“Dream Reaper” S2 / E10
- C+ Community Grade
In its second season, after a full first season chained to the story concepts and plot lines generated by the original British version, Being Human has devolved from a flawed but promising show that afforded little pockets of pleasure and had some attractive people on it—a show that, for all its failings, never made me just want to sink my face into the nearest pillow and scream—into something that's the entertainment equivalent of beating beaten with a cudgel and having to count off the seconds between blows. The most interesting thing about the show in its current state isn't even where the hell the creative team thinks it's going with the story, or what mixture of home-brewed pharmaceuticals led it to this path, but the question of what the audience that cared enough for the first season to come back are making of this one.
When it was decent, the show was notable for its appeal to women, who are a rare and precious commodity in the overall Syfy channel demographic. I guess that, like me, they enjoyed the push-pull romantic chemistry between Josh and Nora, and I'll bet that there were a lot of people in the audience who enjoyed relating to Sally's cuddly vulnerability and looking at Aidan while nodding their heads appreciatively. Now, Josh and Nora are broken up, and I don't know what the hell is going on with Josh and Julia, and while there may be a segment of the viewership that greatly appreciates watching Sam Witwer looking ashen and strung-out while covered in the blood that's leaking from his eyes and his wide-open, drooling mouth, I doubt that they're in the majority. As for Sally, she spends a lot of this episode wearing milky-white contact lenses and telling people they're going to die in a deep, electronically distorted voice, in scenes that are so reminiscent of the ones with the possessed Sally in Evil Dead that Josh has to make a face-saving joke about it. After awhile, I resorted to switching on the closed-captioning so that I could divert myself by reading the stage directions, such as “LAUGHING EVILLY.”
This week's slow walk through Hell begins where last week's left off, with the news that the Reaper, the menacing smarmy dude who executes ghosts and was threatening to force Sally to take over his job, actually is Sally. He is her “alter,” i.e., “everything she's meant to stand for,” as Zoe explains it, in a little speech that makes the situation exactly no clearer. What it mainly seems to come down to is that the Reaper is Sally's Tyler Durden, with whom she now lives, lost in her own head, in a daydream existence in a fantasy world. (Yes, that's “lives with,”as in, “shacking up together.” She's sleeping with the voice in her head. I bet even Son of Sam drew the line at that.) Decked out in fashions and hairstyles that for some reason reminded me of Pan Am, they spent their time hanging around the monster house, except that the place is all grey, which makes the splashes of color—the pink and purple of Zoe's snappy outfits. her bright black toenail polish, and the flowers she brings into the home—pop that much brighter. The grey in the main living room is quite muted, but the higher they go in the house, to the upstairs bedroom, the darker the tones seem to get. I have no idea why, but Tarsem Singh probably does.
The revelation that Sally is the Reaper, or that he's a part of her, or whatever, would seem to be inseparable from the news that she herself has been erasing blameless ghosts from the universe, including Nate, her old college crush and the current boyfriend of the ghost whisperer Zoe. This is potentially very troubling, and the show does its best to ignore its implications. She's basically a ghost serial killer now, but the show's only interest in her victims is that it gives Sally herself something to feel sad about, so that we, in turn, can feel sorry for her. I guess it's only fair, since when Josh reminds Aidan that he recently murdered two women so that his spawn Henry could feed with impunity, this, too, seems to mostly be an opportunity to feel sorry for Aidan, because he feels guilty. (If Josh wants his share of sympathy points, maybe he'd better get out there and put some bodies on the scoreboard.) Actually, the biggest moral lapse in tonight's episode feels like Aidan and Josh's bringing Zoe in to help exorcise Sally without telling her that Sally killed her boyfriend, who Zoe doesn't even know is dead. (Except, of course, in the sense that he's dead because he's a ghost. But she doesn't know that Sally's shredded him, making him dead dead. I don't want to get too wrapped up in the semantics of it all. We'd be here all night.)
Zoe also doesn't know that she's trapped in a sealed-room suspense story, which is to say that she doesn't know that Aidan is a vampire who hasn't eaten in a while and Josh is a werewolf, and since Sally has pulled some kind of magical mojo that prevents them from leaving the house—because a ghost who's possessing her own damn self can apparently do witchcraft now—it's important that Zoe get out of there before either Aidan snaps or Josh turns with the coming of the full moon. “It's the full moon tonight,” Aidan points out to him. Of course it is. It's always the full moon on this show, every night, even if there have been several episodes following a series of days in sequential order and there have been full moons every single night.When the people running Syfy come to me and beg me to fix their show for them, the first thing I'm going to do is hand Josh a speech where he'll say, “Man, it is such a trip living on this planet, which is exactly like Earth in so many ways, except that there's a full moon every night, and Boston is in Canada!” Make that first step toward restoring a sense of order.
The cleverest things in this, an episode that badly wants to be clever, tend to be the little verbal riffs on the central monster-roomies set-up, such as Aidan explaining to Zoe that he and Josh and Sally are like “different countries on the same continent,” and the starving Aidan refusing Josh's offer to let him feed on his arm because “vampires don't drinks werewolves,” possibly “because of the smell.” (Josh referred to this as “one of those vampire Jim Crow laws.”) These are often the cleverest things on the show now, and when a few of them suddenly pop up in an episode, I have to wonder if the writers just jot them down on the fly and leave them in a Mason jar, for when an episode needs padding. That might help explain why the comic tone of the scene felt completely off-kilter, compared to everything that came before it or would come after it. The show can still be funny, for seconds at a time, but its heart seems to be in the prolonged moments when everyone's suffering and weeping and flailing about. The fact that there are funny moments at all might be a sheepish admission that the kind of thing the show mostly traffics in now isn't something most of its fans could be expected to want to watch. Here, it's saying, have a lollipop. But enjoy it fast, so we can get back to wallowing in our own misery. That the misery was only theirs.
- My favorite part of the show was the tripped-out fantasy sequence in which Andre 3000 appeared in Sally's gray house and passed through a series of transformations illustrating different personas he had inhabited through the centuries, from an early-twentieth century gent to a marauding Viking. Sadly, this turned out to be a commercial for Gillette.