‘Being Human’: Series 3 Episode 5 review

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After the exciting climax of last week’s episode, ‘The Longest Day’ sees things very much stripped back with a superb bottle episode. Nobody has to use their supernatural powers, but that doesn’t mean that nobody bares their fang. Written by veteran EastEnders scribe Sarah Phelps, this is all about our characters, with a fascinating, sometimes brutal, assessment of the state of their relationships.

We open in the hospital, with George (Russell Tovey) astonished to find himself staring at old nemesis Herrick (Jason Watkins) looking confused and afraid in the psych ward. George is understandably floored by the sight, and after the sucker-punch of realising the man he tore to shreds as a wolf is somehow alive, he realises he has to get him out of there before people notice his lack of reflection. After some quick thinking from Nina (Sinead Keenan), pretending that Herrick is her dear uncle Billy, the gang get him back to Honolulu Heights. From then on, the entire episode takes place within the increasingly claustrophobic hotel.

Mitchell (Aiden Turner), acting on instinct, launches a savage attack on Herrick, but he doesn’t fight back. He seems helpless and afraid, a million miles from the barbaric, cock-sure beast we once knew. As the nurse in Nina comes to the fore, she defends Herrick and forms a bond with him, much to Mitchell’s chagrin. Things are complicated further when Wendy (Spooks star Nicola Walker), a put-upon Social Services drone, turns up to assess whether “Uncle Billy” should remain outside the hospital’s care. Wendy is well meaning, but hopelessly scatty. She is already a sorry state of affairs, and when Nina has to reluctantly tear her apart (not literally) to protect their secret, it is heartbreaking – Wendy is a broken woman, and becomes the collateral, human cost of these super-human dilemmas.

Herrick claims to remember nothing; not who he is, nor what happened to him – and not even that he is a vampire. So, do the gang believe him? Mitchell and Nina take opposing sides of the debate, and the fall-out dominates the episode. Herrick cuts an initially tragic and helpless figure, but gains confidence as the episode goes on, all played with masterful, ambiguous intent by Watkins.

Mitchell, meanwhile, is consumed with fear and rage upon seeing the return of the most powerful vampire he ever knew, leading to yet another re-assessment of his relationship with Annie. Perhaps fearing Herrick’s malicious influence, or sensing a chance to atone and do some good, he becomes intent on ending him once and for all. However, when Cara (Rebecca Cooper, who probably can’t believe her luck that her initial, bit-part character is still around two series later) turns up asking for help in restoring Herrick’s memories, Mitchell realises that learning the secret of vampire resurrection might just come in handy, given a certain prophecy hanging over him.

As relationships between the group are stretched and tested to their limits, the final quarter of the episode gives us a series of head-to-head scenes, utilising almost every combination of the cast. It’s a brilliant closing act, including a menacingly tense confrontation between Mitchell and Nina, and an emotionally raw, heartfelt scene between George and Mitchell. Even the more unlikely pairings work terrifically well; Herrick and Annie (Lenora Crichlow) sizing each other up like wild beasts waiting to strike.

The cast are uniformly excellent, while director Phillip John makes brilliant use of designer Andrew Purcell’s hotel set. However, as dawn breaks on this long, intense night, Nina makes a discovery so devastating that it could change things between the group forever…

Airs at 9pm on Sunday 20th February 2011 on BBC Three and BBC HD.

> Order the Series 3 DVD on Amazon.