BEING HUMAN - Episode Six

BBC3 - 1st March 2009 - 9.00pm

'It was nothing really. Just some small good deed in the darkness. But fate is always playing a long game'
Tonight's finale should confirm to anyone who has been watching that this is one of the finest telefantasy series that we've seen on British television in a very long while. The final episode begins with a flashback sequence taking us back two years. George is working in a cafe and is viciously attacked by a gang of vampires, including Seth (who bought it last week), but is then rescued by Mitchell. Thus we get to see how George and Mitchell met. This is an important act of salvation for George and is a debt that we see him repay later in the episode. Picking up after last week's cliffhanger, it's clear that Annie defied death's door and Mitchell is still alive, albeit seriously injured and in hospital. So begins a narrative cycle, the long game of the opening voice over that tells us a story of fate, redemption and sacrifice that picks up all the peripheral characters, particularly Nina and Josie, and beautifully dovetails their stories into the battle between Mitchell and Herrick. It also examines the emotional glue between Annie, Mitchell and George. And Annie has clearly changed, grown powerful after her ordeal with Owen and rejection of death, as she flits between hospital ward and the flat with astonishing ease. And she's starting to hear voices calling for help.

Meanwhile George meets Mark, the hospital chaplain and they both have an encounter with two of Herrick's vampires that brings on a crisis of faith for both of them. There's a lovely genre nod to Doctor Who's The Curse Of Fenric with the use of the Corinthians quote "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Like that serial's scene of Wainwright repulsing the vampires with shattered faith both George and Mark employ it for the same purposes here. Later, when George visits Mark they discuss the meaning of the words. For Mark it is about his own faith, for George it is about maturity and making decisions about his own fate. The scene does what fantasy drama does best in the way it effortlessly considers theological and philosphical questions as a werewolf prepares to take down an ancient vampire.

A different kind of heroism.
Josie visits the weakening Mitchell. Her cancer has already sealed her fate and she offers herself as a source of blood to help Mitchell recover. She's entirely pragmatic about the proposition of death and openly welcomes it and sees it as the only way she can give strength to Mitchell to help him defeat Herrick. It's a very moving scene as she snuggles up to Mitchell and they talk of their first meeting, beautifully performed by Claire Higgins and Aidan Turner. The incidental music also helps to underline the bittersweet emotion of the scene as it later cuts to a recovered Mitchell and a shot of Josie, dead in her chair, the sun beaming onto her face. Very sad. Meanwhile George has an unpleasant encounter with Herrick in the canteen (the girl behind the counter has now also joined the vampires and giggles rather unnervingly throughout the episode) and, as Herrick says, their macho posturing is a bit like 'Top Trumps. Werewolf vs. Vampire'. What this emphasises is that defeating Herrick it isn't about brute force, it's going to be about self-sacrifice, resourcefulness and cunning. Not point scoring. A different kind of heroism. One where being human is not a weakness, as Herrick seems to think.
"It wasn't human though, was it?"

Annie understands that something has changed in her, the human and the inhuman have merged. George, however, still maintains that his lycanthropy is something entirely separate and will never overlap into his human existence. If this episode is about one other theme it is that George's humanity and his monstrosity are finally intertwined by the conclusion of the episode and in many ways, some of which he is, as yet, unaware of. Take the scenes with Nina as an indication of this and you can see why the themes become so powerful. The three friends argue about how to deal with Herrick and Mitchell decides to face him one last time, much to Annie's distress as she believes they should all take the fight to him. Jason Watkins once again is quite sublime as Herrick. You just know he won't stick to the deal that he strikes up wih Mitchell. When George learns that the face off will take place on the night that he will transform you can see that he has to come to a decision - to stay and fight or flee with Nina. In a brilliant twist, writer Toby Whithouse diverts your attention with George seemingly fleeing after informing Herrick (the 'affair with Hitler' gag is priceless) about where he and Mitchell will have their final battle. But before that, there is the scene with Mark and George where each discuss faith and maturity which clearly indicates the fate George has chosen for himself. There's a very distressing scene as George 'leaves' and bids farewell to Mitchell and Nina, with Russell Tovey providing a tour de force performance that should not have left a dry eye in the house. "It wasn't human though, was it?" George cries about their flatshare. Oh, but it was.

...full of eye popping stunts and punch the air triumphalism
And so to the final showdown. Whithouse moves the pieces of the narrative onto collision course through George's self-sacrifice. As Herrick notes - it's about symbolism - sins versus the sinner where the ancient ways of evil must fight a humanistic variation of the very same forces. But Herrick has missed one element - Annie. Annie has become an all powerful uber-ghost and goes on the rampage at the undertakers after a recently deceased victim of the vampires blood bank appeals to her for help. She's hurling vampires aside with great abandon in a fantastic scene full of eye popping stunts and punch the air triumphalism. Go, Annie, go! The last 20 minutes of this story are edge of the seat stuff as Annie discovers where Herrick is going and dashes to the hospital with Mitchell to try and stop George. It's nailbiting stuff that's then given an extra poignancy by having Nina finally witness George's transformation and slaughter of Herrick, which George sees as the human empowerment to his actions that Herrick clearly rejects. There's a huge nod to An American Werewolf In London here, what with Herrick quoting 'Bad Moon Rising' and Nina coming eye to eye, in a superbly shot sequence, with George as a werewolf. When George calms down we simply think it's that hokey old horror film cliche where only a loved one can save a lycanthrope's soul. It's a bit more complicated than that it seems.

The episode ends with the threat seemingly over, George's affliction now revealed to Nina. However, writer Whithouse has a few more things up his sleeve. As George suggests some kind of connection between him as a werewolf and Nina it is revealed that in the struggle to get Nina out of the way in the hospital basement that George has scratched her. Their relationship suddenly got more complex just as George has reconciled the two disparate parts of his life. Far away, in a secure unit, an unhinged Owen is babbling to what seems to be a visiting psychiatrist only for us to discover that he's been talking to an associate of Professor Jadat, a man clearly on the hunt for our three friends? A brilliant lead into Series 2 and a fitting finale to what has been a truly excellent series. Sunday nights will not be the same for some time.

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6 Responses to “BEING HUMAN - Episode Six”
  1. S Bates says:

    it is revealed that in the struggle to get Nina out of the way in the hospital basement that George has scratched her

    I don't remember actually seeing Nina getting scratched in this episode. I thought Nina was always on the other side of that big door? So I assumed George had scratched her during their initial lovemaking - in which case, I wondered why didn't she turn into a wolf that night.

    A great last episode to this fantastic series, although I found the end, for me, was dragged out a little. I think I had very high expectations for this so was expecting more (though I'm not sure what).

  2. I definitely recall Nina going into the underground chamber with Mitchell and Annie, George lashing out at her/them and screaming something like 'Get her out of here'. I had assumed at that moment that he had scratched her without realising.

  3. S Bates says:

    You're probably right. It's just my dodgy memory.

  4. Nice summary, and yeah, Nina went into the chamber with Mitchell and Annie.

    What a terrific series, BBC Wales makes fantasy drama seem effortless while here, across the Border, BBC Scotland makes Grumpy Old Men. How depressing.

  5. A bunch of good stuff in this.

    Yes, George claws Nina when he pushes her away to get her out - watch her reaction, if you can.

    Annie vs Vampires was really good stuff, particularly the "I see you've mastered the 'talking like a twat' part" line.

    Herrick was perfect, down to his increasing nervousness as George transforms and his struggle to keep it together in the face of his mortality. Nice touch, because now we know why vampires hate werewolves.

    One small niggle: way back in the pilot it's established that George's hideaway, where he lures Herrick to face the werewolf, has a door that cannot be opened from the inside. We are told that it's being renovated, but the renovations are abandoned. Now the door opens only from the inside, and who does that to an isolation ward?

    In six episodes, one gripe.

    I still feel that this series would have benefited from another two episodes, but that's just me wanting more and wishing the Beeb had given them the time to flesh a couple more things out, but now they've been renewed for another series perhaps that will happen.

    Or not. To be honest, as soon as it comes back, I'm there!

  6. Anonymous says:

    lol :D Emotional glue! I love the Moving Wallpaper reference :D Me:DS

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