“The Ties That Bind” S2 / E7
- B Community Grade
Tonight marked the welcome return of Nora, who was absent for all of last week's episode and whose presence has been a little shaky since the season premiere. The unlikely romance of Nora and Josh was one of the most fetching aspects of the first season of Being Human, so their estrangement from each other, both physical and emotional, has been a painful thing. So i
t was nice to just see her back at the hospital, apologizing for having been away from the joint for more than two weeks. Her return remained welcome for maybe two minutes, before it became clear that the show is determined to take her character in directions I'm not sure I want to follow.
When last seen, Nora was waking up in a field, naked and covered in blood, her body entwined with those of Connor and Brynne, the werewolf douchebag twins. The strong implication was that she had taken part in tearing her abusive ex-boyfriend limb from limb. Of course, since we didn't get to actually see her changing right in front of the son of a bitch, and since it's part of traditional werewolf mythology that the werewolves can only vaguely remember why they got up to the night before, an advanced student of the bad TV cop-out such as myself might have surmised that the show was keeping a spare werewolf up its sleeve and that it would later be revealed that Nora didn't really take part in the mauling of her ex. But in tonight's big fake-out, Nora tells Josh the same thing he's already heard from the twins. She isn't shaken up and despairing because she turns into a wild beast every full moon. She's upset because she ever has to turn back.
I'm trying to work with you here, Being Human, really I am. But I can't remember anything in Nora's character, pre-werewolf, that you could have taken as a hint that she was ever likely to go off the deep end like this. I don't mean to underestimate the traumatizing potential of becoming a werewolf. Imagine contracting a disease that causes you to physically morph into a ravening mutant every full moon night; I barely manage to get enough sleep as it is. Still, it's a major curveball when Nora tells Josh—with whom she has, yes, just awakened lying naked and covered in blood in some field—that she feels “horrible” whenever she has to go back to being human and is never more "proud" of him, which I'm guessing, in this context, also means “turned on" by him, when he's done something morally questionable that reminds her that the animal inside him is also trying to get out. Poor Kristen Hager is directed to play this scene with the kind of glowing, smiling ardor that devotees of true-crime documentaries will recognize from footage of skinny young women talking about how nobody but they can really appreciate the reserves of beautiful, deep spirituality inside Charlie Manson.
I don't know where the show wants to go with this. Maybe Nora will continue to spiral further and further out of control, and out of Josh's life. Then again, maybe she'll snap out of it, and they'll reunite, and all will be forgiven. Her wild-eyed ranting aside, I'm not sure how heinous her actions to date are supposed to be in Being Human's moral universe. Tonight's episode ends with Aidan killing an unarmed baddie in cold blood; I don't think this is meant to be an incredibly upsetting act on his part, and in fact, I was so sick of the character in question that my only thought was, God, please, let this be permanent. And a case can be made defending every notch on Nora's gun. (Her first victim was a vampire who was trying to kill Josh, the ex-boyfriend kind of had it coming, and tonight, both she and Josh take part in the bloody killing of a vampire who, depending on your point of view, either deserves it for having tried to kill the twins or for bungling the job.) But it still feels like a betrayal of both the character and her relationship with Josh.
It's definitely not an improvement on the original British series, where the characters' counterparts were sometimes spiky with each other but basically mutually supportive. But I get the feeling that the writers are so pleased with the twist of having the seemingly more stable partner transform into a bloodthirsty nut that they didn't waste much time thinking about things like logic, consistency, and long-term potential development. (Did they keep Nora off-screen for so long in the last few episodes partly in the hopes that viewers would forget what she was like?) As for the nuts and bolts of the storyline, forget about that. The cops had been sniffing around after the ex-boyfriend was killed, but as Josh says with a shrug, “The whole case just kinda disappeared,” like the baby Nora miscarried at the start of the season. I don't exactly mourn either the baby or the detectives, but both seem to have been too easily dropped down a handy trapdoor, just to serve the writers' convenience.
The general theme of bad relationships serves as the connective tissue for this episode, if anything does. Sally is getting hassled by the ghost of Danny, the boyfriend who killed her in the first place, and had finally gotten his at the hands of his cellmate in prison. He first makes his presence felt by scribbling graffiti (“Why is the bathroom mirror calling me a whore?”) and rearranging the kitchen furniture to make, in Aidan's words, “an extremely lame Poltergeist homage." I didn't care for that line the first time I heard it, when it wasn't clear whether the writers just wanted to say it before the audience had the chance, but it seemed funnier once it was revealed that Danny was doing the poltergeisting, whereupon it suddenly seemed like a joke about the limits of his imagination. In any event, Danny doesn't get to stick around long. After finally materializing and trying to attack Sally, he gets taken out by a reaper, a mournfully handsome fellow in a modified Severus Snape haircut. The reaper explains that he really ought to take out Sally as well, because it's his job to dispose of ghosts who get out of line or, like Sally, have missed their doors and are now just cluttering up the terrestrial plane. He can't do it, though, because she's “an interesting case” and “special.” I don't mind this kind of talk just so long as he only means that Meaghan Rath is too goddamned cute to vaporize just to help meet a quota. I fear, though, that this may be intended as a hint that Sally has some important role to play that has been prophesied about by generations of sage and long-dead assholes.
In the end, Josh, still naked and blood-covered, strides sadly out of that field, leaving Nora behind, in what looks like the weirdest symbolic take on the Garden of Eden story since The Loss Of Sexual Innocence, and returns to the house with Aidan, who's also got nothing on his mind but bloody murder and bad vibes. (For what it's worth, Sam Witwer has two of his strongest moments to date here, one at the end when he pulls the trigger and a scene talking with Sally at the hospital, where he gets to demonstrate his comedy chops. In between these high points, he has to do a lot of seething, running and dithering.) Waiting for them is Sally, who's been rehearsing a speech about how much their friendship means to her, though the expressions on their faces scare the words right out of her. It's a rather forced device, used just to underline the fact that most of this episode consists of characters who are supposed to love and support each other mistrusting and disrespecting each other. Maybe, for a real twist, next week's episode can show them getting along and sharing a few laughs. It's one of reasons people used to watch the show, and it's not as if other good reasons for watching it are just stacking up like cordwood.
- I wonder if the Being Human crew realized that the show was going to wind up over-populated with werewolves who love turning into werewolves when they decided, back in the first season, to make the process of turning into a werewolf look like the most agonizing thing in the world. The Joe Dante movie The Howling was full of werewolves who liked being werewolves, but that made sense, because the elaborate transformation effects in that movie were also designed to look like a turn-on, and they functioned in the story as an extension of the monsters' overactive libidos. The shape-shifting in True Blood serves much the same purpose, and unlike the effects in the Dante film, it doesn't even look as if it hurts. Here, people do a lot of convincingly agonized screaming as their bodies contort and writhe before being replaced by flagrantly unconvincing CGI beasties, and then when they wake up in the middle of nowhere with hay and chiggers in their hair, they claim to have loved it. The people in that Cronenberg movie who got off on car crashes were Joe and Jill Normal by comparison.