A late-to-the-party discussion of what made series 4 great
I’ve never been the biggest Being Human fan. At first, I thought it was a pretty good idea that suffered from not being executed all that well. At some point during Series 2, the angst got to me and I just had to stop. There’s only so much of the woeful emo vampire cliche I can take.
I should probably start with some backstory for the uninitiated: Being Human is a show about a holy trinity of supernatural creatures (werewolf, vampire, and ghost) living under the same roof in South Wales, and the day-to-day issues they have living among – and trying to conceal their true natures from – humanity.
It was a simple and genius concept that got bogged down with over the top characterization and serialization early in its run.
However, multiple people insisted that I watch series 4, since most of the original cast was gone at that point and there was a major shift in tone. So, I powered through all of series 3 so I wouldn’t be lost, before finally getting around to season 4.
Boy, am I glad I listened to those people.
It’s hard to discuss my thoughts on series 4 without some background info on how I felt about the previous year’s story. For one, during the third series, the show had mostly gotten overblown to the point that it had kind of lost its mission statement and become a show about the coming apocalypse – super duper old Nazi-esque vampires using the UK as a home-base for world domination.
While it was very badass to see our main characters standing around, looking… uh, badass… and telling off their newfound vampire arch nemesis, it struck me as odd. These characters didn’t quite feel like monsters trying to be human anymore. They felt like monsters being monsters protecting humans.
So I ended up feeling largely conflicted; I was drawn in to the over-the-top epic battle aspect, but still felt wary of where the show was going because I missed the personal, down to earth approach of the first series.
Ah, and now that I’m 349 words in, let’s get down to the actual review, shall we?
I shouldn’t have worried, since series 4 tackled mainly human stories while leaving the apocalypse plot on the back burner.
These human stories were for the most part made possible with a new cast; by the end of the first episode, the only original cast member left was Annie (Lenora Crichlow). Joining her in the new series was sort-of-ex-vampire hunter/werewolf Tom (Michael Socha) and reformed OCD vampire Hal (Damien Molony).
In series 4, Annie’s dealing with the loss of her old housemates – George (Russell Tovey), Mitchell (Aiden Turner), and Nina (Sinead Keenan) – along with taking care of George and Nina’s baby, Eve. This puts her squarely in the overbearing mother role, which she fills pretty nicely.
Despite this, her grief is not shown much, and viewers completely new to the show would probably be confused as to how a ghost could have given birth to a baby – not getting the fact that she’s raising someone else’s. If that had been handled slightly better, Annie’s arc would have been top notch.
Her new housemates, however, are given a lot more to do, which shouldn’t by any means be considered a bad thing.
Tom, who was introduced last series as a werewolf who lived on the fringe of society and fought vampires with his father figure, becomes a regular in season 4. He’s a combination of naive little boy and killing machine, a mix that is both unsettling and endearing at the same time.
Hal, meanwhile, takes the disciplined vampire role in a completely different direction. He’s literally OCD, with his strict schedule and habits being the only things keeping him from falling off the wagon and eating everyone in sight.
Molony makes Hal’s eccentricities work – without his mannerisms and facial expressions, the character would most definitely fall flat. But that, combined with him being forced to get a minimum wage job so the trio doesn’t get kicked out of the bed and breakfast they are renting, makes for comedy gold.
Also, “the ancient, powerful being forced to live through the day-to-day doldrums of humanity” trope will never get old. While it works best on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s still a delight to see here.
Annie’s emotional arc and the guys’ mostly comedic arc don’t quite fit together, though. The very put-upon ghost has to deal with getting used to new people. Her pseudo-family of series past is dead and she’s got new housemates. While this is handled nicely in the first few episodes of the series, Annie’s claim that they’re like her family never really lands.
I never quite bought that these three would do anything for each other like the old group would have – particularly Hal. While his BFF relationship with Tom is great, he and Annie never do much together.
So when the main arc does come to the fore, and the three of them fight together, it doesn’t quite feel earned.
Like I mentioned, the main arc of the fourth year is introduced at the end of series 3. However, the epic build-up almost instantly loses steam, for a myriad of reasons.
For one, everyone immediately dies, leaving this new set of characters to deal with the crisis they’d left behind. These new guys weren’t really around for the big stuff so there’s no real sense of why they’re so invested in this battle outside of just being good people.
Also, the arc suffers because no real danger is ever present. Essentially, these neo-Nazi vampires are supposed to show up, take over the UK, then spread across the world, until they’ve dominated and lulled humans into submission so they’re easy to feed on.
However, the vampires don’t show up until the second to last episode. For the entire series, lesser vampires are “setting up for their arrival.” Its kind of a let down to the past series’ build up that stinks of the need for a mostly non-serialized story.
While I do prefer the smaller episodes to the arc ones, it would have been nice to either lean more heavily on the arc episodes and develop the overarching plot better or to have not introduced this crazy apocalyptic plot in the first place.
But, since we have had to deal with it, the writers could have built up Hal’s involvement more. While Tom was introduced last series and better integrated into the new season, Hal just seems to be hanging around. He’s funny and endearing, but I don’t ever really buy that he’d care so much about Annie and her baby. It seems more like he cares just because that’s what the plot deemed necessary.
However, Hal and Tom’s relationship is really what shines this year, so I’m willing to put aside my quibbles over Hal and Annie’s barely-there relationship.
I’m mostly willing to do all this compromising because of how damn funny this new series is. Hal and Tom truly are the best thing about it, and their interactions are so on point it’s ridiculous.
It’s classic odd couple scenario, but it works exceptionally well here: the two of them work at a greasy spoon diner and have to deal with near-crushing depression of the place the best way they can.
This relationship is at its best when they’re doing mundane things like trying to hit on women. Tom’s a virgin and Hal’s seriously out of practice, and it makes for some great laughs.
By the end of the series, Annie had moved on and the guys have a new ghost friend in Alex (Kate Bracken). It’s all for the better really, since Annie seemed like a relic of the past for most of the series. As I have said, she never really gelled with the others.
Alex seems like a much better fit for the guys, and almost immediately feels at home in the show. Based on the limited screen time the three of them had in the last episode of series 4, this show’s future looks bright.
Photos: BBC Three