Monday, 6 February 2012
Being Human - Series 4 Episode 1 - Eve of the War - Review
What’s the Story?
It is all change at Honolulu Heights with new arrivals, tragic departures and at the centre, an innocent newborn baby. To say any more would be to spoil some truly shocking moments, but suffice to say, Being Human roars back onto our screens with an enormously ambitious series opener more akin to a finale and possibly the darkest hour in the show so far.
Read my full thoughts after the jump - ENORMOUS SPOILERS FOLLOW!
What’s the Verdict?
Where do I even start? With one revelation after another, Toby Whithouse managed to cram so much into 'Eve of the War' that, perhaps wisely, there was no time to really dwell on the Mitchell-shaped hole at the centre. This episode had to do an awful lot in a short amount of time and it certainly hit the ground running, with Nina revealed to have been killed within the first five minutes.
Nina’s off screen death wasn’t a surprise given the pre-publicity, but the sheer brutality of it was. Of course, there are pointless casualties in every war but it was shocking to have a main character written out in this way. Beaten to death by vampires, I have to admit I don’t think I would have wanted to see that, but it is a shame that she wasn’t given any kind of on-screen exit. Weirdly, I seem to have always expected Nina to be killed; firstly in the werewolf chamber of Series 2, then by Herrick in Series 3. I can’t help but feel a bit cheated to see Nina killed off-screen after she survived so much and just when she had become a fully integrated part of the team. Also, some of the most memorable and dramatic moments in Being Human so far are when we see the character walk through their door. It’s a unique part of the shows mythology and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see Nina depart like this. However, I know that actor availability often plays a part in these things and having seen Eve of the War, two on screen deaths would probably have been too much to fit in. This way, Nina’s death at least serves as a catalyst to drive George on. Anyway, I did warn you all last week I’d gripe about off-screen deaths, I can’t help it! But I’m done now, honest!
With Nina’s death quickly established, it is heartbreaking to see what it has done to George, who is a shadow of his former self and driven by a desire to protect his unnamed baby and avenge Nina’s death. The good news is that werewolf Tom (Michael Socha) slots straight back into the team, proving adept at both comedy and drama. There were fewer lighter moments in this opener than last year (no dogging miserunderstandings, mid-transformation comedy facial expressions, or dancing in front of a Hawaiian mural this time round), however there was still comedy sprinkled throughout and Tom’s not-so-subtle hinting about the size of the house and ‘all of those empty rooms’ was one of the highlights. New vampire Dewi was also good comedy value, as was Mark Williams with his desperate attempts to delay the execution of the baby.
With the loss of the fabulously malevolent Herrick too, the series also needed introduce a new threat. Wyndham is dead and initially, it seems like Alex Jennings’s Griffin is going to be the ’Big Bad’. However keep your eye on Andrew Gower’s Cutler instead. With some of the sarcastic wit of Herrick, Cutler is a very different style of vampire who has no qualms about hiding from a fight to protect himself. At first I wondered why he was filming George and Tom’s transformations and was so swept along in the episode I missed the significance of this. Rewatching though, the clues are there when he says to Griffin, ‘We create a new context and we give them [the humans] something worse’. I suspect Cutler is planning on ‘outing’ werewolves to the human world, portraying them as the greatest threat to mankind, allowing the vampires to infiltrate when nobody is looking their way.
With the last frame of 'The Wolf-Shaped Bullet', I wouldn’t have for one second expected the next scene we would see in Being Human would be set in a post-apocalyptic 2037. I am sitting on the fence about this plot development at the moment, it worked brilliantly for The Terminator and more recently in Dollhouse, but showing a glimpse of the future and knowing how things turn out, can detract from what is at stake in the present. Of course, as any Doctor Who fans will know, it can also lead to much debate on whether ‘Time can be rewritten’ and if, as implied, the mysterious woman of the future is Eve, dying in order to travel back to somehow kill herself as a baby believing that this will stop the destruction of mankind…well, let’s just say I’m predicting some paradox arguments already. You certainly can’t fault the shows ambition however, and 'Eve of the War' is the most ambitious episode to date, with the concept of ‘The War Child’ really expanding the shows mythology (although after all the speculation, the werewolf genes cancelling each other out and creating a human baby feels a tad...convenient. If this is truly the case of course).
As everything gets just that big bigger however, it does mean that we are moving away from the flat-sharing dynamic that initially made the show so successful. This was particularly apparent in the scenes with Hal, Leo and Pearl, who served as a reminder of how our heroes used to be. Lets be frank, the Southend-on-Sea supernaturals seem to have been rather more successful at living incognito, but now Hal and Pearl have found that death has managed to catch up with them both anyway. With so much happening in this episode, we didn’t have an enormous amount of time to get to know Damien Molony’s much anticipated Hal, but everything we did see was interesting and I look forward to getting to know the new characters as the series progresses.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, we also had to say goodbye to the wonderful Russell Tovey. With George a broken man for much of this episode, I felt we only saw a glimpse of his former self as he named his daughter and walked through his door. Imagine next time you’re having a Being Human marathon, watching The Wolf-Shaped Bullet and Eve of the War back to back, I think I will be an emotional wreck!
More on George’s final scene below, but with three out of four of the main protagonists gone, Series 4 has a lot to prove to show that this universe has plenty more stories to tell.
On the evidence of Eve of the War however, Being Human has plenty of life in it yet. It could be argued that there was too much going on in this opener, however with so many changes to make and so much to achieve, I thought Whithouse did remarkably well. My main hope for this series is that Annie finally achieves her full potential. I realise that there is a danger that this will leave the character with nowhere else to go, but I feel that with the loss of her friends and being forced to take on a maternal role to Eve and in many ways Tom, Series 4 must surely mark the time when Annie’s inner strength and confidence will come to the fore.
The line-up may have changed, but don’t write off this show just yet. After this compelling opener, it looks like Being Human still has an awful lot to give. Remember, ‘this is where it starts’.
As with last years reviews, I thought I would pick out my highlight of the episode again. Plenty of choices but as with The Wolf-Shaped Bullet, there is really only one option here. Despite knowing that death is not the end in Being Human, it never fails to be utterly heartbreaking and Russell Tovey, Lenora Crichlow and Michael Socha really delivered in this episode, as George’s internal organs failed him after being ‘tricked’ into transforming (what? That’s totally possible! Right?!). I don’t mind admitting I was in floods of tears, the searing score added to the emotion of the moment and as George said he had to be with ‘his Nina’, well, that was my heart broken right there. Despite the devastation of the scene itself and of losing such a wonderful character, in Being Human world, we know that Nina is waiting for him on the other side and that at least they can always be together. George always wanted a quiet, normal life and as his condition increasingly stopped him from achieving this, you can’t help thinking that being released from it was a relief for him in the end. I did think it might have been a nice ending for both characters to have Nina’s voice, or silhouette there on the other side, waiting for him, but that’s just me going off on my ‘off-screen’ death rant again (That’s definitely it now. I promise!). Overall, it was a touching send off for a beloved character and if that is the last we ever see of George Sands, it was a memorable and emotional way to go.
Cutler - ‘As long as they know a werewolf baby is for life, not just for Christmas.’
Cutler - ‘You have literally brought a guy with you, the Keeper of Scrolls or whatever he’s called- Regus - ‘I am the vampire recorder’
Culter - ‘The vampire recorder. I’m so sorry for a moment there I thought you had a really stupid name’
Tom - ‘Even McNair gave me a name and he ate me parents’.
Annie - ‘I will have him up and about in no time at all without you coming in and filling his head with all of this….this….twattage.’ - I have to admit, my personal favourite line of the episode, and the one I am most planning on slipping into actual conversations.
Leo - ‘Pearl won’t talk about it, I tried last night after Only Connect and she threw the remote control at me’ - Nice to know the Southend-on-Sea Trinity have their own beloved show on a digital BBC channel!
Fergus - ‘Do you really call it Rentaghost? That’s just stupid.’ - Don’t mock the Rentaghost!
Griffin - ‘I’m sorry I didn’t get a word of that’.
Cutler - ‘I bet the Magna Carta doesn’t have a nipple on it’.
George - ‘Annie. It’s ok. It’s just the end of my story. I have to be with my Nina’.