Being Human Series Three Overview
I found the first two series of Being Human to be slow-burners. While they didn’t grab me immediately, as each series progressed and the plot slowly thickened I gradually became hooked, and the third series was no exception.
For series three the gang have left Bristol for a ramshackle ex-bed-and-breakfast in Barry Island. The new house is full of dark corners and has a sinister atmosphere, perhaps symbolising an even darker edge to a show that was always pretty brutal.
Following the events of series two, Annie is in purgatory, but I doubt it’s too much of a spoiler to say that her time on earth isn’t quite over. George and Nina are back together, although as ever the werewolf curse and various other factors conspire to complicate their relationship. While in the aftermath of Mitchell’s shocking actions in the last series the monster inside him is closer to the surface than ever before.
In some ways it feels like the writers are going over old ground. These are the same themes we’ve seen the characters dealing with for the last two series, after all: Annie’s search for a purpose; George’s struggle to live a normal, ‘human’ life; Mitchell’s battle with his dark side and need for redemption. But at the same time they’re working hard to keep things fresh, and new players are introduced that force the gang to adapt and react, often badly.
Herrick, the first series’ main antagonist, has risen from his shallow grave, as foreshadowed at the end of series two - a familiar face, but brought back in an unexpected way. He returns as a disturbed and frightened amnesiac with no memory of his past actions, or even of the fact he’s a vampire. Mitchell, however, for reasons of his own, has a vested interest in seeing the old Herrick return. And in an interesting reversal of roles we see him play the corruptor to the addled, helpless Herrick.
Other new characters include the grizzled werewolf Macnair and his son, who clash with Mitchell and the others several times. Also introduced are an annoyingly smug suburban vampire and a sparky, driven policewoman investigating the recent savage murders of twenty people in a railway tunnel.
Meanwhile the existing characters and their relationships continue to develop. While George and Nina grow closer, Annie and Mitchell also begin a relationship. We suspect from the start that it’s doomed, however. Throughout the series there’s a gradually building sense of unease and foreboding. Herrick is a ticking time-bomb in the characters’ midst; there are wolves at the door, both literally and figuratively, and dark secrets which, when they are inevitably revealed, will bring everything crashing down around them.
As with the first two series there are several overlapping plot strands, the main one being the fallout from the Box Tunnel 20 killings. Mitchell is the focal point of this series, and as it progresses we see his ever-fluctuating moral compass continue to waver as he struggles to cover up his actions. Ultimately, however, Mitchell will have to choose once and for all where he stands, and the final episode gives a brave and perhaps shocking resolution to his story.
Overall I think this latest series matches and even exceeds the quality of the first two. The writing is, as ever, superb, blending humour and the banal with weighty themes of evil and redemption in a very Joss Whedon-inspired way. There are perhaps a few too many speeches, and the dialogue can be overwrought at times, but that’s always a risk for a show that deals with big themes and tries to have a real emotional impact. Better to reach for Shakespeare and fail than to succeed at doing Eastenders, I’ve always thought.
The strength of the writing is complemented by great performances, not just from the three leads but also from many of the supporting characters. I particularly enjoyed Tony Maudsley as Graham, another vampire who briefly stalks Mitchell, and Nicola Walker (a.k.a Ruth from Spooks) as a heartbreakingly nice but clueless social worker. In a lesser show bit parts like these might be somewhat one-dimensional, but in the hands of the Being Human writers each has their own short but poignant story arc. Graham, for example, at first just seems pathetic, but we start to take him a lot more seriously once we learn a bit more about his past. Meanwhile Jason Watkins is also excellent as the vulnerable yet still dangerous Herrick.
The show’s creator Toby Whithouse has said it will be reinvented for the next series. And after the dramatic events of season three it’s not hard to imagine that things will be different. The final episode also sees the introduction of a new villain, one who clearly takes himself very seriously, but somehow lacks the laid-back menace of Herrick. These changes might mean that the show will lose some of what gave it its dramatic core and made it work so well, but based on the first three series I have high hopes that the writers will find ways to keep it as dark, original and compelling as it's always been.