Sunday, 13 March 2011

'BEING HUMAN' 3.8 - "The Wolf-Shaped Bullet"

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The finer points of this finale were a cop-out, I can't deny it, and I'm sure that irritated many people. The situation with the stabbed Nina (Sinead Keenan) was resolved credibly but too easily; the compos mentis Herrick (Jason Watkins) met his sticky end (pun intended) prematurely; Lia's (Lacey Turner) "wolf-shaped bullet" prophecy was revealed as bunkum; and the Box Tunnel 20 investigation was contained and suppressed by vampire overlords "the Old Ones", led by new villain Edgar Wyndham (Lee Ingleby.) However, there was such a cocktail of emotion and well-calibrated performances that its disappointments didn't spoil the overall effect. It would be churlish to nitpick this finale, as there was a stream of wonderful moments that prevented "The Wolf-Shaped Bullet" from collapsing, together with a daring final scene you'll rarely see in other genre TV shows.

"Rule one of vampire club: do not get arrested." -- Herrick
It was inevitable that Herrick would spring Mitchell from jail, then destroy the evidence that he's a vampire before the discovery spread to the outside world. Less predictable was Herrick's intention to again try and turn Mitchell into his obedient lieutenant, as he was before blood abstinence and living as a human entered his lizard brain. Mitchell was thus thrown into the dog fighting cage, together with the captured George (Russell Tovey); there to be provoked into embracing his dark nature and kill his friend -- if only in self-defense, after Herrick told George that he's (probably) killed his pregnant girlfriend, and it's ultimately Mitchell's fault. Terrific work from Tovey in these scenes, who can always be relied on to deliver tragedy, despair, tears, anguish, and pained fury. But there was also a lovely explanation of why Herrick's been so determined to see Mitchell relapse to his darker days: he simply craves a kindred spirit to rule the world by his side. Or, as Mitchell put it so ironically, "you want to look in the mirror."

The Mitchell/George friendship has been the cornerstone of Being Human, so much of this finale's power came from watching it disintegrate. The pair have weathered so many storms as housemates, with their "buddy system" to live ordinary lives, but "The Wolf-Shaped Bullet" pushed their amity past breaking point. The reveal that George suspected Mitchell was the BT20 killer all along was good, as it meant George has been carrying a seed of hatred in his belly for months, unhealthily bottling the shock and loathing Nina felt when she learned the truth. It was easy to see why George would be tipped over the edge by the suggestion Nina's alleged death was Mitchell's fault, as through his own inactio he's complicit in Mitchell's crimes and its knock-on effects.

Another instigator of this mess was revealed to be dead Box Tunnel victim Lia, whom Annie (Lenora Crichlow) went to visit after she was summoned the Other Side by the reanimated corpse of a dead policeman at the hospital. Lia's been a sly puppetmaster all along; exacting her retribution on Mitchell by turning him into a paranoid wreck (her so-called prophecy of a wolf-shaped bullet was just a cruel mindgame), while utilizing Annie as a "weapon" -- ensuring Mitchell's downfall was twice as agonizing because it involved the loss of her love. While it initially felt like a huge disappointment that a key mystery of series 3 was founded on a silly lie, the story managed to course correct with a "self-fulfilling prophecy" angle, as Mitchell sealed his own fate...

But first, Mitchell had to take care of business: agreeing to become Herrick's comrade in his revived plan for world domination, only to stake his maker in the chest as they sat in a car watching the sun rise on their first new day together. It was an abrupt second death for Herrick -- particularly considering the time it's taken to bring him back, physically and mentally, and perhaps it was too easy a death. In this episode, Herrick was almost defeated by orphaned werewolf Tom (Michael Socha), out to avenge his father's murder, whereas last week Herrick managed to singlehandedly slaughter a squad of armed policemen ? Did the element of surprise help him in episode 7? Vampires aren't superhuman in this universe, remember, but the consistency of their abilities is very elastic. But more than that, Herrick was far too trusting of Mitchell. He wasn't suspicious that Mitchell drove him to a remote seaside spot, to talk ominously about their shared history? In many ways, he deserved to die for being such a dope.

As I said, many of the threads dangling from "Though The Heavens Fall" were resolved with minimal fuss, which was a pity. In a few instances, Being Human undid its own messiness in blunt ways, particularly with the BT20 investigation. That said, I was satisfied with the arrival of the ancient vampires (referred to as the "Old Ones", led by Edgar) to clear up the situation, mainly because their arrival had been foreshadowed all year. I can suspend my disbelief that the Old Ones have the necessary power and influence to shutdown a big police investigation and arrange a conspiracy to protect Mitchell by framing someone else.

Naturally, thoughts will be focused on the astonishingly tense and emotive final scene, with a repentant Mitchell returning to the B&B, asking George to fulfill Lia's phony prophecy by killing him with a stake to the heart, having come to terms with the fact he's beyond salvation and can't rise above his nature as a bloodthirsty killer. Cozy domesticity, playing house with a werewolf and ghost, just didn't work for vampire Mitchell. The show's called Being Human, but Mitchell only achieved that bliss very briefly, and has instead realized his best friend must end his life as both a punishment for his crimes and a means to give George closure on the matter.

George: What if you ran away to Scotland?
Mitchell: I'd kill people in Scotland.
The tension bled through the screen in this final scene; with everyone deliberating whether or not to give Mitchell the release he desires, or talk him out of it. Thanks to the inherent unpredictability of British drama (which isn't as hogtied by public opinion, ratings, contracts, and commercialism) the outcome really did hang in the balance. Even knowing Aidan Turner's started work on two major Hobbit movies in New Zealand. Would George go through with the deed? Would Mitchell be convinced to give himself another chance if George, Nina and Annie forgive him? Would something else happen to take the responsibility away from George? Toby Whithouse had enormous fun teasing us about how things would play out; letting us come nanoseconds away from one outcome before pulling back.

The surprise interruption by Edgar wasn't expected, and his arrival quickly setup series 4's agenda, by outlining the reasons the Old Ones will be keeping the B&B's residents alive and under scrutiny: Nina's baby will be the first ever child born a werewolf, and there's a feeling in vampire circles that Annie will grow more powerful than she realizes. The residents of Honolulu Heights are of great interest to the vampire leaders, it would seem. Mitchell's fate was then swerved towards becoming Edgar's allegiant assassin, only for George to deny his friend this ugly future by quickly, mercifully staking him. A kindness that briefly reignited their friendship, as Mitchell faded to ash before everyone's eyes. And then, finally, four became a traditional trio once again; Annie, George and Nina staring down Edgar with a call-to-arms: "I think you've got a fight on your hands."

Forgiving some issues with how the finale untied last week's knots, the performances were absolutely fantastic (particularly from Tovey and Turner) and the episode's two shocking deaths were heartfelt punches, delivered with precision. So what does the future hold for Being Human? Will the show embrace a "two werewolves, one ghost and a baby" setup? Is that too sitcom? Will Mitchell be replaced by another vampire, who also wants to abstain from human blood? Edgar is almost definitely the new Herrick, albeit with considerably more power and authority behind him, but is he too much to handle? It's only because the Old Ones are intrigued by George, Nina and Annie that they're even being allowed to even live, so what happens if the vampires lose interest? Being Human's a tricky show to tell True Blood-sized stories with, as it's fundamentally a character-driven piece with a humbler scope and scale. And while that's always been part of its beauty and charm (it feels more real when everything's taking place in a humdrum world), the show can't just coast by. It has to keep moving and evolving. I just wonder if it has anywhere left to go that's within its creative and financial grasp, or if Toby Whithouse should consider calling it a day soon.

In a few years, will Mitchell's death be seen as the moment Being Human ended, spiritually, or is there afterlife in the old werewolf yet? What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end, or a wonderful opportunity to transform and revitalize the show? And what did you think of Being Human's third series, as a whole?


  • You may recognize Lee Ingleby from Mark Gatiss' spooky drama Crooked House, and he also played Sam Tyler's father in Life On Mars. Also, one of the Welsh policemen was played by Giles Thomas, who was the boyish lead in Dennis Potter's Lipstick On Your Collar miniseries from the early-'90s. (I guess I'm in the minority for caring about that.)
  • Amusing to hear The Real Hustle mentioned for the first time this series, as it became something of a running joke how often Mitchell or George would name-check that BBC3 conman series. Or was I the only one who noticed that?
  • A beautiful voiceover from Robson Green, reading Anthony Michael McNair's note to Tom about putting aside a desire for vengeance and live the normal life he was denied. The fact Tom didn't pay heed was perfect for his character, but I hope there's some resolution for Tom in series 4. Will he become a regular/recurring character next year, or has the McNairwolves storyline been told?
  • Vampire lore: Edgar proved that ancient vampires don't need to ask permission to enter residences. They've found a way around that particular weakness, perhaps to aide the surprise interruption in this final scene. Will Toby Whithouse come to rue that decision in series 4?
  • I'm slightly confused about Herrick's secret to surviving death as a vampire. It seems to boil down to the fact he wasn't staked, which is the only surefire way to kill a vampire. Okay, I can accept that. But there was clearly some kind of ritual being performed when we saw Cara and Daisy resurrect Herrick at the end of series 2, but that was never mentioned.
written by Toby Whithouse / directed by Daniel O'Hara / 13 March 2011 / BBC Three