, but for me his best role was as a slimy PR man in spin comedy show Absolute Power. Here, as there, he was superficially charming but with a true sense of something nasty underneath. Kirby’s hideous 1970s outfit was a nice touch, making him appear comical on top of the deviousness.

When he finally revealed his true colours and identity to a baffled Tom and Hal, it was both chilling and funny that he should turn out to be a fairly amateurish serial killer, frustrated at his lack of reputation in that regard. First though, he set about putting the housemates at each other’s throats, playing on some very good knowledge of their weaknesses, and it was here that Being Human’s usual excellent characterisation was to the forefront.

Nowhere was this better done than in the attention to detail of Tom’s and Hal’s bedrooms. Tom’s was messy, like a typical teenager, but tellingly decorated with cutouts of traditional family scenes from magazines. As Tom went on to confess, this was the kind of normality he yearned for but had never known, and Kirby was quick to exploit that by misleading him into thinking Hal and Annie surely had a surprise party planned for his 21st birthday – which of course they knew nothing of.

Hal’s bedroom, by contrast, was neat as a pin and fastidiously organised; exactly as you’d expect of a vampire whose obsessive-compulsive rituals kept him on the straight and narrow. Less naive than Tom, Hal was a tougher nut for Kirby to crack. But not that tough. Like Mitchell (and pretty much every vampire since Anne Rice began publishing novels), he’s got a very dark past, and the guilt from it haunts him. Little wonder that Kirby managed to get him – and Annie too – to doubt his own self-control.

Annie, for her part, was still missing her old friends, and that was the crack in her armour that Kirby exploited. It was desperately sad when Kirby’s steely onslaught about nobody even remembering her made her fade away into a puff of smoke, and for a minute I actually wondered whether screenwriter Tom Grieves had pulled off the neat trick of killing off the last of the original cast without even a hint of prior warning.

But no, Annie wasn’t gone, and I’m glad about that – much as I like Tom and Hal, they’re still too new for me to be comfortable with losing the only original character left. Instead, we got a very welcome return to dark, powerful Annie; Lenora Critchlow made her seem almost terrifying as she popped back into existence, her eyes deep blue and her face twisted with fury.  All of those den mother neuroses were nowhere to be seen as this awesome, powerful wraith simply squeezed Kirby out of existence.

I’m glad that we got another payoff to all those hints about how Annie is the most powerful of them all, for reasons yet unknown. It’s also exactly right that these moments should be used sparingly, so we can reconcile them with the lovable character we know most of the time. Still, I doubt we’ve seen the last of ‘Dark Annie’ for this series.

With all that going on, there was still room for a few bits of the Big Plot, along with some laugh out loud comedy. The latter was best in the extended scene of Tom and Hal pretending to be gay lovers to fool a visiting GP into thinking Eve was being properly parented. Hal does look rather good in a tight vest, and his interplay with Tom was hysterical. Damien Molony pulled off the neat trick of being convincing within the show as Tom’s lover, but still managing to make the viewer laugh with his obvious discomfort at the role. I should hasten to say, that wasn’t out of any sense of homophobia so much as Hal’s oft-amusing inability to be close to anyone.We also got another laugh later, as he stiffly accepted a hug from Annie while muttering, “awkward…”

As to the Big Plot, it became clear that Kirby had been sent by future-Eve (if that is who she is) with the intent of killing the baby. It’s not clear yet why she couldn’t do it herself (apart from the obvious temporal paradox, but that applies just as much to her asking others to do it). I dare say more will be revealed later in the series.

As will the prophecy about Eve’s ‘Nemesis’ revealed by Regus last week – all we know is that he has a burned arm. Kirby, of course, did not. But in a final twist, we saw that Hal’s wound from his altercation with Tom had become what looked nastily like a burn. A nice setup, but it could get a bit repetitive if we have to spend the rest of the series wondering if one of the main characters will turn out to be the bad guy. That’s basically what happened when Mitchell went off the rails in series 2, and with the prophecy of the ‘wolf-shaped bullet’ in series 3. If they’re doing something similar again, I hope they can make it sufficiently different to feel new.

Elsewhere, there was a welcome return for Cutler, now the only vampire baddie left until the Old Ones’ slow boat reaches Wales. Turning up at Barry police station posing as a defence lawyer, he got Tom freed after CCTV showed his ‘assault’ on a vampire to be, seemingly, a man kicking at empty air. Cutler’s motives in freeing Tom obviously have something to do with his PR spin plan to release the existence of werewolves into the public domain; and the naively trusting Tom seems to have taken his ‘nice vampire’ act at face value.

Meanwhile, Hal found that the framed ‘Box Tunnel Killer’ had been autopsied, and a false coroner’s report issued that he had human flesh in his stomach. This, again, was obviously Cutler’s doing, a prelude to ‘revealing’, presumably, the killer’s werewolf status. This was confirmed after Hal interrogated the terrified coroner, only for her to run straight to Cutler. Who duly bit her throat and graphically drank her blood, in a nice one-shot effect. It was nice to see that, for all his former cohorts’ contempt, Cutler is as much a frightening predator as any other vampire.

A more focused episode, then, with some good characterisation, even if it did feel rather as if we’d been here before. James Lance was a good guest turn as Kirby, who turned out to be a memorable mixture of comic, pathetic and scary. It was also nice, after last week’s torrent of exposition, that the Big Plot was left largely in the background this week. Hal is shaping up nicely, but I’m beginning to get frustrated with the writers’ tendency to play Tom as an idiot for laughs – even the visiting doctor commented that he seemed like a ‘halfwit’. Tom, it seems to me, is more sheltered, naive and uneducated than actually stupid – an important distinction that the show would do well to remember, or his character could quickly become quite irritating.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 3–The Graveyard Shift

“Sometimes I think the only demons worse than him must be the ones he’s fleeing from.”

BeingHumanHalTomMichaela

After a thoughtful, character building piece in last week’s Being Human, the action (and the convoluted plot) were back with a bang in this week’s episode, The Graveyard Shift. There was a lot going on in Jamie Mathieson’s script – I’d say perhaps too much for one episode, resulting in a slam bang piece that felt like a chapter of a story rather than a story in itself.

Not that there wasn’t plenty to enjoy. Amidst all the plot advancement – Eve’s destiny, the vampire prophecies, the Old Ones heading for Wales in a boat – there was plenty of the character based humour the show seems to be recovering with its new cast. In particular, we learnt a lot this week about Hal, the ultra-repressed, OCD-ridden vampire who refers to his supernatural status as “my condition”. After last week’s cliffhanger, in which Fergus learned of Hal’s return, we got an opening flashback very much in the mould of those we used to see for Mitchell, showing his past as a Big Bad, slaughtering all and sundry with Fergus. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, massively reminiscent of the flashbacks to Angel and Spike’s historical killing sprees in Buffy.

At this point, I think the show needs to be a little bit careful. Up till now, the writers have been at pains to distinguish Hal from Mitchell (though both characters’ resemblance to Angel has never been shied away from). The flashback to 1855 was nicely done, with Fergus and Hal (gratuitously shirtless, not that I minded) covered in blood having slaughtered the inhabitants of a big country house.  But Mitchell too was a former Big Bad, revered among the vampire community for his previous life as an unrepentant killer, as frequently shown in flashbacks just like this. As we learn from Fergus, Hal’s past as a vampire Old One is arguably way more prestigious than Mitchell’s. But the similarity was there, and I think the show’s going to have to be careful not to make Hal – in some ways – seem like a carbon copy of his predecessor.

Still, Hal in the present is very much a different vampire to Mitchell. Socially awkward where Mitchell was easy going and blokish, this week saw him forging a more friendly relationship with Tom. The tension is still there, of course – initially, Tom’s carrying stakes around just in case, while Hal almost turns him over to Fergus and the gang. But the episode quite skilfully built the beginning of a believable friendship between the two; not quite on the level of Mitchell and George’s easy mateyness, but by the end of the show, you could see them getting there.

This started by having the aloof Hal having to get a job, in order to pay for the baby stuff that Annie is currently having to spectrally steal from Aldi. In a week which has seen much debate about the UK government’s Workfare (read ‘slave labour’) scheme, with the Work and Pensions Secretary decrying objectors as ‘job snobs’, this was curiously timely. Initially, it seemed like Hal thought counter work in the same cafe as Tom was beneath him; later, though, as they grew closer, a Jaws-style pissing contest over who’d had the worst jobs revealed that Hal had done some pretty grim stuff to earn a living.

Nonetheless, Hal seemed to find the job rather distasteful at first, with his glacier-speed table wiping and lettuce chopping. It was only when he and Tom began to build up that camaraderie you tend to have with your co-workers that he lightened up a it. We got some nicely humorous business with Goth-ish wannabe writer Michaela, who amusingly tried to freak the boys out with her ‘edginess’ (mostly comprising terrible poems and drawings). She resisted the boys’ competition to see who could get her number because they weren’t ‘edgy’ enough – something that would come back to haunt her later.

Michaela, along with vampire recorder Regus, provided much of the broad comedy this week. How funny you found this depended on your tolerance for a character who was a little too broad and comical to be realistic – for me, anyway. Laura Patch put in a good comedy performance, but Being Human has never been that kind of comedy. It was too much like caricature rather than character to be believable.

By contrast, Mark Williams, returning as Regus, pitched the humour of his character just right. It’s nice to see that even a vampire can be a nerd and a loser (“my lunch fought back. I mean, who carries a crowbar to walk the dog?”). Williams played him as genuinely weary of 400 years of being a nobody, thrust into the spotlight by his interpretation of the mysterious prophecy.

He also developed a sweet but creepy rapport with Annie, who was this week struggling to accept Tom and Hal as being more than just lodgers. It’s good that the new trio haven’t just fallen straight into the pattern established when the show began. It’s always traumatic when a beloved flatmate moves out and is replaced by someone you don’t know, and for Annie that’s even harder as both of her ex-flatmates are now dead.

Annie spent a lot of the episode advancing the Big Plot, firstly in a genuinely tense confrontation with Fergus and then in mountains of exposition with Regus. As the oldest hand in the show, Lenora Critchlow has the confidence to pull this off while the boys get all the action, but I’d just as soon see some return to the dark, powerful Annie we’ve occasionally seen before.

Perhaps that will come to pass by the end of this series, but for now, she seems largely stuck with relationship building and comic moments. There was quite a good one of the latter, as Regus blackmailed her into telepathically sharing her memory of her first sexual encounter – only to discover that, being from her point of view, he was actually going to experience what it felt like to have sex with ‘Dave’ (“Don’t worry, I don’t remember it lasting very long”). Annie’s always been the show’s real moral heart, steering George and Mitchell back to the straight and narrow when necessary, and now she seems to have become a den mother in addition. All very well, but I’d like to see her take more of a role in some of the action again.

Said action erupted as Fergus and a gang of vampire heavies turned up to storm the cafe, and there was much shouting, hissing, and brandishing of stakes. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Michaela got caught up with Hal and Tom, only to end up with her throat slashed when Fergus and his heavies crashed into the B&B. Inevitably, the lonely, creepy Regus brought her back as a vampire – this made me groan, but I was relieved that the new happy couple headed off for happier shores. It was a little contrived, but I think that might be my dislike of Michaela as a character colouring my opinion. At least the script got in some not too subtle digs at the vampire-worshipping fangirls. Pointing out Regus’ Twilight T shirt, Michaela asked, “are you taking the piss?”, only to receive the inevitable reply, “well, you started it.”

Still, an actual vampire battle in the B&B was a welcome bit of excitement in a show that has had so much happen between seasons. I was genuinely surprised to see Fergus offed so quickly; Anthony Flanagan has made him a rather good villain, and I expected him to be around a bit longer. There was no sign of Cutler this week either, fisticuffs plainly not being his thing. Still, I believe that makes him the only vampire villain left not in a Hoover bag at this point.

And Hal nailing his colours to the mast after initially convincing Fergus that he was back to his old ways was a superb – and necessary – bit of drama. Up till that point, like Annie, he was undecided whether the flatmates were his actual friends. This was the moment when he decided, and as a consequence convinced them too. I’m very much enjoying Damien Molony as Hal, and hope the show survives its cast change to see a bit more of him.

By the end, then, of a tumultuous episode, we were back with Hal and Tom slouching on the sofa watching TV just as Mitchell and George used to. The point that “it’s similar but different” was made amusingly but unsubtly, as the boys rejected watching “something about conmen” in favour of Antiques Roadshow. Still, as Annie sat down to join them, it felt like something of an equilibrium had been forged with the new trio. In many ways, the show could have ended right there – but no, we still have the Prophecy to deal with, along with a boatload of vampire Old Ones and a ghost from the future intent on killing herself as a child. Still, on this evidence, our new gang of heroes may have bonded well enough to deal with those things.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 2–Being Human 1955

Annie: “Things have changed a lot recently.”
Pearl: “That’s a pity. Over 55 years and I’ve never had to change my lineup.”

Being HumanAnnie

OK, this is the episode that’s convinced me I want to stay with this show (though judging by my Facebook friends, I may be in a minority). After the sturm und drang of last week’s Big Plot shenanigans, this week Being Human concentrated – quite rightly I think – on establishing the new characters and their place in the show. Despite the loss of George and Mitchell still being very keenly felt, this was a real return to the blend of comedy and horror that made the show so much fun in the first place. It’s not the show it was, to be sure. But it felt, unlike last week, like a promising new direction.

Lisa McGee’s script was rather excellent; full of quotable lines, it had me by turn laughing my head off and then gasping at the drama. All right, I think the comedy was most to the fore, but it was used to inform the drama (and vice versa) in precisely the way the show used to before it got so hung up on its own mythos.

Oh, the mythos is still there, and we’re obviously going to see some developments this year with the threat of vampire domination and their ongoing war with humanity and the werewolves. I was glad to see that both Fergus and Cutler survived last week’s massacre at the groan-makingly named ‘Stoker Import and Export’ building (though bafflingly they’re still headquartered there).

Of the two, Fergus is the more obvious baddie. Like last week, Anthony Flanagan invested him with genuine menace beneath an apparent bonhomie, and he’s very much a trad vampire with his first response to everything being to kill and feed – “We need fists and fangs”. But charismatic though he is, Cutler is the more interesting of the pair. A ‘vampire of the times’, we first encounter him using homeless people as a ‘focus group’ for his werewolf transformation footage propaganda. Fergus’ first reaction is to immediately kill all the humans (“we missed lunch”), and then more tellingly, compare Cutler to a certain political figure – “we don’t need a vampire Peter Mendelssohn”. Cutler’s withering putdown to this – “Did you mean ‘Mandelson’, or are you calling me a 19th century German composer?” – was gold, and I’m hoping their bickering double act will be a running thing.

Fergus and Cutler aside, we also saw Future Eve (if indeed the ghost from the future is her), who was directing the plot by sending the ailing Leo, together with Hal and Pearl, to see Baby Eve in her capacity as Warchild and Saviour. I’m still not sure about this aspect of the plot, and may have to watch last week’s again – is the ghost from the future really Eve? If so, her mission to kill the infant version of herself, while noble, is a time paradox more head scratching than anything in the Terminator movies.

But these Big Plot aspects were fairly incidental to the episode’s USP, which was, plainly, to set up the new household. It’s being done in a nicely gradual way;we’re already getting used to Tom as the new resident werewolf, and with this in train, here comes new vampire Hal. Only glimpsed last week, this week Damien Molony got a large slice of the action to establish this new bloodsucker as a very different vampire from John Mitchell. He’s far more introverted, with his archaic suit and clipped 1950s English accent (though I’m pretty sure I detected traces of Molony’s real Irish twang once or twice).

He also has an endearing tendency to OCD, with his strange superstitions and rituals. He never stops at petrol stations on the left hand side of the road because it’s bad luck – which must cause problems on dual carriageways, considering we drive on the left in this country. He also has a daily ritual of setting up complex domino chains, but never actually knocks them down, preferring to then carefully put them away.

As he explains, this is a method taught to him by Leo for controlling his primal urges; I like that. For as we saw in an electric confrontation between him, Tom and a slimy pawn shop owner, he could be very dangerous indeed. That scene, with Tom’s initial loathing of the stuffed wolf head leading to the owner pulling a shotgun on him, felt like the writers and the actor really setting the stall out for Hal as a character.

Molony was chilling as he calmly explained what killing was like, how easy and exhilarating it was, and how hard it was to live with afterwards. You got a real sense of how many times he’d learnt this himself. As the shopkeeper said, “you’re either a man of God, or you’re speaking from experience.” Molony’s regretful, faraway look as he replied, “I’m not a man of God.” was perfect, and it was a good one liner the likes of which the show used to do so well. The whole scene reminded me of nothing so much as a scene in Doctor Who story The Happiness Patrol, in which the Doctor, held at gunpoint, calmly and firmly talks his would-be executioners into putting down their guns. I wonder whether the resemblance was intentional?

But we also got Hal’s housemates Leo (werewolf) and Pearl (ghost) turning up with him, in a nicely timed comic bit after Tom had declared that Baby Eve wasn’t going to be suddenly visited by three wise men proclaiming her the Messiah. It had ben pretty well-publicised that the show’s new lineup was going back to the original mix – one vampire, one werewolf, one ghost, so plainly they weren’t going to stay around long. As it turned out though, the resolution of their storyline was every bit as affecting as the characters we’d known since the show began.

As much as the writing, this was down to the actors involved. Tamla Kari as Pearl had a nice interplay with Annie from the outset, with her bitching about the B & B’s decor, not to mention her smug assertion that she’d managed to make a vampire/werewolf/ghost household last for decades while Annie had barely managed a few years. And it was a brilliant, laugh-out-loud moment, in keeping with the show’s traditions, that the one snipe Annie just couldn’t take was when Pearl criticised her tea-making skills!

Good though Kari was, Louis Mahoney as Leo was again the best of the new crew. He was both funny and heartbreaking as the dying werewolf, with his assertion that he once saw Louis Armstrong – “though it could have been Shirley Bassey. I was really drunk” – and his obvious tenderness for his supernatural companions. I must say though, after this and his turn in Doctor Who episode Blink, I do wish someone would give this talented actor something more to do than dying emotively in bed.

All that said, the ultimate resolution to his and Pearl’s plot was a little predictable; they’d always loved each other, and having worked this out at the end of his life, could both move on through their doors, together. It was sweet, but signposted as soon as Leo sent Tom off to buy that mysterious ring.

In the same way that Hal is very different from Mitchell, Tom is clearly nothing like George, and again that’s a good thing. Theirs is obviously going to be a fractious relationship, nothing like the best mates that Mitchell and George were from the very beginning of the series, which is perfectly in keeping with their wounded and mistrustful natures. Hal may be best friends with another werewolf, but he still can’t touch Tom without interposing a handkerchief between their hands; and Tom never even came to trust Mitchell, so as far as he’s concerned, all vampires are still the enemy.

This all came to a head as Hal, alone and upset, tried to fall off the wagon by feeding off the nasty pawn shop owner. As he and Tom pointed a shotgun and a stake at each other, it was down to Annie to make an uneasy peace, and set the scene for that final shot of all three of them on the sofa, uneasy allies but housemates at least.

Ah, Annie. As the last one standing of the lineup that fans came to love, Lenora Critchlow has a heavy load to bear this series. On the evidence of this episode, she’s more than up to the task. Although an ensemble piece, Annie really dominated the action, with her usual mix of comedy and pathos. She got all the best laughs, from her mothering of Tom – “no stakes in my shrubbery!” – to her cobbled together ‘ceremony’ in an attempt to heal Leo, in which she randomly spouted every bit of Latin gobbledegook she could remember – “carpe diem, veni, vidi, vici, Dolce, Gabbana…”

But she also got some of the best moments of pathos. Hal saw straight through her cheery exterior – “Your mask. It’s almost as good as mine.” Then there were her tears as she tried to stop Tom and Hal killing each other. She’s lost her two best friends, and despite her cheeriness, is far from dealing with it well. She’s the same old Annie, but there’s something sadly ironic that out of the three housemates who started, it’s only the dead one who’s still around.

So, the new lineup is complete. They’re not mates yet, not like the old gang; Tom is very much like a teenage son to Annie, who’s also relishing being mum to Eve. Tom and Hal seem to have reached an uneasy peace, but I’m sure it’ll take a while before they even trust each other. Still, for all the show’s ever growing mythos and Big Plots, it feels like we’re back to its original format – three supernatural beings sharing a house, trying to deal with their own monstrous natures and ‘ be human’. In a way, the character change could even be a good thing; it felt, last year, like they’d gone as far as they could with Mitchell and perhaps George too. This way, we have a new gang to deal with the same problems in different ways. However much you loved the original cast, that’s got to be a good thing – and on the strength of this episode, for me, it is.