BEING HUMAN - Series 2: Episode Five / Review

BBCHD - 7th February 2010 - 9.00pm
"We've gone through the looking glass, Mitchell. And all those qualities, those qualities we had when we were human - mercy, for example - such a commendable quality in a man, such an indulgence now. Becoming a vampire doesn't change the personality. It liberates it. A vampire is the only truly free man.

That little scratch of conscience. That's a lie. That's not who you are. "
An attention grabbing blood spattered orgy that resembles the Manson killings of the late 1960s opens the episode and offers us a flashback to Mitchell's association with Herrick. In London 1969, the two vampires have been having a little fun and it's definitely the morning after the night before. It's great to see Jason Watkins back as Herrick and his return brings a welcome injection of very black humour to the episode. Picking his teeth, he explains to Mitchell that he will have to clean up because Herrick doesn't get on with the leader of the London vampires, 'Yeah, but their head guy and I...we don't erm...I sort of killed his mum'.

There's a great montage that follows, of Mitchell rushing round the flat, getting rid of bloody sheets, scrubbing down walls and running the hoover over the floor, matched with the jaunty lyrics of Hermans Hermits 'I'm Into Something Good'. A sequence that works on a couple of levels as the surrealism of a vampire cleaning a flat after a night of debauchery with several girls crashes into the irony of the lyrics that will indicate that Mitchell will soon discover he isn't into something good and an innocent story of boy meets girl is an abrupt contradiction to the two dead girls that Mitchell hoovers round. And then, as he makes his escape, Mitchell meets Josie. Or rather he hides out in her flat and keeps her prisoner.

Now, if you'll remember, Josie was the old friend who was in hospital in Episodes Five and Six of the first series and sacrificed herself to save Michell after being staked by Herrick. Picking up her story adds a great dimension to the flashback sequences, telling us how they met and how Mitchell, even then, was on the brink of controlling his blood lust and forming friendships that didn't depend on 'turning' them. By far the strongest plot running through the series at the moment, Mitchell's story has been developing very well over the last few weeks. It's a bit of a shame then that some of the equally good work with both Annie and George is rather frittered away this week.

Last week's very strong Annie plot is this week substituted with an annoying bit of fluff with her and a ghost baby. It's an interesting concept but it's ultimately one that doesn't move Annie's story on any further and I have a nagging feeling that the writers don't know what to do with her. Yes, it's very sad that she has to hand the baby back and that she's no longer in a position to have children of her own but it just underlines her status as a ghost rather than adding a new dimension to her or carrying forward a plot. Lenora Crichlow handles the comedy of it all very well but she's more than just a comedy foil and deserves better material, as we saw last week in the terrific story with Sykes.

George also seems to be behaving rather uncharacteristically. The series has failed somewhat to convince me of his relationship with Sam. His recovery from Nina seems rather rushed and this episode seems to suggest that he's so smitten with her that he's prepared to chuck away his friendship with Mitchell. It's very dramatic and well played, it has to be said, but it's not being true to the characters and is forcing them to react against type in difficult situations simply for the sake of drama and not for the actual development of characters. We know George overcompensates much of the time but I wasn't convinced with the whole sub-plot suggesting he was about to abandon Mitchell because he'd met Sam. In the end I think this is just a means to an end and we'll find George having to decide between Nina and Sam and making some earth-shattering decision to let either one go or even die. Or is that too obvious?

Still, we now know he's lost his job (well, inevitable after beating up the boss last week) and is desperate for stability and hence his clinging to the hope of moving in with Sam. Sam can see how desperate and rushed it all feels and quite rightly gets him to see that. I loved Sam's curmudgeonly daughter who, very truthfully within the complex life of her single parent, must strongly approve of the men her mother meets and gets involved with. I'm sure most kids feel the same way in that situation. George's efforts, buying magazines ('a free make up kit? Why don't you just put me on the game and be done with it' she retorts) and the sandwiches he prepares for Molly both particularly being rejeced, also result in some amusing situations.

Far, far stronger is the dilemma that Mitchell faces. Chief Constable Wilson now wants him to kill a convicted paedophile ('it's affirmative action time') as part of the deal he has with the vampire community. However, Mitchell reminds Wilson that he's clean and will not do it. However, Wilson persists and when the man is released on bail ('should be home by now, watching Tracy Beaker with a box of tissues' suggests Wilson) he once again asks Mitchell to kill him. This time with the caveat that if Mitchell refuses he'll sever his connections with the vampires and expose them, round them all up and burn them all. 

He visits the paedophile and there is an interesting allusion to Mitchell's vampirism when the man declares 'Every time I think I've beaten it. It doesn't die. It doesn't stop'. Mitchell forces him to go to the police and reasons with him that he'd be safer in prison than he is outside with Mitchell trying to kill him. He doesn't kill him because he's still clinging to his desire not to kill and to lead by example. He returns to Wilson and adamantly tells him the deal is off. Wilson argues that there is a natural order to all things (perhaps referring back to Herrick's notion of humans as 'Darwin's children') and that Mitchell is upsetting it.

Wilson, again like Herrick, argues that Mitchell's sudden morality is not what he is, little knowing that at least since the 1960s, and his meeting with Josie, Mitchell actually is a vampire with a conscience. In a final, very disturbing scene, Mitchell chooses to kill Wilson as this seems his only way of reinforcing his abstinence and his desire to see all the vampires do the same. This is contrasted with a similar situation in 1969 where Mitchell is ordered by Herrick to kill Josie. Then, he covers up the fact that he didn't kill her and now, he murders Wilson and hates himself for it.

The double edge to this is that he turns to Lucy Jaggat whom he presumably feels will protect him, little knowing she's under orders from Kemp and has a huge stake next to her bed, ready to extinguish him. He confesses his vampire status to her and his truthfulness complicates her own feelings for him even though she already knows what he is. The episode closes with her poised to stake him but relenting and finally taking up the responsibilities of Josie who similarly offered herself as protector, someone to help him beat the addiction. 'Save me', he begs her in very much the same manner that he begged Josie back in 1969. This is signposted via a montage of him and Josie kissing together and similarly him and Lucy kissing, with Jefferson Airplane's 'Somebody To Love' on the soundtrack. Again, the lyrics of the song underline the relationship between Mitchell and the women. It perfectly sums up his search for succor.

A good episode, particularly in developing the Mitchell storyline, but one which uses Annie merely as the comedy foil and presents a somewhat uncharacteristic George, prepared to dump his two friends and move out of the house. Well directed by Kenny Glenaan who gives us two exceptionally good sequences at the top and tail of the 55 minutes that bring alive Mitchell's dilemma with superb use of music on the soundtrack and whose confidence with the visuals is improving with some great wide angle and low angle shots coupled with interesting lighting and grading.

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