BEING HUMAN - Series 3, Episode 7: Though the Heavens Fall / Review

S P O I L E R S !

BBCHD - 6 March 2011 - 10.00pm

"Once the curtain was drawn and I'd seen the true nature of nature... I realised these nightmare creatures had permitted us to mind the shop."

"Date of birth? Mr. Fuck You."

The penultimate episode opens with a flashback and we are taken back some twenty years to what presumably were the cage fights now spoken of in hushed tones by the vampire fraternity. The ringmaster of this particular carnival arrives to console the winner. The winner is McNair and he's given a state of the nation address by the Herrick we all once knew before George ripped him to shreds and he was reincarnated as 'Uncle Billy'. After describing the "fragile detente" between the human and supernatural worlds, he goes on to pour scorn on the lives of the "semi-detached" and their "Sunday roast with the in-laws... paddling pools and catalogues, five-a-side and Belgian beer". Pausing to consider it, his opinion of this human normality is "God, it sounds horrific!"

As Herrick laughs in McNair's face, knowing full well that the scratches on his face have drawn back that curtain that he talks of and will underline that age-old conflict between vampire and werewolf, we sit in anticipation of the ringmaster's eventual return up there in the attic of Honolulu Heights. Surely, this three ring circus is about to come crashing down... and Herrick will be in the midst of it.
Say 'cheese', Mitchell
And the animals came in two by two. Mitchell and Annie continue to deceive each other, their anxieties brewing from the Box Tunnel Twenty and where Annie is convinced, via her Jessica Fletcher style investigations, that Daisy is the culprit. She's either simply blind to Mitchell's sweaty guilt or in quiet denial. Writer Toby Whithouse suggests a bit of both as he pulls the scales from her eyes in this episode. Mitchell frets about Annie's determination to reveal to the world the existence of their supernatural lives if Daisy is arrested by the police. Little does he know it but when he suggests "they arrest her, they take her photograph. And bam! That's it" that he is prefiguring his own destiny as the story hurtles towards its nail biting final quarter of an hour. It is Mitchell, not Daisy that will be smiling for the coppers. Say 'cheese', Mitchell.

He describes the effect as "biblical" and it's a view that could be applied to the entire episode. The three ring circus - Annie's innocence of Mitchell's bestiality, Nina's mishandling of the situation, McNair's revenge and Herrick's return - is a game changing slab of blackest tragedy, a vision out of Revelations itself where, as Mitchell claims, we "lose everything." But Annie isn't listening. Her heart desires to save Mitchell and right now she needs more drawing pins. As she also points out, vampires must have been threatened with exposure in the past. Mitchell reminds us of the infrastructure that was once in place, of which Herrick was a vital element in his guise of police officer. Ironically, it is this symbol of the infrastructure - "like vampire police" - that seals the fate of a great many humans and supernaturals in the climax of the episode.

Annie's "what if game" turns the tables on Mitchell and although he states he'd "tear the world apart" if she had been one of the Box Tunnel Twenty, do we really believe him any more? Isn't he just saying that to make her feel better? He deceives her again because his guilt about the murders knows no bounds and you can see the relief on his face is palpable after she acknowledges, with a kiss on his forehead, he has said the right thing. Another near miss, he thinks.
"there has to be justice whatever the cost"
Back at police headquarters, Nancy is desperately trying to convince her superior that Mitchell knows much more than he's letting on. She knows Daisy actually died in 1941. Annie suggests to Nancy's boss, Cooper, that "this is where it gets complicated" and, as we'll see later, while Annie assumes that no one can see her, one of the great twists in the story is that she's hiding in plain sight as far as Cooper is concerned. And as Cooper attempts to argue a psychological cause for Mitchell's false information, Nancy reveals to Annie that Mitchell has Graham's scrapbook full of clippings about the murders.

Again, Annie rationalises away this whopping big symbol of Mitchell's guilt. He is turned into the Fox Mulder to her Dana Scully. "This isn't even a fingerprint or anything approaching the truth," dismisses Cooper and he instantly gives Nancy licence to return to Honolulu Heights for real evidence. Annie's little curtsy at the end of his speech is a lovely light touch in an episode that's darkening by the minute. Later, as she goes through the process of rationalisation, she ironically suggests that "someone's lover" was responsible for the murders. She will, of course, discover that it was her lover by the end of the episode and she must stick to her own credo, "there has to be justice whatever the cost".

Nina's opinion of Mitchell is unswervingly illustrated in that tremendous scene where she's shaving Herrick. "If Mitchell told me the sky was blue, I'd have to go outside and check," she replies when Herrick asks her about whether she trusts him. It's another great exchange between Jason Watkins and Sinead Keenan as both characters talk about what defines them. Nina has always battled with her werewolf nature and has tried to not let it dominate her life, just as much as George has always attempted to normalise his own condition, but Herrick is slowly realising here that he is defined purely by "hunger" and that it is "the length and breadth" of him.

And the crafty bugger even elicits sympathy from the audience as Nina recognises that his "madness" is the most human thing he can grasp onto. "You are not going mad. But any other reaction in this house would be insane," she reasons, understanding that to "stay separate, to stay appalled" will allow him some command over his supernatural side.  Here, finally, when he tells her that he has shown the scrapbook to Nancy, Nina begins to realise the nature of the train of events that she has inadvertently let loose. Herrick, seeing her horrified expression, reinforces with his Latin quote many of the themes of the series and the episode - suffer the consequences whatever they may be if in the end justice is done.
"that's five" 
When McNair and Tom turn up at the B&B, those consequences get a further kick up the bum. When he recounts their fight with the vampires that has brought the injured McNair to their door, he is surprised that Nina and George have not been attacked. His comment of "you must be off limits" signifies that the vampires are well aware of Herrick's presence in the house. McNair senses something different about the house and he too can clearly sense the old vampire in residence.

Meanwhile, George is taking a different tack with young Tom. Again, like Nina, he demands that Tom wake up to the very human aspects of his life beyond his relationship with McNair. "You should have Chlamydia and a 24 hour hangover because, trust me Tom, you will look back and they will be the best years of your life." George emphasises that Tom does have a choice not to spend his youth battling vampires. McNair both infantalises Tom ("you could watch some cartoons" he suggests when they decide to stay) and attempts to use George as a proxy father figure, to take his 'son' out for pint. However, this is revealed as something of a rouse to get both men and Nina out of the house. McNair is fully aware of what he's intending to do.

Mitchell's paranoia about werewolves increases when he returns to the house and finds "that's five" which have now taken up residence as his dialogue slips to "that's fine" when George explains McNair and Tom's presence. Threatened by so many werewolves, Mitchell is determined to get the secret of survival from Herrick to try and avoid that wolf-shaped bullet. Alas, by now we know the revolver's been emptied and the bullet is on its way and like us Mitchell can see the old Herrick "sniggering behind his eyes".

The scrapbook is Annie's 'get out of jail free' card and she even convinces Nina that Mitchell was actually investigating the Box Tunnel Twenty murders and that the clippings were evidence he had gathered. The effect on Nina is to transfer the guilt of her suspicions of him back onto herself. It's a clever twist because Nina's actions, which were based on correctly assuming Mitchell was involved, have now turned against her based on Annie's assumption of Mitchell's innocence. However, when Mitchell reveals that the book was put together by Graham and that it has now been destroyed, Annie starts to doubt her convictions and, as we'll see later, Nina's guilt leads to a confession to George about her call to the hotline.

There is some great blocking of scenes here as Annie blows Nina's opinion out of the water. Nina is isolated as a figure in the kitchen as this happens, a visual expression of her guilt that she has wronged Mitchell. This sense of characters in isolation is restated in the steadily mounting anxiety where Nancy arrives to question Mitchell again. He is way in the background as she directs her questions from the foreground of the scene. This body language even becomes part of Nancy's own observations of Mitchell's tense demeanour during questioning.

This all takes on a decidedly macabre turn as Nancy asks to question 'Uncle Billy' again. "I don't bite" she retorts and we can see the thought cross Mitchell's mind that it is 'Billy' who will probably do the biting. There is a powerful scene where he then convinces Herrick that it might be best if they kill Nancy because "men have to do things they never dream of" in the Cold War between human and supernatural, immediately recalling Mitchell's origins as a vampire in the First World War when he first encountered Herrick.

Despite Herrick's demands that Nancy be removed from the house, in an attempt to quell his blood lust, Mitchell suggests he be "brave enough to let nature take its course." Aidan Turner and Jason Watkins are electrifying in this scene and it escalates into nail-biting tension as Nancy enters the attic, seemingly doomed to be Herrick's victim. The blood lust drowning out Nancy's speech is a wonderful touch to such a terrifying sequence.

We can see the burden on Mitchell getting heavier and heavier as he closes the door and leans against it in great resignation. But then he pulls back from the abyss he's about to fall into and demonstrates that he isn't thoroughly evil, that there is some vestige of humanity left in him (the same that Annie has already indicated she can see in him) as he drags Nancy out of the room just as Herrick prepares to attack her. A collective sigh of relief could be felt up and down the land at that moment. Only for a moment though. Toby Whithouse is far from finished and after Mitchell manages to get Nancy out of the house, she is seen collecting her fingerprint evidence in a calculated diversion.

More brilliant choices of music can be heard as the frothy New Romantic pop of Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like the Wolf' acts as the backdrop and counterpoint to the evening's preparations for full moon transformations, complete with chicken envy between Tom and George, a rather knowing look at George from Nina and McNair's slow prowl through the house to find Herrick.

The sucker punch is the scene where Nancy and Annie go to meet Cooper at the train carriage that the police are still examining. Here, the results of the fingerprints Nancy collected are really more than she actually bargained for. And Annie's world finally and irrevocably collapses. Cooper reveals not only that Mitchell murdered Sally Fenza in 1960 (something Lia showed Mitchell in purgatory back in the first episode) but that he is also confirmed as one of the Box Tunnel Twenty murderers. Richard Wells's scoring really rams home the shocking truth to Annie here with masses of poignant strings. But before we have time to recover from that, Cooper literally does deliver the sucker punch of the episode. He turns out to be one of the 'infrastructure'. He's a vampire and he's about to offer Nancy an "evolutionary promotion".
"it's a knotty one, isn't it?"
The last ten minutes of this episode continue Being Human's tradition for depicting the world of our housemates spiraling out of control and into utter chaos as we journey towards the series's finale. Annie, having staked Cooper to save Nancy (who seems to have a charmed life), confronts Mitchell and in despair begs to let Nancy and the police raiding the house arrest him. Her killing of a vampire is the final admission to herself that Mitchell taints everything he touches and "that what you've done has contaminated us all". It's the most tragic and inevitable of melodramas. Meanwhile, McNair (Robson Green absolutely relishing his character in this episode) attempts to claim Herrick as another set of vampire teeth on his necklace of canines (from which we learn of Daisy's fate), mocking him by quoting back his own words from the flashback, but ends up face down in a pool of his own blood after attempting to attack Herrick in werewolf form.

And still Whithouse piles on the giddy twists. The indestructible Nancy ends up as fang fodder in a pretty shocking moment as Herrick attacks her when she goes to check the attic after Mitchell's arrest. All the more shocking because we don't see it. The camera pulls slowly away from the closed attic door as the muffled sounds of screams and the struggle can be heard. After an amusing scene where a police officer attempts to book the arrested Mitchell ("it can't happen here, not here, not in Wales!" he cries as the world inches closer to a first contact with the supernatural) we return to the attic and another inspired choice of music. Shirley Bassey belts out 'History Repeating' as the camera slowly crawls to the prone form of Herrick, face covered in blood. "The word is out, there's something evolving" croons the girl from Tiger Bay and it is then that we know Herrick's definitely back as he stands up and surveys his attic domain now strewn with destruction.

And the twists get as twisted as a twisted thing from Twistville, Twistania.  Nina and George arrive back at the house after a check up at the hospital to find the gate cordoned off by police incident tape. This prompts a heart rending confession from Nina about shopping Mitchell to the police which results in an irate George storming off to try and get Mitchell out of their clutches. But the real humdinger is just around the corner. When Nina enters the house, she's confronted by a fully rejuvenated Herrick standing proud, in his police uniform, amidst piles of bloody bodies. "Your boyfriend tore me limb from limb... have you ever heard of anything so undignified?" he coolly asks her before grabbing her by the neck and threatening her with a knife.

Herrick intends to kill Nina in order to make George suffer for "days, weeks... months" but faces a dilemma ("it's a knotty one, isn't it?") because she was the only one who showed him any kindness. For a moment, he relents and stalks off out of the kitchen but he's a cruel bugger and, just when we think he's left Nina unharmed, he nips back and sticks the knife in because "people would say he's going soft". He departs with a smile on his face as Nina collapses to the floor. It's the final bruising, brutal act in an episode that would shred the nerves of the hardiest of viewers. Director Daniel O'Hara cuts between her struggles with Herrick and the brutish treatment of Mitchell as he faces his moment of revelation, exposed by a police mug shot that whites out the screen. Watkins, Keenan and Turner all give particularly good performances in a script that leapfrogs unrelentingly from one revelation to the next with every prop holding up the circus tent knocked away. Stunning.

So, we are left with questions - how will George get Mitchell out of the police cells, will Nina and her unborn child die, will George kill Mitchell (the wolf-shaped bullet) and how will Tom react to McNair's demise? And just what will Herrick do? And what exactly was Lia playing at?

See you next week.

Bookmark and Share

4 Responses to “BEING HUMAN - Series 3, Episode 7: Though the Heavens Fall / Review”
  1. S Bates says:

    Brilliantly insightful review as always, Frank. Just a few questions/comments:

    "while Annie assumes that only Nancy can see her"

    I didn't get this impression. I thought Annie assumed no-one could see her. Otherwise, we would have seen some reaction from Nancy due to Annie's presence.

    "just as much as George has always attempted to normalise his own condition"

    I seem to remember that, right at the beginning of Being Human, George used to battle his condition too. Over time he's come to (sort of) accept it - or at least live with it. Perhaps those new to the condition fight it (like Christa over in Becoming Human) but eventually normalise it and, perhaps after a longer time, embrace it (like McNair).

    ""you must be off limits" signifies that the vampires are well aware of Herrick's presence in the house"

    Wasn't it mentioned that Nina and George were off limits because of the vamps' poster boy (i.e. Mitchell) living with them? I don't think anyone else knew "Uncle Billy" was living there.

    A fantastic penultimate episode, full of shocking twists as you said. Everyone was brilliant, although I hope we see more of George and his reaction to all this next episode (I'm sure we will). Also, unvamped Herrick appeared to kill wolfy McNair a little too easily for my liking! Still, it's the best programme on at the moment and I can't wait until Sunday.

  2. Correct about Annie! I was half asleep while writing this so I've altered that.

    George certainly battled his condition and I've always seen that as an attempt to normalise it too. He's certainly learned to adjust to it rather than fight it.

    Yes, I agree that the vampires may well be keeping away because of Mitchell but I also suspect they can sense Herrick's presence too.

    I am actually afraid of what might happen next week. A major character's death perhaps? With no news on Series 4 yet could this be the last ever episode?

  3. S Bates says:

    I guess with Aidan Turner being busy in the Hobbit movie, it might mean that they have to kill his character off. Eek! Still, I'm hoping that he'll discover Herrick's secret of how to be resurrected, get staked/ripped to shreds (thus denying the police any physical evidence of vampires) and, next series - if there is one - he can be brought back.

    And I certainly hope they'll be another series!

  4. Jason says:

    I'm late to the party with this one, but I think it's worth nothing that the US version of BH seems to have established that the video/photo rule is null and void in their universe... they'll have to diverge wildly from this plot (and the S2 finale's) when they get to it. Or they'll explain it away, I guess.

Viewing Figures

The Legal Bit

All written material is copyright © 2007-2023 Cathode Ray Tube and Frank Collins. Cathode Ray Tube is a not for profit publication primarily for review, research and comment. In the use of images and materials no infringement of the copyright held by their respective owners is intended. If you wish to quote material from this site please seek the author's permission.

Creative Commons License
Cathode Ray Tube by Frank Collins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.