BBCHD - 28th February 2010 - 9.00pm
Not quite what I was expecting. Expectations are a funny thing, aren't they. Well, they don't turn out as you...er...well...expected. So, not a balls to the wall clash between Kemp's religious army and the remaining vampires led by Mitchell and Daisy. Daisy? Yes, Daisy...where exactly did Daisy go after turning Mitchell all strange last week? More on her later.
Anyway, this one was more of a satisfying slow burn. More like John Carpenter's The Thing or any other 'base under siege' storyline with Mitchell sneaking around the facility and quietly taking out Kemp's rather pretty looking altar boys. Altar boys delivering trays of tea, ghost like, to Lucy Jaggat who calmly asks where her Garfield mug is whilst all around her is being prepared for slaughter. All delivered with lashings of atmosphere by director Charles Martin. And with the facility flickering across our retinas with that dodgy lighting, George and Annie sat and debated their reasons for being in Kemp's house of horrors in the first place. Neither was entirely sure why they were there and George certainly didn't know Annie's real reason.
Lucy is somewhat troubled. Well, I guess you would be after blowing up a nest of vampires and luring George and Annie into Kemp's den under false pretences. And she's seen the rather gory looking and disturbing manifestation of Amy McBride, a previous victim of the facility's techniques. Is this her guilt conscience coming back to haunt her? Kemp, meanwhile, paws over the mementos of his obsession with Jaggat - her hairbrush, a lipstick stained mug - suggesting he's dragged her into this on very suspect grounds and emphasising that he himself no longer possesses any innocence as he dictates his observations of George and Annie. (*Thanks to Nimbus for pointing that out to me - I must have been drunk whilst watching this episode to miss that!) 'The facade of friendship is impressively consistent. To all extents, an innocent ear hearing their conversation would assume their relationship to be entirely authentic. Entirely human.' This reveals Kemp's biggest misapprehension. He's so corrupted that he could never hear anything innocent in those conversations when the rest of us know perfectly well they are the most genuine communications of all. His actions are not just performed in the name of God, they're sanctioned by that desperate collection of objects in his desk drawer. All for love.
'Why don't you pop down the Londis and get a pint of milk?' seems such an innocent request as Mark Fleischmann's rather sordid Technician gets off watching Nina ('you naughty little Type Three') and sends the altar boy out shopping as an unseen Mitchell slowly bites his way through the facility's staff. It's Toby Whithouse's forte to slam something funny and rude immediately next to something full of dread and horror and this finale allows him to really show off. He even drags the 'intelligent design' debate into the equation as Lucy Jaggat talks about faith and fellow scientists drawing a cock on the back of her lab coat when it got out she saw science as a way of accepting the supernatural. She tells George that she can see the werewolf as a separate creature looking out of his human form. George however knows that he and the werewolf are the same despite Lucy's admonition, similarly to Kemp's, to 'do good work'.
George's conversation with Nina also reveals another theme that has been weaving in and out of the series too. He's frightened the cure will work because, in effect, he, and Nina, Mitchell and Annie, are all defined by what they are not. They are not human but by acknowledging their supernatural selves they take one step further towards the human. Without the werewolf, that definition is gone. It's a brilliant scene and once again Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan prove what an asset they both are to the series. 'Nina, you are worth a thousand of me,' he says to her after she admits the same apprehension. 'Just the one'll do', she confirms. And as if that scene doesn't go far enough to show you why this series is so good, it's followed by the heart rending suicide telephone message left by Annie.
In case you were wondering what exactly she dictated into the answer machine last week, it's here revealed in all its tender, brittle glory. 'The prospect of this scream of time in front of me...is terrifying. This endless life, never aging, never kissing, never having a family - all the things that make you human. Not having them is a worse hell than anything they've got over there.' - referring to what lies beyond her in passing over. A very moving scene especially in light of what happens later and her reasoning is very eloquent when she is then confronted by George. If he and Nina are cured, she will disappear. No one will see her and her being seen, her being human is defined by the fact that George, Mitchell and Nina can see her. Her loneliness will be defined by their absence.
Mitchell's attack on the facility intensifies and George suspects something is going on from the isolation room that he and Nina are locked in. An innocent game of I-Spy leads to some interesting revelations. Yes, George has a nice arse but he also discovers that Tully, the werewolf he met way back in the first series, has left him a message about their fate. Mitchell shoots down Lucy's bizarre creationist theories about evil by reminding her that the need to pre-order body bags might be a signal that her 'good work' has gone a little too far. Her reductionist view of the world seems to be based not only on what the supernaturals shouldn't have or be but also on her own faith denying her any of the joys of life and hope. Her religious faith is the most reductionist view of all. And as Mitchell points out, 'We're all God's children. And God's a bit of a bastard.'
By now, you should have worked out that the only way Annie will be able to pass over is in the presence of a door. To create the door someone has to die. And Kemp knows this as soon as Hennessey, the rather sweet psychic whom Annie is communicating through, confirms this. You just know poor old Hennessey is going to cop it. He's killed by a completely psychotic Kemp and his ghost is dragged into the afterlife through the freshly appeared door and, as a distraught George and Nina watch, Annie too is sucked into the void. It's a truly terrifying and disturbing sequence. One thing bothers me about it. Why doesn't Annie use her powers to close the door? What was the point of Sykes teaching her how to do this?
Oh, and a quick shout out for Donald Sumpter as Kemp. He has been consistently good in the series and the scene where he confronts Mitchell in the corridor and taunts him about Annie's demise is blood curdling. 'Did you feel her go? Did you hear her scream as she was ripped from the world?' Thankfully, in another exceptional and deeply emotional scene, George manages to convince Mitchell that killing Kemp will be no way to honour Annie or his own last shreds of humanity. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Because by the time the episode sees the survivors of the facility hiding out in a remote country cottage we all wish he'd finished Kemp off. It goes from bad to worse as Nina's snooping (Inch High Private Eye!) into Lucy's history and her 'bullshit' publications ('Did you keep the receipt? I can get you your money back', she offers to Nina) gives away their location.
Both Lucy and Kemp come calling for a climactic final 20 minutes. Lucy's come to say sorry ('What? Like you pranged the car!' snaps Nina) but inadvertently allows Kemp to have another go at destroying the friends. Rather like the tendency with a series such as Heroes, Whithouse doesn't quite know when to stop piling on the disaster, the twist and the multiple cliffhanger. Not only does Kemp kill Lucy, but by doing so he creates a door through which Annie quickly appears and drags Kemp away into oblivion (and there isn't a form for that, apparently). It's a nice idea but I felt it was a rushed solution to what exactly they were going to do with Kemp and Lucy and it also felt somewhat telegraphed that we hadn't quite seen the last of Annie. It's partly redeemed by that astonishing scene where the friends speak to her through the television as she describes what seems to be the Kafka-esque bureaucratic hell of the afterlife, full of numbers, waiting rooms and form signing. A beautiful little scene, full of tenderness and compassion ('don't forget me, will you?), with the promise that George and Mitchell will go and rescue her in the next series. The end.
Er, not quite. For some reason Toby Whithouse then decides to tack on a bizarre final climax showing Daisy (oh, there she is) and Cara (remember, she had her teeth knocked out by Mitchell and was left rotting in the cave tunnels under Bristol) bleeding themselves to death over a reanimated Herrick. I love Herrick, honestly, I do but there had better be a jolly good reason for bringing him back because right now this feels like just one more rabbit being pulled out of the hat in a room full of rabbits and hats called Daisy, Cara, Lucy and Kemp. A tad indulgent perhaps for, what was on the whole, an intensely thrilling and moving episode in a somewhat uneven second series. Despite that, it's still one of the best British fantasy series in years and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'll be back for Series Three.