“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” S2 / E2
- B Community Grade
At the end of last week's episode, Big Mama Vampire was having some private time with Vampire Terry Kinney and, referring the Josh and Sally, uttered the vampire queen equivalent of, "I want you to deal with this 'Jim Rockford' in a way that will be very... permanent," except that whatever she said was much classier than that, because when it comes to class, vampire queens put West Coast mob bosses who work out of wood-paneled offices the size of a storage room to shame. Shortly after that, there was some weirdness involving Sally coming home and seeing what seemed to be her door and screaming while the camera had a conniption fit, and when the screen went black, I assumed that this meant that the vampire queen's minions were sucking her into another dimension or some silly shit. I was wrong; when we next see Sally, in tonight's episode, she alludes to what happened but says that it was all just a nightmare, her old high school friend Suicide Stevie having taught her to dream. ("All I wanted was to sleep, to dream again. I did die in my pajamas, after all," she says, giving every third hack in the viewing audience a great idea to write a spec script for a teen romantic comedy based on Macbeth.) I thought I should be upfront about having misinterpreted the nature of last week's edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger ending, since it may be a sign that I'm not really the best possible person to be reviewing this show. The alternative hypothesis is that the people currently writing and directing this show may not be the best people to be doing their jobs, either.
Although I was more relieved than I can say that I wouldn't have to watch Aidan and Josh blow dust off a thick old book of incantations and spells ("Illy beaney, chilli beaney, the spirits are about to speak...") and tie ropes around their waists prior to lowering themselves into an enchanted mirror to look for Sally into some alternate reality into which she'd been cast, where the toilets flush backwards and hamburgers eat people, I suspect that this dreaming business may prove more complicated and that the Barbara Steele wannabe will indeed turn out to have a hand in it. In the meantime, tonight's episode did (mostly) spare us the melodramatic, troubling image of an imperiled Sally and instead concentrate on giving us what the show is good for: a few blissful moments of Meaghan Rath being adorable. No woman has ever done as good a job of making sweater sleeves that are too long for her arms look like a valid style choice. Eager to prove his worth to the show so that he'll get to stick around for a few more episodes, Suicide Stevie took her to a celebratory gathering of douches, where he got to talk about his pain until she told him, less unkindly than she should have, "You've got a hardcore emo thing going on." It is a line that I think whoever does the music for this show must hear beautiful women saying to him in his dreams. One of them should stress that it's not a compliment.
At the party, Sally experienced a breakthrough; she learned how to enter and take control of the bodies of living people, which meant that she was able to re-experience the sensations of eating and drinking for the first time since her death. Watching her attack the snack table, I was reminded of how excited people used to get in the early, lower-budgeted days of Survivor, when Jeff Probst would announce that after weeks subsisting on rice and charred eel meat, they were in contention to pig out on a delicious picnic lunch of lo-fat pretzels and Snapple. At one point, she did a little shivery dance of pleasure, achieving with her torso an effect that they usually have to speed up the film to get. But as is so often the case on this most emo of shows, Sally's pleasures were bought at a price. It turns out that when a girl ghost is possessing someone's body, the more loutish of her boy ghost companions--in this case, Stevie's pal, Dylan--are liable to get all rapey. Stevie stepped in and vaporized the son of a bitch, apparently re-killing him, good and permanent. To judge from his reaction and Sally's, I think this was supposed to be a deeply troubling thing for him to do. I'm not sure why. The whole idea of forced, nonconsensual sex with someone who doesn't own the body she's inhabiting is such a can of worms morally, psychologically, and just creepy-wise that I'm torn between being impressed that someone who works for the show thought of it and wishing that they'd kept it to themselves. And even if you oppose "three strikes" laws, I'd like to think we could agree that if dead people are going to stick around and crash our parties, we want them to either be on their best behavior or move the hell on.
The real limits of Sally's adorableness were most severely tested in an earlier scene, when Josh and Nora returned home after a long night of turning into wolves and back into themselves. This was Nora's first time at it, and although she did a great job of protecting her man by taking out the vampire sent to dispatch Josh, in other respects, she did not immediately take to the experience. "I woke up this naked in a pile of leash litter this morning, with a squirrel in my mouth," she said, at a party, in front of a bunch of people who were suddenly less interested in talking about whether they thought there was any hope that Heidi and Seal will get back together. On top of that, she reveals that she has miscarried and is not going to be having a werebaby, news that she and Josh seem to take hard, though I'll bet that when the producers signed off on it, there were champagne corks flying in the writers' offices.
Nora's difficulty in adapting to her new lifestyle--at one point, she asked Josh if, now that she was part canine, could she still eat chocolate--meant that Kristen Hager was able to tear it up with that "steely dame with tremulous lip and worried eyes" thing that she does so well. For his part, Sam Huntington used the party scene to go nuclear with his patented expression that makes him look like a dog trying to tell its owner that no matter how many times he has to wriggle out of the sack he's been tied up in and swim back to shore, he'll always love you. The actors were a lot better than some of their dialogue. At the hospital where they both work, Nora took Josh aside and told him, "I keep doing my rounds thinking, I'm a werewolf, treating a burn victim; I'm a werewolf, inserting a catheter; I'm a werewolf, peeing in the ladies' room." Burn victims probably can't be picky, and as for peeing in the ladies' room, hey, you've got to mark your territory. But I doubt I'm the only guy who experienced a speed bump in the middle of that speech and thought, if you're that distracted by it, maybe you should pass along the catheter insertions to someone who doesn't have anything worse on her mind than how to deal with her husband's snoring.
I guess the big news tonight was supposed to be the first appearance of the vampire queen's daughter, who, in a disappointing stroke of nepotism, has been put in charge of all bloodsucker activities in Boston. Damned if she isn't played by Dichen Lachman, the memorably exotic-looking actress who played Sierra in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, where she came across as being half as out of it as she is here, when she had twice the excuse. She and Aidan have a history together, which provides the excuse for an unintentionally hilarious flashback image of Aidan in a lounge lizard mustache, looking as if he's about to cock a pistol finger at his dog before announcing, in a title card, that those cockamamie talking pictures are just a passing fad. Trying to impress his drowsy friend with his usefulness, Aidan tells her, "No one knows Boston better than me No one can move the pieces better than me." "You're beginning to sound like your old self," Sierra tells him, between yawns.
From the sound of it, the old him is someone this show could use a shot of. Instead, it's stuck with the present edition--the Aidan who, having proposed that the vampire guild will need a replacement for Bishop on the Boston police force, tries to "turn" the first candidate himself, only to wussy out in mid-assignment. Seriously, "No one can move the pieces better than me?" When has the Josh we've been watching for more than a season by now shown any kind of Machiavellian chess-master streak? He's survived up to this point pretty much solely by luck and the ability to better kick the shit out of his opponents when the chips were down. I know, the vampires and werewolves and other monsters on Being Human are metaphors for lost, alienated, confused human beings, but part of their appeal is also that they're vampires and werewolves and other monsters, and the Joss Whedon shows and True Blood and The Vampire Diaries have all reaped the benefits of knowing that they have the potential to remain fascinating and exciting even when they're inhuman and far from likable. A willingness to risk having the heroes seem inhuman and unlikable is also the greatest strength of the U.K. Being Human. The U.S, version so prizes niceness above excitement in its heroes that it managed to have Aidan seem more sinned against than sinning even when he staked a vampire who was also a sad, lost little boy. This show needs to, to borrow from Master Joss, risk having Aidan get better in touch with his dark side, in the hopes that doing so will double his I.Q. If that doesn't happen, we might just have the second coming of New Amsterdam on our hands here. That would be a real shame, considering that New Amsterdam was already the second coming of Moonlight.