Being Human series 4 episode 1 review: Eve of the War
Mark Oakley wonders if the new series of Being Human can calm doubters. Here's his review of episode one...
Warning: this review contains major spoilers.
4.1 Eve of the War
Being Human series creator Toby Whithouse hasn't minced his words about fans' reactions to the news that Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan were to leave the show.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said, “Losing Russell and Sinead so suddenly was very difficult. But it never occurred to us for a moment to stop making the show. Not because we need the cash, but because we knew there were 1,000 stories left to tell and 10,000 characters left to create.
"But if I'm honest, the reaction of some of the fans is depressingly predictable. People are perfectly entitled to watch something and say 'I didn't like it'. But to say 'I'm not going to like that thing I haven't seen yet' is blatantly bonkers."
Whithouse's apparent anger with certain fans railing against a series they have yet to see is understandable, and yet I can also express some sympathy with those fans who have chosen to leave the show behind. When Being Human first started out way back when, Messrs Turner, Tovey and Critchlow were the heart of a show about a vampire, werewolf and a ghost just trying to get along with their lives the best they could. The entire premise of the show hinged on the interplay and chemistry between these three leads, lending it a humanity and a grounding in reality that I believe spoke to its many fans.
That's not to say that the show cannot continue without those leads. I do believe, however, that you cannot gloss over the power of the relationship between those three characters. It was, for my money, at the very heart of what made the show tick.
Which leads me to the obvious question hanging over this series: can Being Human really continue without Tovey, Turner and Keenan?
On the strength of what was on show in this series four opener... I'm really not sure.
More than ever, the show appears destined to move away from that core central premise of the unholy trinity, expanding the otherworldly universe even further and taking in some wise words from the future along the way. New characters are introduced, old ones are given a lead role, and all the time, poor Annie is still, in my opinion, gloriously underwritten.
Whithouse has previously commented in his BBC blog that Critchlow is the heart of the show. I once believed this to be true, and I truly want Annie to take centre stage in this series as she, and Critchlow herself, deserves better treatment than many of the episodes she was handed in series three. However, on the strength of this episode, I fear we're in for more wailing, moping around and the general ineffectiveness that plagued her character for much of last year. I hope I'm proved wrong.
We all knew from the trailers and pre-publicity that werewolf Tom had been bumped up to a leading role in this series. Michael Socha's athleticism and on-screen presence are both winning characteristics and I'm a big fan of his past work. Here, he got to do the tough guy bit over and over, as well as deliver the laughs in an episode that was largely devoid of the lighter side of entertainment. While making comparisons with the past might not be welcome, it seems obvious that Tom will be taking on the snarling side of Mitchell's character, and that's no bad thing.
The other new character is, of course, Hal. Clearly the most anticipated change of them all, Hal has some stupendously large boots to fill, but if it's charm and screen presence you're after, Damien Molony is your man. Hard to describe just why, but he electrified scenes in this opener, making you feel instantly familiar with his character. He has an aura of dramatic brilliance about him, and while he was really just teased before us in this episode, it looks like he's going to rule the next.
As for George, well this was a bit of a surprise, if I'm honest. Not that he's dead, as anyone who's read anything to do with the show over the past month or so would know he was leaving during the series. I didn't think he'd go so quickly, though. I actually think it's the right decision to let him free now, leaving the show's reboot to happen sooner rather than later, but it did all feel a bit rushed. Anyway, that's all I'll say on his exit as much has been written about that already, suffice to say that we'll miss you, Russell.
So, with the characters out of the way, what of the opener's plot? Well, the one thing that stands out most of all is that when Whithouse has mentioned he wanted to explore new aspects of the Being Human universe, he wasn't kidding. New prophecies were revealed about the 'war child', the vampires’ unending desire to rule the world was once more laid before us, and then there were those visions from the future (London 2037 looks to be a rather depressing place, no?). From the snippets we saw, there's a full-on Terminator-style resistance against the vampires and it will be interesting to see how all the various present-day plot points weave together to play their part in the future.
The vampire hoards were again dressed to kill and unnervingly cocky in their pursuit of their inhumane goal, but one particular vampire was missing. Remember Edgar Wyndham's barnstorming appearance in the final episode of series three? Remember how he turned up, twisted everything on its head and essentially made the final act of the series so compelling? Well, he's dead, of course, as George killed him. Only, we didn't get to see any of that, just like we didn't get to see Nina's untimely end. I appreciate that timing and actor availability played a role in some of this but for the series to begin by previewing the final act of what's gone before, only to then essentially rewrite the history books in what seemed a throwaway bit of writing smacked of a script that wanted to get the old stuff out of way to concentrate on the rebooted future.
And this was the problem that beset Eve of the War throughout. In wanting to say goodbye to the past and hello to a huge, sprawling future in an hour, I fear it buckled under its own weight of ideas. Introducing so much new folklore (wouldn't vampires know how to protect themselves from werewolf blood by now; isn't it a bit convenient for love-making werewolves to cancel each other out in order to create a human baby?) served to bog the show down. The introduction of the human skin parchment which laid out all vampire myths and legends from the past was a perfect example. Nothing wrong with introducing this, of course, but I don't remember it ever being mentioned in the past and its appearance in this episode, along with a surprisingly annoying turn from Harry Potter's Mark Williams, was so rushed, so muddied, that its impact was somewhat lost.
Worst of all, was George's part transformation, brought about as he somehow tricked his body into thinking that there was a full moon. Of course, I understand the ridiculousness of questioning the theory behind a fantasy universe, but surely this is stretching the basis of what we've thus far learned about werewolf lore?
This new series, then, presented us with a lot more questions and only a few answers and the end result was the distinct impression that Whithouse wanted to put the last series to bed, dealing as he had to with the departure of his main cast but one. With that in mind, I'll assume that things can really begin next week.
That question again: can Being Human really continue without Tovey, Turner and Keenan? For now, the jury's very much out.