It has not been an easy year for Being Human fans.
For starters, one of our main characters left the show to go frolic in Middle-earth as a dwarf (no one can fault him for the decision). Then we got word that our favorite werewolf was also packing his bags for decidedly less furry pastures (taking a pitstop with another giant canine in Sherlock-verse to tide him over). It was easy to feel horror on behalf of showrunner and head writer Toby Whithouse: how on earth was he going to keep the show on its feet with all the core relationships of the show completely obliterated?
The answer: you create another menagerie of colorful, lovely characters. Oh, and then you change the stakes of the show entirely.
Warning: this contains full SPOILERS for the first episode of Season 4. Also, expect me to be picking out all the actors for various other SFF roles they’ve played on British television and film. Because that’s how my brain works. Also, a lot happens in this episode, so prepare for a deluge of information.
It’s the future, year 2037. The future looks bleak and dreary, near post-apocolyptic and there’s some scary looking propaganda decking out the local billboards. We see freedom fighters gather in a sewer, listening to a radio communication from New York City. (Why do New Yorkers always have the thickest accents on British TV? You know that most of us don’t sound like that, right?) New York has fallen to the vampires it looks like the whole world is set to follow.
Flashback 25 years and we catch up with our gang fast: after George killed Mitchell to set him free, it turns out that he turned and killed Wyndam (also known as Stan Shunpike in the third Potter film). In retaliation, Nina was brutally murdered by a crew of vampires shortly after giving birth to her and George’s daughter. George has practically lost his mind, keeping the baby in her crib surrounded by crosses, guarding her with a stake. He won’t take her outside and he won’t name her; every time he tries to think of a name, he can only see it on a headstone.
Annie is understandably upset with how George is treating the baby, but she can’t help him. She tries to point out that she lost Mitchell and Nina too, but nothing budges George’s resolve. Tom, the young werewolf from last season, comes to the house and tell George that he knows where the vampires who killed Nina will be on the full moon. He thinks they should go attack them. It’s clear that Tom is trying to get in good with George: he just lost his “father” McNair and he is used to having company. He is hoping to find a new family with George, Annie and the baby.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to a setup that seems eerily familiar. Not far from George and Annie live a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost Hal, Leo, and Pearl respectively. Leo (it’s Billy Shipton from the Doctor Who episode “Blink”!) is unfortunately getting on in years, though, and it looks as though his next transformation will kill him. Leo and Pearl are married, and Hal worries that with Leo gone, Pearl will have nothing to ground her. She’ll fade and he will start roaming the world again without their protection. Looks like someone else is in need of a new home too. Maybe a home that was recently rendered vampire-less?
The vampires, in the midst of this, are plotting. At the head of operations is a high level cop, a spit-and-polish guy named Griffin. He wants George and Nina’s baby as a present to give the Old Ones when they arrive in England, as she’s the first natural-born werewolf. Then the vampires will take over the world. A younger-looking vampire by the name of Cutler is not impressed with that move; he thinks the world won’t just roll over and be conquered. The way to handle this is to show them something more terrifying, so that they will seem like a splendid alternative.
George and Tom go to bust up Griffin and the gang, leaving the baby alone for her first transformation. It turns out this whole thing was a trap: George can’t protect the baby, and she’s taken by a vampire to Griffin. While George and Tom transform in an abandoned concrete building, Cutler films them. Then the vampires wait to see the baby transform.
And nothing happens.
The vampire record-keeper Regus, played by the always spectacular Mark Williams (it’s Mr. Weasley!), goes back to his books for this one. It seems as though George and Nina’s baby is perfectly human. They don’t want her, so the next morning Griffin tells George that if he gives himself up as a present for the Old Ones, they might give the baby back. George goes with him. Regus then shows Griffin one of the original vampire prophecies: it says that a child of werewolves who is completely human is destined to bring about the destruction of all vampires.
New plan: kill the baby.
George has a full-fledged panic attack and manages to start his transformation through willpower to save his little girl. Annie and Tom break in to save them, but George is much more effective, half-transformed and ripping the vampires limb from limb. Cutler escapes, but Griffin bites it when George forces him to drink his blood it turns out that werewolf blood is toxic to vampires. No wonder they’ve got issues with each other. Regus protects the baby: he believes that this prophecy is meant to happen and must come about. He tells George, Annie and Tom that the baby is the War Child and that George is dying because he triggered his transformation outside the lunar cycle. He won’t heal from it. As he lays dying in Annie’s arms, he names the baby Eve. Ghost George bids a tearful goodbye as he steps through his door to be with Nina, telling Annie and Tom to watch over his daughter.
Back in the future, the final piece of the vampire prophecy is revealed to one of the freedom fighters (maybe Eve herself?). She orders one of her werewolf soldiers to murder her, and her ghost steps through her door after telling the werwolf that she will fix everything by killing the baby.
Okay, let’s talk about the game-changing insanity that just took place:
Russell Tovey pulled out all the stops for his last go as George Sands, but it is crushing to know that he’ll be gone. Interestingly, I never cared for Tom much last season, but watching Michael Socha in this episode, I was completely sold. The script gave him much more to work with this time around, and he finally came off as a solid entity. It makes sense; before Tom was living in McNair’s overlarge footsteps, and now he’s coming into his own. And Socha’s pitiful face is just wrenching.
Of course, Whithouse’s ability to write hypnotizing characters, even in the most mundane-seeming positions, has always made this show shine. Louis Mahoney and Tamla Kari are instantly lovable as Leo and Pearl, and Andrew Gower’s is charming and hilarious as Cutler. It’s hard not to love him, even knowing that he’s on the wrong side. I would say that is something that the vampires as a group have lacked on this show, but between his awkward arrogance and Regus’ devotion to legend, the evil quadrant of Being Human just got a lot more, er, humanized.
Damien Molony’s Hal is such a nuanced character here at the start that he grows on you without your knowing. He can’t replace Mitchell, but it doesn’t look like he’s hoping to really excited to learn more about him.
The pacing seems to have reconciled itself in this season. Last season felt like a giant car wreck in many respects; I’m not sure if Aidan Turner’s departure weighed heavily on that, but all the episodes rehashed the same problems with extra characters to muddle things, and nothing moved forward. Up until the end, which was just a free-for-all of murder, screaming, and sorrow. It also featured Annie doing quite a few things that were just plain ridiculous in order to move the plot along. Hopefully she’ll be back in her element this season. More importantly, this season we know exactly what our story arc is and where we’re headed.
What’s interesting is just how much the show’s context is changing. What was originally a situational dramedy (for lack of a better term) with an urban fantasy bent is now widening its scope to include a worldwide mythos and a major fight that the central characters have to address. Now Being Human isn’t just asking what that means, or why it seems so hard to do sometimes it’s asking if it’s something that should be protected, kept safe from the monsters and things that go bump in the night. The whole earth-overthrowing plot on the vampire end also smacks of Whithouse giving two fingers to all the urban fantasy yarns out there that fail to make these supernatural terrors every bit as nasty as they should be.
In addition, it looks like Toby Whithouse just introduced becoming a ghost as a valid way to time travel. I think? It’s not quite clear, but if that is the case, I’m actually kind of awed. Provided that it plays out well. Looks like this season is going to be one hell of a ride.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode: “Being Human 1955″