Being Human: The Greater GoodBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Reviewed by Tom Buxton

The Greater Good
Written by John Jackson
Directed by Daniel O'Hara
Broadcast on BBC Three, 24th February 2013
With just three instalments of its fifth and final season remaining, not to mention a disappointing predecessor, there was plenty of pressure resting on The Greater Good to perform. It's a positive omen for Being Human's immediate future, then, that this fourth outing was such an impressive return to form for the fantasy series, because heaven knows, the show needed this to start the climactic proceedings successfully. By far, this has to be another substantial addition to the fan-picked roster of this programme's finest episodes, laying strong foundations for the two-part finale to come.

At the heart of Being Human's confident leap back into the minds of viewers and critics alike has to be Colin Hoult. Yes, as much as I'd lamented Hoult's previous performances as Crumb in the first and second episodes of this season, and indeed as much as I had feared his return based on the rather deceptive "Next Time" teaser for this instalment, this time around the actor finally came into his own in his final appearance on the show. Over the course of the speedy hour we spent in Crumb's company, the character quickly developed from an irksome pain in the backside for the Trinity into an empathetic creature whose striving for a better life was ultimately doomed to fail. It's a grand job Mr Rook's corny assistant was taken out of the scene early in the day, because left on his own merits Crumb turned out to be an extremely lovable anti-hero in the end.

Aside from that recently-converted vampire's character arc in this episode, we of course had the sub-plot of new werewolf Bobby and Mr Rook's schemes involving him to deal with. Ricky Grover's performance here was nothing special, really, although it did successfully depict the kind of effect prolonged imprisonment can have on supernatural creatures, even if it took until the fifth season for such a storyline to be dealt with. Last week, I questioned the reasoning behind the survival of Steven Robertson's Rook after his attempted suicide, yet the character's chemistry with Phil Davis's Captain Hatch made it all worthwhile this time around. Slowly but surely, viewers were able to see Hatch twist his prey into a dark game of deception and betrayal in order to seemingly expose the supernatural world - Hal, Tom, and Alex included - an underlying narrative arc this season that appears set to break to the forefront in the fortnight of adventures ahead.

It seems that the role of the Devil has simply been waiting for seasoned actor Davis to inhabit, utterly revelling in the sheer unhinged nature of this satanic being. One hopes that with Hatch gaining power every week we glimpse him in the Barry Island Hotel, he will have the chance to fully flex his muscles against the series' lead stars, because when the definitive confrontation between the Trinity and their darkest foe does arrive, it should be an iconic battle for the ages.

What lies ahead for Being Human, then? Certainly, beyond rising from the dead, it seems that Hoult's character doesn't have further romantic antics to come with Alex, a real shame as their "date" was one of the defining highlights in an episode that gleefully showcased the series' balancing of its comedy and drama elements. It seemed that the resident ghost haunting Honolulu Heights seemed to suspect Hatch as having a role to play in the dark days so ahead, so perhaps the Devil himself will attempt to incapacitate the late teenager sometime soon. Meanwhile, it shan’t likely be long before Tom catches wind of Hal's impending return to the dark side, so it seems the vampire-werewolf conflict that Hatch has been longing for is just around the corner. To return to the present, though, The Greater Good is a fantastic reversal of the lack of arc developments present in the preceding Pie And Prejudice, bringing with it all of the series' trademark strengths with just two instalments remaining. For fans everywhere, the show's episode quality has rarely been more consistent than the offerings we've seen this season - something that is going to make its incoming departure from the annual spring TV schedules all the more difficult for BBC Three and the audience to live with. The End is in sight . . .




Being Human: Pie And PrejudiceBookmark and Share

Monday, 18 February 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Reviewed by Tom Buxton

Pie And Prejudice
Written by Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Philip John
Broadcast on BBC Three, 17th February 2013
Filler can be a killer sometimes. Indeed, the art of the "filler" episode is one that 21st-century dramas are constantly having to deal with, Doctor Who being a prime example of how to get it right, and US shows such as House and Smallville showcasing how mundane things can become in a season as a whole if it's handled in the wrong manner. Being Human has tackled much the same challenges in the past four seasons regarding how to integrate an "arc-lite" instalment so as to fill one of the six (or eight) episodes commissioned by the BBC. The results have generally been mixed, but unfortunately Pie And Prejudice won't go down as one of the rare instances where the series' writers have risen to the task.

Make no mistake: key to this third instalment of Series Five's failure to impress is the severe lack of direction that viewers can't help but notice. Where The Trinity and Sticks And Rope flourished in their integration of arc elements such as Captain Hatch's dark revelations and the first hints of a new vampire-werewolf conflict, here we're forced to suffer one of the most irksome characters in the show's brief history. Just as the portrayal of Crumb began to grate in the latter stages of the second episode, so too does Julian Barratt's Larry Chrysler simply ooze with the infamous iconography of seedy self-made "businessmen" who draw the weak-minded into their haphazard marketing schemes. It's reasonable to believe that Michael Socha's Tom would be sucked into such a ploy, yet by the time that Chrysler makes his exit from the show, this viewer was practically begging Hal to revert back to his "real" form and send the cretin to the underworld.

On the positive side, though, the plot thread involving deceased countess Lady Mary and Hal's attempts to understand her modern-day nature was a little more innovative. The contrast between Amanda Hale's Downton-riffing portrayal of the character and her more passionate 2013 self was inspired both on the actress's and the writer's parts, her sequences spent alone with Kate Bracken particularly memorable for their rather gritty and blatant depiction of social life as it currently stands. If anything, it was a shame that it all had to descend into the good ol' confrontation at the episode's latter stages, writing Mary out of the proceedings with a swift axe, because it might have been interesting to see Hale return to play a part in the climactic finale in three weeks' time. There is, nevertheless, a sense of total closure here, and for the most part it works, even if that snippet of dialogue regarding Hal - "How long until you're the one holding the stake?" - was a rather predictable retread of the series' core themes and morals, especially in light of the vampire's recent deadly resurgence.

Elsewhere, we subsequently had a few updates in the world of Mr Rook. The idea of the character's suicidal phone conversation seemed intriguing at first, yet it was a shame that it devolved so quickly into something far more lustful and shallow on the part of someone who seems to be layered and morally skewed. Indeed, viewers may yet wonder whether the more effective twist would have been to see the character killed off at this moment, biting the proverbial bullet as it were, and whether this might have forced Alistair and his government officials to launch a full-scale inquiry into supernaturals. All the same, it seems that Rook will have a major role in the concluding instalments of the show, first asking Hal and Tom to repay the favour by getting more supernaturals under control next week…and then what? Discovering the answer to that question should be a compelling reason alone for fans to keep watching.

Pie And Prejudice is certainly a strange one - in spite of advancing just one or two minor core plot elements, writer Jamie Mathieson still seemed to struggle to balance its various story arcs. Never mind the loathsome Larry Chrysler, between Rook's suicide contemplation, Mary's tale, and the developments for the Trinity of lead stars, Mathieson leaves little breathing space for the show's trademark humour, in spite of what feels like an incredibly drawn-out hour for the viewer. It seems as if this outing will be the solitary weak link in Being Human's fifth and final season, and here's hoping that's the case, because the show can't afford another misstep like Pie And Prejudice in its final three weeks if its writers aim to leave the fans with a satisfying legacy beyond the finale.




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.




Being Human: The TrinityBookmark and Share

Monday, 4 February 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Reviewed by Tom Buxton

The Trinity
Written by Toby Whithouse
Directed by Philip John
Broadcast on BBC Three, 3rd February 2013
Coming off the back of perhaps its most controversial season of episodes yet, Being Human's return to BBC Three last night has been an event met with something of an air of trepidation this time around.

Certainly, with Series Four having proven particularly divisive for its swift and frequent regular cast departures - Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow among them - Toby Whithouse and his production team didn't have an enviable job convincing fans to stick around for the ride with a new cast in 2013.

This reviewer is happy to admit that he did consider the possibility of ditching the show altogether in the late stages of the 2012 run, but I can now confirm with no uncertainty that I'm thoroughly glad I stayed along for the ride, as Series Five opener The Trinity proved to be perhaps the greatest instalment the hit drama has given us yet.

So, just what element of the new series has restored my faith in Being Human, and indeed should have done the same for fans across the country? If anything, the answer to this question should be perhaps the most obvious part of this entire review, or indeed any retrospective on the strengths of the programme - it's the central cast who make The Trinity such a joy to watch.

Where Michael Socha and Damien Molony's Tom and Hal had their grating moments in Series Four, feeling something like awkward components in a narrative-driven machine that didn't quite know how to function with an amalgamation of parts old and new, the two lead actors come into their own this time around, sparking much of the same hilarious chemistry as George and Mitchell had in the first three seasons, yet with an innovative take on the vampire-werewolf matter with the conflict that's sure to brew between them later (more on that in a bit).

Better yet, Kate Bracken's Alex seemed to be the embodiment of everything Whithouse and his team of writers should have made Annie in her time on the show - not an angst-fuelled, borderline-apathetic teen obsessed with rekindling her betrothed's love and later protecting her friend's child, but a raw, passionate femme fatale who simply longs to experience the same thrills and shocks of teenage life which death has robbed from her. Annie's journey to discover her "unfinished business" remained, to me, the one solitary compelling element of her over-extended character arc, so for a new ghost to step into Honolulu Heights with such a brimming personality and sense of empathy is deeply refreshing, ensuring that Alex's own passing to the other side is the least of viewers' concerns.

The titular ‘Trinity’ of confident British stars are backed up by a refined supporting cast here, too. Steven Robertson's second portrayal of Mr Rook was a fiendishly understated performance, one that built cunningly towards a surprising twist in his character's nature towards the climax, while Colin Hoult took things in much the opposite direction with a crazed and unpredictable new vampire - Crumb - the likes of which we haven't seen since Lauren taunted Mitchell over her early conversion to vampire status in the original season.

Best of all, though, had to be the tantalising glimpses we received of the series' new resident villain, Captain Hatch. Phil Davis has already more than proved his own in productions such as Rome, Doctor Who: The Fires Of Pompeii and Sherlock: A Study In Pink, yet it's perhaps with this exciting turn as the Devil himself that Davis will reach his fullest performing potential, revelling in the sheer insanity and mythology of this ambitious role. Sure enough, we even got the first glimpses of the evil this character brings to the show with Hatch's manipulation of one member of hotel staff to commit suicide, not before writing out the ominous prophecy that "HE WILL RISE" (no prizes for guessing just who that refers to) in her own blood.

The episode's narrative was brilliantly structured, moving back and forth between the new supernatural team's modern-day exploits and Hal's flashbacks to the unleashing of a human Devil during the Great War. Both settings felt as faithful to their respective time periods as ever, with the 1918 version of the vampire-werewolf-ghost trio proving a comedic yet effective contrast to that of Alex, Hal, and Tom as the heroes of the past attempted to stop Satan feeding off the Vampire-Werewolf War (or as Alex so adequately puts it, The Twilight Saga). Again, it's testament to the creative vision of Whithouse and company that they could pull off such absurd concepts as this inter-fantastical race conflict and, indeed, the Antichrist feeding off such a battle, although after the ludicrous nature of the Old Ones' plot last season, perhaps anything is possible.

With The Trinity, then, the production team of Being Human have bounced back on to the televisual drama scene with a bang. Where other teams have tried and failed to "reboot" their season formula in the midst of repetition and tedium, Whithouse and his band of stars and behind-the-scenes wizards have breathed new life into a programme that one year ago I would have had you believe was on its very last legs. In 2012, this reviewer couldn't have been less concerned for the fates of the series' protagonists; now, discovering the next steps that Hal, Tom, and Alex will take on their journey to best the Devil in Series Five makes even a single week of waiting feel longer than ever. Here's hoping that this BBC Three drama continues to hit such heights in the five weeks ahead.







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