Warning: this review contains spoilers.
I’ve championed Being Human ever since the pilot episode aired back in 2008. It felt like a breath of fresh air, a promise of what a fine showcase for British talent BBC Three could become.
While BBC Three itself may have struggled for periods to live up to expectations, Being Human has only gone on from strength to strength. The show’s success was underlined for me this week when I saw the cover of this week’s Radio Times. “The Cult Hit You Can’t Miss”, the banner screams, accompanied by Ms. Crichlow and Messers Turner and Tovey. Talk about the show finally getting the credit it deserves.
The other pointer to the show’s rise is apparent throughout the opener to this much-anticipated third series. Robson Green. Paul Kaye (otherwise known as Dennis Pennis, way back when). Lacey Turner (EastEnders’Stacey). Hardly three blockbuster names, granted, but three well-known faces nonetheless, and proof that not only can the show now attract a slightly more well-known breed of acting talent, but that said talent is also keen to climb on board.
The most successful of the three actors in this episode, and someone who is going to play a major role throughout the series, is Robson Green, as werewolf McNair. I’ve read a few interviews with Green about the role, and as well as being a fan of the show, it sounds like he threw himself into this one with relish. That’s certainly apparent on screen. I’ve been impressed with him before in Wire In The Blood, but here he gets to flex his physicality as a very different kind of werewolf to George and Nina. McNair is a tough cookie, alright, and one who seems very at ease in his own skin.
Bringing up wolfie son, Tom, is high on his agenda, too, another confident little fella, quite prepared to do what’s necessary when the chips are down. Said chips in this instance being his dad, trapped in a cage by a pack of wild vampires led by Vincent (Paul Kaye). Ramming a stake through Vincent’s heart, it’s clear that Tom’s done this kind of thing before, so we can only assume that Tom and Dad are quite used to taking the good fight to the vampiric hoards. This should, of course, make for cracking entertainment in future episodes.
As for Vincent, I felt that Kaye was too overblown. Playing it as a cross between Sid Vicious and Benny Hill, I just wanted him to tone it down a bit. He came across as a crazy, dangerous vampire who’s watched one too many Joe Pesci performances.
The premise here, though, was intriguing. Underground cage fighting matches for the sole purpose of entertaining the vampire clans? Yup, I’ll have some of that, thank you very much. Great to see another offshoot of the vampire community, too. We’ve been used to seeing small clusters of them before in Bristol, all closely knitted to Herrick’s mystical hold. I’m hopeful that this series will open things up wider. Of course, the location move to Wales should help facilitate that.
It’s good to see that the writers haven’t lost their sense of fun, too. For instance, one episode in, the writers have already got poor George accidentally involved with a dogging club (geddit?). In a beautiful bit of comic interjector, the forest dwellers unwittingly invited George into their lives, not realising that full moons and George don’t really mix all that well. A perfect opportunity, then, for the show to throw us right back into George’s ongoing torment: what do you do when you’re about to go all hairy in public?
Which brings me neatly onto the other big change for series three: the rise of Nina.
I’ll admit to having been a bit sceptical at first about upping her impact on the show. It’s always worked brilliantly as a three-piece and my fear was that turning this into a four-person number might not work.
I was wrong.
Nina is the perfect companion to George’s marvellous comedy medicine, the bedroom scene a case in point. She’s also crucial to the piece now, lending an added dimension to George’s time of the month by giving him someone to share his problems with, while also obviously carrying the guilt of putting her in that situation in the first place.
And I’ve not even got to the main plot strand of the episode. The ‘Lia’ of the title turns out to be one of Mitchell’s victims from last series’ genuinely harrowing train massacre. Played by Lacey Turner, the effect was a little off-putting at first. I’m not the world’s biggest EastEnders fan, you understand, but I couldn’t get that association out of my head for a while.
Once I moved past that, however, she was perfectly convincing, if a little too kooky (‘spit spot’), as Mitchell’s guide through purgatory. There to get Annie back, Mitchell had to encounter his own personal demons along the way and it was all handled rather well.
The final showdown with the massacre victims, in particular, was adroitly done. Aiden Turner’s acting chops were being given an early chance to be flexed, too, as we got to see the confident man reduced to a quivering, blubbering wreck. And the gore? Excellent.
Naturally, Mitchell succeeded in bringing Annie back home – well, to Barry, anyway – so that the series can put all that purgatory nonsense behind it. A quick resolution? Certainly, but I really couldn’t see them dragging it out for more than an episode, could you?
I absolutely loved this series opener. Successfully revisiting old relationships and introducing new characters, the episode had plenty of great lines (the throwaway café conversion about The Wolfman was a particular favourite), brutal violence, comic interludes and it re-established, as well as broadened, the Being Human universe within the space of an hour.
Good to know that, after a year’s absence, it’s still one of the very best shows on television.
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