Being Human: Sticks And RopeBookmark and Share

Monday, 11 February 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Reviewed by Tom Buxton

Sticks And Rope
Written by Daragh Carville
Directed by Philip John
Broadcast on BBC Three, 10th February 2013
Before we begin to dissect the second instalment of Being Human's fifth season, let's first deal with that lingering ghostly elephant dominating the room. Yes, the BBC has seen fit to continue its campaign of inexplicable cancellations, deciding just as it did with Doctor Who Confidential that strong ratings on BBC Three aren't enough to warrant commissioning a new season, and thus leading to the culmination of its popular cult fantasy drama.

Any future episode reviews, then, are tinged with a sense of melancholy with the ever-present knowledge that the show's days are numbered, a mildly depressing realisation that viewers are just going to have to live with from now on. Perhaps if last night's instalment had proved sub-par, we'd have had good reason to support the show's cancellation, but that's the problem - in spite of its flaws, this second episode is still a strong outing from Danagh Carville, only serving to highlight the loss that the channel will suffer when Being Human is done and dusted.

Initially, we should deal with the obvious shortcomings of the episode. Although admittedly Benjamin Greaves-Neal's young ghost character Oliver does develop through his arc into a more interesting construct once his role within the context of Captain Hatch's plans is revealed, at first his intended irritating nature does grate with the humour of the show, wearing thin within minutes rather than gelling with many of the effective gags and punch-lines that were littered throughout the episode.

Another subsequently underwhelming performance was Colin Hoult's Crumb - while Hoult provided a realistic depiction of what an ambitious member of office staff would do if he were transformed into a vampire, the scenes between Crumb and Mr Rook were just plain awkward to watch at times, and indeed the denouement featuring his conversion of Rook's assistant was a little too pleased with itself in its RPG social satire than we're used to from Being Human.

These gripes didn't define the episode, thankfully, yet it's important enough to note them, as they were setbacks that held the new instalment back from reaching the lofty heights of the season premiere.

Sticks And Rope's strengths were numerous, though. Once again, that titular Trinity's chemistry was plentiful and joyous to see develop, with Kate Bracken's Alex now more layered thanks to her final visits to her family and the relationship between Hal and Tom explored in a way that finally made the latter character seem likable and empathetic, a trait I never thought that the show's writers would manage to bestow upon the oft-irksome werewolf.

As predicted, Phil Davis shined too, revelling in a somewhat out-of-place yet perfectly portrayed speech of his incarnation of the Devil's sheer ruthlessness and villainy. Viewers such as myself are no doubt already eagerly anticipating the final instalments of this season (and indeed the show as a whole), simply to see Davis face off against the gang in full force and power, because the potential is there for a truly iconic confrontation even now! Hatch's manipulation of both the vampire and werewolf from whose energy he is feeding off was an intriguing plot strand, adding to the "dilemma of the week" storylines of Oliver and the Employee Of The Month competition marvellously.

It would be impossible to review Sticks And Rope, of course, without dealing with the rather ominous denouement. Once Alex had dealt with the sibling conflict that Oliver was harbouring, those much-hyped "men with sticks and ropes" breached the void of the worlds, and before they were sucked back into Hell they brought with them a foreboding message: "The end has begun. Night will fall…and he will rise." Cheery lot, aren’t they? Nevertheless, with those final sentiments echoing The Trinity's exciting cliff-hanger, it seems as if everything is building towards a dark and climactic crescendo.

While the horror-inspired genre focus of these final scenes stood a little at odds with the comedic nature of the episode's first half, they worked effortlessly well, truly homing in on the intense danger and fear that surrounds this final season's real antagonist. Perhaps with the trailer for the next episode teasing a return by the ghost of vampire Lady Mary, we'll discover the true extent of Hatch's scheming as the vampire from beyond no doubt attempts to resolve some unfinished business.

Regardless of what's to come, though, and indeed of the lingering knowledge that the show's days are numbered, Sticks And Rope remains another strong entry to add to Being Human's growing roster. Some performances are misjudged, sure, yet the episode's narrative and its lead stars once again carry it above any notable gripes for the most part. With four instalments of this stunning Beeb drama remaining, we're sure to make the most of the good times, and the journey to discover the true meaning of the words "He Will Rise" has never seemed so captivating.