This was a mistake.
I knew that the core trio had been recast for the actual series and that the first episode had been entirely rewritten, but I just never got around to watching the proper first season. However, with the recent release of Season 2 on Blu-ray here in the States, I decided I might as well give in to the buzz the show had been earning for over two years now and catch up. I’m glad I did.
If you’re entirely unfamiliar with BEING HUMAN, here’s the gist of it: a ghost (Lenora Crichlow), a werewolf (Russell Tovey) and a vampire (Aidan Turner) live together; all three just want to be…wait for it…human. Pretty simple, really. However, what makes the show great is that it shed a lot of the angst from the original pilot and became a solid drama about the lives of three people who happened to all be creatures of the night. The heavy lifting in that regards was done in the first season, but for my money it’s season 2 where things really get interesting. No longer are they simply dealing with how to live together or adjust to their abnormal way of life (Annie the ghost and George the werewolf are much newer to this world than Mitchell the vampire), but how they fit into the bigger picture of the supernatural world. And what’s great about that is they have no idea that they do fit into the big picture.
For most of the season the trio are oblivious to the fact that a new character, Kemp (Donald Sumpter), has been taking note of their lives. While we may not know exactly what Kemp is up to, we get increasingly deeper looks into both how much he knows about the supernatural world and the things he is willing to do to make sure that the rest of the world continues to know nothing about the supernatural world. And when they start to collide…it’s pretty riveting television.
Now, I know that plot dynamic doesn’t really sound all that original. A guy with an unexplained knowledge of the creatures of the night wants to see them all die? That kind of character crops up in every single supernatural TV show, book, movie or comic series. What differentiates BEING HUMAN from the rest of the pack (which is bloated these days thanks to the influence of the T-word series), however, is how invested you become in the characters. In a strange way, Whithouse has crafted a show in which you actually hope for nothing to happen. You hope that Annie, Mitchell and George will simply be allowed to control their urges and live normal lives. It sucks when entities are trying to drag Annie through doors to the afterlife or are trying to conduct covert medical experiments on George.
Of course, those moments don’t actually suck. On the contrary, they can be incredibly compelling, particularly so when it comes to Annie’s plight. The show’s lore may not be the richest in the world, but it’s very distinctive and definitely knows how to pack a punch when it needs to. It’s not a gory show by any means, but since it airs in the UK on BBC Three, they get away with as much profanity and adult content as they see fit (which can be quite a lot at times).
Aside from a few plot missteps that feel like they’re just giving characters obstacles solely to pad out the screentime, it’s a damned solid season. Naturally it benefits, as do all British television shows, from being considerably shorter than US shows (there are eight episodes in S2), so it is quite lean to begin with as far as plotting goes. It’s just that some plot threads are a bit more interesting than others, but, since this is an ensemble series, the showrunners have to make sure that they don’t isolate any fans by spending inordinate amounts of time with particular characters, so the end result is a bit more cover-all-bases than it needs to be.
Fortunately those less-than-ideal spots are just that; spots. They by no means mar the entire season, they’re just one of the few things there is to complain about, really. The show as a whole is a delight to watch. BEING HUMAN is not necessarily something I’d recommend to all horror fans, but if you’re in the mood for a supernatural show whose proportions are more dramatic than they are shock and schlock, this is a great place to end up. At the very least, the show has proven considerably more sophisticated than the pilot was and approximately 800,000 times more coherent than TRUE BLOOD is these days.