Entertainment Magazine

Review #3276: Being Human (UK) 4.1: “Eve of the War”

Posted on the 08 February 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Considering how the third series of the British version of “Being Human” ended, with a truly illogical sequence that left Mitchell dead and George the squealing werewolf with massive confidence issues as the only thing standing between the Old Ones and humanity’s collapse, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that Toby Whithouse all but retooled the entire series to make sense of it all. What I wasn’t expecting was a “pilot” that left me wondering what the hell was going on, and how the show was remotely pertaining to its original premise.

Review #3276: Being Human (UK) 4.1: “Eve of the War”

Let’s all recall that the show began as a mildly clever metaphor. Mitchell was a vampire, an analog for a drug addict. George was a werewolf, an analog for the victim of an STD. And Annie was a ghost, an analog for an agoraphobic. The larger intrigues of vampire and werewolf society were just a way to explore how these supernatural characters could retain their humanity, despite their conditions.

The first series was largely brilliant with this (excepting, of course, that dreadful pedophile nonsense of an episode). The second and third series, unfortunately, brought diminishing returns, leading to that aforementioned underwhelming finale. So now we are essentially left with Annie (the worst of the original three characters) trying to protect, with her new werewolf ally, George’s daughter, who is meant to grow up to be the savior of humanity, against the Old Ones and their plan for worldwide domination.

The fourth series premiere opens with a look at New York in 2037, as envisioned by British writers/actors who think everyone talks with the thickest Brooklyn accent imaginable. Or some semblance thereof, since I live close to New York, and I rarely hear anything like that. Things are looking rather bad for humanity, as the vampires are now ravaging the world, and have been for quite some time. (Frankly, a part of me wanted the story to just stay in 2037 and start fresh, but there we are.)

The writers then turn to a huge cheat. Instead of seeing the immediate fallout of George’s stand against Wyndham, we’re told what happened in the months since that moment. Apparently George, previously not at all a badass, killed Wyndham, somehow got out of the room alive (despite being rather outnumbered at the time), and they all fled. Nina lived long enough to deliver their daughter, but then she was brutally murdered. Yet, somehow, the gang is apparently still living in the same damn place they were all through the third series, so why the vampires haven’t wiped them out is anyone’s guess.

Helping out is Tom, the rather irritating werewolf that McNair had raised, as seen in the third series. Tom wants to help George get revenge for Nina. Considering that George is quite daft at this point, unable to name his child and hovering over her with crosses and stakes, Annie would be the last line of defense. Clearly, this is going to end well.

Meanwhile, down the street, there’s another trio of vampire (Hal), werewolf (Leo), and ghost (Pearl). Leo is dying, leaving the married couple of Hal and Pearl a bit unsure of the future. Considering that there’s about to be a rather major vacancy in the main cast again, it’s not hard to figure out where this is going. It’s also sad to say that I like Pearl more than Annie already. (But wasn’t the arrangement between Mitchell, George, and Annie supposed to be rather unique?)

Throughout, the vampires are plotting the next move in the campaign against humanity. Griffin is the old general, so to speak, ready to present George’s daughter to the Old Ones as a gift before launching a massive campaign to conquer the world. Culter, a more modern vampire, sees the flaw in this old-guard tactic, and has apparently read “Watchmen”. His notion is to present humanity with a threat so terrible that vampires seem cuddly in comparison: werewolves. (He even films George and Tom transforming to get the point across.)

All standard stuff, especially when the baby is abducted by vampires in what is a very nice bit of misdirection. In fact, up to that point, I thought the episode was going well enough, despite some of the logic problems and the cheat with the time jump. And then things went decidedly weird with the mess about vampire prophecies, a crazy dude named Regus, and the baby being the savior of humanity.

George goes wolven to take out his child’s kidnappers and would-be murderers, since the vampires are somewhat motivated to kill the baby that will one day wipe them out. He kills Griffin by making him drink werewolf blood (apparently poison to vampires now), but the damage is done. George, dying from his off-cycle transformation, names his daughter Eve, as she is anointed the War Child, and steps through his door into the afterlife to be with Nina.

As if this isn’t enough to try to get one’s head around, the episode ends with another glimpse of the future, in which a young woman asks to be killed by one of her werewolf troops, so she can go through her door and somehow go back in time to kill the baby that started the whole vampire ascendance. Because somehow, ghost time travel is possible now. Oh, and it’s pretty obvious that this is Eve herself, contriving a way to kill herself in the past. (Think “Terminator” with ghosts.)

It all adds up to my impression that Toby Whithouse, already not one of the best writers in the world, spent way too much time hanging out with Steven Moffat, and thought it would be fun to steal ideas from “Doctor Who” and apply them to “Being Human”. Because at this point, I’m waiting for River Song to come out of nowhere, kill Annie, yell “Spoilers!”, and leap through a door back to the future. It’s gotten that ridiculous.

It’s bad enough Mitchell, the character that was carrying the show for much of the third series, was already gone. Losing George, even in this heroic manner, is that much worse. Granted, George’s character had devolved into extended scenes of screeching and whining, so this is a nice reprieve, but Annie has always been the weakest link, and I don’t see the show carrying on with her as the lynchpin.

Tom is altogether too bland a character to take George’s place at this point. Hal is nice enough, but nothing about him grabbed me, so as far as being a replacement for Mitchell is concerned, it’s going to be a hard sell. If they had used this episode to take out both George and Annie, leaving Eve with a completely new trio facing down this uphill battle to short-circuit a vampire apocalypse, it might have been an easier sell.

But this just feels like much the third series: Whithouse throwing ideas at the wall and running with whatever sticks. It was clear from the third series that the writers had run out of interesting ways to explore the existing characters, so now they are retooling everything to turn this into the urban fantasy version of “Doctor Who”. Which, to be fair, is not a terrible notion, but so far, the execution leaves much to be desired.

It doesn’t help that the series still doesn’t know what it wants to be. Just when it seems like it has turned a corner to become a fairly consistently dark urban fantasy story, with a gothic horror tone, they pull out a ridiculous character like Regus that undercuts any notion of seriousness from the equation. It’s the sort of thing Ben Edlund or Neil Gaiman might be able to pull off, but in the hands of Whithouse, it just adds to the mess.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 1/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 4/10

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