Tuesday, February 07, 2012

First Impression: Being Human season 4

So the first episode of season 4 of Being Human aired and my first impression was… poor story-telling.

Many thought it would be a hard sell, after all Aiden Turner, who played vampire Mitchell, left the series at the end of Season 3 and Russell Tovey, who played werewolf George, made it clear that he wasn’t doing season 4 – no spoiler then to say he dies at the end of the first episode.

The loss of the actors could be overcome – after all two of the main actors changed between The Pilot and Season 1 - and, quite frankly, the pilot is still probably the best incarnation of the show. The loss of the character dynamic might have been more difficult. The trouble is, however, rubbish storytelling and this is not a new issues. It plagued season 3 and certainly troubled Season 2. Poor shortcuts in the drama and plot problems are, I’m afraid, the order of the day.

Gina Bramhill is the woman
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t set dead against season 4 from the get go, as some fans seemed to be. I wanted (and still want) it to succeed, unlike the US version, which I was genuinely worried about and ended up thoroughly enjoying… we’ll come back to that.

So we start off in 2037, Vampires have taken over the world it seems, humans have formed a resistance and New York has just fallen and there is a woman (Gina Bramhill) in charge… I’ll come back to Being Sci-fi at the end of this…

reminded me of the matrix
Modern day and werewolf Tom (Michael Socha) is working in a café. A young council estate vampire comes in and, recognising him for what he is, Tom closes the cafe after he leaves and chases after the car he was in. A bin across an alley mouth is enough to stop the car and, as the young vampire moves the obstruction, Tom lands on the roof and pulls the vampires – who look like low rent version of the twins from the matrix films – out and kills them. But what strength, to lift a man, from your position on a car roof, out of the door, into the air and stake him through the heart. Suddenly non-transformed werewolves are super-strong… evidence suggests later that it was the night before a full moon but even so… and what a rubbish pair of vampires. Anyway Tom questions the young vampire to discover where vampire leader Griffin (Alex Jennings) is, as he killed his friend Nina… yes another main character is dead.

guard duty
So George is living paranoid with his unnamed baby, sat unsleeping in a room with the crib, crosses everywhere as he tries to protect her. Rewind a second, crosses everywhere… but George is Jewish, he would have put up Stars of David and we know they are just as effective with faith. Annie (Lenora Crichlow) tries to let him take the baby outside… the first sign of trouble and she’ll be pfft out of there… does she mean she’ll ‘rent-a-ghost’ away… remember that, we’ll come back to it.

Griffin the new boss
Over at Stoker Exports (no comment) the vampires are massing. The young vampire is there to tell them what he has told Tom, meanwhile Griffin wants a present for the old ones (the ancient vampires), namely the baby and George. Why? Well the baby is easy, it is the first baby born to werewolves. Why George? Well first he killed Mitchell (ok first was Herrick but we’ll give them that) and then he killed Wyndham… who? Wyndham, a representative of the old ones and so powerful that he didn’t need an invite to enter a home… How did George… Oh, that’s right, we don’t know how or even why. Because George killed Wyndham, Griffin has already killed Nina (and I can forgive them killing her off screen as the actress had left and she was a major character) but to have this powerful vampire killed by (frankly, rather wimpy) George off screen for no adequately explored reason, other than plot expedience, is bad storytelling pure and simple. It’s not as though, had they used a different actor for Wyndham, most viewers would have cared - he was only in the show for (literally) 5 minutes.

coming soon to YouTube
Also, the old ones have a plan to go inwards from the coast, killing and recruiting their way to dominance. At least one of the vampires thinks this is stupid (and, in a nice dialogue moment, the suggestion of a resistance army called up through Twitter sounded like a sly social comment on last year’s riots). It is stupid; silent recruitment (as Herrick was doing) is the order of the day, vampire cells in every major city in the world… not just England… but I digress. The vampire's counterplan is to reveal werewolves and make humans fear them – by recording a transformation on a mobile phone… give me a break… flaws in that plan are obvious as well – for a start off no one would believe the footage was real.

poisoned by vampire blood
George and Tom go to get Griffin, can we say trap much, leaving Annie with the baby. She explained before they left that she couldn’t rent-a-ghost away holding the baby (and so clearly mustn’t have meant it earlier), so that goes wrong. George explains that the vampires who killed Nina wore helmets with visors as werewolf blood is toxic to vampires… which begs the question why no vampire that has previously attacked George, or Tom for that matter, has taken such precautions… it also brings the wisdom of the dogfights into question (basically a lot of vampires stood around a cage with fighting werewolf/werewolves). Incidentally, could someone tell me how Griffin (who wears a high ranking police uniform) does press conferences? (Vampires, of course, not being able to be filmed)

fearing he won't survive the change
In a good Being Human moment we meet another household of ghost (Pearl played by Tamla Kari), vampire (Hal played by Damien Maloney) and Werewolf (Leo played by Louis Mahoney). Unfortunately, given Leo’s age he might not survive the next transformation and the scenes featuring these three are touching and they are what the series is best at… but wait… aren’t such triumvirate relationships an aberration, and yet now we have three… Mitchell, Annie and George; Hal, Pearl and Leo and Becoming Human’s Adam, Christa and Matt. My God they are as common as an I-don’t-know-what! Also. How come Mitchell knew nothing of Hal et al? Don’t ask, you’re just causing trouble now.

the recorder...
The baby (who is named Eve by a dying George) is the war-child and saviour of humanity and human (the lycanthropy of the two parents cancelled itself out!) We hear this through Vampire Recorder Regus (Mark Williams), who for some reason wants to save her as she will destroy all vampires (for a moment ask yourself why a vampire would want that). Unfortunately he is one parchment short of a full prophecy (literally). In the future the woman – who gets the missing piece of vampire prophecy on human skin parchment – has herself killed. Could she be Eve? The credits list her as woman, so the answer is probably. She dies so she can go back in time and kill the baby – does she mean Eve, or perhaps another baby? Is this just an ectoplasmic rip-off of Terminator? And how come ghosts can go back in time, and, if they can, why doesn’t Annie? By the way, have I ever mentioned how bad TV shows normally are at pulling off temporal anomaly storylines?

You see, the storytelling was poor and it caused these questions to emerge (many during the actual watch) and the questions thus pulled me out of any suspension of disbelief with regards the show. I hope it tightens things up now we’ve got over the hump, as much was included to change the direction of the show. I really do. I will also keep watching, a sense of loyalty, to the franchise and the genre and a real desire to see the good bits that will be in the episodes, no matter how west the storytelling goes in respect of the main arc. That said, right now Being Human US: Season 2 looks like the best hope for the franchise.


Peddler of Two-Bits said...

I agree on all your comments. I was so confused I stopped watching 14 minutes in and checked to see if I had skipped an episode. With the cast disintegrating during the break they were left with a broken puzzle to build. But I think they still did a weak job. I hadn't realized that the actress that played Nina wasn't returning. I loved how she played the character. A shame she couldn't have come back for an episode or two to properly end things.

I agree the werewolves on video is a joke--and hopefully it wil play out exactly as that. The vamps are fond of history and not the reality of today, as that character pointed out. No one would believe a youtube video.

And once you do time travel, my enjoyment tends to fly the coop. 95% of stories do a poor job. To me, it is usually a sign of weak storytelling, a modern day deus ex machina. Too bad they didn't make her a ghost from the past triumvirate who has been waiting around rather than the top-hat-rabbit of a ghosts reversing time and changing things.

Hopefully something good will build out of what's left, but a baby is bad, bad, bad thing in a story of life-threatening creatures of the night. The baby should vanish, fast. When Torchwood started Miracle Day with them running around with a baby in their arms while getting machine-gunned and rockets launched at them... all I could do was groan. As an American, this was the bastardization of Torchwood into manly-man american agent crap. Having a baby in the middle of american-stye shoot-em-ups is a disaster of plotting and destroyed who the characters are. Suddenly they were just pretending to be someone in a badly written story.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Peddler of Two-Bits. The thing that really didn't work re the mobile phone footage of the werewolves was the fact that it was the very vampire who seemed to have a grasp of modern technology/technological trends that suggested it and he (who miraculously survived the slaughter at Stoker) of all of them should have realised that.

I'd like your idea re the ghost if it wasn't for the new lore that a ghost, without familiars, drifts away into nothing... we'll forget Gilbert who'd been ghosting around (pun intended) for 20+ years. In fairness it might have to do with a ghost without their original haunting place, because Herrick said the same about such fading away by pulling the first house down in season 1. In other words a ghost without that geographical focus needs mortal/supernatural anchors.

However I was confused enough about the sudden apparent disinterest from the men with sticks and ropes iro Annie in season 3 (They had her and did nothing, and somehow new ghost Lia was able to manipulate her entire sojourn in the otherworld and affect our world by long-distance-haunting Mitchell). Perhaps the “men” were a projected manifestation of Annie’s own inner guilt, but what would that say about Annie and what she (subconsciously) did to Saul?

Oh dear, more questions…