Entertainment Magazine

Review #3312: Being Human UK 4.3: “The Graveyard Shift”

Posted on the 22 February 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

As others have said in commentary on this show, the British version of “Being Human” is no longer about human beings struggling with the part of them that is monstrous and “other”, but rather, the monster trying to figure out how to be human. It may seem like a minor point, but it strikes at the heart of the premise: one is a relatable metaphor (often very baldly so), and the other is decidedly not.

Review #3312: Being Human UK 4.3: “The Graveyard Shift”

That’s not to say that it can’t be entertaining, as we see in this episode. There’s something deeply amusing about watching Tom and Hal, previously at each other’s throats in a major way, toiling through the horrors of the fast food service industry. Let’s just say that the writers pull it off better than, say, the infamous “Buffy” episode “Doublemeat Palace”. It turns out that Tom and Hal take their semi-laconic nature and develop a completely new style of unspoken dialog.

Since this is all about Hal’s decision to take the side of Annie and Tom in the ongoing struggle to protect Eve, which is in essence a long-term suicide plan, this sort of story was necessary to forge a bond between two characters that have no reason to be friendly, let alone flatmates. Even so, for those without a keen sense of British class politics and rivalries, especially on this side of the pond, the characterization may not be so easy to decipher.

For example, Tom’s background plays into his character traits, and while we’ve seen the itinerant nature of his upbringing in the third series, it’s still a kind of psychological space most Americans don’t readily comprehend. Tom seems rather bland and uninteresting, actually. Putting him against Hal, revealed to be from a more lordly “old world” mentality, helps to draw some much needed contrast. (I still maintain, however, that the writers have done far more to sell us on Hal than they’ve ever done for Tom.)

(One thing I like about Hal, and the actor who plays him (Damien Molony), is that he reminds me of Max Evans, the alien leader from “Roswell”. There’s a lot of similarity there, particularly the quiet intensity and social awkwardness. I think it would be hilarious if the American version of “Being Human” added a supporting character named Cal, played by Jason Behr. But perhaps that’s a bit too meta, hmm?)

Because this sort of camaraderie needs something to propel it forward, given the short run, there’s the introduction of Michaela. This is one of the two major issues with this episode. Michaela is a send-up of the oft-maligned “emo” stereotype, and one that is impossible to take seriously. There’s a subtle comedy to Tom and Hal’s workplace toil; there’s nothing remotely subtle about Michaela. Yes, it’s funny to set her pretentious notions of “darkness” against the actual vampire and werewolf, but it’s still annoying.

The other major problem feels like a major plot contrivance. To complete the function of getting Hal to integrate into the new status quo completely, he must take a stand against the vampires trying to kill Eve and preserve their new regime. This means setting up a conflict that threatens Eve. And that means allowing the vampires to discover that Eve is alive.

The writers resolve this by having Annie, who is already a character with no purpose but to annoy the audience to no end, completely take leave of her senses. Annie takes Eve out into public, where she is all but asking for some vampire to stalk her down. The fact that Regus, a character that is also woefully hard to swallow, calls Annie out for her stupidity, doesn’t quite lampshade it enough to make it palatable.

It did serve to give the writers some justification to pull Regus back into the story (for better or worse), and thus keep the larger plot arc from getting buried in the character building. And I suppose that it made sense for Michaela and Regus to get together, given how ridiculously both of them are being written. But I suspect enjoyment of the episode will hinge greatly on how much one reacts to Hal’s dispatch of Fergus, or the interest in the final reveal. (Honestly, I don’t remember this guy at all, so either I’m a terrible “Being Humen” fan, or they played that up in an odd fashion.) For me, the character work was more of a draw, and even then, the silly plotting and annoying side characters kept it from rising above average. Which, I suppose, still makes it the best of the fourth series to date.

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

Final Rating: 7/10

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