BEING HUMAN - Series 2: Episode Two / Review



BBCHD - 17th January 2010 -  9.00pm
"Good news for religion, mind. Especially Christianity. As soon as they know about vampires, then they'd know about werewolves, they'd know about ghosts. They'd be next. And once humanity had finished with us, it would turn on itself. First the other religions, massively in a minority now. Then the homosexuals, the disabled..."
Toby Whithouse has had the survey done (last week's episode) and has now got the builders in and is making huge alterations to the fabric of the series. Walls are being knocked through. Those who tune into Being Human for the black comedy must have thought they'd wandered into the wrong show this week. No one was laughing. Well, apart from Wogan.



Whithouse really packs in the developing subplots this week and you could be forgiven if you needed to watch it at least a dozen times on iPlayer to digest it all. Firstly, there's the pre-titles flashback to Vienna in 1999, on the eve of the millennium, where Carl (Steve Shepherd - very nice to see him back on telly) has strapped Mitchell to a chair and is helping him get on the wagon as a vampire. It's a brief scene but it establishes the honour amongst those vampires who do want to quit feeding, the honour (or not) amongst all supernaturals and the Carl/Dan relationship that taps into LGBT subtexts in horror fiction currently being hijacked by the female teen market for the Twilight saga where girls just simply want to get close to their gay brethren. Here, it's more a case of This 'Transylvanian' Life and is far more affecting as an analogy to destructive patterns in same sex relationships, the spectre of European immigration and casual homophobia (Lucy's 'mince of Darkness' and the police officer's 'full moon' jokes are exactly the kind of things I know health professionals would say).



The Carl and Dan story neatly reflects the continuing post-Herrick state of vampire affairs. Last week Ivan warned the residents of Windsor Terrace that they were about to slide into chaos. And here it is. Dan is killed by Carl's blood lust and now there is no one to cover up the 'murder', fix the paper work and disappear the evidence. The systems Herrick set up are breaking down and pathologists and coroners friendly to the cause are no longer willing to do the dirty work. Mitchell and a reluctant George have to shelter Carl and then get Ivan's help to get him out of the country. Naturally this cloak and dagger stuff reminds the two men that their desire to be as 'normal' as possible within their suburban enclave is constantly thwarted by the very nature of their beastliness.



And yet, that desperate escape for Carl, feigning his own suicide and ending up on a mortuary slab next to the body of his lover Dan is as much a painful reminder of the humanity they were both clutching onto. Carl, naked, sobs over his lover's corpse. A very powerful image indeed, firing off all sorts of associations in my mind of the AIDS correlation that's been unhelpfully heaped upon most fictional cocksucker bloodsuckers since Anne Rice's Interview With A Vampire was turned into a film by Neil Jordan. Steve Shepherd is beautifully restrained in his role as Carl, drifting through the episode with supreme dignity and Carl's loss is palpable and his ostracising from the rest of polite vampire society redolent of all kinds of cultural apartheids.



Talking of the human factor, our other 'housemates' - housemates being the analogy of choice here because the pastel pink Corner House is now being listened in on by religious zealot Kemp and his technical lackey just as avidly as many in the nation are now eavesdropping on Stephanie Beacham and Ivana Trump in CBB -  are also undergoing something of a spiritual breakdown. Mitchell offering to shelter Carl is the last straw for Nina. When she realises that he is, in effect, helping a murderer to flee the country she snaps. She leaves George and offers Mitchell her thoughts on her way out of the door, "Your humanity...this thing you're? Are you protecting it, are you looking for it? Do you even know? Take it me from me, it's long gone". Sinead Keenan is utterly heartbreaking in that brief moment and I just love her definition of her love for George as "practicising my signature with his second name kind of love". Brilliant writing and performing and a great opportunity to question the supernaturals sense of morality.



Mitchell and Lucy's relationship begins to grow. First a coffee on a bench in the hospital gardens (a very poignant moment is when Mitchell's hand strokes the brass dedication plaque on it. Lauren Drake's name momentarily signifies in the middle of a conversation about vampires and West Wing box sets) and then Lucy's bold invitation for 'a drink drink' perhaps suggests that Mitchell thinks he's found someone he might be able to confide in out there in the human world, someone to help him cover up those vampire tracks because he also has the problem of the coroner on his hands and it looks as if he's going to have to take some control over his vampire kin.



Elsewhere, the set up with Annie in the pub has likewise gone on a surreal, mind bending journey. Saul and Annie are literally aggravating the hell out of Hugh and George with their cutesy flirting. But Saul's story is an even stranger one than we thought. The forces of darkness, those oft mentioned men with sticks and rope, have a direct line to Saul. And its name is Sir Terry Wogan. Wogan entreats Saul via his game show Perfect Recall (meta-textual in-jokes ahoy as Saul later recalls to Annie about his car accident) to woo Annie. After the local papers reinforce his delusion, this then later becomes a spectator sport as Saul gets Annie into his flat and is then egged on by a filthy minded newsreader. Annie is, forgive the pun, spooked and promptly retreats to her house. But darker forces are at work. The ghost in the machine encourages Saul to drink and drive, he repeats his RTA with unfortunate consequences and we learn that this is in fact all being engineered by the forces behind death's door who are rather annoyed at Annie's refusal to cross over.



This results in one of the most nerve shredding scenes that the show has ever done as Saul attempts to drag Annie through death's door and down the corridor to the men with sticks and rope. Again, Annie's attempt to get out into the world has backfired and she has ended up a victim of her own humanity and desire for love. But Saul surprises us as he still holds onto Sir Terry's idea that he is 'spiritual and vulnerable' and he lets Annie go and crosses over without her. He does the honourable thing. Let's face it, everyone thinks they're doing that in this episode. And Annie's brush with death is both a positive and a negative. Hugh the landlord has been holding a torch for her and in his concern for her after Saul attempts to rape her she realises that the right man has been standing next to her all along. But as he becomes visible to her "the girl who can't eat or drink", as she finally sees him for what he is, the effect of almost crossing over renders her invisible to him. As she gets the handle on 'being human' those supernatural forces take it all away again.



This is a breathtakingly good episode because it packs so many emotional punches and advances multiple subplots with dexterity in scripting and directing. Colin Teague continues to give the show a much more confident visual style with his wide angle shots and exquisite framing. The cast are firing on all cylinders - not one duff performance - and the characters at Windsor Terrace and the New Found Out all call out for your compassion and understanding. Even an off-screen Daisy is reported to have found some feelings again, according to Ivan. And the seeds are sown for what seems to be the unthinkable. Kemp and his henchman look as if they have Nina in their clutches to further their experiments...and don't forget Ivan's warning too,  'Today it's Carl, tomorrow it's someone else. It's like I said, you're sliding into chaos and there's no safety net."

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