Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What Was Lost, And What Has Been Regained

The problem with sequels, as I've talked about before, is the worst case scenario that accompanies them.  Sometimes, a sequel doesn't just suck mightily on its own terms, it manages to be so indescribably craptastic that it manages to drag the original down with it.

Needless to say, this is a depressingly common problem.  But every nightmare scenario brings with it, or at least suggests the possibility of, its opposite.  A sequel so good that not only does it entirely satisfy on its own terms, but it actually drags the preceding entry in the canon kicking and screaming into the light of awesome.

This time last year (more or less) I discussed the second season of Being Human, and how it hadn't really lived up to expectations, its impressive penultimate episode very much notwithstanding.  Its most obvious problem, I felt, was the implication that Mitchell had somehow "got away" with the massacre he and Daisy committed.  Not in a legal sense, true, but in terms of the show's structure; a kind of "Save a hero, paper over a massacre" kind of thing.

Simply put, I couldn't see how Mitchell could survive as a character. Well, that's not quite what I mean. I couldn't see how Mitchell could survive as a hero. As I said at the time, it's just too much to deal with (hence, I argued, Kemp's last minute switch from relatable antagonist to pervy villain; a transparent attempt to make Mitchell seem less despicable by comparison).

A word of warning: from this point on, spoilers abound...

Season 3 dealt with my concern in the only way possible: by explicitly arguing that Mitchell couldn't survive. This year, the show has gone to great, pleasing and necessary lengths to explore Mitchell's nature, explaining his role in the Box Tunnel 20 Massacre without excusing it. Mitchell's eleventh hour confession to Herrick (the only real weak point of this episode, not because of who he is, but because of how totally he allows Mitchell to suddenly pull the wool over his eyes) that he's always been entirely about expediency makes total sense. So too does Nina (who has a tendency towards self-righteousness that's apparently exactly the sort of thing that gets one stabbed in the kidneys), when she throws Mitchell's self-obsessed need for melodrama right in his face.

Indeed, the true brilliance of the finale lies not in George's decision to stake Mitchell, but in the fact that the script had already provided a way out. Our all-new, all-different vampire antagonist successfully interrupts Kill Mitch: Vol I, but everyone's favourite Irish bloodsucker still ends up as an over-heated marshmallow. The show might as well be bellowing "We could have gotten out of this, but it's vital that we didn't."

Mitchell dies, not for lack of option, but because he finally realised that the only way out was to die. The only way to stop the killing was to be dead. Herrick wasn't the answer, nor was hiding from humanity. This is all he had left. When Nina tells him that "This is how we'll remember [him]", it applies just as thoroughly to the audience as well. Don't think of him as the vampire who killed all those people, it asks. Think of him as the vampire who was so sorry about his actions that he willingly surrendered his own life.

"I'm doing this because I love you". I'm not sure that I can think of a better exit for a character. Whether or not the recently confirmed fourth season can fill the hole Mitchell has left remains to be seen, but the third year of Being Human has managed to not only be the best season of television I've seen in quite some time, but managed to retroactively boost the quality of the whole series into the bargain.

Is there really no way back from being staked?

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