Being Human: Farewell, My Friend, and Thanks For the Brilliant Finish
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ALL SERIES OF Being Human (1-5)
On the 18th February 2008, I sat down to watch a pilot called Being Human. I was 18. I didn’t watch that much on BBC Three. I’d heard about the show and had been hooked immediately by the premise – three flatmates who happen to be a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost, and are trying desperately to be human.
Being Human‘s strength has always been its characters, and the introduction to George, Mitchell, and Annie gave us three people we could really love. The opening of 1.01 (which you can read here) struck the tone for the rest of the series: after an opening montage in which we see death, transformation, and destruction, we’re presented with three people sitting in their house, arguing about food and cups of tea.
It’s a masterclass in character introduction – not only do we have all the backstory that led us here wrapped up neatly in 5 minutes flat, but the voices and dynamics of the characters are established in even less. There is an undeniable pull to the mythology of Being Human - it has vampires, werewolves, and ghosts but not quite as we’ve seen them before – but no genre piece is a good genre piece unless you care about the people. The joy of series one is the personal, the mental demons that haunt the trio rather than the real ones. It’s approaching the blood lust as an addiction that transforms the vampires here, making them seem far more monstrous than a dependency has ever done, and this demonic approach bleeds over into the werewolves and ghosts. ‘The wolf’ is treated as a hidden depth, as a violent temper, and ghosts are themselves haunted by voices on the television and the radio, by the men with sticks and rope. It’s how these demons are fought, and why, which turns Being Human from a supernatural genre piece into a cult show and beyond.
It’s this which allowed Being Human to carry on after the cast began to erode away. Hollywood beckoned and Aiden Turner was written out of the show with a spectacular (and spoilery) final scene, in one of BBC Three’s best series finales ever. George followed as Russell Tovey left to focus on other work. Enter Tom and Hal.
Tom, played by the brilliant Michael Socha, was a recurring character throughout series three who returned to walk in George’s footsteps. Hal arrived as the new boy, another vampire gone clean. The beauty of these two manifests in their similarities to George and Mitchell contrasted with their differences. George was always striving for ordinary, and had been to a certain extent; concerned with the world, a middle class interest in politics and education and 2.4 children. Tom’s wildness, cultivated by a backstory that had seen him raised to kill vampires, is the opposite, and yet his politeness and old-fashioned manners recall George’s own. Hal, ‘posh and uptight’, has none of Mitchell’s suave laddiness, the aesthetic of his fingerless gloves and his beanie hats, but the struggle against the bloodlust unites them, even as they never met on screen.
The departure of Annie, last of the old guard, could have been a particularly tough moment for Being Human (and it was here that the danger of cancellation first appeared), but the BBC gods were benevolent and gifted one last season, and one new ghost. Alex, played by Kate Bracken, has been a re-injection of the humour and attitude we first saw with Mitchell, bringing the trio full circle; the naivety of Tom and Annie, the fastidious bravery of Hal and George, and the bolshy linchpin of Alex and Mitchell.
It’s always an uphill struggle to deconstruct and rebuild such a beloved ensemble, but Being Human found the perfect way, changing the line-up but retaining the core. It’s this concept of the trio that has always been the show’s strongest element, and it allowed creator Toby Whithouse to wrap up the mythology (and the whole show) in the last ten minutes of the last episode of series five. (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD) To finally grant the trio’s wish to be human, the goal on which the entire show is based, in such a final and unexpected way, is both a mythological and an emotional one-two, a welcome gut punch that ties up the central premise. And with the explanation that with the devil gone, so are their ‘curses’ we can maybe assume that this has affected not just the central trio but every so-cursed creature in the world.Had they still been around, it would have granted that one last, great wish to Annie, George, and Mitchell – and that is a finish to satisfy.
At the end, we’re left with three people sitting in their house, arguing about food and cups of tea.
It’s an ambiguous end, of course, because cult shows like nothing more than to play with us. As the last shot pans across the mantelpiece, decorated with mementos, we see one last final object: an origami wolf, the same one that the devil, Captain Hatch, showed Tom in the fantasy life he offered, and the tilted camera and dark, ominous soundtrack we’ve come to associate with him is the last point of view we see. There is every possibility that Hatch followed Hal’s advice that the only way to win would be to put the three of them together in the fantasy. It seems as though the Devil may have risen after all. It’s a good way to wrap up the series – those who didn’t enjoy the happy ending can ignore it, and those who loved it (like me) can put their fingers in their ears and stop listening.
I’ll never stop being sad that we’ve reached the end. It’s shows like Being Human that lodge in your heart and stay there, that make you genuinely gutted that it’s over, and forever grateful that it was on in the first place, and it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Being Human has changed the landscape of British cult television forever.
And after that? All that’s left to say is thank you. To Toby Whithouse and the team of writers; to Russell Tovey, Aiden Turner, Lenora Crichlow, Damien Moloney, Michael Socha, and Kate Bracken; to the BBC for making the right decision in 2008; to everyone who has ever worked on the show, in whatever tiny way; and to all the other fans, who started a petition in 2008 and liveblogged a finale in 2013.
So farewell, Being Human, and thanks for the brilliant (I mean, really) brilliant finish. You will be missed.