Monday, 7 March 2011

'BEING HUMAN' 3.7 - "Though The Heavens Fall"

Monday, 7 March 2011

Creator Toby Whithouse returns to steer the ship towards port, as Being Human's third voyage draws to an end, with the excellent "Though The Heavens Fall". In retrospect, I like how series 3's mytharc-heavy episodes have been buffered by standalone stories, to give us a breather and time to assess the bigger picture, although I still think it was unwise to follow the premiere with two largely independent hours. That caused early shakes in my mind, but things have turned around since "The Pack". If you'd have told me in series 1 that Herrick (Jason Watkins) would be the catalyst for Being Human's best ever batch of episodes, I'd never have believed you.

This penultimate episode was a genuine sweet spot: a moment when there's been so much groundwork done that the story can capitalize with some huge developments, while never having to give us definitive, potentially disappointing answers and resolution. In this episode, the McNairwolves made a welcome return to the B&B, with McNair (Robson Green) needing Nina (Sinead Keenan) to tend to a leg wound before the Full Moon rises; Mitchell (Aidan Turner) began to lose patience with Herrick's inability to remember who or what he is; Annie (Lenora Crichlow) followed Nancy's (Erin Richards) investigation into the Box Tunnel 20 and came to the conclusion that Mitchell's been covering for his vampire friend Daisy, the real culprit; and Nina therefore started to doubt that Mitchell was responsible for the BT20 killings, if his incriminating scrapbook was merely a journal of his own private investigation.

There was a great deal to enjoy in how the storylines knitted together. A 20-year-old flashback revealed that McNair was once a human participant in a cage "dog fight" run by Herrick, who luckily survived a cage match but was scratched and developed lycanthropy himself, which led to the present-day situation with McNair noticing Herrick's scent from the attic and deciding to get overdue revenge by transforming and tearing him apart. Herrick's become so sympathetic this series that you can't help hoping he succeeds in rediscovering his humanity, which put us in the odd position of hoping McNair wasn't successful in his eliminating the threat Herrick poses. Kudos to Robson Green for his work this year, which has been a real highlight. The scene where the bare-chested McNair taunted Herrick with his necklace of extracted fangs (which also neatly revealed McNair has killed Mitchell's errant accomplice Daisy) dripped with tension, and his transformation scene worked well -- mainly because it focused on Herrick's petrified face, only occasionally cutting to the extending prosthetic makeup, and editing around the resulting shaggy dog suit.

Poor Annie's world was thrown into chaos as she vicariously discovered boyfriend Mitchell was responsible for the BT20 tragedy, but it was great to see her concoct a good explanation for why Mitchell owns a scrapbook about the massacre, which even managed to convince Nina. But the wheels of justice couldn't be stopped, as Nancy pried deeper; unconvinced by the existence of Daisy (a name traced back to a woman who died in WWII), and choosing not to take Nina's change of heart too seriously as the anonymous informant, because her intuition screamed that Mitchell is the sole perpetrator.

It was also great to see Mitchell properly explain his torturous dilemma to Annie: he so desperately wants to be punished for his heinous crime, but the judicial process will inexorably lead to the exposure of vampires (once the police realize he can't be seen in photographs.) From there, a collapse of society and religion would be the likely outcome, al because one officious detective was given a toehold on this case. Plus, the heartbreaking moment when you were reminded Annie's essentially lost her innocence, having been forced to kill someone; nicely played by Crichlow, whose quality wavers from scene to scene, but she tends to nail the important dramatic beats.

This episode really came alive in the last quarter, with some unexpected and thrilling curveballs that I hope the finale can bat out of the ballpark. The reveal that Nancy's boss Cooper (Justin Salinger) is a vampire was very nicely done, although you wonder why he didn't put an end to Nancy's investigation much sooner, and I enjoyed seeing Annie lend a ghostly hand in defeating him. It was particularly good fun watching Nancy return to the B&B with an armed team, arresting Mitchell and taking him for processing, only to make the mistake of going to see "Uncle Billy", unaware the taste of McNair's blood has restored his memory and turned him into a compos mentis Herrick. The episode wisely decided not to show Herrick's one-man attack on the cop squad, instead showing us the grisly aftermath of their broken bodies piled up in the front room, ready for Nina to discover when she returned home.

And what a perfect entrance for Herrick, having borrowed one of his victim's uniforms, assuming his identity so completely. After three few weeks spent watching Herrick as a bewildered, remorseful little man in striped pajamas, the difference in attitude and posture was brilliantly handled by Watkins (who has definitely benefitted from better material in series 3 than he ever had in series 1.) Seeing him clasp his hand over Nina's mouth, wondering if he should kill the only person who showed him kindness, just because he knows it would be the perfect way to avenge his death at the hand of George (Russell Tovey), was a truly chilling moment. A scene made all the more shocking when Herrick decided to show her mercy... for all of five seconds, before returning and stabbing her.

And Mitchell, dragged through a crowd of baying cops glad to have the infamous BT20 killer in custody, forced to have his photo taken. Such a seemingly innocuous moment, but charged with the power one photo can irrevocably change the world. That's not really very likely to happen, of course, so I assume Mitchell's going to discover a few more vampire associates are well placed to keep his cover. Ideally, the photographer.

It all set the stage extremely well for the finale. Will Nina survive? Her presence as a regular has, to some extent, upset the balance of the original trio's dynamic this year, so is she being written out now? If Nina does die, will her baby survive? It would seem a waste not to explore the idea of George as a werewolf daddy, and possibly a single parent? Will Tom (Michael Socha) assist George in going after Herrick to avenge McNair's death? Will the mentioned vampire "Old Ones" come to rescue Mitchell's rescue in jail? And who or what is the "werewolf-shaped bullet" Mitchell's been prophesized to die from soon, and can he avoid it? It certainly can't be McNair, so that only leaves George, Tom or maybe Nina.

Overall, "Though The Heavens Fall" was another really great episode of a series that, with a few caveats, has become my favourite in certain respects. It helps that we now know these characters very well after three years, which means the shocks hit you more forcefully. I just hope the finale can draw everything together as brilliantly as this episode blew everything apart.


  • It seems that McNair's still treating his 19-year-old adopted son as a child, suggesting he go watch cartoons!
  • Very funny moment with Nancy hurried away from Herrick's attic by Mitchell, oblivious to the fact he's suddenly sprouted fangs.
  • I'll be in the minority, I'm sure, but I didn't like the use of The Propellerheads' "History Repeating" for the moment Herrick regained his memory after feeding. Bad choice of music because it was too upbeat. The use of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf" was better, for an earlier montage of the werewolves preparing for Full Moon, if a little too cutesy.
  • Was the scene of Nina shaving Herrick a nod to Bram Stoker's "Dracula", reversing the classic scene where it's the Transylvanian Count who gives his human visitor Jonathan Harker a wet shave?
  • Werewolf babies grow twice as fast in the womb! Nina's physically 16-weeks pregnant a few months after conception. If she survives Herrick's attack, she'll be giving birth in early series 4, surely. Or is there an emergency caesarian planned for episode 8?
  • Idle thought: the situation with Mitchell can't ever be repeated on the Syfy remake, as vampires have reflections in that series. Considering how vampires are otherwise more supernatural in that show (with super-strength and speed) it's a little strange they ditched the classic lack of reflection.
written by Toby Whithouse / directed by Daniel O'Hara / 6 March 2011 / BBC Three