Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Other Two Thirds

Time to chat about everyone's favourite vampire/werewolf/ghost flat-share horror-comedy, I think. Spoilers abound, gentle reader.




After last week's uneven start, Being Human is back on form. The comedy/horror/drama balance was much more even this time, and once again the show is back to combining the three without them getting in the way of each other. When a show can get away with sending disturbing messages from the beyond via a television and Terry Wogan, you know you're on to a good thing.

Speaking of "disturbing messages from the beyond", I'm delighted that Annie's storyline for the season has kicked off so well. I noted she was spinning her wheels last week (admittedly understandably), but now it would seem there is shit, and it his heading in a direction best described as down.

Annie's throwaway comment about the corridor of death being lined by men with sticks and rope was one of the best moments of the pilot (and I still don't think Lenora Critchlow is a fifth as good in the role as Angela Riseborough, no matter how much I prefer her hair), so it's great that it looks like we're going to see some pay-off. How all these vicious visions of death and its vengeful spirit agents tracks with Gilbert gaily skipping into oblivion last season isn't entirely clear, but then passing on is a tricky business.

Onto our weekly "selfish prick" watch, and we discover to our amazement that this week George has somehow managed to only come in third. Managing to work up a strop about someone made into a vampire ninety-odd years ago turning out to have had previous flatmates was a noble effort, and bonus marks can be awarded for also managing to make his discussion with Annie regarding Hugh all about himself too (though he managed to get the point across, at least). These are partially countered by him making lunchfast in bed for Nina, though (note: lunchfast is very different to brunch, in the same way that being Cthulhu is very different to stapling a squid to your face), and in any case Nina and Mitchell massively outstrip him in any case.

Let's hear it for our runner up, ladies and gentleman: Nina! a massive sarcastic round of applause for someone who claims she loves her boyfriend so much, telling him she's leaving him to his face just isn't something she's interested in! Using "You turned me into a werewolf" as a way to win an argument? That's fine. Doing it again in the face of a gentle admonition (plus lunchfast, of course)? Hell, yeah! But actually showing him some compassion and honesty? He should just feel lucky she didn't break his heart via text message.

Of course, this being Being Human, it's not like she didn't have some damn good reasons, and apparently as punishment, someone's gonna put her in a hyperbaric chamber and blow her blood out! Plus, it's not like she tried to make her flatmate's attempted rape all about her, is it?

So let's hear it for Mitchell, who tried to make his flatmate's attempted rape all about him! What a prince!

Actually, that's not entirely fair. Just as with George's bout of supreme gittishness last week, there is a grain of a point buried within Mitchell's jaw-dropping display of vicious thoughtlessness. First of all, Mitchell has been around for long enough to know how ghosts work. I confess this has never specifically come up in the context of the program, but I suspect that whilst Saul might have intended to rape Annie, such an act would prove impossible (the fact that it takes her so long to gradually alter what her spirit wears, for example, makes it hard to be believe that she can undress, willingly or otherwise). Mitchell would know that. Whilst the scene and Annie's reaction imply she narrowly avoided being raped, in truth I don't believe she was ever in any actual danger.

Obviously that doesn't alter the fact that she was suddenly and unexpectedly thrown into a situation where she believed she was in danger of being raped. Her responses, impulses and fears remain human, and apparently one thing she most definitely suffers through is being pinned down by an obviously stronger man. That's obviously a pretty hideous and terrifying thing to have to go through, even before you consider she's already been murdered at the hands of her fiance, so I have no problem with the suggestion that Mitchell was being horribly, disgustingly selfish and insensitive. Still though, I think it's worth noting that emotional damage, very serious though that is, is presumably all that she could suffer (at least, that's what everyone thought at the time, including Annie).

Mitchell, by contrast, could get a irritatingly splintery stake through the heart if people work out what he is. He wasn't saying "You magically fleeing from an assault is an inconvenience to me", so much as "You magically fleeing from an assault could get me dead by the weekend". I'm not sure if this will ultimately prove to be true (are there exorcists in the BH universe?), but right now Annie seems essentially indestructible absent supernatural intervention. In that context, I can certainly understand Mitchell's broader point that if Annie keeps wandering around in broad daylight, and gets made as a supernatural, it won't be her that ends up as a wolf-skin rug or the contents of an ashtray. She'll survive just fine when Mitchell and George get dragged off to Monster Island, or worse.

Again, none of this makes Mitchell right either by implying she should have stayed (especially since if I'm right and Annie's ghostly nature would mean the unthinkable could never happen, it's not like sticking around for what would clearly be a soul-shredding, disgusting and degrading experience would ultimately keep her secret in any case) or by choosing that particular moment to start his cover version of the traditional George rendition of the "But What About MEEEE!!?!" song. Nor would I suggest in a million years that a woman should shrug off any situation in which she just thinks she might be raped. I just think there's more going on than "Annie's attacked, Mitchell's a twat."

In fact, taken out of the context of that particular scene, in which the party in the right was never in doubt, horribly difficult (or just plain horrible) questions like this are what makes Being Human so interesting. What if Annie could have found some non-supernatural way to escape? Should she have tried that? Tried to formulate a better plan? Could she, whilst being attacked? Could anyone? Can anyone blame her for her reaction? Or blame her for the consequences of her choice? Is escaping from sexual assault (which surely this was) as quickly as possible worth risking your friends' lives over? You better believe I'm not implying I have an answer to that one, I'm just saying: makes you think.

Whilst we're on the subject of tough questions, where are people falling on Mitchell and George smuggling a self-confessed killer (of his own lover, no less) out of the country? I know the standard response to the old "we can't reveal they exist" argument regarding vampires is that we just kill them (see Ultraviolet, Buffy), which might seem somewhat harsh in this case, but is Mitchell's solution any better, just because the vampire in question feels really bad about it? Just because we know Mitchell did almost exactly the same thing to Lauren last year? Why isn't there an island somewhere where vampires can cut themselves off from temptation? More to the point, if they refuse to go there, does that give humanity the right to kill them? I've never found David Brothers' rants about how every time a superhero leaves a villain alive they become morally complicit in every murder the villain later commits persuasive, because the fact we can prevent a tragedy by performing action X, it does not follow that we have the right to perform action X. There's a hell of a difference between staking a vampire who's already killed and murdering a baby you know will grow up to be Hitler; I get that. I'm just saying that what can be done and what should be done and what must be done are different things, and it never helps to conflate them.

As a moral issue, it's much further removed from reality than is the rape question above, which maybe makes it less powerful (albeit a lot easier to think about), but it's still the kind of issue that makes stories interesting.

Well, that and men with sticks and rope. And Terry Wogan channeling Death. Those work too.

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