aidan turner, annie, being human, cara, george, ghosts, herrick, Jason Watkins, lenora crichlow, Mitchell, Nicola Walker, rebecca cooper, russell tovey, sarah phelps, series three, the longest day, toby whithouse, vampires, wendy, werewolves
I’ve chosen my favourite episode from each series and now I have to pick my favourite out of those five. And no, I can’t change my mind about them now. Not even if I ask myself very nicely.
Of course there are so many scenes and characters and sub-plots that I’ve had to leave out and what might be good would be to put together my favourite episode that never was, made up of all the very best bits. Except it would make no sense at all and be several hours long. In that light it’s not such a great idea, so let’s junk Plan B and go back to where I started.
Where was I?
Series one – Bad Moon Rising
Series two – The Looking Glass
Series three – The Longest Day
Series four – Making History
Series five – The Last Broadcast
This is tough. Or is it?
Should I do reverse order? Yes? Oh all right then! Anything to make life harder… Although I’ve already thought of a snag. These are my favourite episodes from each series so although I’m going to put The Last Broadcast in fifth place it wouldn’t come fifth if I chose my over all, anything goes top five. Are you with me? No, me neither but having done the excuses lets move on with the announcement of the favourite episode out of the five I chose, one from each series, not the overall top five episodes winners and losers. Or something something something…
Equal third (yes I can have a tie) are 1.06 Bad Moon Rising and 2.05 Through the Looking Glass.
Second and the proud recipient of a rather lovely satin sash and a small tiara – 4.07 Making History. I’d give the sash to Cutler but I’m not at all convinced he’d wear it. The tiara however…
This episode edged out The Looking Glass because of The Looking Glass. Both flashback heavy, cutting back and forth, old loves and new ones – OK that’s possibly stretching it a bit but wait! Making History took that premise and built on it and they built good! Yes Cutler is my second favourite character and I do love a man who can dig a decent grave but the whole episode had a depth and quality of image and setting that made it distinct in the whole series. Sharp colour in the present day, unremitting grey in the future and warm sepia tones in the 1950’s giving a glow of nostalgia to what was a particularly twisted relationship. In fact I think Cutler/Hal beats the tied-to-a-bookcase courtship of Josie and Mitchell into a cocked trilby! The locations were also perfectly chosen, ending in the glacial white night club, the complete opposite to a classic gothic horror cellar. And that cellar, practical and prosaic, not a scrap of gothic just a rather useful cage of fresh mixers perfect for draining a fresh corpse…
I like it. A lot.
And first? Which gets the bouquet of roses, shiny shiny sash and the big crown? Frankly if you’re asking that you haven’t been paying attention!
It really isn’t a hard choice to make. There is one episode that for me sums up everything that is wonderful about Being Human – the writing, the characters, the setting. It’s an hour of television that stands up to almost anything you care to put against it.
3.05 The Longest Day – written by Sarah Phelps, directed by Philip Johns.
Yes, it’s a Herrick centred episode. Are you surprised? Really?
It’s not just about Herrick though, Wendy, the community psychiatric nurse was one of the most fully realised one episode guests ever. She wasn’t supernatural and she wasn’t outright funny nor was she tragic but somehow Sarah Phelps and Nicola Walker made her all that and more. I read that the part was written especially for Nicola and it fitted her like a bespoke gown – paired with some eminently sensible shoes.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what made Wendy wonderful. Obviously the combination of great writing and great performance but I think it was the tiny details and the almost throwaway lines. “Tena Lady moment!”, the sandwich in the laptop, the way she presented her ID badge, “My mother would love you!” and the phone call on the loo. The actual loo. It all added up to something rather special in the most perfectly understated way. In fact that’s probably the key to the episode – dark and twisted events, dark and twisted people, but perfectly, totally believable. Unusually for me I didn’t question a single motive in the whole hour! Not even Nina’s!
This was Herrick’s return – we last saw him muddy and in the all together (bar some strategically clinging compost) in a snowy field someone unspecified as Cara and Daisy bled all over his uneasy resting place. Since then he’s rediscovered his voice, found a suit but not his memory and finally given ever-loving Cara the slip.
It’s an immaculate performance from Jason Watkins (more so after his bath) and even now after many watches I’m still not sure if Herrick was faking it or not. Mostly I think he was but maybe not from the beginning and to be honest I’m not really convinced either way! There were so many nuances to what he did throughout the episode, the terror in the hospital and the confusion in Honolulu Heights, his total blanking of Mitchell. Do we believe his horror when he realises he had no reflection or the way he clinically disposes of Cara. She’s outlived her usefulness now hasn’t she? Or was he really sacred of what she wanted with him? But then there’s the way he draws in George, kind words and congratulations – what he might have expected from Mitchell but didn’t get, his friend being to enmeshed in his own downfall to care enough. Counter that with the way he speaks to Annie and that terribly knowing smile when she leaves him alone in the attic. And the train set. And the Victor. I could go on!
One very striking part of The Longest Day was the strength of writing for the female cast. Obviously Wendy was a new character but Sarah Phelps brought something new to all of them. Cara became a fully realised person – not the slightly simple canteen worker or the killing crazed mad-vamp of series two. She finally showed who she was and her determination to care for her Dark Lord, even to the extent of following him to the enemy camp was touching. When he was so finally nasty to her it broke her heart – and mine too, just a little bit. “Well then. You are nothing.” Could he have said anything any crueller?
Nina’s black and white morality showed a few tinges of grey and her insistence of nurturing the confused, amnesic Uncle Billy despite the horrors it was bound to bring showed a strength she was going to need. She’d never trusted Mitchell but this episode showed her his true colours and the realisation of what he really was literally turned her stomach. Her call to the hotline (and I’m still convinced that was Lia’s voice) was the final piece removed from the Honolulu House Jenga – it’s all about to topple.
Annie also found strength that had nothing to do with bringing the house down around their ears. Her journey through the episode from ditzy Annie, poring over Nina’s scan and cooking celebratory Eton Mess through to the guts to challenge Herrick and to deal with Mitchell’s vileness and rejection. To me it was clear she disapproved of Nina’s treatment of Wendy and her frustration at not being able to do more to comfort her than move the tissues into reach was palpable. And nicely balanced with her disgust at the state of her car!
George was – mostly – the voice of reason, once he’d got over the understandable shock of seeing the man he’d torn to pieces crawling about in front of him. Mitchell was the voice of – well, it tempting to say madness. It’s the point at which his downwards trajectory really start to pick up speed and his instinctive reaction to stake Herrick is curious. Was it a natural abhorrence for something he thought could never happen, Herrick resurrected? Had he been relishing his freedom from Herrick’s web just a little too much? George started to side with his friend but Nina made him see he was acceding to murder and it was almost enough to tun him against Mitchell. Or would he really have cast him out? If he’d know just what was due to happen next he may have done. Having Herrick ensconced in the attic started a chain of decisions that were downright idiotic, even by Mitchell’s standards! He put them all at risk, that bumbling confused man in the pjs – and then he sat back and let them tighten their own nooses. A string of coincidence or pure evil? Well, what do you think?!
If I wish for one thing, if I could time travel back I’d have liked Sarah Phelps to have written more for Being Human. The episode that springs to mind is 4.06 Puppy Love – I’d love to have seen what she could have done with Cutler and I just know she’d have made characters like Golda and Allison more rounded. Oh well. It was not to be.
I’ve probably said all this before – and probably will again but even beyond Being Human this is a very special hour of television. I reviewed it here when it first came out and then went back over it in more detail when I wrote my book A Guide to Being Human but even after all that watching which left it engraved in my brain forever I can still watch it and see something new or something that makes me go “Ahhh…” or even “Oh!” (and occasionally “WTF??!”)
Here’s the ‘Behind the Scenes’ clip from the BBC Blog – and as a bonus Dirge by Death in Vegas. It’s such a brilliant choice, the building tension is perfectly set off by the music.
And after all, it’s going to be the most perfect day.