TV EYE: Being Human, Episode 4

I’m still in low-power mode thanks to heaps of work, so just a few thoughts on Being Human. Fear the spoilers…

I’m definitely riding a rollercoaster with this series. It’s almost doing a reversal of the classic ‘Even number good, Odd number bad’ formula with the Star Trek movies (which never really worked when it came to the actually pretty good Star Trek III), where the even numbered episodes are guaranteed to be let-downs. It’s a frustrating, odd mix – there are points where it’s exceptionally good drama (especially last week’s episode, with Gilbert the oddly adorable miserable Eighties Goth ghost), and yet there are also points where it’s exactly the kind of clunky sitcom I originally suspected it was from the advance publicity. And, for clarification, we are not talking Torchwood levels of bad here – at the least, there’s a healthy amount of conviction on show, a certain grubby sense of reality, and the feeling that everyone’s on the same page. When it works, it’s very good – and when it doesn’t, as in episodes 2 and 4, it’s desperately clunky and full of some very, very bad writing. Episode 2 was very mechanical, overdid the angst to the extent that I thought I was watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, and it’s also always a danger sign when a critical sequence revolves around two blokes wearing fake fangs and going “RAAAARRRR!!” You’ve got to be doing really well to pull that kind of thing off, and the predictable, overwritten episode 2 wasn’t making it happen.

I genuinely liked episode 3 – a few awkward moments but mostly very well played, but the show really came unstuck this week with some very heavy-handed writing and some really bad decisions (What was going on with that multiple-costume walking shot in the teaser?). Admittedly the fact that I suspect the guy who wrote this weeks episode once wrote me a really rather mean rejection letter about a script many years ago (At the least, he’s got the same name) may have influenced me slightly, but when was the last time you heard a 13 year old kid saying “Mum! You’re shaming me!” Hammering in the messages at every opportunity, this really did have me shaking my head in disbelief by the end, especially when we have the sequence where, after a thirteen-year-old boy is critically injured in the Conveniently Contrived Car Crash (for there must always be a price in a meaningless witch hunt!), Mitchell decides the best way of helping and doing good is turning the kid into a vampire! Has he not read ‘Interview with a Vampire’? Are we really supposed to believe that this poor kid being sentenced to being an undead, blood-drinking thirteen year old forever, destined to out-live everyone he’ll ever know, is a good thing?

(And, just as a side thought – can anyone explain to me exactly what the Vampires in Being Human actually are, and how their vampirism works? Leaving aside the unconvincing idea that Mitchell’s been able to lead a fairly normal life as a hospital porter despite not having a reflection (and not really doing anything to hide that fact), I’ve been trying to work out the ins and outs of the Being Human vampires and they don’t add up. They don’t have any of the usual vamp weaknesses aside from the thirst for blood, and a slight dislike of the sun – but I can’t work out exactly why they need the blood. Mitchell isn’t just drinking animal blood as a substitute – he’s gone cold turkey and is off blood altogether, which means he can actually survive without it (they’ve already established that blood only works for them if it’s fresh from the body). He can eat and drink like a normal person, and he doesn’t suffer any major ill-effects from not drinking blood – so what purpose does the blood serve? Is this vampirism as a virus, or vampirism as convenient magical affliction? And isn’t the whole metaphor of the unending thirst rather derailed if you can just go ‘I choose not to drink’ with no real after-effects? It’s one of the things I liked about HBO’s True Blood – the vampires there were well thought out, and they even managed some logical twists on the usual vampire myths, whereas here they’re being used for a sometimes effective and sometimes clumsy metaphor on conformity and addiction, and nobody’s looking at the bigger picture to try and see if it actually works).

As a final thought – exactly how annoying is vampgirl Lauren? Answers on a postcard, please…

One thought on “TV EYE: Being Human, Episode 4

  1. I’ve just seen episode 4 (look! a TV series I’m actually watching!) and I enjoyed it, though in my defense, I make a semi-conscious effort not to engage what critical faculties I possess when looking at the goggle-box.
    (Just going to echo your spoiler alert now … here are some)
    Yes, the messages were held up on banners (or rather badly spray-painted on a wall), but then I enjoy siding with paranormal outcasts against Sun readers. Self-indulgent it may be, but it makes me feel good (or rather justifiably and therapeutically angry).
    I actually liked the dynamic between the kid and his mother – that was quite a complex relationship, with the kid already set up to be the more mature of the two (and hence suitable for later appearance in undead form).
    I did agree that the traffic accident was predictable and that Mitchell shouldn’t have turned the kid (he’d already said it was mum’s choice – then ignored her decision) and yes, I too, wondered what was so terrible about a ‘curse’ that mainly seemed to result in dubious fashion choices and a tendency to brood. With, as you say, the exception of Lauren who I was about to say needed a slap until it occurred to me that – unless I’ve missed something – she’s the only female vampire we’ve met so far. In fact, the only other female paranormal is a whiny ghost. Hmm. I’m so not doing a feminist critique of this show. Like I say, critical faculties generally turned off when telly is turned on.


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