Sunday, April 10, 2011

Being Human – season 3 – review

Director: various

First aired: 2011

Contains spoilers

It is sad when one of your favourite franchises loses its way, sadder still when it hangs on to some of the aspects that made it good and thus things like sloppy writing become all the more apparent.

Sadly, I believe such happened with season 3 of Being Human. It wasn’t the change in location – the series moved from Brighton to Barry in Wales – but a sloppiness born out of the need to expedite events that, quite frankly, the series didn’t need to touch.

Robson Green as McNair
First, the good. The main cast are – as always – brilliant and, indeed, there are some fantastic support role performances. For those who haven’t seen the series before the series concentrates on three friends, a vampire called Mitchell (Aidan Turner), a werewolf called George (Russell Tovey) and a ghost called Annie (Lenora Crichlow). These three try to keep (or find) their humanity. In contrast, within the supernatural world, the various creatures do not get on. To say vampires and werewolves dislike each other is an understatement. In this we get to see ‘dog fights’, where vampires pluck werewolves off the street and put them in cages to fight ordinary humans also abducted and bet on the results. It is through this we get to meet the werewolf McNair (Robson Green).

Lacey Turner as Lia
As this season begins, the housemates, including George’s werewolf girlfriend Nina (Sinead Keenan), have moved to Barry in Wales. Mitchell – after going off the rails (if you pardon the pun) and indulging in the slaughter of a train full of humans – rescued his friends from the pseudo-lab run by evangelical human Kemp. All that is, except Annie, who was exorcised by Kemp. In the first episode Mitchell crosses over to purgatory to rescue her. There, before being allowed to take her back, he meets Lia (Lacey Turner). She is one of the slaughter victims and she tells Mitchell that the price for rescuing Annie will be to die at the hands (or should that be claws) of a werewolf.

Craig Roberts as Adam
The series does some brilliant episodes – but they tended to be standalones. One of them involved finding a teenage (bodied) vampire named Adam (Craig Roberts, Young Dracula) who has lived the last thirty years on his parents, but his mother has died and his father is dying. The episode looks at the seedy-underbelly of suburban life as well as tackling Adam’s dilemma. The episode worked really well but also led to an online serial, Becoming Human, which was shown as a one-off on TV. The spin-off was all about the further adventures of Adam and that did not work as well – but we will look at Becoming Human separately.

Alexandra Roach as Sasha
Another cracking episode had Annie followed home by a dead woman, Sasha (Alexandra Roach) – but this dead woman is drunk and has a body and the body is rotting. They called the episode type 4 (1, 2 and 3 being vampires, werewolves and ghosts) and she was essentially a zombie – though a 'get drunk and pull guys' sort of zombie rather than eat brains or flesh. They discover that there were several deaths that didn’t quite end, during the time Mitchell was on the other side and, in a macabre moment, they find video of experimentation on the other zombies before they were incinerated. Sasha, herself, is in death denial and the episode boasted some stomach turning moment such as picking a rotten toenail off or a man snogging the rotting Sasha for a bet.

George Jr. and Snr.
Finally, I want to mention an episode in which George discovers that his father (James Fleet) has died and goes to the funeral only to find his father, a ghost with unfinished business. The episode followed two stories and was – in some respects – frustrating as it contained the best—George and his father—and the worst—the overriding arc—that the show had to offer. Kudos, however to Fleet and Tovey whose performances were powerhouse, both actors working so well off each other, and yet so natural it was easy to miss how good the acting was.

Jason Watkins as Herrick
It was in the overriding arc, as I mentioned, that the series fell apart but even then it had some shining moments. Herrick—the villain from Season 1—returns, at first with amnesia and thus can’t remember he is a vampire, indeed George finds him in the psychiatric wing of the hospital (a set designed around preconception rather than reality, one feels). Actor Jason Watkins is given a meaty role that allows him to stretch himself and impress but one wonders… how the Hell does everyone end up in Barry?

George, Nina and Mitchell
For Mitchell seems to be unable to hide from anyone, everyone appears on his doorstep it would seem. Okay Barry is only an hour or so’s drive from Bristol but even so… The main thrust of the arc is the prophecy that seems to be coming to fruition as the police net closes in around Mitchell and this is another example of how the show went wrong. Copper Nancy Reid (Erin Richards) is sent to question Mitchell as his name comes up, one wonders at the speed she finds the house but the worst is yet to come.

Despite the fact that any evidence she gains is inadmissible, and the fact that her superior is missing, Nancy goes to arrest Mitchell. Now she will be attached to Bristol’s police but requests backup in another force’s area, she asks for armed backup (which she would never have got based on her flimsy, 'I believe him armed and dangerous,' especially without a superior officer's say-so, plus I doubt Barry has an armed unit) and they raid the house like something out of a Hollywood film (they’d have likely laid siege). What we have is short-cuts in storytelling, simply because it looks good and it completely breaks the suspension of disbelief. There are problems with the supernatural aspects of all this but I can’t spoil that.

Mitchell and Annie
One had to look at the entire main arc and think, given what we already know, the vampires wouldn’t have let any of this go on. They would have covered it all up at the head of the season and while I am on this; the reaction of Mitchell’s friends is also, to me, unrealistic. Annie would never have sided with the humans after seeing the zombie experiment tapes, George and Nina are hypocrites, at the very least, because Mitchell killed enough people rescuing them. Indeed Nina seems all shocked when she realises Mitchell made them move from Bristol and that must be because of the massacre – they moved because of Kemp’s lab but it seems that event is completely forgotten.

A shame, because some of the good moments were the best the show has had to offer, but the over-arching story was pointless (ultimately) and a mess (emotionally and detail wise). 6.5 out of 10, when it is good it is very, very good but when it is bad it is a little like snogging a rotting, animated corpse, leaving a bad taste in the viewer's mouth.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

Finally got to see this! I've been anxious to read this since you posted it, but was waiting to see the show first.

It is interesting what you say about the over-arc being a bit of a mess, and I agree, but I think it is a distinctive change in tone over previous seasons that was more the problem for me. (Although I agree there were moments that just felt to be a mess logically for the characters' already established story lines.) Something about the new location was overwhelmed by a likewise new directing style. I found myself wondering at the huge change in filming choices that seems to want to focus on making the show about action instead of the relationships. (Did you notice the very unnecessary running scenes in so many of the episodes? It felt really wrong to me.) I got the impression that suddenly the producers got a bit more money and they decided to put that money into new locations and trying to make the whole thing seem more action packed, which is kind of disappointing. What makes the show great is the fantastic performances and the interesting situations the characters get into. They kind of went a bit off the rails with that here.

I do want to disagree with you on one point, though. For me, the stand alone episodes were the worst of the season. They just felt really awkward to me. For my money the best of season 3 was pretty much anything and everything that Herrick touched (fantastic performance), the story line with the new werewolves and Mitchell's slow progression to self-awareness.

I'll definitely agree though, much like the third season of True Blood, this one was hit and miss. Some truly fantastic moments, mixed with some that just went too far really or didn't quite make sense.

Thanks for another terrific review!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Margaret... I actually thought Herrick was brilliant also and you are right, the werewolves were very interesting...

It was the main Boxtunnel massacre storyarc that just seemed... not well thought through