BEING HUMAN - Series 3, Episode 4: The Pack / Review

S P O I L E R S 

BBCHD - 13 February 2011 - 9.00pm

"Until NHS Direct get back to me about my pregnant werewolf query, we have no other option."

“Well, lucky she’s dead already. Saves you the trouble of killing her one day.”

"Only a vampire would curse in front of ladies."

"Conceived doggy-style, I presume."

John Jackson's episode immediately sets out its store in the opening flashback. We've been waiting for the return of McNair and his son Tom since Lia because it seemed likely they would be the 'werewolf shaped bullet' bringing Mitchell's life to an end. Interestingly, Jackson takes us back some 15 years to when Tom was a young boy and symbolically underlines what will be the major theme of the episode about Tom's maturing masculinity in relation to McNair's role of the proxy parent and George and Nina's own concern, as parents, for the safety of their unborn child.
'the pack' turns out to be a false symbol
The notion of 'the pack' in the story becomes a mythological symbol, one of finding and joining with a wider, extended family. This fits rather nicely into the major characters desire to be normal, to remain human within the construct of their own family unit. But 'the pack' turns out to be a false symbol, a symbol of attainment created by McNair for his son. He's not even McNair's son. This desire on Tom's behalf is seen in that first opening shot as he peers from his place of hiding in the forest at Nina and George affectionately kissing.

The episode later establishes Tom's own desire for Nina, not just him seeing her as a sexual object but also as a nurturing, caring mother as she tends to his wounds. The reverse of this is that in fact both George and Nina are looking for McNair and Tom specifically, and rather ironically considering the revelation about the father and son relationship, to understand Tom's origins as a child born of werewolves. He's a representation of the lost child in the woods, a figure full of secrets and whose destiny is extends from mistakes made in the past.

Masculinity and its expression with the fluid nature of sexuality is also a consistent theme that embraces Tom's arousal and interest in Nina ("be a bee and she can be the flower") George's attempt at humour when he meets McNair ("I don't wear stockings. Much"), the testosterone driven rivalry between Mitchell and McNair and Annie's "sex list" that simply results in her failed attempt to get Mitchell going by talking dirty. Her claim to have done "Naked things in mud. Fighting my lesbian twin," leaves little impression on a rather bewildered Mitchell.

The frustrations of their situation is also perhaps reflected in their ventriloquist act, in an attempt to deflect Nina and George's attention from their intimacy wherein the two lovers simply become another version of themselves, covering up the troublesome nature of desire with a double,  and doubling, act. As Annie pointedly says to Nina and George when they walk in on their sex talk session, "We're not very good yet, we've just started practicising." It's a very amusing scene made all the more pleasurable when George and Nina perform in a similar manner to cover up their meeting with McNair and are equally inept in their subterfuge. The "weird double bill" of Smokey and the Bandit and Avatar fools no one.
... a bond that feels uneasy within the context of the series
Back at Honolulu Heights, the growing relationship between Annie and Mitchell has hit a snag. For all her attentions, Annie, as a ghost, leaves little physical impression on Mitchell even as she smothers him in kisses. It is perhaps symptomatic of a bond that feels uneasy within the context of the series and, while Annie believes that faith has brought them together, Mitchell is having none of. It simply appears to the viewer as if Annie is trying way too hard with her vampire mate.

The more she smothers him the more he seems to pull away. But then he does have the millstone of the Box Tunnel Twenty still hanging round his neck and Graham's scrapbook stashed away in the attic, that all purpose domestic space where most neurotics tend to spend time agonising over their psychosis. Hopefully, this will be resolved soon as it is also changing the character of Mitchell into someone the audience might find rather less appealing than before.

And it's not just a case of "his jeans being too tight" because as much as we want him and Annie to be together the truth of the matter is that by their very nature, the ghost and the vampire aren't really meant for each other and his morbid guilt - visualised in that toy house bearing the 'wolf shaped bullet' message in toy plastic letters - is surely enough to dampen anyone's libido and is a simple visual summarising the darkness at the heart of his domestic life. This is clearly emphasised in the disastrous threesome with Sadie where libido gets out of control and Mitchell's inherent nature, one he can't help despite himself, is revealed in all its horrifying glory. Suffice it to say the combined ardor of the ghost and her vampire is rather significantly cooled after that little fiasco.
... fatherly 'ventriloquism'
The attic and the mobile home are of course one and the same - domestic spaces exposing a great deal of the truth about Mitchell and reflecting the fatherly 'ventriloquism' that McNair has performed for the young Tom, creating a double life for them both. Investigating, Mitchell uncovers McNair's vocation as a vampire hunter and by all indications the Box Tunnel Twenty incident has brought the werewolf to Wales. As McNair chillingly reminds Mitchell at the end of the episode, despite their temporary alliance in rescuing Tom, Nina and George from the perverted clutches of Richard and Emma, "someday soon, somebody's going to get you."

If the audience is still a little reticent to accept Annie and Mitchell as an 'item' then Mitchell's actions later in the episode really do call his judgement into question. He violently challenges McNair and Tom's late night visit to the B&B (two alpha males protecting their families, naturally) but has the rug whisked from under him when Nina declares she is pregnant, stimulating in him a little attitude correction. After discovering that he might be the potential target for vampire hunter McNair, he seems to think the only solution is to approach Richard and his party-mad cronies to revive the fine art of werewolf baiting.

This completely backfires and hints at the theme that Whithouse and his writers are developing for this series - that the threat to Nina. George and Annie's assimilation into human society is now coming from within and more and more that Mitchell seems to be the vampire capable of wrecking it for all of them. His mistake here is to underestimate McNair and not even realise that a much deeper trauma, one that affects Tom's birthright as well as the the future of their own child, is being unearthed by Nina and George.

He realises this all too late and the clash between vampire and werewolf climaxes, with the transformations that Nina, George, Tom and McNair undergo kept brief but visually powerful as they surround Annie and Mitchell at the conclusion to the nail-biting attack on Richard's cage fight. With the violent death of many vampires and a final, bloody confrontation with Richard, he warns Mitchell that his "retribution is coming from overseas" before Tom corners him and finishes Richard off in a welter of blood.
... a seriously loopy Herrick
Whatever that may mean Mitchell is clearly in some deep shit with not only the Old Ones, so disappointed in his rejection of their offer to bugger off to South America that an intervention at their behest is what is mooted here, but also judging by the end of the episode he's now going to have to face a seriously loopy Herrick too. 

This is a cracking episode, full of complex sub-texts about the various dysfunctional 'packs' that roam throughout the series, the protection and care of children and the tentative steps that our housemates make to explore the unknown consequences of love and sex. Both Robson Green and Michael Socha are exceptional as the father and son brought together not by genetic ties but through the impulses of lycanthropic nature, by a tragic mistake.

Socha is wonderfully tender and sympathetic throughout, with Tom's naive come-on to Nina in the hospital rather a poignant attempt to claim her and George as his new 'pack' translating into a sacrifice he's prepared to make in the cage to spare them a horrific death at their own hands. Green captures a powerful nobility in his portrayal of McNair ("he's quite intense" notes Annie), trying desperately to bring Tom up as a well-adjusted werewolf because he feels it is his duty to do so. Two very fine performances that build effectively on their introduction in Lia.

And so the stage is set for the return of Herrick, last seen bursting out of the frozen ground nearly a year ago, and he doesn't seem to be coping very well. Or is that just a front to lull Mitchell and his friends into a false sense of security?

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