Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Once More Human

Yes, she's unlikely to show up this season.  Shut up.
I am ashamed to confess that I had no idea Being Human had even returned to our screens until I happened to hear it mentioned on TV on Sunday night.  Since I am dedicated to my job of writing bollocks about anything even tangentially connected with horror/geekery, however, I immediately fired up my trusty iPlayer and got to work.

Long-term readers will remember that I had a number of issues regarding the show's second season, though ultimately swung in its favour (with various significant caveats).  So how are things going this time around?  Find out below the jump, but beware: spoilers abound!

Overall, I'd have to say the first three episodes represent an improvement on the previous year, but not a total fix.  Two of my major concerns were over how Mitchell's massacre of an entire train carriage was going to be dealt with, and whether or not there was anything that could be done to address what I thought was a serial problem with Annie: namely that she never got anything interesting to do.  That latter issue had gotten so bad that I wasn't sure whether she had actually been written out of the series altogether due to dissatisfaction on Whithouse's or Critchlow's part.

The good news is that the series seems determined to focus on the fall-out from Mitchell's actions.  "Lia", the best episode of the season so far, not only reminds us of the scale of his crime, but through Lia herself explicitly argues that the "vampire fighting to redeem themselves" trope is actually self-deluded bullshit.  I talked last year about how rare the idea of self-punishment through good deeds was in British TV compared to American, so it was very interesting to see it raised and so thoroughly torn to shreds. "You actually do the sums in you head."  We can choose to atone, but we cannot set our own time scale.

This decision to explore the situation relieves some of my apprehensions that remained after the end of the last season.  Another welcome development in that sense is the absence (so far) of Herrick.  I'm as pleased as anyone at the idea he will be back, but it makes sense to keep him off the board for now, and demonstrates that his resurrection wasn't an act of panic on the writers' behalf. Instead, we meet McNair and his son, two werewolves with a sideline in killing vampires. The implication seems to be that McNair Senior (AKA "The One Out of Robson & Jerome Who People Still Recognise") is going to end up in a showdown with Mitchell, which is pretty ironic considering what happened to Herrick in the first place.  I sense the hand of poetic gingre justice!

Sticking on the vampire issue, so far the main thread of the series, the introduction of the Old Ones in "Adam's Family" is another nice touch (as is Mitchell's apparent disinterest in them), and their agent Richard is nicely intriguing - or at least he is up until the episode collapses into a mess of disturbing visuals and unconvincing lechery. Apparently the show still has a little way to go before it manages to not undercut itself with some of its comedy (nice to see the world's gayest ninja back in action, though).

Operation: Mitchell is working pretty well, then.  The only potential bum note in all of this is actually Annie.  Given everything I said about her character last year, you'd think I'd be glad she's getting more to do, but I'm not sure that making her the love interest in Mitchell's story is really much of an improvement.  Right now, she's feeling a little bit too much like a prize for Mitchell to win or lose, and that's... not brilliant.  Still, befriending a zombie in "Type Four" gives her a story that's unquestionably her own, and the new interest the spirit world has taken in her relationship with Mitchell might bear interesting fruit as well.

What about George, then?  By the end of Season 2 I had become convinced of two things: that he was easily the most complicated and interesting character on the show (with, as mentioned last year, some kind of brilliant inverse scale of freak-out that I find worryingly familiar), and that the aforementioned complexity really didn't make up for how much he annoyed the crap out of me.

Good news, then: George is now officially less annoying.  Specifically, he now reads as someone who would bug you if you met him, rather than someone who makes you want to sandpaper out your eyeballs just from watching him. 

This time round, things are working rather better. The werewolf baby storyline, whilst obvious (as soon as George told Nina they couldn't transform together because they'd kill each other my brain started shouting "How do you know; you'd more likely get her pregnant!") has definite potential.  It lets us learn what screwed up Nina so badly (and it's pretty bad), and allows the show an opportunity to do what it does best; use a supernatural situation to set up "mundane" arguments.  Nina is right to point out that the nature of the child she is carrying makes the situation impossible to predict and different from any "normal" pregnancy, but at heart this is simply a matter of two potential parents arguing over whether or not to take the job.  It's difficult to argue George didn't deserve to be thrown out for what he said, but it's also hard not to feel at least some sympathy for him in the face of Nina's total shutdown. 

It's not quite the mark of truly great drama - when that shows up you have to fight not to simply agree with whomever happens to be talking at any given moment - but it takes a horribly difficult ( to say nothing of contentious) situation and avoids making either character into the villain.  That's far better than a lot of last season, in which it seemed like each episode began with the characters drawing lots to decide who got to be the totally unreasonable dick that week.

All in all, it's strong start. The first three episodes have gone some way to addressing the previous year's flaws, and done good work in setting up what looks like it could be a very interesting season.


Anonymous said...

Is it sad that I'm still in a bit of a sulk that Lucy died?!

I recall in Season 1 considering the Mitchell/Annie possibility and shrugging; I then became very anti the idea in Season 2 when Lucy appeared - complex and morally grey is a much better match for Mr Bloodbath. And feels less like a guy letching on his little sister...

SpaceSquid said...

Yeah, you were more of a fan of Lucy than I was. I agree with you about the little sister factor, though.