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Being Human: The War Child

Annie: “Hal isn’t a living thing.”

It’s official: Being Human has been renewed for a fifth season. Despite a slight dip in ratings (compared with season three), fans appear to have taken to the new line-up like a duck to l'orange. Season five will be a shorter season – six episodes instead of eight – but that may not be such a handicap. In the past, extra minutes have translated into filler. Thankfully, tonight's episode was mostly useful, and saw the departure of Annie, our last surviving original character. Can a show survive with none of its original cast members? If this season's proved anything (apart from disco's not dead), the answer is probably yes.

Annie’s departure was timely and generally rewarding. To be fair, Annie’s character ran out of steam two seasons ago; so it was satisfying to see her go out with an actual bang. As far a storylines go, dying to save the world is as good as it gets. If I do have one small complaint, it's that Annie didn’t turn out to be quite as ‘special’ as I'd hoped. After the way she iced Kirby back in ‘A Spectre Calls’, I was expecting some kind of super-powered showdown between Annie and the Old Ones. All she did was push over a few lesser vamps (which even newly minted spook Alex seemed able to manage), swear magnificently, and then blow everyone apart with what looked like a Scalextric controller. Damn the BBC and its meagre SFX budget!

The last minute introduction of McNair’s maxim for life (“Always be kind and polite -- and have the materials to build a bomb”) also felt a bit naff. It was like something out of the Russell T. Davies Bumper Book of Plot Devices: say “swimming pool” a few times throughout the season, and then have an explanation turn up in the finale which solves everything. I was also a little disappointed that killing an Old One would turn out to be so easy. Not that I expected Mr Snow to be immune to exploding, but surely Milo could have briefed him on Tom’s plan to blow them all to Kingdom Come? Have these people never heard of posting guards? How Mr Snow has managed to live so long with such terrible security, I'll never know. Unless Milo's plan all along was to see Mr Snow dead.

But these are all small gripes in what was an otherwise excellent and moving finale. I thought Mark Gatiss was stellar as Mr Snow. A couple of times the mask slipped, revealing the shadow of a gurning Mycroft, but, by and large, Gatiss turned in a terrific performance. His veined face, calm demeanour, and dismissive attitude towards humankind, all added to that air of detached menace. His character had more depth after just one episode than Cutler, Tom and Alex combined; a testament to Toby Whithouse’s superior writing skills. What a pity he won’t be returning. I'd love to see a revenge obsessed Snow stalking the streets of Wales again. Mind you, if Herrick can return after being virtually compost, who knows what may happen?

Emotionally, Annie’s death pretty much hit the mark. Her parting words to Eve were both moving and heartfelt, although, unlike Mitchell and George before her, sadly, she didn't get a chance to say goodbye to her house-mates. Having to choose between the whole world and baby Eve felt impossibly awful, and its consequence -- Eve winking out of existence -- though inevitable, was oddly affecting. (Especially since Eve's been the least developed of all this season's characters.) Eve was Annie's last remaining link to George and Nina -- her familiars and her friends. Without them, Annie would have ceased to exist long ago. I liked the idea of Annie being reunited with Mitchell, George and Nina. Shame we didn't get to see it, but we did get to see Annie's face, and her reward looked good. She wasn't greeted by men holding sticks and ropes anyway.

I confess, I was moderately disappointed when Cutler’s plan turned out to be something of a wet squib. His quest for infamy ended up costing him everything. After his plan to team up with the Old Ones and subjugate humanity faltered, he even turned on his own people -- which, again, failed; all because he hadn't accounted for the variables. A force of unknown origin and strength was conspiring against him. Regardless, it was Cutler’s failure before Snow that was his downfall. If he'd only checked to make sure the werewolf footage had leaked online first. Why go to the trouble of rigging up a television set if you're not sure there'll be anything to see? Likewise, his tantrum before Mr Snow seemed senselessly risky. Snow could have torn him apart. Unless, of course, that's what he wanted. A swift end to his humiliation.

For me, Hal's been the best part of season four. From the start, he's been a mess of strengths and weaknesses. Without Tom and Annie, Hal would have become the Nazi-esque leader of Eve's future. Yet something about humanity, and his fellow supernaturals' attitudes towards it, keeps him from reverting to type. If Tom's willing to die for them, then maybe they're worth preserving. Tom and Hal's burgeoning friendship has actually made for pretty compelling viewing. Something about Tom's naivety and bravery brings out Hal's humanity. Perhaps, as well as needing to be saved, he needs to save, too. Hal doesn't want to destroy the world, nor see its inhabitants exsanguinated. Earth belongs to the humans. He just wants to earn back the privilege of being its watcher. This is a story I'm still very interested in seeing... and hopefully one they'll pursue in season five.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Presumably, Snow's careful re-enactment of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" was the continuation of his people's 'tableau from history' tradition.

-- I'm still unsure about Alex's inclusion in the show. She wasn't specifically confirmed as a returning character in the press release, but I'm guessing she'll be there. She definitely needs more development.

-- Mr Rook looks vaguely intriguing. Presumably, the "domestic staff of the world" will feature heavily in next season's story arc. Good!

-- Having all the action happen off-screen wasn't the best way of resolving the cliffhanger.

-- So Eve didn't have any magical powers at all? Bummer!

-- I loved Tom in his duffle coat. Worst vampire busting clothes ever!

-- I thought Hal admitting to Tom that his blood drinking hadn't been entirely strategic was a wonderful character moment. Like Leo before him, Tom has become Hal's confidant and confessor.

Quotes:

Annie: “She took me into her corridor.”
Alex: *snicker* “Took me into her corridor. Sorry... misjudged the mood.”

Tom: "I didn’t think you liked shaking hands."
Hal: "Today’s a day of firsts. And lasts."

Mr Snow: "Oh Hal, you weren’t hiding. I was just giving you the afternoon off."

Hal: "Tangentially. I was involved tangentially.
Alex: "You weren’t drinking my blood tangentially."

Mr Snow: "Surely the point of temptation is to prompt a decision that has not yet been made."

Annie: “Eve, you’re fading.”
Eve: “I never happened now. I never grew up. I never saw the things I saw. That’s the only me now.”

Tom: “What you doing hangin’ around with a load of vampires?”
Milo: “Because there’s nothing noble about being on the side that loses.”
Tom: “I bet you support Manchester United as well, don’t ya?”
Milo: “You know, they’re an incredibly skilful team.”
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

3 comments:

  1. This was a fantastic end to what has been a surprisingly strong season. Eight weeks ago I wasn't that enthusiastic about watching Being Human without all my favourite characters. Losing Mitchell was hard enough, but losing George and Nina was just too much. But, against all the odds, season four has been one of the series' strongest. I'm really now really looking forward to season five and seeing what the future hold for Tom, Alex and my new favourite character (sorry, Mitchell), Lord Hal.

    Thanks again for all the terrific reviews, Paul.

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  2. While she got a good ending, over 4 series you've got to say Annie's character was ultimately a failure: she never developed, never showed any sort of consistency and rarely had an arc. It's a shame because she could be such a badass.

    I liked this episode as a finale, it tied together the series really well. Like you say, Hal has been hands-down the best part of S4 but Tom was great as well. I particularly enjoyed Eve and her storyline: it took guts to kill a child in a good way.

    One thing I didn't like was the set up for S5: the Mr Rook development completely contradicts the plot of most of S1, 2 and 3. I think this might be where I get off the BH train but it's been one heck of a ride.

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  3. Great finale. It's been a wonderful series, can't wait to see what awaits Hal, Tom and Alex in the fifth series.

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