Monday 6 February 2012

REVIEW: Being Human - 'Eve of the War'

It's hard to write about this one. I'm still reeling from the sheer trauma. This was pretty unique as a first episode of a series, packed with more than enough incident and emotion than most series finales. Even last year's final episode didn't pack as much emotional wallop as this one.

From the outset, this episode was rather different to what has gone before. Whereas in previous episodes tended to start with a flashback, this started with a flash-forward, showing us a world twenty-five years hence ruled by vampires. It's an unexpected, sci-fi flavoured start to the series, and satisfyingly, the future scenes are returned to several times over the course of the episode. While Being Human has run with the threat of vampire domination since its beginnings, these sequences finally make it seem a real possibility. There's a sense that the series is building towards something huge in the future.

The main narrative is full of devastating shocks. To begin with, we learn, almost off-handedly, that Nina was murdered in the period between episodes. It's a shame not to have Sinead Keenan back for a farewell, but perhaps it's for the best, considering how upsetting the rest of the episode was. For this is George's goodbye, and he goes out with the maximum of heartache and pain. Russell Tovey is, as always, perfect, bringing tangible grief and anger to the role. He excels at portraying a harder, more damaged version of George, left a broken man who can't even bring himself to name his daughter for fear that he'll soon see her dead. It's heartbreaking to see such a well-loved character reduced to this state.

Lenora Crichlow is wonderful as Annie, as usual, her relentlessly chipper persona having fallen away completely. She desperately tries to save the one remaining friend in her 'life,' never giving up on him, which is all the more atonishing considering that this man killed her lover in the last episode. Of all the characters, Annie, the dead girl, is the one with the most life, and it is she who is clearly fated to be baby Eve's surrogate mother, a bizarre situation as this series ever presented. Michael Socha, meanwhile, makes a great impression as a new regular, developing Tom from a very intense guest character to a more rounded individual. Particularly surprising is just how funny he is, with Socha displaying a talent for subtle humour. He's also very different to George, so the replacement werewolf in the show will be far from a copy of the original.

If there's one thing that disappoints, it's the lack of Lee Ingleby's Old One character, the 1000-year-old vampire Wyndham. Despite making an impression in the closing moments of last series, and seemingly set up as a new big bad, he's another character to have been quietly dispatched during the between-series break. His replacement, Griffin, comes across as little more than a Herrick knock-off, and it's no shame to see him killed off. More fun are Dewi, the young Welsh vampire recruit, unable to shut up and an unlikely hero in the end, and Andrew Gower's sardonic bloodsucker Cutler. Gower has a dry witted charm, and a touch of a young David Thewlis about him. I'm looking forward to seeing Cutler again. As well as these monsters we have Mark Williams as perhaps the most unlikely vampire of all, the nerdy 'Vampire Recorder,' keeper of all vampiric lore, and easily the funniest thing in the episode. He's also a fascinating character, dedicated to Eve's survival, in spite, of indeed because of, her destiny to wipe out the vampire people.

While the war between vampire and werewolf hots up, babies are kidnapped and social workers' throats are ripped out in Barry, down in Brighton a different haunted household is coming to terms with death. It's an unexpected take on the show's premise; a seperate trio of vampire, werewolf and ghost cohabiting, unknown to our heroes. While so many of the main characters have been killed, this group shows the flipside, with elderly werewolf Leo soon to die, while vampire Hal and ghost Pearl remain ageless. It's hard to make a judgment of Damien Maloney, replacing Mitchell as resident vampire Hal. While we'll see a lot more of him next week, it seems, so far the posh, reserved vampire seems different enough to Mitchell to contrast well. What's interesting is this idea of the triumvirate, three different supernatural beings living together, prophecised by the same scroll that speaks of the War Child. It's as if the programme is driving at there being some kind of natural order to these things, as if there must always be this triumvirate somewhere. It'll be very interesting to see where this goes.

In the end, though, what this episode will be remembered for is the harrowing death of George. Utterly heartbreaking, while at the same time truly horrific, George's final moments will stay with me forever. Half-transformed by an act of sheer will, staggering into a room full of vampires, tearign them aaprt to save his child, the deformed wolfman managed to be the most emotionally affecting thing I've seen on television in some time. I wept. Hell, by the end of it, I was an absolute wreck. The first episode of the fourth series of Being Human was triumphantly an end to an era, a riveting horror tale and an emotional ordeal. I can't imagine how the rest of the series will live up to it, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

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