Being Human: “Children Shouldn’t Play With Undead Things”

The One-Eyed Man

“Children Shouldn’t Play with Undead Things”

Being Human

Syfy, Monday, 10 PM E/P

Written by Chris Dingess

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik

Reviewer’s 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.

“We really aren’t the stuff of nightmares.” – Sally

After last week’s first class episode, we drop down to the usual pedestrian level with an episode that takes us right back to the getting-to-know-one-another level for characters who should have moved past this stage a while ago. It’s as if the default stance for the writing on this show is the Meet Cute; when the story sags, let’s all pretend we’ve just met! In this one, Sally acts like a moron with a guy she knows pretty well, Josh acts like he’s hardly even met Nora, and Aidan the father acts as though he’s never seen a ten year old boy. From the opening scenes in a bar to the closing scene to the final scene of Sally “introducing” herself to a ghost community, we keep returning to square one.

“If you think I’m going alone into a place that scares a member of the Undead, you’ve flipped your pancake.” – Sally

It is really, really time for Sally to move on, and I don’t mean into that legendary “white light”. She has done her best to protect her friend Bridget from her lethal fiancé Danny, and Bridget has chosen to ignore her warnings. Time to close off that story line and let Sally start another story arc—any story arc. This episode opens up new possibilities for her in that arena, as Aidan introduces her to a ghost asylum. This was a well done scene that put a shiver down my back: how scary does a haunted hospital wing have to be to scare a ghost? When Sally walks alone into the deserted corridor, it lights up with glowing ghostly neon-green messages from other ghosts, very much like the wall of messages that went up on 9/11 after the Towers fell: have you seen my mother? My lover? My friend? Where are you? It’s a heartbreaking view of the afterlife, as scary as any number of Thriller zombies precisely because they appeal to the lonely human in all of us. This was a very good touch, and an important way stop on Sally’s journey.

“Okay, I don’t know what being ‘wolfie’ means, but I do know that you haven’t gotten laid in two years. Josh, be the wolf.” — Sally

When she’s not exploring Bedlam, Sally hangs with Aidan and Josh at a bar. Where they find Nora (Kristen Hager, The Listener) on a sort-of date with a doctor from the hospital. Sally urges Josh to get his wolf on, but he gets his weasel on instead and bolts. Nora runs into him the next day and lets him know in no uncertain terms that she wants another date with him – but he can hardly hear her for Sally, who in an uncharacteristically stupid and rude moment shouts her down. Knowing that the moon is approaching the full, Josh is not sure a date is a good idea. His fears are borne out when Nora puts the moves on him later – and he lets out an animal growl. I’m not sure how that translates as anything other than sexy to Nora, but it scares the hell out of Josh. The next night he’s headed down to his private cellar to Transform, when he runs into Nora again. Never-say-die Nora puts the moves on him again, and this time he really doeswolf out, in a doggy-style moment I wasn’t expecting to see even on cable TV. Running out on Nora and running out of time, his only refuge now is his own home. When he walks in, on the verge of change, Aidan gets it immediately:

Aidan: How much time do we have?

Josh: Minutes. Save the television.

I loved watching Aidan clear the decks in such a practiced manner: as we saw in the opening moments of the series, he’s had plenty of experience with Josh on the nights of the full moon, and knows what’s coming. Sally doesn’t, and watches in fascinated horror as Josh transforms from a naked nebbish to a snarling beast. Between this moment, and watching Rebecca’s vampire snuff video last week, Sally is getting a real education in her housemates. Frankly, it was long past time for us to be reminded what it is that Josh fears in himself; we rarely get to see the full werewolf form (and frankly, it was less than stellar CGI). His weary acceptance of his “lapse” the next morning was well played, showing us a man who may never, perhaps should never really accept himself for who he is, lest he lose who he wants to be.

“You must have been a father once.” – Rebecca

We saw hints of Aidan’s paternal past last week, as his advice to Josh re: family ties carried a painful ring of truth to it. Now we get actual flashbacks to his past, as a 1770s version of Aidan laughs and plays with his young son. In the present, he gets pulled back into that fatherly role when he rescues a young neighbor, Bernie (Jason Spevack, The Haunting Hour) from some bullies. Thereafter, he champions and mentors the boy, whether it is in the skills needed in soccer or the nuances of modern comedy. While educating Bernie’s taste in comedy, he sends him upstairs for the boy to borrow some of his Three Stooges DVDs. Of course we know what will happen, since no bad deed goes unpunished: Bernie winds up with Rebecca’s snuff film. And naturally Bernie’s mom (Cindy Sampson, Supernatural) goes ballistic, cutting off not only a shy friendship between herself and Aidan but a real relationship between Bernie and Aidan. Worse, Rebecca the Jealous has seen Aidan enjoying Bernie’s company; this can bode no good. One interesting side note: in the flashback scenes it appeared that Aidan’s son was also being played by Jason Spevack, which led me to wonder briefly if young Bernie is supposed to be a descendant of Aidan’s own son. New Amsterdam, anyone?

“I do love to watch you squirm. It’s as though you’re an artist and awkward is your medium.” — Nora

This episode did not juggle all three protagonists equally well. Once Sally got into the ghost ward, her story seemed to stop dead. I did like the moment her pity-party with Josh fell apart; having seen what he has to go through every four weeks, she realizes she’s better off dead than wolf. As they say, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in Sally’s case, she’s better off as a dead but fully human ghost than as a half-human monster who might, at any moment, kill those he loves. Aidan’s failed attempts at a “normal” friendship with a boy were doomed from the start: in this day and age such relationships are viewed with suspicion and he should have known that. I also totally failed to understand why Aidan, who as a nurse sees blood every day, should be unnerved by a mere scrape on Bernie’s hand. As usual, Sally got all the good lines: as furious as she is with Aidan, when she learns he is playing Go Fish with Bernie she says, “That’s so adorable, I can’t even be mad at you.” The most satisfying story wound up being Josh’s – despite the embarrassment and agony of his monthly change, he manages to connect (in several ways) with his blonde girlfriend, and by the end of the episode they are finding common ground again.

“You’ve seen me naked. Only way, way worse.” – Josh

Being Human ticked upward again, rising to 1.46 million viewers versus last week’s 1.40 million. The slow but steady rise is a good sign that word of mouth is adding viewers. Since there is always the UK factor to consider – fans of the BBC series may turn up their noses at a US remake on principle, not on merit – it’s even better than it looks.