Here’s another one of those BBC Three one-off dramas. Last week it was the hit-and-miss Phoo Action, and last night it was the turn of Being Human – an interesting-sounding drama about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost all living together in a flat. All those Buffy/Angel fans among you must have been interested in this, but I have to say I’ve never been a fan of those brash, showy US cliché tractors. I was hoping that, finally, a British series could tackle these fantastical ‘genre’ issues and make something good for a change.
Thanks to a sharp, thoughtful and sometimes witty script, a really interesting idea and some decent acting, Being Human did not disappoint.
For all our Being Human news and reviews, go here.
A young man in a wood strips down to his nipples and waits. Elsewhere, another young man speaks in a slow, deep and whispy voice to an attractive woman while they share a bottle of red wine. She’s clearly attracted to him and when he speaks of ‘ancient machinery’ she’s lost in his dark eyes. They end up in bed, enjoying a vociferous round of ugly bumping. The man’s eyes glaze over and turn black… canines turn into fangs… and he sinks them into her neck. This man, Mitchell, is a vampire.
Meanwhile, in the woods, the other man is writhing in pain on the floor, his body snapping and twisting… his spine corrugates, hairs grow on his face and a low, gagging howl splinters the night sky. This man, George, is werewolf.
Mitchell and George, after their night’s misadventures, meet in the morning. George has the blood of a deer smeared over his face, while Mitchell is sated after his own night feed. They’re a right pair – Mitchell is lithe, languid and enigmatic, while George is tense, highly-strung and geeky looking. That’s the nice thing about Being Human – it has normal-looking people, in normal situations.
Mitchell and George both work in the local hospital as porters and, while chatting about their previous night’s exploits, they both agree they’ve had enough of feeling ghettoised. They both decide to get a flat together, to be normal, and live like normal people.
When they find the flat George is thrilled. He’s suddenly ever-so-excited at the little kitchen, the sweet little garden and the sofa. The sofa! How lovely, he shouts. The prospect of normality is making him giddy. The female estate agent thinks that Mitchell and George are gay (she explains that she once set up a lesbian couple with a flat, but she doesn’t really understand that sort of thing. In one of the only misjudged lines of the night, she says she likes dick too much).
The boys decide to take it and, with Pulp’s Common People on the soundtrack, they set about tidying the place up and making it their own. The estate agent did warn them that previous incumbents reported some spooky goings on, and soon they see why – a ghost, called Annie, is already a very protective tenant.
She explains to them that she was engaged, but died and has a special bond with the house. She just can’t leave it. George isn’t keen to let her stay and they instantly start arguing, while Mitchell, no stranger to death himself, is sympathetic. In the end they decide to let her live with them.
Back at the hospital, George bumps into a familiar face – his ex-girlfriend Julia is a patient. We start to learn a little bit about George’s former life. He went AWOL two years ago, and his family believed he had died. This was when the werewolf curse kicked in and he ran away, sparing the ones he loved any pain or confusion. Julia wants to see him again.
Mitchell, meanwhile, has found a secure, disused underground room beneath the hospital. Once it’s locked, it can only be opened from the outside. Mitchell thinks this perfect for George when he’s on the change, and George agrees that the next time he gets hungry like the wolf he’ll lock himself away and Mitchell will open the door the next morning.
The night before George’s change, when his heightened senses are making him invincible, he sees Julia and her fiancé rowing in the hospital car park. The fiancé is a violent man, but George – werewolfness coursing through his veins – overpowers him and scares the living daylights out of him. Julia is also scared at this aggressive side to George… but intrigued.
On the night of the change, George goes into the secure room, iPod screaming Firestarter in his ears. Unbeknown to him, Julia has followed him and demands to know what is wrong with George. When he refuses, she locks them both in the secure room. George has 20 minutes before he changes (and rips Julia to shreds), so he rings Annie at home to ask her to come and open the door to the secure room. Annie has never left the house since she died, and is terrified. But, just in time, she opens the door and rescues Julia. George, meanwhile, does the werewolf thing.
While all this drama is happening, Mitchell is at a clandestine meeting for vampires. The head of the pack is tired of hiding in the shadows, and wants the crew to start feeding indiscriminately. Humans have buggered up the world, the leader reasons, and it’s time for the vampires to take back what they deserve. They’ve spent too long in the shadows.
After Julia has been scared off and says a final goodbye, Mitchell, George and Annie sit in the pub discussing Harry Potter and asking each other what they would do if they won £10million pounds. Just like normal people would (except Annie can’t drink because it would go straight through her and leave a puddle on the chair).
When Mitchell goes to the bar to get another round in, he hears whispers, beckoning him. He follows the sounds to an alley way, where he finds Lauren – the girl he feasted on earlier in the programme. He’s very apologetic, but she’s loving her new incarnation (“it’s like humans are like drawings in a book compared to us,” she pants, wide-eyed). Mitchell, it seems, has created a monster, and from the shadows the vampire leader emerges and tells Mitchell he should now choose his friends wisely, because the change is coming.
And that was it. But what an ‘it’ it was. I was a bit sceptical to begin with, but thanks to some intelligent writing, Being Human really worked. There were musings on life and death, but the real undercurrent throughout the hour dealt with being accepted. These three freaks and misfits, together, felt the belonging they so desperately craved.
And this odd couple (or trio) scenario gives Being Human an edge other vamp shows just do not have. In fact, even if you don’t like this kind of thing, I’d recommend it – the fantasy stuff, in some ways, is just the top layer of the story.
Phoo Action has been made into a series, but this was ten times better. More please.