Being Human: ‘Eve of the War’ or Did they really manage to cram all of that into an hour? (S4, ep.1)

To say there have been a few changes around Honolulu Heights in the months since we left the supernatural houseshare at the end of Series 3 is a bit of an understatement. Aiden Turner being recruited by Peter Jackson for The Hobbit signalled the end for vampire Mitchell in last year’s tearjerker finale, and Sinead Keenan threw another curveball by deciding not to reprise her role as Nina. To make matters even more dicey Russell Tovey revealed that George would also be making his last appearance during Series 4. So with 3 of the 4 original cast members either gone or with one foot out of the door, werewolf Tom (Michael Socha) being bumped up to main cast and newcomer Hal (Damian Molony) taking the resident vampire spot, can the show really continue unscathed and even build upon what’s gone before? I guess we we’re about to find out….

What happened…

It’s incredibly hard to know where to start with such a jam-packed hour of telly, so I guess the beginning is as good a place as any. Straight away we’re plunged into a dystopian London in 2037 where Orwellian billboards implore it’s inhabitants to ‘Obey’ and the resistance have literally gone underground. We soon find out that New York has fallen via an intercepted radio transmitter and that “The Earth belongs to the Vampires” as the rebel’s female leader listens understandably perturbed. If there was any time for the EastEnders ‘duff duffs’…

Meanwhile we jump back to present day Cardiff where Tom has managed to get himself a job in the local café (see prequel above) and is straight away back to his old vampire killing ways, staking a couple of twin Japanese crucifix avoiders who’d literally latched onto young impressionable teen, Dewi, whilst looking like they’d just attended a Tarantino convention. Back at the house a red-eyed and clearly distraught George is guarding his still nameless daughter in the attic room that Herrick frequented last series, stake in hand, refusing to let her out of his sight when Annie asks him to take the baby out for a walk to get some fresh air: “Nina left. Nina died. So like I said she doesn’t leave this room.” Later it becomes evident that she’d been brutally beaten to death at the bequest of chief vampire/police officer Griffin, who’s now seeking to capture the first offspring of two werewolves and present her as a gift to the ‘Old Ones’, the vampiric elite who are due imminently to enact their plans for world domination and who he’s due to meet off the coast of Sierra Leone in 2 weeks. In the ironically named ‘Stoker Imports & Exports’, a business which is basically a front for all sorts of vampiric naughtiness, we also meet Cutler who seems resistant to The Powers That Be’s unsubtle plans to enslave mankind: “Before you reach the first major city they’ll have raised an army. On twitter.” Instead he wants to offer humanity a much worse a proposition and sets about entrapping George and Tom in a lock-up during a full moon so he can film their horrific transformation, probably in order to use it as a PR tool to make humans accept their enslavement in a much less messy manner. Clearly Andrew Gower’s character will be a key player throughout this series.

Taking advantage of their incarceration, a social worker and another member of the vampire/police brigade are sent over to the house to intercept the baby from Annie when ‘a neighbour’ complains about her being left in the house alone crying. The fact that her father had left a pet carrier for her to be put into in case she shared her parent’s curse doesn’t help matters, and the social worker insists that Baby Sands should be removed as her ghostly guardian looks on powerless, only for her herself to be murdered in the back of the police car and George’s daughter to be taken to the warehouse where the vampires will see for themselves if she too transforms once a month. The trouble is she doesn’t. The werewolf genes of both her parents seem to have cancelled each other out and left her ‘appearing’ to be just a normal baby, which leaves Griffin with a dilemma about who he’s going to present to the Old Ones. The answer is of course George to whom he offers the safety of his child, in return for him sacrificing himself. The plot thickens however when ‘vampire recorder’ Regus digs out 2 parts of the ‘Human Skin Trinity’, complete with nipple, and foretells that the ‘Human Child of the Moon’ will in fact bring about the death of all vampires. Naturally Griffin isn’t too happy and decides the best course of action will be to kill the baby. Not wishing to mess around with Fate, Regus decides to make up a special, long-winded and increasingly ludicrous ritual to do so, which stalls for time and gives George the opportunity to trick his body into ‘half-transforming’ just as Tom and Annie arrive as backup. But as with all great feats there are consequences. After he’s avenged Nina and seen that his daughter is safe by killing Griffin, forcing him to drink his toxic blood, Regus tells them that by bringing about the ‘half-change’ his body won’t heal in the same way it usually does and that he’s effectively going into multiple organ failure.  In a tearful goodbye he names his daughter Eve and entrusts her into Annie and Tom’s safe-keeping and then goes through his door to be with ‘his Nina’. And another one bites the dust…

In a slight change of pace the episode is interwoven with glimpses of new vampire on the block Hal, who we first see having his hair cut by friend, Leo, a werewolf he’s known since the 1950’s (see prequel below) and who is also weakening in his old age as a result of the monthly transformations. Fellow housemate and ghost, Pearl, tethers Leo to his bed as the full moon approaches, refusing to accept that this could be the old man’s last lupine transformation, but is implored to listen by her elderly friend who tells both her and Hal that they “were on the outside of humanity so we could guard it”, a definite callback to the original premise of the show. In these short scenes the seeds are sown for their cosy supernatural set-up being jeopardised for good.

As ‘Eve of the War’ comes to a close we’re brought back to the future with the young rebel leader having secured the third piece of the ‘Human Skin Trinity’, and evidently realising her place in assuring the safety of humanity. Inexplicably donning a druidesque dress she asks one of her subordinates to help her fulfil her duty and sacrifices herself so that she too can summon her own door and enter Purgatory in order to “kill the baby”. This leaves us with 2 questions. Is she in fact Eve, George and Nina’s daughter all grown up? And will she be the only person ever to successfully kill herself twice? Time will tell…

The Verdict…
I genuinely don’t know what to think about this opening gambit for series 4. Whilst I  applaud the breadth of new mythology Toby Whithouse introduced here, I do fear that he might be moving away from the insular quirkiness that set Being Human apart from your average supernatural fare. It’s certainly a brave move that might have been spurred on by the revolving door of actors over the last 12 months, but whether or not it’s foolhardy we’ll soon be able to tell in the next few weeks. For me introducing the idea of ‘Fate’ and ‘Destiny’ so soon after dismissing it at the end of Series 3 when the ‘Wolf-shaped bullet’ turned out to be nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy for Mitchell is problematic, and suggests that they’ve dropped the ball a little in relation to the overarching ideology of the show which has always advocated that it’s main characters have the ‘Free Will’ to not fall prey to their baser instincts. I’m not too thrilled about the possibility of Purgo-time travel either, which doesn’t really seem to gel with what the show was originally about, but I guess if it’s done well I can live with it.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy anything about this episode. The ‘pet carrier’ joke had me in stitches and was one of a number of funny moments that lightened the tone in what was undeniably an emotionally draining and plot heavy episode. With regards to performances, whilst I’m not sure Michael Socha has settled into his role yet, or indeed if Leonora Crichlow is getting the material worthy of her talent now that she’s front and centre, Russell Tovey’s swansong was superb. It’s been a pleasure to watch him play the super intelligent, but socially inept werewolf over the past 3 years and he will be missed. I’m also excited by what Damian Moloney could bring to the table with Hal. Within a minute or so I realised he had an impressive screen presence, and the scene in the barber shop with Leo and the discussion about Superman’s hair was probably my favourite after George saying his goodbyes. I’m intrigued to see how he’ll integrate into the house in Cardiff and how his issues with his own curse differ from Mitchell’s. We’ve already glimpsed him perhaps suffering a form of OCD by the way he straightened his friend’s hairdressing tools in the barber shop. I envisage lots of scenes where Annie is endlessly making cups of teas and he’s endlessly forcing coasters on everyone and cleaning up after them.

At the moment it feels like Being Human is stood on the edge of a cliff. Either it will sprout wings, fly and improve upon what’s gone before, or it’ll trip itself up and crash and burn. I sincerely hope it’s the former.

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About Optimistindisguise

I blog therefore I am. I think.
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