There were moments in Sunday’s latest episode of Being Human where I foolishly thought things might actually turn out all right. Despite the reappearance of insane vampire Crumb and the magnificent, Satanic Captain Hatch this episode had all the hallmarks of being a little frothy, a romp, before it no doubt all gets rather serious in the next two weeks. After all, what could be lighter than naive Tom McNair teaching an emotionally stunted werewolf how to function in the world?
The episode opens by introducing us to said werewolf chap, Bobby, played with child-like innocence by Ricky Grover. He is revealed as an inmate of Rook’s government department, occupying a basement in the facility where they inter various nasties. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts this department is now closing for good and the lights are being turned off even as they speak. Rook explains to the reluctant Bobby that they simply can’t look after him any more. However, Rook knows someone who can. Someone with the right experience…
Rook’s appearance at the house and his appeal to Tom for help in containing Bobby sets up the intriguing possibility of an alliance between our beleaguered civil servant and the supernatural trio, a possibility further explored when Rook also asks for Hal’s help in ‘dealing’ with Crumb, who has now gone on a rampage.
I must admit at being wrong-footed by the handling of Crumb. His appearances in the initial two episodes to me seemed to be laying the foundations for establishing him as a kind of big-bad, perhaps in conjunction with Captain Hatch. Rather, it seems he too is another catalyst for Lord Hal’s descent into madness and blood-lust and possibly world domination (see the previous series for details, excellent fascist posters and all!).
The scene where we are reintroduced to Crumb and his new associate, Rook’s former colleague Alan, is carried off with Being Human’s customary gruesome élan. They have made themselves at home in the house of a couple and as Crumb stalks about the place with a blood-filled beer hat on his head and nothing but claret-stained y-fronts we meet the couple themselves, dead-eyed with their throats ripped out. No pretty little puncture-marks in Being Human – when vampires attack expect buckets of the red stuff. This goes right back to the beginning, in series one, when a colleague of Mitchell has the misfortune to run into one of his creations and we see her gasping for air, drowning in her own blood.
Hal and Alex walk into this charnel house and, despite the horror surrounding them, offer the two vampires a proposition – Hal will help them get off the blood. Of course those of us in the audience who have spent the past three weeks watching Hal try not to kill anyone and fail spectacularly can probably already see where this is going to go, but Alex still has faith in the Old One.
Thus we have our set-up for this episode – Tom and Hal must train Bobby and Crumb, respectively, in how to function as normal people in the real world. It’s fair to say, by the episode’s end, that they fail miserably.
Tom gets some lovely moments in this episode as, working at the hotel without the supervision of Hal, he comes into his own. He doesn’t just teach Bobby about real life; he learns a few things about himself as well. His boyish enthusiasm is put to excellent use here as Bobby learns how to answer telephones, take card transactions and serve drinks.
This whole aspect of the episode could have been incredibly cloying and chiched but Tom’s good nature and some deft comedic writing manage to make us really feel for poor Bobby, especially when we learn why he was in Rook’s institute, and for how long. The scene where Tom reveals that he has purchased the vintage answering machine (“off the ebay!”) that Bobby has been asking about all episode certainly wrung a few tears out of my old heart as we discover that his mum’s last words to him are contained on a tape that will only play on these machines.
Meanwhile Hal has tied up his two murderous vampires in the basement, placing two glasses before them. One contains human blood and the other contains werewolf blood, retconned in the last series into being combustibly poisonous to blood-suckers. Hal warns them that to drink from either glass is to invite death, except one will be quick and one slow. Then he leaves.
I mentioned earlier how the handling of Crumb’s arc had wrong-footed me; I took him for an out-and-out villain whereas what we are presented with here is a tragic man struggling with an awful compulsion who seems to genuinely want to get better. The same sadly couldn’t be said for Alan, who uses his Watcher…er, I mean civil service training to break free from his bonds. The insane, craven Crumb doesn’t see this though; he sees him as the woman from the flat earlier, all bloodied and torn, mocking him for his crush on Alex. Driven mad by guilt Crumb snaps off a chair leg and stabs the ghost in the chest, killing poor Alan in the process and saving the rest of us from any more of his over-enunciation of every line.
Hal and Alex seem to take this in their stride, probably due to the reason just mentioned, and thus we are treated to a musical montage of Crumb playing frisbee and lining up a spiral of dominoes, while Tom also shows Bobby the ropes regarding the hotel. I’m not usually a fan of musical montages unless they have the Rocky theme or I’m watching the Breakfast Club, but given what happens in the rest of the episode it’s probably best to enjoy these lighter moments.
In a vain attempt to prove to Hal that normalcy can be achieved Alex agrees to go on a date with Crumb (at the hotel, of course, for narrative convenience) where they run into Rook, who has come to reclaim Bobby. He seems genuinely taken aback by how quickly and how well both Bobby and Crumb have taken to being rehabilitated, and its this little hope spot, along with the dangled possibility of an alliance at the top of the episode, that make what happen next all the more worse. Because who’s that watching, but Captain Hatch…
Phil Davis is utterly magnificent, sneering and swearing under his breath one minute, then raging fire and brimstone the next. It helps that he looks a lot like the bastard offspring of a three-way marriage between Tom Waits, Nick Nolte and Ron Perlman. In a wheelchair (Come to think of it, the Devil himself probably would look like that…). He waylays Rook on the way out, plies him with drink, concocts a story of being attacked by vampires and then bedevils Rook into causing a catastrophe just bad enough into making his superiors sit up and take notice.
Rook conspires to lock Bobby in the cellar and its a credit to Steve Robertson’s performance as the morally unsound civil servant that we see how upsetting this is for him as Bobby desperately pleads to be released and Rook quietly waits for the man he has tried so hard to help to transform and do the one thing he has been trying to prevent. We saw much less concern when it came to Crumb and the murder of his sister and niece, a fact that we were reminded of when the two of them met earlier.
Speaking of Crumb, his date with Alex is going terribly, partly because she’s got her eyes all over Hal, and partly because Crumb, for all the sympathy he manages to engender in this episode, is still the unfunny office clown we first met in episode one. It seems like he’s about to lose it and slip over the edge, pointing a spoon in a most threatening manner towards the incorporeal Alex, but he is interrupted as Bobby, fully transformed, appears in the restaurant.
Depsite Rook’s plan for a mass slaughter of “salesmen and widows” this is resolved pretty quickly as Hal evacuates everyone and Tom, seemingly in control of the wolf, smashes through a window in a Big Damn Heroes moment and tackles Bobby into a spare room. The most interesting part is the way in which Crumb, well, crumbles, shrieking and crying. It seems to be the last humiliation for him, the final thing that convinces him that he can never be normal. As Hal takes him back to the flat he makes his move…
Knocked unconscious, Hal finds himself tied up in the very chair he incarcerated Crumb earlier. Here we get a strange and bizarre sequence where Hal’s dark side attempts to assert control over him. This isn’t really something we’ve seen before in Being Human, at least not presented in this way, with the dark side as an almost separate entity within Hal fighting to break free. It’s highly reminiscent of the Angel/Angelus split as seen in season four of that show and I’m not sure it really belongs here but we’ll see how it’s handled, and it could well have something to do with the proximity of the Devil and Hal’s past attempt to have him killed. For me it undermines the way vampires have been presented as fundamentally human psychopaths struggling with an addiction, best exemplified here in Crumb, if in fact the dark-side is an actual demon that can take possession of them.
Having seen what he will most likely become, Crumb releases Hal and proposes a game of Russian Roulette with the two glasses of blood. Obviously, because we have two episodes left and there’s no way Hal’s going out yet, Crumb is revealed to have drunk the werewolf blood and he burns from the inside out, sadly depriving us of a hugely entertaining villain who will be missed. Meanwhile Alex wonders if Hal would really have drunk the blood and he confesses that he doesn’t know – lies, of course, as the coda of the episode reveals his Angelus side taking over and downing the bottle of human blood given to him by Rook two episodes ago.
Of course the real tragedy of this episode is the fate of Bobby, our endearing man-child werewolf. It’s fair to say that we know something bad is going to happen when Tom offers him a permanent place in the house, a change to the status quo that is highly unlikely to happen at this juncture. His fate is sealed when we spy Captain Hatch, fuming at having his plan with Rook thwarted, whispering into his ear. He is discovered by the gang the next day, swinging from a noose and, though we’ve seen it coming, it still breaks your heart. All is not lost, though, because at last someone has noticed the ubiquitous Captain Hatch lurking about the place, and Alex gives him a very odd look which, it seems, will be followed up next week…