After last week’s killing and scene setting spree (I’ve just about got my breath back) a quieter episode. Although it would be foolish to think it was lighter – it isn’t, although more obviously humorous than Eve of the War.
The supernatural trio we met briefly are on their way to Barry, called by the voice of an angel. Well, brainwashed by the honeyed tones of That Woman, coming through the music centre to Leo, the dying werewolf. I’d stick to Satchmo… So, off they trot and turn up on the doorstep of Honolulu Heights looking for a saviour, the baby that will save the world.
(Can I just say at this point that the quasi-religious theme was wasted? Either run with it and embed it or give it up but it perched on the plot like a good idea no one quite knew what to do with.)
But why would Annie invite these people into her home? And after last week, especially a vampire? Well, she needs them and they need her. Annie knows how lonely she can be, the time she spent haunting the house she died in, unseen and unheard. She’d faced that loneliness again when Mitchell and George intended to leave, move on with Lucy and Sam and now she faces it again. Could she bear it?
Annie was never a mother in life, she was so young when she died but all she wants to do is look after people, care for them, fuss over them – it’s what she sees as her role. She sees Tom alone and bereaved like her, Leo dying and Pearl and Hal with uncertain futures. Of course she tells them to stay. And she almost admits she needs something new to focus on.
It’s another distraction for her. Annie has always covered her emotions with a range of displacement activity from cleaning the kitchen and following the postman to becoming the Miss Marple of the Box Tunnel 20 investigation. All to avoid thinking about things she’d rather not dwell on. Combined with an almost manic cheerfulness it helps her carry on – to care for the baby that she promised to look after. Hal sees through her, calling her on the mask she wears – he has one just like it – and for just a moment her sorrow shows. But life – or more correctly death – goes on.
“Are you somehow drunk?”
Annie’s manic cheerfulness and tendency to drift into the ridiculous can be grating. I’ve said for a long time that I want to see kick-ass Annie, taking up her powers and going for it but, well, it isn’t in her nature. She is scatty and ditsy and loving and rather mad and quite annoying. It’s just the way she is although if I’d been Owen I may have pushed her down the stairs earlier!
There are clear flashbacks to her past, Lisa McGee also wrote “Daddy Ghoul” 3.06 when the Auden/Cheryl Cole mix foresaw the incantations she dragged up from bits of remembered prose. In S2 Lisa wrote “In the Morning” 2.06 where Annie joined the mustachioed Alan Cortez to distract herself from Mitchell and George’s moving out plans. She helped souls move on – both the dead and the living when her mum finds a sort of peace.
Actually, let’s go back to that ceremony over the baby… I didn’t like it much at all. Too close to the Vampire Recorder in his Courage bar towel pinny only last week. On a second watch I did see more to it – apart from Annie really wanting to help, she also wants to impress the newcomers and – let’s be honest – put Tom’s nose out of joint! He’s sure Eve is just a baby, Annie isn’t and this is how she intends to convince him. She didn’t. Still not in favour of the way it was done though but maybe we’re back to the unnecessary religious references again.
“Thou shalt not hide stakes in my shrubbery”
Tom is lost too although he is determinedly carrying on with his self-appointed mission. He lost the family he thought he had when he found out the truth about McNair and then had to mourn his real family. Losing McNair, his father in all but blood, came too soon after and he has to find a way to carry on. Unlike Annie Tom has never been alone before and he doesn’t like it. He’s been protected by McNair to the extent that he is an emotional adolescent, his depths yet to show. His pleasure in having his own room and being able to put an image of happiness – Leo’s engagement ring – on the wall is clear. He’s never had a room before. Tom is such a fantastic character, beautifully contradictory – naive and knowing, a killer who dotes on baby Eve, a ruthless assassin who politely accepts Annie’s House Commandments. Well, almost. I suspect that there will be an increasing number of footnotes before long.
Tom’s uncertainty, his ambivalence about McNair shows only for a moment. He knows he isn’t doing what he asked of him in that last heartbreaking letter, he’s not living a normal human life. How could he? he has no experience of it, he doesn’t know how to. He has McNair’s necklace of fangs in a box with the letter but instead of carefully threading on the new teeth he has collected he just throws them in, not sure he wants to be what he is, or what McNair wanted him to be.
I thought for a moment that Tom would have wanted to ask Leo about being a werewolf, about how he has survived all these years. But that wouldn’t be Tom. Unlike George he accepts what he is, it doesn’t occur to him to question it and he had McNair to guide and advise.
“Over 55 years and I’ve never had to change my line up”
I wonder how many ghosts Pearl has met. Annie has only met a few and they both seem to think they are unique while constantly betraying their similarities. Pearl definitely got the best dressed deal though, loved the red petticoats! Might they have become friends one day? I really don’t know… not after Pearl dissed the tea!
Pearl and Leo are just lovely together and I am completely convinced on our short acquaintance that they are truly in love. Annie helps them find their resolution and happiness as they head through their double door, yet another set of souls that she has helped to pass. Maybe this is what Annie is still here for. But it’s another promise. First Eve and now Leo makes her promise to look after Hal.
“I’d love to but I’ve made plans to sit in and self-harm, so…”
Hal watches them go, he’s happy for them but feels left out, bereft and abandoned. But it’s more complex than that – they kept him clean for 55 years and his control depends on them and the routines he developed with their help. He’s so close to falling apart.
This week belongs to Hal, lock, stock and double barrel. We glimpsed him last week but this was the real introduction – and I liked what I saw! A wary stillness, a contained passion, an energy you could see trying break through, a performance of a depth that makes it hard to credit this is Damien Molony’s first TV role.
His interaction with Tom is effortlessly comic, the odd couple, in all senses of the word! Does the quest for the ring help them bond? Sort of… Hal saves Tom with a speech about killing, quiet, apparently unemotional but with such total conviction that you know that he has killed, over and over and over again – and right now he remembers every death.
“I need to vent and I don’t like him much”
But what about baby Eve? What does Hal know? He’s read the ancient symbols and after watching Leo and Pearl walk away from him he talks to her, letting the vampire slip through his control. Is it That Woman urging him on from the TV or some deep instinct that is telling him who and what she is? I’m not sure yet but Tom has no doubts at all. He won’t kill Hal in Annie’s house but his threats are those of a man not a boy and I think Hal suddenly sees someone new, sees the danger under the accent and the eyebrows.
His loss drives Hal back to the pawnshop to feed on the blood he saw and smelled earlier. He seems to have no fear of death – at 500 years old is he too strong or doesn’t he even care if he lives or dies. We don’t find out as Annie and Tom arrive in the proverbial nick of time and Annie finally shows the strength I want to see. Not with poltergeist powers and auras but with words and experience and care. She talks of loss and pain, her voice raw, and they hear her.
A Cuttler-lite episode, sadly, I really want to know more about this new vampire but what we did get was honed to sparkling perfection. Focus groups. Why did Herrick never think of that?! It’s a rather refreshing approach for the undead, rather coalition government in style but hopefully not quite so woolly. I was just waiting for him to start up the PowerPoint presentation and wield a laser pointer! I think I have an idea what Cutler is planning…
Fergus reckons he has the measure of Cutler while I think he hasn’t got a clue! Fergus is shaping up nicely as the classic evil vampire – you do have to have at least one – but the look on his face when he heard Hal’s name was interesting. He knows him but just how does he know him? He also clearly believes in the joy of a good munch…
Big Bad Hal. Scared of spiders…
Ghostly one-upmanship. Metaphorically beating each other around the head with saccharin sweetness!
Oh and Annie? No one has ever looked fashion-forward in leggings. Ever. Not even in the 1980s
Hal asks a stupid question – why does Tom hate vampires? “Oh, they’re arrogant, egotistical, predatory, they often have stupid haircuts and what was the other one? There was another one. Oh yeah, they killed me dad, Hal”
On the wall of the warehouse – an ad for Stoker’s Tea Bags.
Who really sets up the dominos? And how many times has someone sneezed?!
I’m going to miss Leo’s excellent taste in music.
Last word this week to Hal – and can we really be sure whose side he’s on yet?
“I want her to kill us all”
I almost called this post “the beast in me”, the song worked so well in the episode but in the end chose a quote from the very first episode of series one.
So instead – here’s Nick Lowe with the song he wrote for Johnny Cash