Tuesday, 13 March 2012

BEING HUMAN, 4.6 – "Puppy Love"

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Thank heavens writer John Jackson remembers what made Being Human a success when it began. "Puppy Love" was easily this year's funniest and most character-driven episode, and all the better for it. Tom (Michael Socha) and Hal (Damien Moloney) felt like a solid comedy double-act, having stopped locking horns over their petty differences, and none of the subplots were actively terrible—although the idea of Annie (Lenora Crichlow) killing an elderly neighbour (Anthony O'Donnell) went from bad taste to unacceptably tedious. The writers should admit defeat and say they now haven't a clue what to do with a ghostly character, as they keep trotting out variations on the same ideas for Annie. Should Being Human continue into a fifth series, I can only hope creator Toby Whithouse is astute enough to realise Annie should be joining Mitchell and George in the hereafter—and won't need an actor's unavailability to force his hand making that decision. Crichlow has served her purpose as the transitional face between the original lineup and this year's revamp...

As the cutesy title suggests, this episode was concerned with romantic storylines for both Tom and Hal. The former met a nerdy young werewolf called Allison (Upstairs Downstairs' Ellie Kendrick), who threatened to be as two-dimensional as the godawful "goth" from a few episodes ago (Allison carried a satchel, had "funny" run, wore glasses, and spoke in a patter), but there was a surprising amount of likability in her optimistic and plucky character. I'm not sure if it was all there on the page, or something Kendrick brought to the role with her enthusiasm, but she really brightened the screen. (This marks another guest-star whom I'd prefer to see become a regular over Annie, it should go without saying.) Allison falling in love with Tom also gave Michael Socha something to channel his performance into, as the actor has naturally empathetic eyes and an affable nature. As two very innocent, naïve people exploring their sexuality together, they made for a lovable screen couple.

Hal's romance with café customer Alex (Kate Bracken) was less winsome, yet more effective than I first expected. I particularly liked how Hal was determined to keep Alex at a safe distance, lest he become too tempted to drain the girl's blood—particularly now he's started to find a curious "peace" via the routine of waiting tables in a greasy spoon. Bracken was another good guest-star, if nowhere near as showy and memorable as Kendrick, although I'm sure some prefer her because Alex was more believable.

As mentioned, Annie's story wasn't horrible, but it also wasn't anything fresh and interesting. It began with her accidentally killing a neighbour by answering the front door too violently (um, hilarious?), and turned into another variation on the Annie-helps-another-ghost-crossover story. Haven't we had several of these before? It sure feels like it. Welshman Emrys himself was fairly entertaining, and got a few decent lines (the cheekiest being a quip about werewolf Allison's "growler" in the shower), but there just wasn't anything worthwhile happening in his story. If anything, it was just a strange way to setup a meeting between Annie and the mysterious-ghost-from-the-future (Gina Bramhill), who was finally revealed to be—dun-dun-duuuuh!—a grownup Eve the baby! Who saw that coming? Oh. Everyone. It was the only dramatic choice that made any sense, and most people guessed it in the very first episode. Must try harder, Being Human.

Overall, "Puppy Love" had some ups and downs, but at its core this was a very enjoyable comedy episode, front-loaded with a perky performance from Ellie Kendrick (her sex scene with Tom, mistaking a stake and a crucifix for his erection, was priceless). Even a small subplot with vampire lawyer Cutler (Andrew Gower) dealing with his "line manager" Golda (Amanda Abbington), vanguard of the en route Old Ones, had a smattering of funny moments. I especially loved Golda's scold "the last time somebody spoke to me like that, I used their skin as a Filofax cover. God I miss the '80s!" Shame she didn't stick around for longer, really. And the development that Cutler's on the precipice of defecting to the side of the werewolves and ghosts was also a nice turn to take.

This was a funny, sweet, entertaining, and highly quotable episode. Series 4's best, perhaps—despite not having much to do with the ongoing mytharc. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it so much, because the whole vampire mytharc is C-grade claptrap we've seen a zillion times before at the movies—often done better, back when it was relatively fresh.


  • Didn't it take Annie ages to learn how to touch things as a ghost? Emrys had it licked in days!
  • I'm so glad the writers confronted the key problem with Cutler's viral video of a "real" werewolf transforming: everyone would assume it's fake in a post-CGI world, teeming with viral videos for Hollywood movies.
  • Great opening sequence with Allison sharpening her pencils, as Tom sharpened his stakes, as part of their morning rituals. Instantly, you knew who these people were.
  • Yes, @lycurious is a real Twitter account.
  • It's worth mentioning Golda's amusing bodyguard Kane (Marshall Griffin), with the fists he's nicknamed "shock" and "awe". A clear nod to tough-guys like Jason Statham.
  • You probably recognise the museum that Hal and Tom took Allison and Alex to from its many appearances on Doctor Who. It was used for "The Big Bang", "Planet Of The Dead" and "Vincent & The Doctor".
written by John Jackson / directed by Daniel O'Hara / 11 March 2012 / BBC Three