BEING HUMAN - Series 2: Episode Four / Review

BBCHD - 31st January 2010 - 9.00pm
"It's like when they dress up those bears and make them dance for the tourists in Istanbul. Have you ever seen that? Well, this great big mountain of power and fury, done up in a fez and a waistcoat. And all the time you're just waiting for it to wake up, realise what it is, and tear someone's throat out."
We're taken back a year in the pre-titles sequence to when Lucy Jaggat first met Kemp and we're given a clue about why Jaggat is involved with the fundamentalist Kemp. She's written a paper on a gene that could be the cause of evil! Merely speculative, of course, but Kemp's positively salivating at the prospect of working with her. What I like about this episode is that it doesn't throw Jaggat onto the 'evil' bandwagon that Kemp and company have started up. It paints her in certain shades of grey that suggests she has compassion and could be redeemed. Which will be handy because Mitchell seems to be getting rather attached to her.

Jaime Mathieson's script harks back to the humour and idiosyncracies of the first series and concentrates on developing the three main characters and the series mythos. The threat from Kemp and Jaggat is placed in the background as George tries to deal with his inner werewolf, get a new job and possibly a new girlfriend; Annie gets some long overdue lessons in how to be a ghost, read auras and keep that death's door firmly closed and Mitchell sets up a vampire AA meeting with Ivan's help.

It is George's storyline that provides the pathos and humour. 'Lists solve everything' he proudly exclaims and off he goes to tick everything off on his list. He decides that the werewolf needs to be drugged and caged and proceeds to get a bespoke cage built for the purpose. He attempts to rationalise his condition and believes because it only occurs once a month he can control it and get on with the rest of his life. It's on his list, after all. The script then contrasts this with Nina's experience in the pressure chamber and the promise from Jaggat and Kemp that they're going to help her overcome her own condition.

Annie is rescued from another disturbing attempt to drag her through death's door by the greatcoated Sykes, played with panache by Bryan Dick. She has to convince George and Mitchell that he can teach her some survival techniques but they're both concerned that Sykes might just be another Saul, someone sent to trick her into going through the door. '0900 tomorrow. That's if it's OK with your two dads?' announces Sykes after Annie has reassured them.

George is out getting a cage made. 'We get a lot of business from the S&M community' the metal engineer tells George, after he demonstrates that the width of the bars on the cage shouldn't be wider than himself, naturally. 'I've even dabbled a bit myself,' he jollily reveals.  He even throws in a complimentary pair of handcuffs. Back at home he's rather taken aback that various tradesmen think he's some kind of pervert but Sykes, quite rightly, sets him right. 'Better they think you're a nonce than a werewolf, surely?'

What he hasn't worked out that is that all that suppressed animal rage will need a channel of expression, to let off steam. As he goes about securing a job teaching English as a foreign language, out of the window goes his attempt at order. The werewolf manifests itself in some rather surprising and hilarious ways from teaching foreign students a vocabulary of swear words, to various uncontrollable attacks of Tourettes and, finally, physical attacks on his new boss. In the end, he's as human as all of us who have ever wanted to silence mobile phone playing teenagers on buses or beat up our overbearing and bullying bosses. But you don't actually go and do these things. Unless you're a repressed werewolf, of course.

There's also something rather odd in that he tapes his werewolf transformation and then gets Mitchell and Annie to watch the recording with him. But then George overcompensates to the nth degree and this is surely his way of saying to his flatmates that he can do the things on the list, he can make order out of chaos.

Annie, under Sykes tutelage, learns how to read auras and spot the agents of the 'men with sticks' waiting behind the door. Sadly, she can also see people who are heading towards death, like the man with the tumour playing with his kids in the park. She asks to practice on Sykes ('you're not wearing ladies underwear or something, are you') and he flares up, demanding she doesn't go there. Despite being distracted by a lovely weather lady on the telly ('Honestly, it's like training with Benny Hill') Sykes shows her how to identify and close down the signal from the agents of death's door and later with George's help teach her how to taste food. The final test is to close death's door and, after a surreal conversation with her dead self, Annie pulls if all off with spectacular results. We even learn about Sykes own Achilles heel - his alleged cowardice in the war.

Mitchell, meanwhile, is trying to adjust, albeit reluctantly, to his new status as 'king of the vampires'. The perks of the job seem to include snacking on emo, self-harming Goths (those Twilight readers have got a lot to answer for) but with Mitchell on the wagon this particular groupie is sent off home but not before she asks for the bus fare home. Ivan attempts to get Mitchell to understand that addicts will always find loopholes (an alcoholic he knew, believing Advocaat wasn't proper booze, then died of cholesterol poisoning) but Mitchell is inspired by Ivan's story to set up a vampire addicts step programme and persuades Ivan, that as a figurehead, he would inspire others if he too went to the meetings and admitted his addiction.

The episode is all about control, getting and keeping it. George with his cage and tranquilisers, Mitchell with his AA meetings trying to ween the vampire community off its drink of choice, Annie getting lessons in how to keep that door shut and tune out the ghostly entreatments. The reverse of this is Jaggat and Kemp pretending to offer Nina the same when in fact Kemp is simply out to destroy her and the other supernaturals. And the problem is that control is either bought at a price or is simply results in covering up the true nature of our supernaturals.

Jaggat convinces Kemp that they must keep Nina alive if they stand a chance of capturing George. George, however, is getting close to a work colleague, Sam (love the discussion of super powers with her, with George claiming 'extreme hairiness' as a virtue), and although he thinks he's put the wolf to sleep, the fact that he ends up in tears in the cage at the end of the episode does not signal good prospects ahead. Russell Tovey more or less owns the episode, beautifully getting the comedy and the tragedy across in his performance.

There's a gorgeous moment where he's watching the recording of the sleeping werewolf and reaches out to touch the image on the screen, his eyes a mix of sadness, regret and admiration. He is, after all, seeing his real nature, as a living, breathing creature. There's also that laugh out loud moment where he's correcting the rude graffiti in the loo and gets caught by his boss that then turns on a sixpence into a violent and bloody attack on the man. That he ends up, naked, in tears, in the cage at the end of the episode suggests that George now has to deal with the challenge of taming the werewolf 24/7 as opposed to just one day a month. It's turned into a full time occupation.

Mitchell ends up with vampires pledging to get on the wagon whilst, unbeknownst to them, he has to compromise with Ivan and allow him to continue drinking. Ivan compares his status to boy bands, 'the thing about boy bands is that it's all about image, isn't it? Behind closed doors they can be, you know, dressing up as Girl Guides, snorting coke, fucking swans. All that matters is what happens on stage, right?' The community isn't going to be too pleased when they find out...and I suspect they will. And it becomes Mitchell's way of getting closer to Lucy, by suggesting he is an addict on a 12 step programme, when we know she's Jaggat and has an agenda all of her own.

Great playing from all the regulars here, a script that takes the three flatmates on new, likely quite perilous, journeys whilst the major plot with Jaggat and Kemp bubbles away with a final statement of intent from Kemp as he confronts Lucy Jaggat about her capacity for forgiveness. Again, it's all about who is in control. Ivan gets some cracking dialogue and Paul Rhys is fantastic in the role. Hopefully, we get more Ivan as the series progresses. Director Kenny Glenaan takes all of this and deliberately goes for the intimate, with plenty of close ups, to emphasise the internal struggles of the characters, as opposed to Colin Teague's emphasis on landscapes and interiors. A fabulous episode.

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