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Being Human

Season Four Premiere
Creator: Toby Whithouse
Cast: Russell Tovey, Leonora Crichlow, Damien Moloney, Michael Socha,Alex Jennings
Regular airtime: Saturdays, 9pm ET

(BBCA; US: 25 Feb 2012)

Family Ties

Being Human‘s Series Three ended on a heartbreaking note, the death of tormented vampire Mitchell (Aidan Turner). The new series’ premiere, which airs on BBCA on 25 February, begins on a future earth ruled by vampires. These scenes depart from the series’ usual sense of intimacy, instead offering images that lie somewhere between 1984 and I Am Legend. These broadly post-apocalyptic scenes are mercifully brief, however, and soon give way to the present day, when Annie (Lenora Crichlow), Nina (Sinead Keenan), and George (Russell Tovey), are hoping to survive in Wales.


The trio is currently contending with the orphaned werewolf turned vampire slayer Tom (Michael Socha), who is stalking his prey while working in a greasy spoon and living in his adoptive father’s van. The episode offers a few more shifts in tone and focus, as Tom’s exchange with chirpy customer Dewi (Darren Evans) turns from amusing to shocking, when notice of another death is dropped casually into their dialogue. Not showing it suggests that the characters now live in a world where such losses are commonplace.


Throughout this episode, as it has in past series, Being Human combines cheery sitcom humour and abject misery as a means to convey its overarching theme, that is, family as an essential element in human experience. As the monsters seek stability in their makeshift family, and as they seek meaning in apparently senseless acts, they’re simultaneously vulnerable and unstoppable, fierce and caring. Where Mitchell used to look for order in a prophecy (which was, in fact, only a revenge fiction created by one of his victims), Annie now creates a mythology around the deaths of her friends to help her survive.


Of course, survival has long been another theme in Being Human. Here that idea is reinforced by a second “supernatural trinity”, living parallel lives to the originals’, in Southend-on-Sea. While the primary trio copes with their losses, the old werewolf Leo (Louis Mahoney), ghost Pearl (Tamla Kari), and vampire Hal (Damien Molony) are facing their own impending crisis: Leo, who anchors his friends to the human world, is ailing and won’t survive many more transformations. The group’s impending loss makes them immediately sympathetic, despite their awkward or hostile interactions with the trio we already know.


It also helps that we see Leo and his fellows in scenes where they share a familiar domesticity in Southend, scenes that indicate how they see the world around them, as well as each other. When Leo receives a hopeful message from beyond the veil through his radio, he and his cohorts go in search of a child in Wales. This brings them into contact with George and the daughter he fathered with Nina. Even as Leo is on something of a mission, Moloney’s nuanced performance makes him seem like the anti-Mitchell, prim, obsessive, and self-controlled. But if he lacks Mitchell’s brooding glamour, Leo is also of great interest to his fellow vampires, as an Old One who lives apart from the rest of his kind.


Leo’s differences are not nearly so pronounced as those embodied by the series’ new villains. Wyndham (Lee Ingleby), a vampire who made a brief appearance at the end of Series Three, is supplanted by Griffin (whom Alex Jennings plays mostly to type, as a cold parody of a King and Country old soldier with the stiffest of upper lips). This new vampire reveals a plan to snatch George and Nina’s baby, in order to present her to the Old Ones as a trophy in the war between werewolves and vampires.


As Griffin and his fellow vampires prepare for the Old Ones’ arrival, we also find out a little more about the structure and history of vampire society, since older and younger generations disagree on how to dispose of the human race. Though Griffin and his scheme suffer for their slightly campy silliness, the outcome proves chilling enough. As it turns out, the baby’s significance is greater than Griffin suspects, launching a potentially intriguing series-long story arc, like the “wolf-shaped bullet” of Series Three.


As before, horror fans looking for creature-feature chills won’t find what they want in Being Human. The special effects won’t keep you up nights, the transformations and the blood remain un-frightening. Instead of such visceral sensations, the show reveals what’s human in monsters and vice versa.

Rating:

Maysa is the Film and TV columnist for Xenith.net. Her reviews have also appeared in Crescent Blues Magazine and student press, and she's often found on Twitter (@MaysaMH) and Tumblr.


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