Last week's premiere had the unenviable task of having to explain the sudden departure of two regulars, one of whom wasn't prepared to come back and film any kind of farewell, and it was perhaps understandable that the episode was something of an overstuffed, exposition-heavy mess. "Being Human 1955" (horrible and mostly irrelevant title aside) was a slightly stronger episode of series 4, but it still strikes me that there's a lot of silliness happening for the sake of it. Introducing new vampire Hal (Damien Molony) as part of an existing trio of "supernaturals" was an interesting idea, but we're only two episodes into series 4 and ghost Pearl (Tamla Kari) and ailing werewolf Leo (Louis Mahoney) have already been written out of the show! Was it even worth them being introduced last week? Considering the fact we're now left with Michael Socha and Lenora Crichlow, who often feel like they've walked onto the set straight from stage school, I can't help wishing we'd simply left the world of Mitchell, Annie and George behind and were now focusing on Hal, Pearl and Leo...
This second episode introduced us to Hal properly, as he was asked to take dying Leo and Pearl to the Welsh town of Barry to find "The Saviour" at Honolulu Heights, who may be able to help them, in a fun but cheesy riff on the Three Wise Men following a Star (or novelty car freshener!) to locate baby Jesus at Bethlehem. We quickly discovered that Hal and Tom aren't going to be as friendly as Mitchell and George once were, which is a good creative decision that makes sense because of Tom's family history with vampires. There's even an element of class war going on between the northern, "incomprehensible" Tom, and the southern, middle class, well-groomed Hal. It will hopefully be interesting to see how those characters come to defrost around each other, which should be a more interesting arc than George and Mitchell ever had together, despite also being very predictable.
The best part of "Being Human 1955" was getting to know Hal, who's a fairly interesting character at this early stage. Like Mitchell he's a predator trying to abstain from human blood, and has managed to do so for half-a-century because of the calming influence of Leo, even if it's left him with residual OCD (love the scene with the spiral of dominoes Hal builds but never topples). There's also an unshakable feeling that if/when the dam breaks Hal's killing spree is going to be twice as nasty as Mitchell's infamous train massacre. And while you were fairly sure Mitchell was a decent man deep down, Hal's motivations and loyalties are more uncertain right now. This episode suggests he's perhaps the biggest danger to baby Eve, who's prophesized to destroy all of his kind when she grows up, but isn't it also possible he's just susceptible to the influence of that woman from the afterlife who wants the baby killed?
One thing that can be awkward about Being Human is its balance between comedy and drama, as it doesn't always find equilibrium. It usually goes wrong when too much material is given to Annie (as she's the most obviously comedic character), because Crichlow's performance just isn't something I enjoy. She plays everything too broadly for my tastes, and whenever there's a "comedy moment" for her to indulge herself with the show feels like it's suddenly being aimed at kids. This week, there's a particularly stupid sequence with Annie performing a ritual in a bedroom by spouting mumbo-jumbo (did she really think that would work?), which was just farcical and beneath this show. A little better was Annie's little attempts to one-up Pearl, whom she sees as a rival, and it was also interesting to note that Pearl is written like Andrea Riseborough's original version of Annie from the Being Human pilot that spawned this show. I wonder if that was intentional, or am I just reading too much into surface similarities because Riseborough and Kari both just have northern accents?
The situation with the vampires is definitely the backbone of this series, as they await the arrival of the "Old Ones", and while I'm not a fan of this daft storyline, so far, I must admit I'm enjoying the performance of Andrew Gower as vampire spin doctor Cutler (who's trying to condition humans into accepting and fearing the existence of werewolves) and fanged policeman Fergus (Anthony Flanagan), who's basically a more weaselly and thuggish version of Herrick. It's almost a relief when the show switches to give us scenes between those two, who are much funnier than the three regulars.
Overall, I'm still not sold on what series 4 is doing, because there's no escaping the fact the replacements for Aidan Turner and Russell Tovey are noticeably worse actors—even if Molony has potential and his character has my interest. It just feels like Being Human's done everything it can with its high-concept premise of a vampire, werewolf and ghost sharing a house, so now it's being forced to reinvent itself in a largely uninspired way by embracing several B-movie clichés like returning vampire overlords, mysterious prophecies and Messiah-like babies. There's nothing here so bad it's insulting, and the show is still capable of making me giggle at times, but I'm having a hard time getting excited by any of the brewing situations and new characters.
written by Lisa McGee / directed by Philip John / 12 February 2012 / BBC Three