Episode 5: Smitten
Love is in the air this week, with the arrival of Alice (Laura Aikman) – an aloof, pretty blonde student – but could she be linked to a young man’s violent death? Place your bets now.
Allowed access to the local mortuary by a rather odd fellow named Boris, who looks like Johnny Borrell in scrubs, Galvin and Mina inspect the body for signs of half-life involvement. Mina has a vision in which Luke appears to have been killed by a winged monster, and the senior partners of Smiters United are instantly on red alert.
Meanwhile, Luke is determinedly trying to win the favour of the lovely Alice. When his appalling chat-up technique falls flat, he earns some points by saving her from a group of malevolent youths with one of his trademark sluggish fight scenes. Perhaps I’ve had it wrong all these weeks and he’s actually battling the forces of darkness with the power of interpretative dance.
After some research in the library, Galvin discovers that the winged monster in Mina’s vision is a harpy (Grade 10, if anyone still cares), an ancient Greek demon who can take the form of a beautiful young woman. Years ago, Mina expositions, Luke’s father killed two of the harpies and now the third is out for revenge. Incidentally, it’s nice to see they’re printing esoteric historical chronicles in Braille these days.
Geeky aside: admittedly most of this reviewer’s knowledge of ancient Greek mythology is drawn from too many viewings of the Harryhausen Jason And The Argonauts, but harpies were primarily known for raiding buffets. If it’s vengeance and blood-feuds we’re talking about, they should have made Alice one of the Furies. But since they mix up harpies with Sirens in this show anyway, it’s probably all the same to them.
As Galvin becomes more and more certain that Alice is the harpy in question, Luke grows more and more besotted with her. Well, it’s about time that lad had an independent thought in his head, even if it is a bit misguided. Finally, we see some real conflict between Galvin and Luke; the former wants to abduct and interrogate Alice, dosing her with wormwood to induce a transformation into her true form, while the latter wants to, well, take her clubbing and hold hands and snuggle and things.
Luke refuses to believe that Alice is a part of the war, pointing out Galvin’s grief-fuelled obsession with smiting: “You see half-lives even when they’re not there.” “Everybody’s part of this war,” Galvin retorts, his accent flying off to new and unexplored places. “They just don’t know about it yet.”
Well, a couple of them are about to, namely Alice’s neighbour and Luggs, a demon snitch of short stature who appears to have snuck onto the set of Corrie at some point and stolen Jack Duckworth’s glasses. Both are efficiently and quite nastily bumped off by Alice in her bad-CGI form, while Mina and Galvin narrowly escape being burned alive.
It would have been helpful to know why Alice seems unable to control when she changes shape, or why she took so long to attack Luke. Was she genuinely developing feelings for him? Who knows. The final showdown – I can’t believe I’m saying this again – is cut too short for us to find out. Luke confronts Alice with his magical gun and waits for her to transform, unable to kill her in her human shape. But there’s no real power or weight behind the scene. We can’t bring ourselves to care about either Alice’s grief or Luke’s feelings of betrayal because they just aren’t expressed well enough by the actors or the script.
As for poor Ruby, she has no purpose whatsoever this week other than to seethe with jealousy and moon over Luke. Annoying though the character is, she’s already proved that she’s better than that. When there’s only a principal cast of four, surely the writers can find something useful for her to do?
Demons has been improving marginally week by week, but with the imminent return of Mackenzie Crook as Gladiolus Thrip, will we be pleasantly surprised by the series finale, or will things return to the soul-destroyingly low standard of Episode 1?
4 February 2009