Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Watcher - Being Human S05E06, "The Last Broadcast"

When we last looked in on Being Human, just over a year ago, the show had undergone a difficult rebirth that saw most of the original cast replaced with new or returning characters. It was an awkward and tricky transition, best summed up by Stefan thusly: "Overall a difficult start to the series, with way too many changes and new characters to fit in, but by the third episode I think you will start to relax and come to like the new dynamic."

In fact, as the fifth and sadly now final season began, I was eagerly looking forward to more bickering from Hal and Tom. New ghost Alex completed the mix, a welcome return for Kate Bracken as Alex having already made three appearances in the previous season. It's been a tight, cohesive run of episodes deftly introducing the key elements and antagonists that lead to the end, without skimping on strong character moments and compelling drama along the way.

So long guys, you'll be greatly missed.

The introduction of the Barry Grand Hotel gave the characters a great new location to inhabit, with stand out moments such as the Employee Of The Month competition and the fate of poor Bobby occurring within it's walls. Not to mention, "the fucking Devil, sweetheart!" Old Nick himself, bound in the body of a madman and left to decay into an eternal pensioner, known simply as Captain Hatch. After four preceding seasons of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and even one occurrence of zombies, it seems fitting that the final villain is Satan.

With our Honolulu Heights heroes assembled and the ultimate evil trundling around the Barry Grand Hotel in a wheelchair, the six episode arc had a mysterious wildcard in the shape of one Mr Rook - first seen in the season four finale - the head of the Men In Grey. Fittingly positioned between the black and white of the other characters, Rook is the face of the modern Briton in this final season. Beset by Tory cutbacks, he's essentially a good man, but a self-serving man. In his desperation he makes increasingly morally dubious decisions - from his use of the clueless underdog turned unstable Type 2 known as Crumb, to the aforementioned Bobby, and finally using the lovely Natasha against his better judgement - culminating in an unwitting deal with the actual Devil.

All of this set the stage for our finale "The Last Broadcast", knowingly named with a wink and a nod by series creator Toby Whithouse. Opening with a delightfully fun musical number from Hal, this almost sold the one slightly clumsy element of this season - the revelation that Hal is akin to Angel from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, battling against his soulless alter ego Angelus. The good Hal/bad Hal dynamic is thankfully slightly more oblique and Damien Molony supplies an understated performance as a discretely more confident and vicious version of the same character. "Your friend is dead, " he calmly explains to Tom. "We wake up in the world the other has created around them."

Despite this new Hal, the Being Human Trinity reunites to stop Hatch - revealed as the source of all their curses - because the Apocalypse is bad for everyone. With the Four Horsemen dispensed with due to "budget cuts" (not even Hell is immune to spending reviews), the showdown occurs in a TV studio as Hatch prepares to whisper in the ear of the country through the emergency broadcast system. Or does it? Suddenly our protagonists are separated and dispatched to individual realities based on their past lives or in Tom's case, his secret hope for the future. These bottle worlds include welcome reappearances of Leo (Hal's former werewolf housemate) and Allison (Tom's geeky werewolf paramour).  It's a testament to the performances and writing behind these two characters that their brief moments in this final episode are so delightful.

The story doesn't end here though, as Whithouse has two more tricks up his sleeve. The Trinity escape Hatch's make-believe fantasies just in time to witness Rook seemingly save the day, complete with a wonderful moment as the human the Devil had been possessing is himself once more after so very long.  The poor madman gets a word or two before being shot in the head and the Devil flees in a manner that seems to be a homage to the demons in Supernatural.

This seemingly anticlimactic ending shifts the focus back onto Hal versus Tom and Alex, with a heartbreaking exchange that name-checks all of the preceding main cast and gets right to the heart of the truth behind the series' title.

"Are we wasting our time doing all this, trying to be human? The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Is that what we're doing?" Tom

"I'm not part of this little project now, which gives me a... clarity I didn't have before. Annie, George, Mitchell, Nina, the two of you, what none of you realised - none of us realised - is the desire to be human is the end, not the beginning. To want it is to have it. You're not wasting your time Tom, you've already won. Adieu." Hal

It would have been a good coda despite the anticlimax, but that's not really the end. The other shoe drops as Rook knocks at the door and reveals that Satan hasn't left, he's merely moved to a new host. Seizing the opportunity, the trio perform the ritual and bind the Devil into Rook, who uses his last moments of clarity to stake himself and end it all. The resulting shockwave rids Hal, Tom and Alex of their curses, apparently making them human again, with a chance of a happily ever after. Only the presence of an origami werewolf amongst the mementos of all the main cast characters on the mantlepiece suggests that something else has happened. It's a wonderful ending that recalls those gut-wrenching final moments of Twin Peaks, Sapphire & Steel, Inception and of course Blade Runner. It will leave fans debating for years to come and as such is a masterful stroke of letting the audience have their cake but perhaps making them to afraid to actually eat it.

I have to add that I really felt these last two years of Being Human succeeded where Misfits last season failed. Both shows came along at the right time, after the relaunched Doctor Who, when commissioning editors were open to genre dramas with a quintessentially British edge. Both shows were faced with adversity when successful cast members decide to leave for new opportunities. Both shows have sought to continue their fundamental premise with new characters in place. And both shows had the ignominy of writing out memorable main characters off camera, as we lost Nina and Kelly between seasons. Misfits had already faced this once and triumphed with the introduction of Rudy. But lightning didn't strike twice as the latest season served up some fairly bland and mostly unlikeable new characters with shitty powers.

One great character, two mildly interesting with potential and two that are just dull to the point of being offensive!

In fact perhaps a second storm would have been ideal. As seemingly daft as it first was, the cheeky way that Being Human 1955 gave us another set of similar supernatural housemates was a fun way to bulldoze past the loss of Mitchell, George and Nina. With his own friends also departing, Hal was left with little choice but to stay, and so our triumvirate was whole again. The use of Tom from a previous season gave the audience a welcoming familiar face, and it was trick that was repeated with the introduction of Alex in season four, before promoting her to main cast when Annie left. If only Misfits could have done the same, bringing in a mix of the former guests and the new characters, we might have been given a more enjoyable season than that last one!

And so it is that Being Human joins a very exclusive list of shows that never jumped the shark, though granted it did threaten to on one occasion. It's a world I'm going to miss greatly. I can't wait to see where Damien Molony appears next, because his performance as Hal was perfectly understated and ever more powerful because if it. Toby Whithouse returns to our screens soon with a Cold War spy drama series, The Game, and from the strength of Being Human, I'd be keen to see him step into Steven Moffat's shoes should the Grand Moff decide to leave Doctor Who.

In fact, wouldn't Damien Molony make an excellent Timelord?

Ben Fardon is aware that TW also wrote "The Vampires of Venice." No one's perfect.

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