Being Human: “Dog Eat Dog”

Man Bites Dog

“Dog Eat Dog”

Being Human

Syfy, Monday, 10 PM E/P

Written by Jeremy Carver & Anna Fricke
Directed by Paolo Barzman

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.

“The mistakes you make are indelible, with no sweet death to erase the memory.” —Aidan

I suppose if you are functionally immortal, you wind up spending a lot of time contemplating the past. In this episode, we learn a bit about Aidan’s past, Bishop’s past, and Josh’s present, and everyone takes a big step backward in terms of relationships. I haven’t seen this much back-pedaling since my neighbor bought a unicycle. We start with a kidnapping, although perhaps I should call it a dognapping: Bishop has arranged for Marcus to kidnap Josh from his front stoop. He is locked up with another werewolf, on the night of the full moon, in preparation for a cage match to entertain a bunch of Vampire elders. Amish vampire elders. Okay, seriously? The very concept is ludicrous. The Amish are about the least violent community on the planet; casting them as vampires goes beyond black irony into just plain bad taste. Besides, these four elders move and speak like animated trees, unless they’re attacking their own. We see other vampires acting with deference, even fawning on them, but we don’t see why they are entitled to this status. Are they stronger? Wiser? Smarter? Most of what I saw were vacant stares.

“I hate myself enough for the both of us.” —Aidan

Aidan’s story picks up from last week, as he explains to Rebecca why he had to kill Bernie. Rebecca, interestingly enough, Turned the boy out of a vague attempt to achieve immortality the human way—by literally passing on her blood. She is oblivious to the fact that Bernie could never have grown up, could never have become the son and successor she wanted. Rebecca is lost and dangerous—and one of the more interesting characters by now in this series. Aidan is awash in tears and self-loathing; between Rebecca’s rage and his own concern for Josh (whom he spots in the basement cage), he is paralyzed. He retreats into memory, which gives us a chance for some sepia-toned flashback sequences. One of the advantages of a vampire series is that you don’t have to age—or de-age—characters when showing them fifty or a hundred years ago. To distinguish Aidan 1955 from Aidan 2011, the producers put him in a white T-shirt and a classic duck-ass hairstyle. I couldn’t decide if he was channeling Elvis or the Fonz. He even at times seemed to sport a Bronx accent, and wouldn’t that be an interesting sidelight on Aidan’s past? By contrast, Bishop is almost meek and subdued, a vampire hopelessly in love with a human. The relationships between the two in 1955 are the opposite of what they are in 2011: Aidan is the feared warrior, the bad-boy favorite of the Elders, and Bishop is the near-outcast, the conflicted vampire not sure he wants to live in the vampire Mafia. We learn, sort of, what made Bishop the heartless creature he is today, but not what turned Aidan from a character out of West Side Story into the weeping wreck he is today. And more importantly, we don’t learn why we are watching this at all.

“I have to kill a man. That’s not who I am. I can’t do that.” —Josh

As intellectually interesting as Aidan’s little history lesson is, it pales in comparison with Josh’s plight: within hours he will be fighting for his life, for the amusement of Aidan’s friends. His opponent: an affable werewolf old enough to be his father, who has survived this monthly fight to the death for fifteen years, a man so inured to the slave mentality he doesn’t even try to escape. This is so not the time for Aidan to be navel-gazing, as Sally repeatedly, and with increasing anger, reminds him. Aidan 2011 is so useless and ineffectual, dithering about while Josh endures humiliation after humiliation, I was wishing for a time machine to bring Aidan 1955 forward in time. That Aidan would have kicked ass, taken names, and gotten his buddy out of the dogfight. Poor Josh is left with no one to support him in his trial but Sally, who fiercely comes to his side but who can do nothing for him. She’s so caught up in her anxiety for her friend, she hardly even notices that, in a den occupied solely by vampires and werewolves, everyone can see her. Some vampires even try to make her disappear, an attempt she brushes off with contempt. When she confronts Aidan with his masterly inactivity, Rebecca once again gets the best line of the night: “I suggest you walk toward something white and pretty, and stay out of it.” Sally’s open-mouthed outrage at this was one of the better moments of the night.

“This is not the way to take your revenge on me.” —Aidan

Sure it is. Here we have Aidan, a robust and powerful vampire with a deadly reputation, one admired by the Elders, and he can come up with no plan more intelligent to free his friend than… begging? He can figure out no better plan than swapping his freedom for Josh’s life, and making a devil’s bargain with Bishop. Of course, this was Bishop’s plan all along—to bring Aidan back to the fold—but I could have thought of several plans that might be more effective, most of them involving flammable liquids, a locked basement door, and matches. That the only idea Aidan could come up with is to use himself, to value himself at the level of commodity, shows us the weird combination of narcissism and self-loathing that is Aidan. This may be too complicated a character for me. He doesn’t even get his half of the bargain; after Bishop pretends to stop the fight, it takes place anyway. Or so we are led to believe. In a stunning lack of payoff, the much-talked about cage match between werewolves barely happens. I can only imagine howTrue Blood would have handled a werewolf-on-werewolf fight to the death, with vampires betting on the outcome. This is handled—not at all. There is no fight, or at least not one we can see. There’s some growling, some howling from the bloodsuckers, and a glimpse of fur. I know Syfy doesn’t have the budget HBO does, but couldn’t they have staged something better than this? We never get to see the outcome; we only see Josh the next day, at home, looking morose. What happened?

“I don’t know how to live with myself.” —Josh

In any event, by the end of this episode Aidan is considerably weakened, his friendship with Josh is on the skids, and even Sally holds him in contempt. The bonds are breaking. In fact, the trouble with all these characters is that they cannot form social bonds. Aidan has rejected the “natural” social bonds of the vampire mafia. Josh is so steeped in fear he cannot even bond with Nora, and after his experience with the vampires no doubt feels bitter and betrayed. He has never killed a person before, not even a werewolf, and what little innocence he had left is gone. I doubt he cares much about Aidan’s personal “sacrifice” of going back to the vampire community for awhile; it’s not really commensurate with Josh’s humiliation and pain. Sally is 0-for-2 in the post-death relationship department, 0-for-3 if we count Danny. As metaphors for modern alienation, they’re great. As characters who will keep me coming back next week, not so much.

“You choose these monsters over us?” —Sally

Being Human maintained its audience with a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49. It pulled in just under 2 million viewers. This level of audience is apparently enough to please Syfy, which has renewed the show. On March 17, the network announced that it is ordering a second season, calling it (at an average 1.8 million viewers) Syfy’s “most successful winter season scripted launch in 6 years”. I wonder how many more qualifiers it could have shoved in that sentence? Syfy seems surprised to announce that the audience is also the channel’s most female-skewing scripted series ever. Really? You mean women are not tuning into Syfy for the wrestling?