Done to Undeath: Alex watches Being Human

Being Human

Vampires, werewolves, ghosts! You’ve seen it all a million and one times before. And Toby Whithouse knows this, and how to make it work.

Being Human offers virtually no explanation of the supernatural creatures it stars and deals with, because it knows that we’ve seen it all before. I was surprised, watching it, that the first episode introduces the characters and explains who is what in a very brief opening segment and then launches straight into the story. No explanation of how werewolves work, or vampire lore, or ghost physics, because it’s so ingrained in our popular culture that it’s assumed knowledge.

Now, what if we put them all together into one house in Bristol? It’s like a roommate dom-com but with one of the buds howling at the moon every month, one fighting his addiction to blood and one trying to figure out what her unfinished business is and making lots of tea that she can’t drink.

The focus is on the people and not the monsters. That’s the main focus of the show, after all, three ‘supernaturals’ attempting (often in vain, because where else would the plot come from?) to live like normal human beings. The characters are my favourite part of the show, each of the main ones different and independent and significantly layered (less can be said for a lot of the supporting ones, but you can’t have everything).

The plot could go any which way carried on these three main bros—George the werewolf, Mitchell the vampire and Annie the ghost—as in any soap opera or sitcom, begin with characters and a concept and spin it out from there. Unfortunately, fate and real life blew some potential script plans right off the table several times. The gang move from Bristol to Barry Island, Wales? Real life prodding the plot into motion. Mitchell’s going to die? It’s a prophecy! Death by actor’s ambitions!

What’s that over there? Casting changes? Be afraid

By the fourth season only Annie remains due to the actors seeking greener pastures, or something, and the gang is broken up. The writers fiddle this around enough to make it work, though a bit clumsily in places (especially, I felt, the end of season three and beginning of four) and bring in characters to keep Annie company without (THANKFULLY) being photocopies of Mitchell and George. It’s a real pickle — I feel it’s unfair to hold resentment against performers for wanting to do other things, but forcing your character, one of the main and most lovable ones, to a grimy death and warping the entire plot and premise of the show because of it?

One character dies offscreen, even, between seasons. She is never seen again, just mentioned as having been killed in a past event that isn’t even demonstrated by flashbacks. That’s a bit fickle. Russel Tovey stuck around for a wrap-up episode to give George a believable end and some semblance of closure, at least! (And then went to Sherlock Holmes to complain about sightings of a gigantic hound… wait…)

As with many shows involving the unearthly or supernatural, the ante is upped every series until we have prophecies at play, interdimensional travel, and a mounting full-scale takeover of the world by the vampires. They even use the phrase “take over the world”. Now, there is the occasional loosely and quickly knotted resolution, slips in characterisation and one genuine ass-pull (we only learn that werewolf blood is toxic to vampires in the fourth season when it becomes convenient… surely it should have been at least implied before… also, they’ve casually dropped in the fact that freaking succubi and demons are about in the world, so now I really hope that they don’t just forget about that very important-seeming point and potential plotline!) but otherwise the writing is quite sharp and swings between making you laugh, making you cringe and making you scream at your TV while hugging a pillow.

In the same vein as Misfits, the show plays with tropes used in the genre (in Misfits it was sci-fi and superhero stories) and breaks them down to see how they would play out in the real world. The writers are hard at work toying with old mythology in a modern setting and the result is entertaining and engrossing to watch, if a (not so) little gory and downright bizarre at some points (also sexy… and sometimes all at once! Viewer discretion is advised).

Urban fantasy is so often given to the YA population, and this is a grown-up exploration of the archetypes therein. Being Human is compelling and entertaining, but for the love of all that is holy, don’t go watch it if you’re sick of emotional vampires, because there are a lot of them in there.

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2 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

2 responses to “Done to Undeath: Alex watches Being Human

  1. Pingback: Dying in Fiction 103: Deal with the Supernatural for Long Enough | The Afictionado

  2. Pingback: Vampires: Good for Symbolism, Bad at Politics | The Afictionado

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