‘Being Human’: Series 5 Episode 1 review

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The office loser gorges himself on the boss’s nephew; bloody wall scrawls assert that the Devil will rise again, and Hal gets to write a new rota – it can only be the return of Being Human.

And fittingly, for a show which has been obliged to reinvent itself following the departures of the original line-up, it’s all about resurrection, as a series of minor revivifications are played out, en route to the big one, in the episode’s closing moments. Cram/Crumb is reborn as vampiric avenger. Hal is released from his period of self-imposed cold turkey. But it’s the rejuvenation of Old Nick himself which is as good a metaphor as any for the rejuvenation of the show.

From the opening scene, when Catholic, werewolf resistance leader, Lady Catherine, enjoys a flirty assassination attempt cum seduction with Hal, this is a programme which delights in a lightness and cheekiness of tone, despite the inevitable body horror. It’s common territory for supernatural dramas to equate vampirism with drug addiction; far less common for them to characterise their vampiric Old One as an OCD-obsessive and clean freak, with a longing for a once round with the hoover.

Of the returning Trinity, all three characters feel well-established and beloved, even though, in the case of Kate Bracken’s brittle and snarky Alex, she had only a few episodes last year to make an impact. Thus there is breathing space for the new characters to come to the fore, as well as the chance for a cameo or two from established supporting players.

While Hal’s precise motivation for converting Cram/Crumb is unclear – guilt at his part in Alex’s death is reason, but not perhaps reason enough – it’s clear that what Cram represents is quintessentially Being Human: the corruption of the underdog; that queasy territory where the banal meets the immortal.

In the world of office politics, we are reminded, the overpaid lord it over the superannuated, priding themselves on their top dog status and employing the language of blood sport without any real knowledge of the world beyond the office door. Cram’s boorish and nepotistic boss casually commits to ‘Bringing new blood in. Like Gavin.’

Hal urges Tom, in interview, to ‘Kill him, metaphorically’, while the hotel interviewer who has the hots for Hal desires to give him a figurative pumping, unaware of what danger she is inviting to her door – or the Devil who is already in the detail. And so, for Cram’s boss, it is death by gruesomely well-placed pen, while, for the staff of Captain Hatch’s hotel, there are who knows what horrors in store?

When Hal asserts that ‘You don’t want to see a world where I’m leading the vampires’, it sounds suspiciously like a threat – or a portent. But what horror is worse? A world where Cram is the crumb that chokes the world? Or a vampiric hierarchy ruled by pigtailed schoolgirl, Hetty, who returns from last series’ explosion to give us possibly the episode’s comic highlight. Prone, endearingly, to addressing Rook as ‘Dick Splash’, Hetty is a dead-eyed, potty-mouthed delight, with a series of deadpan one-liners that are all the more mordantly delicious coming from the mouth of an apparent child. ‘Your mum’s so fat,’ she tells Rook, ‘her blood type’s Ragu.’

It’s the sort of juxtaposition which would leave people scurrying to leave comments on the Daily Mail website, were it not for the fact that, in the closing moments of this episode, a bigger taboo is addressed. Making no less a character than the Devil your Big Bad is a potentially controversial move. But Captain Hatch succeeds as a character because he operates with the same banality as the rest of the supernatural world.

Racist, vindictive and pettily cruel, his evil is insidious and all the more repellent because of it: as unnoticeable as the quiet whisper in a victim’s ear. It’s a glorious performance by Phil Davis – the sobriquet ‘Captain’ suggesting an assumed status and offended pride which reveals itself in those moments where he is not spluttering out bile, but ingratiating himself with an almost-convincing old-world charm.

All this and the episode has time, too, to squeeze in a cameo from series creator, Toby Whithouse, as the Home Secretary. As attempts at resurrection go, we’d have to say that it was an unqualified success.

Aired at 10pm on Sunday 3 February 2013 on BBC Three.

> Order Series 5 on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy the complete Series 1-4 boxset on Amazon.

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