BEING HUMAN - Series 3, Episode 3: Type 4 / Review

S P O I L E R S 

BBCHD - 6 February 2010 - 9.00pm

"You rescued her from hell"

"I think someone's in denial. How can she not know that she's dead?"

"Oh, what? We're a supernatural B&B now are we? What next? A mummy?"

So we get to discover what exactly was going on in the sealed off mortuary with the rather amusing pre-titles sequence taking us back two weeks in time to the grisly awakening of the zombified Sasha (a show stealing central performance from Alexandra Roach). The third episode of this current series once again focuses on the characters rather than delivering a grand narrative in the style of the Jaggat/Kemp arc. As I pointed out last week the tone is much closer to the first year's stories and Type 4 is no exception, with writer Jamie Mathieson delivering perhaps the best episode so far that explores the very human consequences of Mitchell's rescue of Annie, sex between consenting werewolves and the blackest exploration of human foibles and frailties.

We discover that Annie likes a midnight stroll, although why she would want to pick her way through crowds of young folk throwing up on pavements outside dodgy nightclubs is beyond me, but that must have something to do with her non-corporeal drift through the wayward tides of a human life that she can no longer have. This obviously pre-figures her growing desire for a relationship with Mitchell and her compassion for the living-dead Sasha's commitment to party hard, die young and leave behind a not so beautiful corpse.

Life and how you live it is the central theme in Type 4 and what that means to werewolf parents, a ghost and a vampire in love or a rotting Welsh "chavalanche" is beautifully explored with each strand of these individual stories reflecting the other. One of the answers, particularly if you're a vampire stalker, is to never follow the example of others.
"Her body language is deafening"
Life takes some unusual turns when all you want to do is go to the bathroom and have a pee. And try going when a vampire gets worried about the whereabouts of a ghost and a decaying woman turns up on the doorstep pissed as a fart. The Mitchell and Annie 'will they - won't they' sub-plot moves on dramatically in this week's episode when George makes it clear to a baffled Mitchell that Annie really does have the hots for him. "Her body language is deafening" reasons George to an incredulous Mitchell. Later, we see this from Annie's point of view when, as soon as Sasha shows a bit of interest in Mitchell, she immediately and defensively confirms that they are indeed an item. "You did well there didn't you!" observes an impressed Sasha.

The central character of Sasha reflects the growth in popularity of the zombie sub-genre and particularly those aspects of it that focus on the humanisation of the living dead, defining them as distinct figures of social commentary and not just the comic, gross out, body horror figures of countless zombie films that jumped on the Romero bandwagon back in the 1980s. Yes, Sasha is a Gothic figure of otherness, revolting and cadaverous but she also a true symbol of abjection, of a woman literally cast out of her own life, a life she desperately wants to hang onto even if she is, technically, dead. Interestingly there is also a an exploration of what we would all individually define as a good life, lived to the max.

For want of a better reference, Sasha ("like the Beyonce album" used by her as self-definition) could be seen as the typical dumb WAG and her return to a palatial if rather tasteless home where we meet Gethin, her equally dumb scrum half Cardiff Blues boyfriend, seems to suggest this. When she turns up at the B&B, our friends really don't want anything to do with her and she is defined as a rather smelly, loud-mouthed, stupid girl demanding "straighteners" for the hair that is dropping out of her decaying head.

Is Mathieson using Sasha as some kind of commentary upon those infamous WAGs who regularly tumble out of nightclubs and make an exhibition of themselves? The qualities of the "zombedie" are used to great effect as Sasha crunches, squelches and rots her way through the episode and the gross-out is present and correct (the removal of her toe nail and Gethin impaling her with a trophy tick all those boxes) but it is simply at the service of a much more affecting story.
"I only got up for a pee."
The zombie film trope of the besieged survivors - here Annie, Mitchell, Nina and George peering out from behind their bolted front door - is turned on its head when the zombie is invited into this 'family' ("would you like some tea?" asks Annie) and we gradually understand that she is the tragic victim not only of her own carelessness, texting while driving her "Prussian Blue Bimmer with the heated seats," but also of their own intervention in Annie's trip to hell.  It also subverts the usual tropes of flesh eating, marauding zombies too with George commenting "at least she's not attacking us. Don't they attack people?" as the housemates realise that the sealed mortuary is the first clue to how Sasha became one of the living dead.

Coupled with this is the very moving scene where George discovers that Nina is pregnant and he comes to understand that so frightened is she of becoming a mother and like her own bullying parent that she would rather seek an abortion. It's another piece of Nina's life prior to her meeting George that Mathieson introduces and Sinead Keenan manages to convey Nina's damaged self-esteem with great emotional sensitivity and again both she and Russell Tovey prove here what real assets they are to the show.

Its a dilemma most young couples probably go through but it's given a twist when Nina observes that the pill wasn't "designed with werewolves in mind." She asks not to be judged and her statement of "this is the child...of monsters" throws up a number of allusions to certain attitudes and prejudices towards those minorities that society would deem as unsuitable parents while also probably including her own mother in that categorisation. As poor George concludes, "I only got up for a pee."

If there is a slight weakness here then it is the somewhat fragmentary explanation for the zombies' existence. The moment where Annie watches the experimentations in the mortuary on the video camera is chilling because we only see a small out-of-focus image of bodies being disemboweled and hear the screams of the living dead. Here, we only learn they were treated as a biohazard and burned alive but we're not really given a reason why the living dead were chopped to pieces. Would that be a scientific procedure in such a case? Anyway, it is a turning point in the episode because Annie's attitude towards Sasha changes after seeing the footage and she realises that even though she's a living dead creature, Sasha is still a human being with feelings and problems of her own.
It's also at this point that Mitchell is reminded about the darkness that haunts him as a vampire groupie ("I would say 'fang-boy'...") called Graham, or Siddion but then that's "such a shit name", decides that the only way to get on in vampire society is to emulate Mitchell's mass killings of the 'Box Tunnel Twenty'. As Graham begins to insinuate his way into Mitchell's life, paying particular attention to Annie and even mentioning Cara along the way, Mitchell is clearly having an identity crisis with Graham mirroring him, even down to the clothes and hair. This is not only a reflection of the self that he presents to the world but also the base animal that lurks within and whose deeds are splashed across the newspaper headlines in Graham's collection that Graham desires for himself.

Appearances can be deceptive and the extremes of behaviour are explored, from desiring Paul Smith boots through to the threatened slaughter of a child on a train, and which result in Mitchell grasping not just the situation but also a stake as he finally kills Graham to put a stop to his stalker activities and to prove that he doesn't always spare his kith as he did with Cara. 

What's great here is that Lenora Crichlow gets a lot to do as she befriends Sasha. There's a great moment as Annie explains that the occupants of the house are a ghost, a vampire and two werewolves and she should not feel alone and Sasha, still in denial, simply retorts in disbelief, "Fuck off!" Sasha's self denial takes a bit of a battering when she hears the housemates discussing the events at the hospital and Annie's sudden change of heart is questioned. "Don't be so deadist!" she accuses them as a further explanation is given about why these particular people ended up as zombies. Again, it's a bit perfunctory to simply say "death's door was engaged" but I suppose that really isn't the point of the story.
"Live, Annie. Seize the day."
Annie ultimately becomes her guardian angel because she wants to "do the right thing" and the comedy is jet black as she and Nina take a made-over Sasha (completed with 'Fill-a-lot' and 'Cover It' and industrial sized quantities of perfume to Roy Orbison's 'Pretty Woman') out on the pull for one last time. This is also perhaps a bleak but playful comment on the extremes some women will go to looking good on the dance floor. Annie's pathos is beautifully played, especially when Sasha confesses to her that she knows she's dead and decomposing and yet Annie herself goes into denial about how it may all turn out.

Again, appearances are seen as important and Sasha raises an important point about how we remember the dead, "you don't think of them like me. You never picture them rotting." This chimes with that brief moment where Sasha sees her reflection in the mirrored wall of the nightclub that heralds the final scene where Annie and Nina watch over her slowly fading, broken corpse. It is terribly moving, provoking Sasha to offer a simple, homespun bit of philosophy that the two women take to heart. "I just wished I'd stayed out and danced and laughed and lived. Cos nights like that won't come your way again" and after regretting not loving, kissing or holding Gethin more she asks them, "you got to promise me that you won't let those chances slip by." She knows that materiality and possessions will not stand the test of time and as she steps through death's door she urges "Live, Annie. Seize the day."

The episode concludes with joy - in that Annie and Mitchell finally decide to get together and Nina has second thoughts about her pregnancy much to George's tearful relief - but with an uncomfortable sense that, even though Annie claims to understand Mitchell's nature and forgives him the things he's done ("they're in the past"), she still hasn't seen the contents of Graham's scrapbook. The image of it, revealed in Mitchell's bag, closes the episode and suggests that she hasn't really understood what he's capable of.

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