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Being Human: A Spectre Calls

Kirby: "Evil is like travelling first class. Try it once and you can never go back."

The frustrating thing about Being Human is that no matter how good an episode is, there always seems to be something to complain about. I mostly tend to overlook its minor shortcomings. Life's too short to go mental over every detail. But tonight, some of the weaknesses (or what I perceived to be weaknesses) impacted directly on both the tension and plausibility of the narrative, and as a result, partially undermined what was probably the show's weirdest, most disturbing story to date. They didn't kill it entirely, but they certainly didn't do it any favours.

I had a revelation midway through tonight’s episode: I don’t love Being Human in the same way I used to. I still like it. In fact, I think it’s a great show. But all too often this season I’ve had this nagging feeling I'm watching a spin-off series. The environment’s the same, some of the characters are the same, the basic premise is the same... it just feels different, somehow. More diluted. Less familiar. That’s not to say I can’t love it again. It just feels like I’m having to fall in love with the show anew; which is difficult when I’m still mourning the characters who made it so great. It feels like I'm being unfaithful.

For me, Hal's been the real success story of this season. Initially, I had him pegged as a Mitchell clone. In truth, it’s hard for vampires to be truly unique. Most of them have bloody pasts, struggle with abstinence, and spend the bulk of their time brooding. In that respect, Hal’s no different. But there’s something about his OCD, his politeness, and his calmness in the face of imminent violence, which draws me to him. He looks deceptively non-threatening. Yet him attacking Doctor Wilson was a stark reminder of what a dangerous individual he can be. If the prophecy's correct, and if that is a burn on his arm, Annie may yet live to regret letting him back in.

Evidently ghosts aren't the only ones unable to survive without their familiars. Without his rituals and support network, Hal seems just as vulnerable. That's why I knew he'd come back. He needs Annie as much as she needs him. Ditto Tom. Now McNair's dead, he's in desperate need of a surrogate family. I felt quite affected by his reaction to his second familial failure. Despite being twenty one, he's still hopelessly naive. I was a little disappointed to see him crumble over something as trivial as a birthday, however. I know as viewers we're privy to mannerisms/knowledge that the characters aren't necessarily aware of, but Kirby met with virtually no resistance. His exploitation of Tom was effortless -- and it wasn't down to his subtlety.

Initially, I thought Kirby was an excellent villain. He genuinely creeped me out. James Lance did a magnificent job of making Kirby utterly repugnant. He made my skin crawl. But would Annie have fallen for his con so readily -- especially after watching Tom and Hal risk their lives to save Eve last week? Kirby's divide and conquer tactics were so obvious. This is twice in three episodes Annie's invited a complete stranger into their home. Kirby's plan was ingenious. Had it succeeded, not only would it have exposed Eve to danger, left Tom homeless, and disposed of Annie, it would have also left Hal at the mercy of his own murderous instincts. Why did Annie get none of that? I get that she's "nice", but the ease with which she trusts is turning into her Achilles heel.

Her reason for trusting him didn't ring true, either. Her suddenly missing her friends felt a little too convenient -- especially after recruiting two new friends just weeks before. And by the time we made it to the disco dancing, the Starsky and Hutch references, and the silly voices, any malice that had built up around Kirby's character suddenly upped sticks and cha chaed its arse out the door. Which touches upon the main problem I’m having with this season: they keep taking the comedy too far. I know humour can be an essential component of horror, but in the wrong place, it can cripple a story completely. For me, Kirby turning into a cartoon villain felt like a step too far.

We saw a tantalising glimpse of another of Annie’s new superpowers tonight. The writers are doing an excellent job of raising Annie's profile this season. I just hope the pay-off's worth the build up. I was a little surprised to see Annie dissolve so readily. By the end of the episode, Kirby was so obviously off his trolley, I wouldn't have believed a word he said. But what Kirby did achieve tonight is to highlight the fragility of Annie, Hal and Tom’s newly forged alliance. Despite Annie finding supernatural replacements for George and Mitchell, it's a friendship still very much in its infancy. Hopefully, the events of this week will help strengthen it.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Despite showing up in the credits as Doctor Wilson, I'm sure Hal called her Doctor Wilton.

-- How did Cutler manage to kill Doctor Wilson so quickly? Shock? He only took a nibble. And why is he helping Tom? Something to do with his strategy to turn the world against werewolves, no doubt.

-- I think I was expecting a more prominent burned arm. It looked little more than a rash to me.

-- What's with Hal's sudden interest in the Box Tunnel Massacre? I'm all for a smidgen of continuity, but it feels like such a weird plot thread to pick up.

-- I loved Hal and Tom posing as a gay couple. Hal's dryness and discomfort were hilarious.

-- How did Kirby know about George's GQ magazine? Was it just a memory passed on by future Eve?

-- Starsky and Hutch didn't air in the UK until April 1976. So either there's TV in the afterlife, or Kirby spent 1975 in the US. Or they made a mistake.

-- Steak and a sparkler; a cup cake and 4 inch skinning knife; a crucifix and a banana muffin? That McNair sure knew how to throw a birthday party. No wonder Tom's so messed up.

-- Adam’s back next week. Shit!


Hal: “Please don’t do that little baby. Help!”

Annie: “All I seem to do these days is run around with nappies and bottom cream.”
Kirby: “And then there’s the baby.”

Tom: "Where were you when the nice doctor man came?"
Hal: "I was having a shit."

The Woman: "So, Annie’s really gone is she?"
Kirby: "Like a fart on the breeze."

Annie: "Is it me, or do I have the worst taste in men, ever?"

Hal: "Awkward.”
Also posted at The Time Meddler.


  1. The problem with Annie's is that she's never really developed as a character. So she's perpetually annoying, with no discernible talents. And I hate to agree, but Kirby's plausibility died for me the minute he started dancing. I mean, it was funny - but what the hell was it doing at the end of tonight's episode? They keep promising darkness, and it all looks to be promising, then they go and stuff it all up with something like this. They need to kick Annie and Tom to the curb and call the show Being Hal. Oh, and are you sure about Starsky and Hutch? I'm pretty sure I used to watch it around '73.

  2. The viewing figures look pretty steady at around a million. Enough to warrant a fifth season. I struggled to buy Annie and Tom's easy acceptance of Kirby as well. Kirby felt too larger than life to be plausible. I wouldn't have let him through the door. What a crackpot.

  3. According to Wiki: In the United Kingdom, the series (Starsky and Hutch) was an immediate hit when it began showing on Saturday nights on BBC One (debuting 23 April 1976, and soon catching up with US broadcasts.)

  4. Thanks, Anon. '76 it is, Ronnie. Unless you been time travellin'.

  5. Enjoyed this one, but you're right Paul, this isn't the same show. I'm kinda wishing they'd cancelled the show after three seasons :(


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