Dark, brooding, melancholy with an underlying message of hope and universal social acceptance?
An American/Canadian adaptation of the BBC’s hit series by the same name, SyFy’s take on the uneasy cohabitation of a werewolf, vampire and ghost set against that backdrop of urban Boston (although it’s actually shot in Montreal) has proven to be a breakout success for the cable network’s continued foray into original programming. Loosely based-on and following the formula already set in place by the show’s UK progenitor the SyFy version of the show has now in it’s second season really grown into it’s shoes and begun to explore new territory while gaining a sense of it’s own identity.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama series that is often (and rightfully) praised for the way it used metaphor to tackle issues young people deal with while focusing on the demon-infested town of Sunnydale. It still feels far too soon to draw major comparisons between Buffy and Being Human, however one of the Syfy series’ biggest strengths is in the way it looks at the lives of three young adults who are aren’t willing to completely embrace the dark side that comes with their hidden nature. Their struggle to grow up, mingled with the supernatural element does tread into similar waters as Buffy in that respect, as does the use of humor to cut the tension.
Aidan (Sam Witwer) is a vampire who was turned during the Civil War. While he’s attempting to live off bagged blood while he works as a nurse at a hospital in Boston, his past is full of blood and violence from the days when he felt no guilt over his vampiric lifestyle. Josh (Sam Huntington) is a werewolf who has to deal with transitioning into an out-of-control beast each month. Meanwhile, Sally (Maeghan Rath) is a ghost who’s stuck in a limbo world, where only supernatural-beasts like Aidan and Josh can see and speak to her.
Season 2 picks up in the aftermath of the first season, with Aidan trying to deal with the mess left behind by his now (fully) deceased mentor Bishop. This means looking out for the vampires Bishop had assembled for a secret army, and trying to protect them from the higher-up vampires. Josh and Nora are dealing with his wolfish condition in the wake of Nora’s miscarriage. And last season, Sally missed her door, which was to take her to the afterlife. This might mean she’s stuck in ghost-form and unable to move on indefinitely.
The focus of Being Human is on Aidan, Sally and Josh’s attempts to live normal lives and not lose their humanity to the temptations presented by their true natures. This is something that the three characters share with one another, despite the fact that each faces different challenges. Season 2 seems to have found a way to hold on to the series’ initial premise, while also taking the story further as each of the characters deals with what’s ahead. For Aidan, moving forward means once again facing his past as he’s assigned a challenging task in exchange for the promise of true freedom from the vampire hierarchy. This involves a “vampire princess” (played by Dollhouse‘s Dichen Lachman). Josh and Nora are attempting to move forward, but Nora hasn’t revealed to Josh that he scratched her the month before. And Sally makes a new friend in an old classmate and discovers a new way to pass the time, which could end up sending her down a dark path.
What works best about Being Human is the way Aidan, Josh and Sally are set up to feel like real people. They haven’t delved so far into their natures as supernatural beings to lose the traits that make them human (or in the case of Aidan, he’s found his way back to humanity), which makes them relatable as characters. The use of humor, the music featured in the series, and the way many scenes are often filmed with an especially light, almost over-saturated look, offsets some of the darker elements of the series. In the end, the finished product is a darker toned drama series that doesn’t wallow completely in the negative. There’s a balance that works, which makes the show fun but also builds suspense.