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Boy, has it been busy, but I did manage to watch the first half of Being Human Series 2. Here's the halftime report.



So, I think that the first series of Being Human was about the friendships between Mitchell, Annie, and George, and how that friendship saved each of them from their personal demons. Underneath all the supernatural elements, the core of the show is really about these three flawed people learning to live with each other. Which is to say, learning to live in this world, or in some cases relearning, with the help of their created family.

In the first series, each of the main characters’ stories were hopelessly entwined with the others’ stories, so that everything that Mitchell, George and Annie did would inevitably also be a big part of the other housemates’ lives and plotlines. So far, the second series seems to be taking a bit of a different tack, with the characters headed onto more individual journeys. I get the feeling that the main characters are orbiting rather than caroming off each other, which allows for a somewhat more ambitious set of storylines.

Mitchell, it seems, is becoming Herrick. Obviously not literally, but in the sense that he keeps finding himself sucked into the vampire power vacuum (ha! Sorry, I can never resist a pun) and filling that role. He’s doing some very questionable things to protect the supernatural world, but I’m not sure if his real motivation is to protect everyone or because, as George pointed out, he really needs something to do. Also, he’s dating (sort of) a doctor, which of course never ends well. I’m not a huge fan of the show’s decision to throw him into yet another romance, but it’s not exactly a surprise. Although he’s the oldest of the three and in theory the most mature, in a lot of ways, he’s the most needy.

I find the vampire underworld storyline most interesting when it’s not so much about the vampires, but about what corruption does to non blood drinking human beings. Cases in point: the very Scottish medical examiner who looks back and realizes that taking payoffs indirectly led to more humans being eaten. Or: George coming to the unpalatable realization that in protecting Mitchell’s friend, he is protecting a murderer, however remorseful a murderer he may be. Those kind of choices are horrifying precisely because they are choices, as opposed to involuntarily being turned into a monster as with Nina, and I hope that this plotline will continue to explore that slippery slope in a quiet but meaningful way.

George still seems to be struggling to come to terms with being a werewolf, but with a twist. Compared to series 1, his storyline seems more about the interplay between the wolf and the human within him. It’s a good springboard from his big moment last season where George-werewolf ripped Herrick to shreds, a moment George embraced as something that made him more human, not less. Was Nina being werewolf-ed the price of that moment of acceptance? If so, it’s clearly a price George would rather not have paid, particularly as it seems to have completely wrecked George’s first tiny steps back toward normality.

George is a smart guy but, man, does he wallow. I think the first four episodes might have overplayed pathetic!George a bit, but I do admit they have done a decent job showing why this particular guilt is eating him up. Not just because he again had something like a normal life and then lost it (again), but because he really is a decent person and yet has condemned someone he loves to the same fate. The moment in 2x01 when George sobs out his guilt at having done this to Nina, and she’s the one comforting *him* -- what a powerful scene. I really hope these two crazy kids work it out.

As a side note, Nina was my favorite thing about series 1, and I hope she’ll be more of a main character this series (although, her disappearance from 2x04 doesn’t bode well.) As with George, I want her character to snap out of the funk and just get over the trauma, but her character’s story has been developed well enough that I understand why she just can’t. I like that her response to lycanthropy is as counterproductive as George’s, but also fundamentally different as she is a very character. Instead of being broody and depressed, she’s sarcastic, bitchy, angry and raging back at her fate. As with what we learned of George’s response pre-series, Nina’s reaction is perhaps not the most adaptive coping mechanism. Oddly, it really does make me love that her character even more. Nina’s a nurse; of course she’s to look for a rational answer and a way to fix things. Joining Kemp may not have been the smartest thing for Nina to do, but I think the writing and performances managed to make it feel inevitable for that character.

Annie has had good episodes in series 2, but I’m still not sure how I feel about her arc so far. The “disembodied spirit of a dead woman is getting a job in the service industry” arc has been pretty funny. Owen the pub owner was awesome, full stop. George and Annie together will never *not* be comedy gold, particularly in the subplot where they try to make the worst date ever and it ends up going pretty well. My issue is the more long term arc of whatever’s coming-to-get-you-from-beyond the grave plotline. Maybe it was just the starting point – the subplot with Saul (aka Ben from Spooks) seemed to hit the wrong balance of cheesy horror cliches, like the carnival music that was probably supposed to be creepy but just seemed oddly placed. I always felt bad that Alex Lanipekun didn’t really get much to do in Spooks, but he didn’t really impress me as Saul, who is a pretty integral character to Annie’s plot.

Thinking about Annie … she’s a very interesting character to me in that in real life, she’d annoy me to death. She’s funny and charming, empathic and needy, and everybody loves her. In the show, somehow, she works, which is I think is because the show makes a point of letting her get it wrong as much as she gets it right. In big moments, I’m genuinely in suspense if the Annie who emerges will be the murder/abuse victim (wimpy, but understandably so) or the strong, courageous woman she’s gradually becoming. Too much of the former, and she’s frustratingly passive; too much of the latter, and she’s Mary Sue. I think series 2 is generally getting the balance right with Annie, maybe even more so than George and Mitchell.

Besides Owen and Saul, the two recurring characters that have stood out so far in Series 2 are Daisy and Ivan. Originally, I found Daisy more interesting, mostly because of her scene with George. No, not the one in the woods, but the one in the hospital where she goes to see her daughter, lying the hospital bed, an elderly woman. I really believed Daisy was going to kill her daughter in that scene, right up until the moment where she started sobbing. I still can’t exactly explain why I found that whole scene so powerful, except to say that on some visceral level, it completely captured the futility of existence as vampire in the show’s universe. In this moment, Daisy is eternally young, able to roam the world on adventures doing whatever (and whoever) she likes – but she’s completely outside the very human life of her daughter. And as long as she lives, she always will be. I think this is actually a much better exploration of the vampire metaphor than what the series has done with Mitchell so far, so hopefully that will bear some fruit in the second half of series 2.

As for Ivan, I didn’t think too muchof his character at first, but he’s rapidly becoming the only BH vampire besides Herrick who made me believe his age. Paul Rhys (aka Spooks 7x05 WHERE ARE YOUR BALLS? guy) was unrecognizable to me with a beard and non-creepy haircut until 7x04, whereupon he was just fantastic. I like the twist he brings to Ivan, who is not an evil megalomaniac but also patently not a good guy (well, vampire). He’s perfectly willing to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, which is an interesting kind of depth. Maybe I’m being too negative about the vampire arc.

It’s taken me a little longer to get a sense of the themes this season. At this point, I’d say it’s about being the struggle with keeping your inner demons … well, inner. I also get the sense that series 2 is very much about the limits of created families and the fault lines in broken family groups even after they’ve come back together. The roommate and friendship aspects are still there, I think, but the characters’ struggles are a bit more complex and their storylines are taking them in different directions. Mithelle, George Annie, and Nina all seem to be searching for partners, which is why the relationships have become so prominent. And underneath all of this, here’s also a deeper exploration of the nature of evil, mostly represented by the vampires but also by the ordinary humans doing evil things, like Kemp. The question is whether it’s really humanity that is the nature of evil, and supernatural beings just an extreme expression of it? Hopefully, this will be developed more in the second half of the series.

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July 2012

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