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Being Human: Season 4

BBC Worldwide // Unrated // January 15, 2013
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted January 26, 2013 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
In the fourth season of Being Human everything changes.  I don't mean that the three main characters, a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf, move to a new house.  I mean most of the main characters leave the show.  Is this program up to the Herculean task of convincing viewers to stay with the show even though their favorite character is no longer in it?  Nearly.  They make a valiant effort to keep the feel of the show and include some interesting twists, but the show does take a step backwards overall.
As long time viewers will recall, at the end of season three George (a werewolf) fulfilled a prophecy by killing Mitchell (a vampire and his best friend), and started a war with the vampires.  His girlfriend, Nina (a werewolf too), also revealed that she was pregnant. 
[Warning:  There will be spoilers to the first episode in this review.]
As season four opens, about a year has passed.  Mitchell is still dead, but so is Nina, beaten to death in an alley by a group of vampires soon after giving birth to her daughter.  This has sent George into a deep depression.  He's nearly catatonic, never leaving his daughter's bedroom, standing guard over her with a stake in his hand since he's sure the vampires are coming for her too.  He's so despondent that he hasn't been able to name the girl.
Meanwhile the vampires have decided to make their play.  The Old Ones, the most aged and powerful vampires in existence, have decided to take over the world.  They are traveling across the sea to England (since the only place you can start a world conquest is on an island apparently) and when they arrive they are going to start in Barry (of all places) and slaughter everyone in sight until humanity crumbles.  The vampire rulers of England need a tribute to pay the Old Ones when they arrive, and they settle on giving them a werewolf, a very special one.   The only product of two werewolves breeding while in their werewolf state:  George's child.
That's the plan, and it only gets better when the Vampire Recorder, the one in charge of all arcane knowledge, discovers an ancient prophecy.  On a parchment made of human skin, he discovers that a child born of two werewolves will be mankind's savior, the one who destroys all of the vampires.  While he only has two thirds of the scroll, he's certain that killing the child will avert this disaster.  What a magnificent gift to give the Old Ones.
The first episode also jumps over a decade into the future, where a young woman is leading the rebel forces who are fighting the vampires.  In this dystopian society, vampires have taken over almost the entire world and only a few humans remain free to fight.  At great cost, the young leader has the third part of the prophecy stolen but reading the entire prediction leaves her troubled.  She realizes that she has to be killed, and from purgatory she can reach back into the past in order to have George and Nina's baby killed.
The first thing that she does is contact an old man, Leo, who happens to be a werewolf.  He's dying, and the next time he changes will probably be fatal for him, and this mysterious girl contact him through a radio and tell him to take his housemate, who happen to be a ghost and a vampire named Tom, to Barry to visit mankind's savior.
After the visit, Tom ends up staying in Barry with Annie, and they're joined by Hal, a werewolf who hunts vampires (who was introduced last season).  Together they need to keep the young child safe, which is going to be hard to do with vampires and assorted supernatural killer sent by the dead woman from the future all out to do her in.
Replacing just about all of the regulars on a show is a daunting task, but the writers came up with an interesting way to do it:  they made the stakes so high that viewers (hopefully) won't mind.  The overall plot that runs through this season is major.  With the survival of humanity at stake you don't get much bigger than that, but there were some problems.  A big flaw is that the resolution of the story is pretty easy to see from the end of episode one.  Who could that mysterious woman who is leading the resistance possibly be???  After seeing the last section of the prophecy why would she want to kill a little girl in the past?  Hmmm...
Aside from that, it was a decent season with some good episodes and some not-so-great installments.  In the latter category is the episode where a ghost appears and flatters Annie into letting him stay with the new group.  He instantly starts to pit the housemates against each other in a simplistic and predictable way.  "It's nice the way you don't get angry when Annie treats you like that.  Others would take offense at being spoken to like a dog, but I can see you're above that."  They all fall for it, of course, and it made the characters seem more stupid rather than vulnerable.
Luckily, the good shows outweighed the bad ones.  Some highlights include Puppy Love, where Allison, a geeky teenage werewolf, tracks down Tom and the two of them hit it off while hunting vampires.  Ellie Kendrick is magnificent in the role of Allison and the only flaw is that she was more interesting that the main characters in the show.  I hope she returns next season.  Another standout episode features Adam, the 47-year old teenage vampire who made an appearance last season, returns. This time he has a teacher from his boarding school in tow, and they decide to hide from the press in Annie's house.  Craig Roberts is hilarious as the perpetually horny teen.  He's so crass and uncouth that it's impossible not to like him.
Another supporting character who steals every scene she's in is Laura Patch.  She plays a strange goth woman who sits in the café where Tom works and writes incredibly bad poetry while dreaming of becoming a famous author.  Her over the top performance was hilarious and she made the otherwise mediocre episode very enjoyable.
And that brings me to the main problem with this season:  the supporting characters were much more interesting than the new regulars.  Yeah, Tom and Hal are likable I guess, but neither of them has a chance to shine.  Hal seems like a throwback to Mitchell from the first season, always worried about killing a human, and while Tom is a different character when compared with George, he never really grows on you. 
The Blu-ray Disc:

The 8-episode third season arrives on three Blu-ray discs, nicely contained in a single-width standard Blu-ray case.
Being a recent series, this show was recorded in HD and the 1080i AVC encode looks very good but isn't a reference disc. There is a lot of detail in both the foreground and background, and the flesh tones and colors come across well on the screen. The image 'pops' a good deal, especially in the exterior scenes, but there is some loss of detail in low light scenes or areas where black predominates. There image is a bit soft at times, and there was just a tad of digital noise in a few places (the sky, large areas where one bright color is present) but this was very minor. Overall a nice looking show.
Viewers only get a stereo mix, which is fine for this type of show. Though there's three supernatural being as leads, there aren't many action sequences and the lack of a subwoofer channel isn't a big deal at all. The show makes some use of the front soundstage but the dialog is mainly centered on the screen, which is too bad. Aside from that the show sounds about average. There are optional English subtitles.
This set comes with a full compliment of bonus material, and some of it is very good.  Starting off with the best, there are three short 'prequels' that fill in some background information on Tom, Leo, Hal, and the Old Ones.  You don't have to watch these before this season but it helps flesh out some of the characters and answers a few minor questions.  I especially liked the installment where we discovered how Hal ended up flipping burgers in a café.
In addition there are several interviews with people involved in the show on both sides of the camera including writer/creator Toby Whithouse, producer Philip Trethowan and actors Damien Molony (Hal), Lenora Orichlow (Annie), Michael Socha (Tom) and Russell Tovey (George).  There's also a behind the scenes featurette that's broken up into six parts (but no "play all" option unfortunately) that's a bit light but still entertaining.  That's followed by a trailer for the show and 7-minutes worth of deleted scenes.
What's more interesting is what they don't include.  The case says that there is a "Sequel" included, but I couldn't find it on the discs.  Maybe it's an Easter Egg that's cleverly hidden... though you'd have to ask yourself why they hid it.  The biggest omission is the web-series Becoming Human, an 8-part story where Adam enrolls in a boarding school and has to solve a murder mystery (with the help of the ghost of the victim).  It's still available on the BBC's web site, but viewers in the US can't watch it because the content is blocked.  Since Adam makes an appearance in this season after the events of his web-based story, it would be nice if they had thrown that on too.
Final Thoughts:
While I did enjoy this season, and recommend that fans of the show seek it out, it does feel like it's lost its way.  The major character changes didn't help the show and the overall story, while epic, was told with as much finesse as I would have liked.  Having said that, the individual episodes were all fun to watch and I don't regret sitting through these shows at all.  I just hope things improve next season (which will start in March in the UK.)  Recommended.
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