“I See Your True Colors … And That’s Why I Hate You”
Syfy, Monday, 10 PM E/P
Written by Jeremy Carver & Anna Fricke
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.
“You know what he is now. And he can’t hurt you any more.” – Aidan
This is when I like Aidan best – when he’s being a real friend to his housemates. Even while Sally jokes about him being a ‘ghost whisperer’, she listens and learns, and not just because he’s some 230 years older than she it. When he wants to be, Aidan can be understanding and sympathetic and wise. Unfortunately, he’s rarely that wise when it comes to his own life, but that’s true of most of us. Certainly he’s a better counselor than Josh’s father turns out to be. Maybe it’s because Aidan, apparently, had a wife and family and lost them, but this episode brought out a strong protective streak in him, strong enough to drive him to violence against one of his own kind. In the end, I guess we defend our family, however we conceive of it.
“How long have you thought you were a werewolf?” – Neil
Last episode ended with Josh’s sister Emily (Allison Louder, Crawler) being beating up in an alley by Marcus, as revenge for Josh’s ill-conceived beating of Marcus. (I think there are only five characters on this show; the rest are done with smoke and mirrors.) At the hospital, Aidan apologizes for having failed to protect her, then discovers that Marcus was her attacker. When he tells Josh Emily was attacked by a vampire, Josh is angry; how angry will he be once he figures out that he, himself, is indirectly responsible? At any rate, Josh allows Emily to persuade him to return home to the parents he walked out on two years before. Has no one in that family heard the phrase, “you can’t go home again?” It was never more true than in this episode. Josh is first shocked to learn that his parents have been separated for nearly two years, and then further shocked to learn that they think he has deluded himself into believing he is a werewolf. It turns out that Emily found a journal he left behind and turned it over to Mom (Jennifer Morehouse, Tripping the Rift) and Dad (John Maclaren, Stephen King’s Dead Zone), in classic little-sister fashion. So why was she so surprised to see him transforming at their first meeting? Continuity is a good thing, folks. Would be nice to have some here.
“Don’t shrink me!” — Josh
Dad, who turns out to be a professional therapist, sounds like Emily, the old computer program that mimicked one of those counselors who offers nothing, adds nothing, understands nothing, but only parrots back to you what you say to them. The fact that Neil Levison named his daughter Emily is not lost on me; I have to wonder if Josh himself was named after some esoteric counseling software. Certainly he is burdened with an astonishing number of neuroses. For a man like Josh to have such rotten self-esteem argues badly for his father’s parenting approach. When Josh first comes home, the Levisons act like the Stepford Parents – bland, unemotional, not even asking him where he’s been. They thank him for sharing. When he pushes for some kind of honest emotional response, he gets, well, Emily 2.0 from his father: “Why don’t you tell me what you think is happening right now?” What is happening right now is that Josh is deep in denial, claiming that his journal was a set of notes for an unfinished novel. What is happening right now is that Aidan shows up to protect Josh, and just in time—Marcus is the next vampire at the front door. What is happening is that Josh spends more time protecting his roommate than his parents or his sister, which tells us (as if we did not already know) where his true loyalties lie.
“You just refuse to see this as anything other than black and white.” – Josh
Like so many wounded children, Josh thinks that it’s up to him to put Mommy and Daddy back together. He may be right in supposing his disappearance was traumatic, but if it was enough to crack the marriage then the marriage was weak to start with. From the children-of-divorce syndrome he then progresses to the alienated adolescent: his parents just don’t understand him. And his little sister snitches on him. And nobody lets him have any fun. This reversing of emotional development might have regressed Josh entirely to an infantile stage were it not for the sudden visit from Aidan. At which point the writers brilliantly derailed Josh’s emotional death spiral with some of the funniest writing they’ve done for this show. While dining with the family, Aidan suddenly fangs out. It seems that Mom has been cooking with garlic, which turns vampires more vampire-ish. The only solution is … an herbal bath? Aidan sinks into a tub full of chamomile even as Marcus starts threatening Josh’s family. Josh reacts by telling his father to cut off the visitor’s head when he re-appears next. I’m surprised our next scene wasn’t one of Dad administering a Thorazine drip to his son. Josh reaches an apotheosis of nebbish violence as he smashes furniture to find an appropriate stake and then rushes out to do battle with Marcus. Fortunately, the more lethal Aidan has beaten him to it and holds Marcus off before he can make hamburger out of Josh.
“I’m a werewolf. That’s what I am.” – Josh
The fight scene shocks Josh back into the real world, if only long enough to realize that what he is endangers those he loves, especially if they are in ignorance. He tells his parents the truth—not that they can handle it. Aidan, being wise and sympathetic again, tells him it is futile to expect them to. Because they love him, Josh’s family will enable him, try to support him, will build a cage for him and take care of him when he wolfs out. And because they love him they will never really understand how dangerous he is, and one day “brutally against your will”, Josh will hurt them, maybe kill them. There is such a ring of truth in Aidan’s voice at this moment, we realize that something very, very terrible must have happened to Aidan’s own family, and that that secret may well be unbearable for us all. Josh reluctantly returns to the house, having accepted that “being human” includes sacrificing your own interests to protect your family.
“You’re more pathetic as a ghost than you were alive.” – Danny
Meanwhile, Sally is trying to save her friend Bridget from her fiancé Danny. Knowing his true colors now, she whispers into Bridget’s ear, takes over her body to write “he killed me” in shaky ghost script, and breaks furniture right, left and center in an attempt to be heard. Danny challenges her to do her worst, sneering at her and calling her useless and impotent, secure in the knowledge that Bridget is in his power. When Bridget hesitantly confronts Danny, he puts on an act of contrition that persuades her that Sally’s ghost is merely uninformed, ignorant and vengeful. Sally loses this battle in a big way, which may be fortunate. If, as has been hinted, Sally is remaining on this plane because she has not resolved her accidental death at Danny’s hands, it would not do to resolve it any time soon. Because that would mean Sally has to “move on”, and she’s still one of the most delightful members of this trio. And she still gets all the good lines; when Bridget tries to shut out her voice with earbuds and her iPod, Sally tells her, “I’m a ghost; I transcend pseudo-hippie rock.” Cute.
“Marcus was provoked by a lesser being; he retaliated.” — Bishop
I am not enamored of the vampire-politics side of this series. Frankly, True Blood does it better and with more panache. Aidan confronting Bishop, which seems to happen every couple of episodes, never resolves anything and only wastes screen time. Aidan’s growing feud with Marcus is pointless and boring – until the final scene. Marcus, smarting under a put-down from Bishop, drives out to a rural area to visit a barn guarded by, of all things, an old Mennonite/Amish woman. He sits down to wait for sunset, and we then see that the barn is full of people-shaped objects hanging upside down from the rafters – old vampires? Hm. Perhaps the politics of this series will take more from the Underworld movie franchise than the old Bram Stoker paradigm, with a cadre of ancient vampires calling the shots for everyone else. Someone call Anne Rice.
“You can’t possibly want this.” – Josh’s Dad
Family dynamics, embarrassing moments for a vampire, a poltergeist who gets told where to step off and a hint of Amish vampires. What more could I ask for in one hour? This was one of the better episodes to come along in this series, which appears to be gaining some cachet of its own. It’s always hard, when adapting a foreign series for American TV, to remain true to the original vision while making the show fit a different culture. So far, Being Human seems to be making good headway in this. Josh was so freakingly neurotic it put him into Woody Allen territory, and Aidan, well, anytime they can get Sam Witwer doing comedy, I will be glued to the set. He’s so much better as a funny vampire, playing off his looks, than he is as a seductive vampire, catering to them.
For the second week in a row, the ratings for Being Human took an upswing. It’s up 10% for a 0.6 share among adults 18-to-49. Total viewers for this episode was about 1.4 million viewers; on the Syfy Channel, those are good numbers. The stories are getting better every week, so I can hope that the tribulations of this trio will be on my screen awhile longer.