16 August 2011

Being Human (UK) S1 E2

Spoilers Ahead

How do the Brits manage to make such good TV? I've seen it time and time again (e.g., Doctor Who, Misfits, Sherlock...): good acting, compelling stories, great cinematography and special effects. I'm guessing they have reasonable budgets, which they clearly put to good use. Even though we only get a few episodes (six for the first season of BH) they're worth every minute.

Episode 2 starts off with George's agonizing transformation to werewolf as Mitchell describes the equally horrifying and miraculous process in a voice over. The effects as George transform are impressive: realistic and scary. The full wolf itself is okay--it's makeup and/or a costume. These never look quite right but I've definitely seen a lot worse (including CGI wolves). By the way, I have to say that much as I like Annie and George I think Mitchell should do all the narration from now on. Never mind that he's the hot vampire--he's got a beautiful Irish accent. It definitely needs to be put to good use.

The next morning when George wakes up naked in the woods he realizes a man is sitting, watching him. Those of you paying attention will recognize him as the same man who asked George what he was running from as George tried to find a safe place in the woods to transform last episode. It turns out this man, Tully (Dean Lennox Kelly, who played Shakespeare on Doctor Who in "The Shakespeare Code" episode!), is another werewolf. Tully has been around longer and has picked up a few tricks on making the whole process easier. He's also been hearing that something big is about to happen and he figures there's safety in numbers. George, however, doesn't even want to acknowledge or accept the werewolf part of him. He gratefully accepts the clothes that Tully brought for him but then he takes off, telling Tully he's not interested in being werewolf buddies.

When George gets home he's in for another surprise. This time it's a group of his neighbours having tea in his living room while Mitchell plays happy host. Mitchell informs George that if they want to be human they need to get to know people and get involved in the community (the occasional beer down at the pub doesn't count). George is not at all convinced, especially when he goes back to the room and realizes that Tully is there.

Grabbing Tully and pulling him outside George tells him definitively to piss off. But Tulley argues that he can teach George how to manage and control the wolf and convinces him to let him back inside. Mitchell and Annie are immediately smitten with Tully. George is still not thrilled, though, especially when Mitchell invites Tully to stay with them for a couple of days after hearing that he's been "sleeping rough" (i.e., he's homeless). Mitchell can't understand why George isn't jumping at the chance to have someone teach him how to control his condition. You can hear the longing in Mitchell's voice--he's clearly someone who knows--and hates--what it's like to be alone.

Ironically as Tully starts mentoring George on being a werewolf as well as being all manly-like, George starts admiring Tully more and more while Mitchell becomes less enamoured of him. As George gets to the point of even talking like Tully he doesn't notice the subtly disparaging comments Tully makes about Mitchell. Or the way he's mooching off them. Or that he's something of a misogynist. George just see the slick guy who's helping him be better. Never mind that following Tully's example and aggressively coming on to a nurse at work gets George labelled as a disgusting sexist pig. Or that his best friends (Mitchell and Annie, of course) think he's acting like an idiot.

Meanwhile Mitchell's got his hands full with Lauren, who shows up at the house and tries her best to induce more than one kind of lust in him. It's amazing Mitchell doesn't take her up on her offer to feed or to simply "play." This vampire's got some self control. But as he kicks her out she lets him know that he can check out but he can never leave.

Speaking of leaving Tully manages to wear out his welcome with Annie by getting aggressive with her, calling her a tease, and then trying to kiss her. Luckily Annie goes poof (as ghosts are wont to do) before his lips make contact. Unfortunately she reappears outside in a panic, desperate to get to the hospital to find Mitchell and George, and can't ask anyone for directions because humans can't see her. She finally sees an ambulance and follows. It turns out the ambulance is going to a crime scene rather than the hospital and Annie notices Lauren being hastily ushered away by Herrick before anyone connects that it's her handiwork they're cleaning up. Herrick also sees Annie and manages to creep her out more than she already was. She's not having a good day.

It's worth a mention that Annie's reaction to Tully is a little extreme considering he couldn't really hurt her. A little foreshadowing, perhaps? We still don't know why Annie is a ghost.

When Mitchell gets home he finds Annie on the doorstep, where she proceeds to break down at the sight of him. Inside Mitchell orders Tully out. But Tully plays innocent as soon as George gets home and George angrily defends him, managing to alienate his friends in the process (as when Mitchell shouts that Tully pretty much assaulted Annie and George retorts that she probably loved it). George finally snaps that Tully is staying and then they both head out to prepare for their full-moon transformation.

Even as Tully is telling George how proud he is of him, George is regretting the things he said. But Tully claims they needed to be said and then admits that he's the wolf that originally bit George, turning him into a werewolf. He seems to think this news will solidify their bond but George is absolutely horrified. As far as he's concerned Tully cursed him. George wants nothing to do with him ever again. Tully is devastated. As George leaves he shouts after him that he can't be alone any longer.

When George returns home he apologizes to Mitchell and Annie. They readily forgive him (doesn't everyone need friends like that?) Then they all settle in to watch the copy of Casablanca a neighbour lent them (Mitchell is in it but, since vampires don't show up on film, all you see is a chair he kicks over!) Only it turns out it's not Casablanca and it didn't come from their neighbour. On the disc is a home video of a guy in a room, talking to someone who doesn't show up: a vampire. The man starts getting undressed and having sex, in the middle of which he's bitten and killed. As the vampire pushes his body off the bed and a pool of blood forms, bloody footprints suddenly appear across the floor. The video is basically vampire snuff porn, courtesy of Lauren who thinks it'll bring Mitchell back to being a proper vampire. All three look sickened. It really is a disturbing video and, aside from HBO, I can't imagine seeing it on an American network. In this case I'm actually not sure whether that's a good thing.

Later that night George has to go for his transformation. He returns to the home base he established with Tully, a shack in the woods. Tully is there with a noose around his neck. When he sees George he kicks the chair out from under himself and starts strangling. At first George approaches him but then he backs away and leaves the shack. George has another change of heart and goes back to save Tully. Unfortunately Tully begins transforming and attacks George. He won't let George leave even as George begs him to before they both transform and rip each other apart. As the serious fighting begins the scene cuts away.

The next morning we find out that neither ripped the other apart. This time, though, it's George who's dressed and watching as Tully still lies sleeping. When he wakes up George hands him some clothes and tells him he doesn't want to see him again. Ignoring Tully's unconvincing arguments, George walks away.

This would have been a good place to end the episode, an uplifting sort of conclusion with George finding his own strength and becoming, if not quite human, a better werewolf. But things are never that easy, are they? The episode actually ends with Mitchell at home, looking out the window as people walk by. You can see how apart from them he feels. Maybe he's realizing that reaching out to the community doesn't--and can never--make him part of it. After looking around one last time he digs Lauren's disc out of the trash as his eyes go black for a moment.

As any human knows it's not so easy being one of us. But it's interesting to see the struggle from the perspective of three non- (or rather, former) humans. The actors do a great job portraying the difficulties and their own turmoil and demons. Just looking at the photo above you can see simply from his body language the torment George undergoes every month. And the actor playing Mitchell does a brilliant job of portraying his eternal battle against the darkness inside himself. Right now things are looking bleak for our Irish vampire. But as much as I want Mitchell to succeed, is anyone else just a little curious to see him really unleash?

Fang Files

Appearance: Human (not even pale) until the vampire emerges, then pure black eyes and sharp fangs.

Weaknesses: Blood lust.

Mythology: Vampires need an invitation to cross the threshold. A vampire's image can't be captured on camera.

Sound Bites

George: [to Annie] We have to put a stop to this. He [Mitchell] doesn't understand-- these people are British. You're not allowed to talk to your neighbours until you've nodded to them for 15 years.

Lauren: [to Mitchell] I want to believe you, I really do. It's just... when you look at me you're hungry.

George: [to Mitchell] You know the difference between you and him [Tully]?
Mitchell: Oh, I don't know--I don't have to shave my palms?
George: That...I think that's actually racist!

Tully: It's a complex thing. It's a glorious thing.
George: This isn't a glorious thing--it's a curse! This isn't a gift--it's God stepping on us with his boots.

Being Human, Season 1 Episode 2. Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by Toby Haynes. From the BBC.

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