Going in Circles
“A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Me Killing You”
Syfy, Monday, 10 PM E/P
Written by Jeremy Carver & Anna Fricke
Directed by Adam Kane
Note: This review covers the American version of Being Human, considered by itself and without reference to the original British series on which it is based.
“This shouldn’t have worked, for so many reasons.” —Josh
What does a writer do when he’s painted his character into a corner? Cut a new exit, of course. Over the course of the first season of this American version of Being Human, the writers have squeezed Aidan, Josh, and Sally ever more tightly into untenable positions. Now in the season finale, one that feels as if it were written as a series finale, they find that the only way out of their corners involves radical change. The stakes are the highest they have ever been. The last few episodes have stripped our three of all support except one another. Aidan has been staked by Bishop and is dying. Josh has knocked up his girlfriend and worries that she is going to have puppies. Sally’s “door” has appeared, and she must go through it now or lose it forever. When you start at the top of the emotional arc, where can you go?
“This fight should have happened lifetimes ago, and I’m truly sorry it had to happen during yours.” —Aidan
Our first crisis is Aidan. Josh, who works in a hospital, can’t seem to figure out that he should pull the stake out of Aidan’s chest. Instead he kneels, weeping, telling Aidan to “stay with us”. If Aidan had the strength, he would probably clout Josh upside the head for sheer stupidity, but then Aidan is probably used to Josh’s transformations by now. By “transformations”, I don’t mean the ones where Josh turns into a wolf, but the ones where he turns into a girl. We aren’t shown how Josh manages to get Aidan into the hospital basement all by himself, but he summons Nora to his aid. Of course she wants a trauma room, hordes of assistants, the works. But all Aidan really needs is blood, and somehow Josh persuades Nora of this. Nora has absolutely no reason to trust a man who, from her point of view, greets her every question with either an apology or an evasion, but she does. Celine, who apparently was introduced for the sole purpose of saving Aidan’s life, learns of his crisis and volunteers her blood. All of her blood. After that, Aidan’s arc becomes a mission of vengeance, as Bishop challenges him to a duel. Sally, worried that Aidan will lose, conspires with Josh to trap Bishop in the basement when Josh turns into a werewolf, and kill him. At the last moment, however, she locks him in to save his life, and stands beside Aidan at the duel. She distracts Bishop long enough to allow Aidan to get the drop on him with some razor wire, and Bishop becomes a pile of ash. Checkmate.
“A secret breaks things down like bile, dark and corrosive.” —Josh
Josh and Nora have reached a crossroads. While their baby appears to be healthy, and Nora tells Josh she’s keeping it (no one on series television ever has an abortion), she’s not so sure she wants to keep him. Josh has never given her a reason to think he’s anything other than a stammering bundle of nerves, and he can’t work up the courage to tell her the real secret of his life. I’m not sure if Josh was supposed to come off as a man heroically struggling to protect Nora from this terrible secret, but the effect was to make him a coward. It’s one thing for him to hide his true nature when she’s only peripherally involved in his life; it’s another thing altogether when she’s having his baby. Not only does he plan to walk out of her life without telling her the truth about himself, he plans to walk out without a word about the potential problems with her child. That is unconscionable, the action of a weakling, not a hero. And it backfires, with deadly effect. Nora finds Josh’s farewell letter, which is both poignant and pointless, because as she’s reading it she spots him skulking through the hospital. She follows him down to the basement, where Sally double-crosses Josh and locks him in. Seeing Josh transforming, Nora rushes in and confronts him in mid-Change. At the last second, Josh shoves her out of the room, scratching her, and Nora convulses in pain. It appeared to me as though the fetus she was carrying tried to Transform under the full moon, but perhaps we’re supposed to believe that Nora’s emotional shock brought on a miscarriage. Either way, she loses the baby (because the only abortions on series television are spontaneous) but learns to trust Josh. In their final scene, they seem to be agreeing that her knowing his true nature has brought them closer together, but now Nora is lying—she hasn’t told Josh that he scratched her. This is not the basis for a lasting relationship, no matter how dewy-eyed Sam Huntington gets.
“I’m sorry, I should have told you sooner.” —Josh
Hogwash. Not to be indelicate, but Nora has shared considerably more bodily fluids with Josh than a mere scratch would involve, and at no time was Josh worried she would turn into a werewolf. Nora has just learned that he has lied to her on about the most fundamental level one can lie, but she’s okay with that. Right. Josh comes clean with her only when forced to, after she has seen him change. This is not heroism, it’s expediency. Has Josh told her she was part of his personal experiment in recapturing his humanity, that she was a means to an end? Worst of all, he may have cost her the child she had decided to keep and raise, through his own selfishness and thoughtlessness. If I were Nora, I’d be taking a cast-iron skillet to the guy, not cozying up to him on a couch and planning a future. And frankly, if I hear Josh say “I’m sorry” one more time, I will throw something at my TV. By my informal count, he said it at least five times during this episode alone; I think he’s whined some variation of it through every single episode. And it never meant anything: apologizing when you have no intention of changing your ways is not really apologizing, it’s just mollifying. I like Sam Huntington and I think Josh is an interesting character, but they have got to give him more backbone. He has turned into pudding. I hope next season Josh has more bark and less whine. He’s a wolf, not a cur.
“I’m here. It sucks.” —Sally
The Danny storyline was inevitable. The writers probably would never have been able to get away with ignoring Sally’s murder, and bringing Danny to justice would have been her first concern. I get that. But I am glad the Danny arc is over. It was predictable and boring and did very little for Sally other than give her some great scenes in zombie makeup. I completely believe that this warm-hearted ghost would sacrifice her own exit to stay for Aidan or Josh; she’s the emotional heart of this “family” and would never willingly abandon them. But she, as well as the writers, confront a real question: where does she go from here? Once the immediate crises with Bishop and Nora are worked out, she has no real task. What does a ghost do to stave off boredom, take up knitting? As it turns out, her idea is to become the Scooby Squad, and form a ghost detective agency with Aidan and Josh. Oh, brother. The only merit I see in this idea is that it is long past time these three turned their attention outwards. They run the risk of spiraling inward until they disappear into a black hole, focused only on their needs, their pasts, themselves. If they truly want to be human, they need to interact with the rest of the human world, and stop obsessing about themselves. Otherwise they risk becoming the true monsters of the 21st century—self-involved yuppies.
“If we’re going to be friends, you have to stop thinking I’m going to kill you.” —Aidan
We end the first season at the beginning. During the episode we are treated to various flashbacks showing how Aidan and Josh met. Naturally, Marcus is involved: he and a vampire pal beat up on helpless Josh just because he’s a werewolf. Aidan saves him, takes care of him, takes him in—in short, he adopts Josh like he would a stray dog. Josh responds with dog-like devotion. Cute. Their scenes reinforced one of the enduring charms of this series, one we’ve seen too seldom: their banter. Josh and Aidan are never better than when they are chiding one another, or giving excellent advice to one another (none of these characters knows himself very well, but knows the others extremely well), or passing comments about the human world. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and in a very well done twist, the episode ends with them walking past their house, the same one they will later live in, while Sally’s corpse is being taken out and Sally’s ghost stands on the doorstep, helpless. It’s a reminder of how far all three have come in only a few short weeks, and a hint of how far they can go.
“It seems too easy, doesn’t it?” —Sally
I’ve never seen the UK version of this show, and have no interest in doing so. However, I have a feeling that if the American version was following its sibling, it is now departing from that pattern. Nothing could be better. Having established these characters very solidly in only a baker’s dozen of episodes, it is now time to turn them loose. I thought last week we were in for a re-boot, a retooling of some kind. When this episode began, all three characters faced life-changing (so to speak) crises; when it ends they have resolved them, but now face new challenges. Most of the vampires we’ve met are gone: Bishop, Marcus, Rebecca. Hegeman (Terry Kinney, The Mentalist), the surviving Elder, tells Aidan “she” wants to meet him; anyone who has read Anne Rice will immediately envision an Egyptian statue coming to life. It would be cool to give Aidan a powerful female opponent bent on manipulating him. Josh is still working out self-acceptance issues, and now has to deal with his relationship with Nora, which is about to complicate itself again. Sally, well, Sally needs a hobby. Given the state of their residence, I would hope it would involve redecorating, but will probably involve meddling in the affairs of mortals. In any case, there is great potential for the next season, and despite the many flaws in characterization, these three remain interesting and often funny, a black and ironic but often honest mirror to contemporary life.
“We should get cable.” —Aidan
With the show already renewed for a second season, there’s not much point in relaying ratings, so I’ll pass. My final thinking on this show is that it has a decent premise, a solid foundation, some good writing, and the usual freshman-year development problems that, given time, will work themselves out. I’d like to see more humor and less whimpering next year, but I think the show has made a good start and found an audience that will be back next season. See you then.