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Being Human

Season Three Premiere
Cast: Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, Lenora Crichlow, Sinead Keenan
Regular airtime: Saturdays, 9pm ET

(BBC America; US: 19 Feb 2011)

Crossing Lines

As Being Human returns for a third season to BBCA, vampire Mitchell (Aidan Turner), along with the werewolves George (Russell Tovey) and Nina (Sinead Keenan), are looking for a new home in Wales, having been run out of Bristol. Missing is Annie (Lenora Crichlow), a ghost stuck in Purgatory, sending out desperate cries for help to Mitchell through staticky black and white television images. Time is running out for her, and Mitchell is frantically searching for a way to save her, by crossing over and back.

As preposterous as this sounds, Being Human benefits from being reasonably self-aware as well as intelligent in the questions it asks. The four friends are determined to retain (or reclaim) that human part of themselves that may have been lost in their transformation to the supernatural. Much like other shows about other societal outliers (True Blood, Angel), this one asks where the line might exist between human and monster? What does “being human” mean, anyhow?

Mitchell’s quest doesn’t quite answer that question, but his human inclinations do get him into trouble when he arrives in Purgatory (with surprisingly little effort, when all is said and done). Here he meets Lia (Lacey Turner). He assumes she means to help him find Annie, but really, she’s in place to help him find himself. Lia mirrors Mitchell, not just his seductive ease, but also his careful control of information. Their relationship, however brief, recreates George and Mitchell’s from Season One: Lia knows what Mitchell needs to understand in order to survive this, but she can’t or won’t share it until he comes face to face with his own depravity.

It shouldn’t be all that surprising that Mitchell becomes self-aware in a rather traditional Christian context. He is in Purgatory, after all. Still, his experience is complex in a way that True Blood is not: where the HBO series offers broad-stroked types, with “religion” the clear enemy, here Mitchell discovers that it’s not the vampire in him that’s the problem. It’s the human.

Mitchell’s adventure in Purgatory leads to the second episode of the season, “Adam’s Family,” which predictably returns Annie to her housemates, overjoyed to be back in her nurturing mode. Mitchell, too, is pushed into guardian mode, when a recently orphaned 46-year-old teen vampire Adam (a most excellent Craig Roberts) comes into the fold. Adam’s human parents have let him feed off of them his entire vampire existence. George and Nina decide Mitchell can mentor him in the art of living “clean.”

This decision complicates the family dynamic in Being Human. It’s a dynamic that has remained stable despite the troubles introduced by transient members or intruders. The central unit embodies another question: how is a family defined? Adam was turned into a vampire (thereby supernatural or unnatural, depending on who is doing the defining) in his teens, but rather than being rejected for his difference, he was cherished and nurtured by his family, who ensured his survival. “You were always my little boy,” his dying father tells him. (He means it both figuratively, as most parents would, and literally, since Adam never ages).

The title, “Adam’s Family,” is more than a tongue-in-cheek reference to that other famously ghoulish clan. Yes, the episode chronicles Adam’s attempt to assimilate into a couple of families. But the title also raises again those issues of origin and inclusivity, even the idea of being human. As Annie rather poetically puts it, in her house full of supernatural others, she found humanity here, while “Outside, the monsters prowled.”


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