I’ve been thinking about evil.
I know, no change there then…
In particular how in the Being Human world there a definite tendency for the dedicated watchers to try and find redemption for the big bad baddies. Or make excuses for them. What started this train of thought is the reaction to Cutler and how his character has been interpreted.
Let’s start with the basics – He Who Must Be Right (AKA Toby) said that the best way to tell if Cutler is lying is if his lips moved. That once his wife was dead he had no humanity left in him. So, he’s a monster right? I’m not arguing with HWMBR, it actually is his toybox!
However, the prevailing view of Cutler seems to be more along the lines of “Oh bless him, poor CutlerNickCutler, Hal was really mean and nasty to him. Poor boy had no choice. He was MADE to be like that. He had to do it.”
Sorry, don’t buy it.
Cutler had fifty-five years without Hal and I doubt he spent them knitting and volunteering at the local cat and dog shelter. He may have found the killing distasteful and messy but he drank blood. He was happy to have others kill for him and when he did have to kill he got on with it – the coroner, Pete the journalist, Golda – and not a drop of blood spilled on the suit. He had enough influence to walk into Stokers and push people around. He was invited to the meetings – or he just expected to be there and no one turned him out. Griffin listened to him, albeit reluctantly and not without a selection of snide comments. (Did he ever get that fucking tea made?) But seriously, Cutler was sarcastically, utterly, beautifully subversive. A 60-year-old, practically a child, challenging an Old One and no one stopped him or ignored him. That’s not a doubtful, still human vampire, that’s the real deal.
We know so little about Cutler, probably a lot less than we think we do which is testament to how well the character worked. We know he was a solicitor who qualified in 1947, he was married and somehow he’d come to Hal’s attention. He was recruited in 1950 but didn’t immediately take to killing, although he seemed to dig a good grave. He refused to kill his wife even when Hal asked him so very nicely. to do so.
(A side note about what we know. We don’t know how old Cutler was when he was recruited but qualifying in 1947, he had to be at least 25 in 1950. That means he escaped conscription or national service. I wonder how. Flat feet? Weak chest? A note from his mum? And yes, I know it’s not real but I’m just saying!)
We know nothing else about Cutler until we find him in the present day when he’s “a duty solicitor in bloody Trumpton.” We see him in his office, at Stokers and that’s pretty much it. He looks quite at home in the police station, certainly at home enough for plenty of that special brand of Cutler sarcasm anyway. There’s no hint of any other life – although he seems to favour a decent restaurant. (I’d have the Merlot.) If – and it’s a big if – we count deleted scenes as canon then we could surmise that he’d been watching Honolulu Heights as he asks Fergus about the reports on Herrick’s epic munching of the local police force. Or maybe he was just watching Herrick…
Beyond than that we’ve all had our crayons out to colour in the back story for ourselves. One area where there’s been a lot of enthusiastic going over the lines is the marriage of Nick and Rachel Cutler. The received wisdom seems to be that they were totally besotted, madly in love, perhaps even childhood sweethearts. Now come on, we don’t actually know that. If you ask me she sounded pretty stroppy in the few lines she had and he sounded henpecked! Just look at his posture if you don’t believe me. Fair enough he didn’t want to kill her but then he didn’t really want to kill anyone.
Maybe he loved her deeply and madly. Maybe she was OK, kept his socks darned and his shirts ironed. More likely it was somewhere between the two. I don’t think we see enough to really guess and those two brief scenes when we see Rachel alive and dead can be interpreted so many ways. And probably will be!
What intrigues me the most is what was it that made Hal notice Cutler in the first place? Personally I wonder if he was already up to no good way back then – a useful trait for a potential vampire solicitor…
It’s interesting to compare Cutler with Herrick. We know just as little about Herrick’s origins; born 1843, recruited by Hetty in 1890 when he was a somewhat corrupt legal clerk. The difference between the two is that we glimpse Herrick across the years – 1917 when he recruited Mitchell, 1933 in Paris, 1969 in swinging London and a rather fine brocade waistcoat and 1992 or thereabout with McNair in the cage. Those little snippets add to the character in that we see he was evil all the way through but he had a weakness. Mitchell.
It’s very different to the more extended glance we saw of Cutler’s early vampire days but nothing between then and now, it showed his initial struggles and perhaps allowed that “poor boy” response come through. It’s odd though – I don’t think anyone has ever said that Herrick’s evil was anyone else’s fault than his own. If we’d seen Herrick’s family (if he had one) laid waste to by Hetty would we sympathise more with him? I don’t think we would so what made Cutler different? And please don’t say it was just because a proportion of the viewers fancied him – even I’m not (quite) that shallow!
I’m not making excuses for Cutler or Herrick. I don’t want to. I love them both to bits but they are not human, they are evil by our morals but not by those of their own species. I don’t want them crying over the bodies and weeping and wailing and wanting forgiveness. “You’re a shark – be a shark” puts it perfectly.
Am I alone in wanting the villain to be irredeemably, unforgivably evil and to enjoy every dark moment of it? I know I’m not (you know who you are!) (Yes, you do there was a memo) but I think we’re in a minority.
Having said that all good villains need shades of grey (no, not THOSE sorts of shade of grey) and that’s where Cutler and Herrick were written and played so brilliantly. Read it on the page and it’s utter bastard, put a beautifully nuanced performance on top and you have the depth that makes you doubt and then makes you wonder if they really are going to do something THAT awful?
And then they do.
And then they do some more.
And I thank them for it!
The post title is from one of the many versions of Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife which always strikes me as a very vampire song! This is Nick Cave’s take…
See the shark with teeth like razors/And he wears them in his face
And Macheath has got a knife/But not in such an obvious place
Now see the shark, how red his fins are/As he slashes at his prey
Mack the Knife wears fancy gloves/Which gives a minimum away