As I write this, I’m still not entirely sure how to feel about an episode like “The Longest Day.” The episode sees the return of Herrick, now an amnesiac patient in residence at Nina and George’s hospital. His re-appearance provides the show with the catalyst it needs to speed up season three’s over-arching concerns with Mitchell’s guilt, Annie’s lack of self-confidence, and George’s newly expressed fears of becoming a father. Part of me was automatically relieved to see Herrick back. I still think that he’s one of Being Human’s better characters: He’s not imposing physically, but he oozes a manipulative charm that “The Longest Day” exploits fully. Then again, episode writer Sarah Phelps gave him too much to do in too brief a span of time, making “The Longest Day” seem more hectic than it needed to be.
“The Longest Day” begins with George’s initial discovery of Herrick in the hospital. The very first scene of the episode plunges us into the chaos of Herrick’s new fragile, disoriented state. George almost instantly shares Herrick’s unsettled state of mind as soon as he initially spies him. He only becomes more confused after he confirms that he’s not just dreaming by looking in a mirror (Herrick naturally doesn’t have a reflection). As the hospital requires a background check before processing any new patients, Nina and George take it upon themselves to immediately usher Herrick out of the hospital before his past crimes are discovered.
The pair’s harried plan backfires on them just as quickly as it’s put into action, when a wired social worker named Wendy (Nicola Walker) visits the monsters’ house under the mistaken impression that Herrick is Nina’s uncle. Further chaos erupts in the house after Mitchell tries to stake Herrick in a fit of rage, railing at George that they shouldn’t be fooled by what he thinks is a disingenuous act of feigned innocence from the mass-murdering Herrick. Matters are even more complicated after Cara, one of the two vamps that revived Mitchell in season two’s finale, resurfaces, insisting that Herrick come away with her. A confused Herrick refuses and practically spits in Cara’s face when she insists that they belong together: “You obscene bitch! You filth!”
The tempest in a tea cup that Herrick causes was, all things considered, inevitable. After all, he did say earlier in season one that he has nothing but time on his side and hence would never stop hunting Mitchell and the gang. It also makes sense that he should show up now, of all times, considering where season three has been headed and how last week’s episode left us waiting for something or someone to kick up a dust storm. Still, organic as his appearance may be, the way he’s saddled with stirring the show’s pot up to its boiling point feels a little rushed. Ideally, “The Longest Day” would have made his confrontation with Cara the only confrontation that he’s involved in and furthermore, would have only alluded to a coming conflict between Mitchell and Nina.
Instead, Herrick drives a rift between Mitchell and the werewolves two times during “The Longest Day.” His discovery of Mitchell’s scrapbook devoted to clippings about the Box Tunnel 20 feels tacked on. It’s the kind of revelation that Annie or Nina should have made and confided in Herrick, not the other way around. As it is, Herrick first creates discord between Mitchell and the werewolves just by showing up the house and then again by revealing to Mitchell’s housemates his past crimes. The fact that Herrick, as an outsider, is the one to make this discovery and tip Nina off is what bothers me about this development, but here’s where I get conflicted: Would having one of the other characters randomly stumbled across Mitchell’s scrapbook be necessarily a less neat way to accelerate events? The scrapbook is already a cheap plot device, so using it in a way that feels completely right is a nigh-impossible trick to pull off.
That having been said, while I wasn’t impressed by the broad beats of “The Longest Day,” I was taken with the cinematic way that episode director Phillip John filmed the episode. All of the scenes that centered on Herrick in his room were especially well blocked, like when George walks in on Herrick and tries to remind him of what Herrick did to him. There’s also a markedly polished depth of field in the shots of Herrick slowly closing the physical gap between himself and George. I can’t recall another recent episode that featured that kind of accomplished camera movements. John exhibited an eye for visual storytelling that was further put to great use in the scene where Herrick discovers Mitchell’s diary. The crane shot that puts some much-needed distance between us and Herrick when he finds Mitchell’s hiding place was especially effective.
If nothing else, I have to give “The Longest Day” credit for perfectly capturing the monsters’ frenzied response to Herrick’s return. When Russell Tovey starts cracking up after first meeting Wendy, it really looks like George is coming apart at the seams. The intense discomfort and knife-twisting humor of that scene reaches a head when he snaps from laughing hysterically to asking Wendy if she wants tea.
Jason Watkins is similarly spot-on as Herrick. He really shines when he takes potshots at Annie, chipping away at her by telling her slowly but decisively, “You’re a bit... peripheral, like a regimental mascot.” I’ve missed his authoritatively conniving character and am glad that we have a villain in the show that we haven’t just met who’s capable of providing the show with the scuzzy driving force that Mitchell’s moral crisis has robbed it of. Because sometimes, it’s more fun to watch a remorselessly cruel character have a crisis of faith than a moral killer have a lapse in judgment.