This review contains spoilers.
4.7 Gallows Humour
In this week’s episode of Being Human USA… pain. Just… pain.
Strap in for one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever watched, and I’m someone who doesn’t even change the channel when those Sarah McLaughlin pet commercials come on. This week’s episode is sad heaped on top of sad, and every single character manages to break our collective heart.
We open with Aidan, waiting while Kenny’s vampires clean up the mess he left when he lost control and drained the girl from the previous episode. Kenny tries to make him feel better, but Aidan is having none of it and heads for home, because running from his problems feels pretty good right now. Unfortunately, there are problems at home, too.
At the house, everyone is dealing with the revelation that Robbie is a ghost, while Robbie deals with the whole ghost-witch, vampire, and werewolves thing. Because it is a fact universally known that the day Sally learns from past mistakes is the day this show ends because there will be no story left to tell, Sally suggests using magic to bring Robbie back to life. Josh points out that bringing the dead back to life doesn’t exactly work out for them as it tends to lead to zombies and stomach-eating, but Sally is having none of it and insists that she can simply pull Donna back through her death spot and ask the witch who doesn’t want Sally to use her powers for advice. Please re-read that sentence. Now read it again. This is what Sally decides is a perfectly logical course of action. And because nothing can stop Sally once she decides on throwing caution to the wind, nothing can stop her, she heads for Donna’s death spot and yanks Donna right out through it.
After very nearly draining Robbie’s dead body of its blood, Aidan heads to Suzanna’s to act innocent and ask her for blood. They’re all kissy-kissy and it’s kind of sweet until he downs the bottle she offers him and starts convulsing before passing out. He awakes chained to a sink like something out of a rejected Saw script while Suzanna calmly apologizes for the theatrics and insists that she’s just going to watch him while he detoxes to make sure he stays on course. And to make sure he remembers why they’re doing this, she insists he start talking about the people he’s killed.
Back at the house, Josh and Nora are trying to keep an eye on Robbie while also dealing with the fallout from last week. Josh thinks they can ask Donna about the spell Sally used and blames the magic for what’s been going on with him, but Nora looks him right in the eye and says, “The magic didn’t make you lie to me.” If she’d had a mic, that would’ve been the appropriate time to drop it, I think.
Back in the past, Sally and Donna have time-travelled to Donna’s hanging. It’s brutal to watch Donna watch her own murder, but it’s even worse when she reveals that she was actually innocent and didn’t become a witch until later, after she was brought back to life by some actual witches who sacrificed a young woman in exchange for her life. Seeing Donna like that, as a young innocent woman whose life was exchanged for another’s, is important because it contextualizes her character. She’s almost become like a kindly mother figure this season; she’s wise and honestly working for ultimate good, but sometimes that brings her at cross purposes with the much younger and impulsive Sally. She’s been down this path before and was once in Sally’s own shoes, so of course she’s tried to stop Sally from walking down that path at every turn.
She does, however, ultimately tell Sally how to bring Robbie back in the way she was brought back, and offers to be the sacrifice, saying that she doesn’t deserve whatever comes next after this life. It’s interesting to note, though, that she mentions the person had to have been killed by natural means, and since Robbie was killed by Lil Smokie, that’s hardly natural.
They head back to the house and prepare for the ritual, but it becomes increasingly clear that Robbie might not want to be brought back — he thinks about how he’s free of responsibility now and doesn’t have to try anymore, and then he bolts without a goodbye. I wasn’t actually that sad about it, since I’m kind of apathetic about Robbie as a character, but when Donna comes downstairs to tell Sally that he’s gone, she tells her that she’s seen it before — people whose lives were so bad that to them, death was a relief.
That on its own is pretty damn depressing, but it’s time to kick the sad into high gear this week: it’s immediately followed by Donna asking Sally to destroy her death spot so that she can never come back. As they say goodbye, Donna issues one more plea for this to be the last time Sally ever uses magic, and Sally laughs right in her face and says, “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies,” and so Donna heaves a heavy sigh and shuffles off this mortal coil one final time. If you’d told me last season that I’d come to care for Donna, to think of her as a warm motherly figure and to mourn her passing into witch purgatory or wherever she’s gone now, I’d have probably laughed in your face, and it’s every bit to the writers’ credit to have turned her around so quickly and in such a believable way.
But the sad is not yet over, my friends. The sad is about to get so much worse. Back at the set of Saw 18: Electric Vampire Boogaloo, Aidan finally tires of listing the names of people he’s killed and breaks down crying, begging for Suzanna’s forgiveness. Sensing the breakthrough, she finally unchains him before revealing her own name, the most important one: Isaac.
What follows is, hands-down, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch. I have never seen someone so perfectly encapsulate the stages of grief so quickly, so brutally, so flawlessly, as Sam Witwer does here. All the actors on this show are pretty great and it’s no secret that I love to praise them for all they do, but Witwer has been on his game this season, going above the call of duty every single time. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch this scene a second time. It was too painful the first time. The way he breaks, the way his anger gives way to utter heartbreak, the way he kisses Suzanna’s hair as moves through the anger into the pain… it’s perfect and it’s heartbreaking, and I need the Emmys to get over themselves and start nominating sci-fi and fantasy shows for awards instead of ignoring them every year, because Witwer just delivered one of the best performances of the season.
But this show is not done yet with the heartbreak. Think about that. A man just found out his wife murdered their child and this show is not yet done.
Back at the house, Josh tiptoes into the bedroom to tell Nora he couldn’t sleep. She touches his face gently because even when he has broken her heart, she cares for him so much. He leans into her touch like a dog — which is such an important detail given what happens next and bless the writer’s for including it — and she tells him he should go. He doesn’t, and instead climbs into bed beside her, testing to see if she’ll allow it. She does, and kisses him despite her better judgement. And I think, if he’d stopped there and simply gone to sleep beside her, she’d have allowed that, and they’d have worked through it over the next few days or weeks.
But he doesn’t. He keeps kissing her even as she tells him he should go downstairs, even as she flat out tells him to stop, even as she screams for him to stop — and then as she pushes him off her, he wolfs out. And here is one of the many things I love about Nora: she pulls out a silver knife.
I know Nora has a fair amount of detractors in this fandom, and I’m in the minority when I defend her, but let me tell you why she’s so great in this episode. The world is full of narratives about former abuse victims. Usually they fall into one of two categories: either they’re portrayed as pushovers who “allowed” it to happen or they become violent and vicious and often times criminal. Nora is so different to what we’re used to seeing. Nora is gentle and loving and when she touches Josh’s cheek when he comes to her bed, she is benevolent. Nora forgives when she knows it’s appropriate (Kenny) and holds grudges when it’s time to protect herself and the women she has taken under her wing (Aidan last year). She’s the patron saint of abused women, a gentle loving caretaker and a fierce warrior all in one. Nora had the capacity to forgive Josh’s transgression when he first came to her, but when he crosses the line — and make no mistake, he crossed the line big time — she had the capacity to fight back, to defend herself, and ultimately: to get out of what had become a scary relationship. We rarely get to see narratives like that! Nora has her flaws, same as any human being or fictional character does, but you have no idea how much I admire her for telling Josh in plain terms that he has become scary to her and that she refuses to put herself at risk like this. And then she leaves. It’s completely heartbreaking, of course, and as someone who loves Josh and Nora’s relationship, I am absolutely devastated, but I can not begin to tell you how proud I am of her and how happy I am that women who’ve been in abusive relationships — no, scratch that, that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship — have her to look up to.
Had the episode ended there, I’d have already been singing its praises, but the show has one final twist in store for us: after doing the spell to close Donna’s death spot, Sally finds herself travelled back in time to her own past as a living occupant at the house. She watches herself brush her teeth and laments that maybe this time, she’s stuck in the past for good, until she realizes that this isn’t just any night of her life. This is the last night of her life, the night Danny killed her. And then she starts begging herself to run.
I’d like to write some kind of summation of the episode here for you, I really would, but honestly all I have to say is “pain, pain, more pain, ow.” This season is going to some dark places and it’s doing so with aplomb. Sam Witwer is turning in performances that deserve every award I can throw at him. Kristen Hager continues to imbue Nora with a quiet, gentle strength that I admire to the ends of this earth and back. And sometimes, you just have to put away the pretty words and experience a TV show on an emotional level instead of an intellectual one. So here’s hoping that whatever happens with Sally next week, it’s a break from the depressing turn this season has been taking.
Who am I kidding? This is Being Human. See you next week, and don’t forget the tissues.
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