In a week where we found out that Series 5 would be Being Human‘s funeral march, it’s fitting that we have an episode which harks back to the show’s beginning.
For it was back in the pilot, when Mitchell had a different face and Annie was dead Northern in every sense of the phrase, that the two discussed the ‘men with sticks and rope’. It was a tantalising piece of world-building; one sentence that defined the horror of the afterlife in a show where death waited on your doorstep like a rancid pint of milk.
And crikey, though we’ve heard little of them since Series 2’s ‘Serve God, Love Me and Mend’, the Men live up to their reputation as being genuinely terrifying (even if you are old enough to remember their leader as ‘Spider’ in Corrie). Go on, admit it, you jumped. Maybe you even let out a little screech. If they’re the vanguard of Hell, we dread to think what other horrors Captain Hatch has under his control.
Speaking of controlling little horrors, Alex has her work cut out taking care of Victorian ghost-child Oliver. Ben Greaves Neal gives an excellent ‘tally-ho!’ performance as the precocious Little Lord Hauntleroy, armed with a neat line in playground archaic insults. Like an ectoplasmic Richie Rich, he temporarily allows Alex to assume the big sister role that was torn from her in death. And as she finally accepts that her old life is gone, it looks like Alex is going to have a far more important job: preventing Hell on Earth as part of the trinity.
The Devil may look like a rotting pile of mashed potato in a cardigan, but he’s got an impressive Dragons’ Den pitch for world domination which involves turning Hal and Tom against each other and feeding off the conflict like it’s an ‘All You Can Eat Cream Tea Buffet’. Who’d have thought a hilarious jammy food fight between a werewolf and a vampire was enough to help top up Old Nick’s flagging Evil-o-Meter?
Phil Davis continues to do sterling work as Captain Hatch, brimming with unpleasantness and not just because his colostomy bag is overflowing. So dense is the gravity of his evil that it’s dragging life and the afterlife closer together, allowing the Men to bleed through and Escher paintings to become reality. You get the feeling it’s just a sampler of the Book of Revelations tribute that Hatch has planned.
The Captain isn’t the only one with a plan though. Indeed, where Episode 2 falters is that it feels like it’s setting up one too many competing schemes at once; as if Series 5 is cramming 8 episodes worth of evil into 6. The Devil’s apocalyptic vision, loose-cannon Crumb commencing recruitment of a vampiric geek army, and Mr Rook’s plan (which already has echoes of Cutler’s last year) …together it weighs down an otherwise funny scary script.
On the bright side, these strands will all no doubt thread together for a thrilling finale. One we hope will be a deserving send-off to one Hell of a show.
Aired at 10pm on Sunday 10 February 2013 on BBC Three.
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