BEING HUMAN - Series 2: Episode One / Review

BBCHD - 10th January 2010 -  9.30pm

Things are not well at Windsor Terrace. Since our flatmates defeated the evil Herrick in the conclusion of Series One, the ticking time bomb of George inadvertently passing on the werewolf curse is taking its toll on Nina and Mitchell has become a vampire in search of a cause, or a life...or a goldfish. Only ghostly Annie, now semi-corporeal in the real world, seems to seize the day and find herself a job. She's even progressed onto making cups of tea with pre-dunked biscuits in them.
Writer Toby Whithouse explores the further humanising of our supernatural neighbours as other forces close in to tear them asunder. Nina has had a new, monstrous nature thrust upon her but is too frightened to reveal to George that he is the one who gave her this new identity. She fears his rejection. George, confused by Nina's withdrawal, has become a monster. He offers little sympathy to Nina and sees his dream of an idyllic relationship with her now tainted.

Whithouse examines the degrees of humanity within the monstrous and the more disturbing aspects of being human that even the most terrifying of monsters would shirk from. George, Annie and Mitchell are human in the sense that they all hold emotions, have feelings and want to feel loved. It's only their other natures that refashion them as abnormalities, to be cast out as monsters. There's a neat, all but brief scene at the end of the episode where out in the street Mitchell is approached by an elderly neighbour played by Margaret John who demonstrates how this process cuts both ways when she apologises for the paedophile witch-hunt he was subjected to in Series One and he gladly accepts the need to move on.

The little moment out in the street with the neighbours, offering them tea, was filled with Mitchell's sense of relief that, at last, they were being accepted back into the community. As that crane shot lifts away from a heavenly gazing Mitchell we get a sense of two complimentary processes reaching their conclusion - Mitchell, Annie and George tentatively moving out into the wider world and 'being human' and Nina embracing their twilight, supernatural existence as she realises she is one of them. Alas, it's a brief moment in the sun.

It's painful to witness the hurt that George and Nina inflict upon each other. Theirs is a fragile relationship at best and to see it being eaten away from within, and attacked from without by the equally unbalanced vampire Daisy, is devastating. It is in fact that scene where Daisy visits her aged daughter that turns the episode on a sixpence as George realises that 'it's not her fault' of both Nina and of Daisy and her daughter's plight. Daisy is, of course, horrified that George has cracked open the alienated veneer of her vampire self and tapped into her human core. It will be very interesting to see how she develops from here. Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan are the stars of the episode, Feenan particularly affecting as she breaks down and admits to George, 'I'm a werewolf'. Fortunately, she also gets support and comfort from Annie as she enters this all too frightening world of the supernatural. A pity that Annie didn't see all of Buffy though. Too busy 'living it', she admits.

Elsewhere, for great comic relief we also have Lenora Crichlow in full on Annie mode as our friendly ghost takes a job at the local pub, initially approaching her first customer as a blend of Peggy Mitchell and Bet Lynch on nitrous oxide. The job interview with the temporary landlord Hugh is also hilarious with Annie introducing him to her business plan including the installation of a 'climbing wall'. I love what Whithouse is doing here with Annie, expanding the series universe and bringing in new characters and situations. Her relationship with Hugh is going to be interesting and she's obviously been far too trusting of pub customer Saul and I'm sure things are not what they seem there. When Saul is offered the use of the phone back at Annie's, Hugh gets a little anxious and Saul shares this worry and suggests that after all he might want to murder her. Annie's response 'Plenty have tried!' is a laugh out loud moment as she acknowledges Owen's crime.

As well as introducing two new vampires, the aforementioned Daisy, who seduces George in the woods after recovering from his werewolf transformation, and the imperious Ivan, played with great ferocity by Paul Rhys, we also have a burgeoning love interest for Mitchell with Doctor Lucy and her love of goldfish. “And do we have joint custody?” she says, referring to the goldfish on her desk, “No, he’s all yours but I’d like to visit him from time to time, ” is the cute reply from Mitchell. The weaker part of the episode for me are the sub-plot developments for Mitchell, probably a natural effect of the whole conflict with Herrick and his minions being removed from the series, but hopefully this new interest in Lucy will feature more heavily as the series progresses. However, Lucy is 'odd' and again I think Whithouse is setting her up for devious deeds down the line.

The mysterious Professor Jaggat and religious fundamentalist Kemp are on the war path and we get to see how badly they treat their captives when Kemp experiments on a werewolf during a transformation. The werewolf's transformation is interfered with by placing him in a hyberbaric chamber in the belief that the counter-pressure created will negate the moon's influence on his system. He doesn't transform but his blood pressure increases and he suffers massive bleeding, dying as a result. It's a very gory business and director Colin Teague intercuts this sequence, and visually matches the shape of the chamber and the peephole into the cellar room where Nina is also undergoing her transformation, with George's own change in the woods. In effect Kemp and Annie are both watching over their charges - one to destroy and negate the transformation, the other to ease a newcomer into hers. That George is on his own simply underlines his own isolation at this moment.

Teague also brings much more of a 'widescreen epic' visual quality to many of the scenes. The chase in the cark park at the opening of the episode shows this confidence off with some deliciously wide-angled shots and a lovely panoramic framing too. He's clearly interested in giving us a sense of isolated figures in a landscape of angular concrete and fizzing fluorescent lighting. So the scene is beautifully set for the battle with Jaggat and Kemp, Annie's romance with Hugh and Saul, Mitchell's growing relationship with Lucy, Nina and George potentially reconciled and the ongoing visits from Daisy and Ivan in a superb episode that mixes very high emotions with horror, gore and flirty Annie behind the bar of the New Found Out (an ironic name for a pub in the Being Human universe if ever there was one).

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