Last night, the final episode of the original Being Human aired in North America, revealing to us latecomers what Brits have known for some time now: How it all ends. And it was a fantastic way to end not just this series, but the show as a whole.
Spoilers below. Also, a musical number!
I want to start off by offering my compliments to the writers and actors on this final series. They marched into this final, Mitchell-less, Annie-less, George-less series with a clear thesis in mind, and they pulled it off in a thoroughly enjoyable way.
The final episode opens more or less where the previous one left off. Alex is stuck in her coffin with her rotting carcass, and has to figure out how to ghost her way out. (It sort of works. She ends up displacing a bit of dirt in the process, though.) Tom is ready to do battle with Hal, and Hal…
How much do I love Evil Hal? Evil Hal, having glutted himself on pool hall's worth of people, starts waking his vampire issue while singing "Puttin' on the Ritz."
This is a thing of beauty. Of course, Tom eventually shows up (and right in the middle of Hal's vampire pep talk, too), offs nearly every vamp in the place, and then goes after Hal. The only reason one doesn't end up killing the other is that Alex shows up in the (old) nick of time to warn them that Hatch is the Devil himself. Hal, of course, knows how to defeat the Devil: the ritual of the Trinity. Hal is perfectly willing to share the details of the ritual: blood of the vampire, blood of the werewolf, plus a ghost, and bye-bye Devil. However, he snags a little blood from one of his not-quite-dead vampire children, which means they'll be performing a weaker version of the ritual, one that will stall the Devil, but not eliminate him.
Hatch proves pretty easy to find. Now that he's sucked up all the juicy energy, he has literally risen—right out of his wheelchair. Now he's off to share his suicide-inducing pestilence with world through the miracle of the television broadcast.
This is where things get really interesting. We've spent five series watching supernaturals with the goal of "being human," and now we find out what Hatch has been whispering to all those people. Being human, he assures them, is no noble goal. Humans are violent, greedy, destructive. In a series about hope, about striving to be better, Hatch is the engineer of despair. But he's also the Prince of Lies, and he's got some truly warm and fuzzy lies to offer our trio.
This episode is titled "The Last Broadcast," but it could have easily been called "The Last Temptation of the Trinity." Before the roommates can perform the ceremony, Hatch whisks each of them off to a pocket universe, where he offers them their heart's desire: a human life. Hal is returned to the battlefield of centuries ago, before he was turned. Alex is back on holiday, right before her fatal date with Hal. Tom is in an alternate reality where he lives in the house with darling Allison, who is pregnant. Neither of them is a werewolf in this reality, but Allison is still utterly adorable and totally in love with Tom. Hatch folds an origami wolf and leaves it on the mantle, a symbol of the wolf that isn't there.
Hatch makes each of them the same offer. Stop your struggle, he tells them. Lay down your burdens. Live out your lives here, and don't trouble your heads with silly notions of the Devil.
As they ponder the Devil's offer, each roommate speaks to a person from their lives: Hal to an apparition of Leo, Alex to her father, and Tom to Allison. As they work through the wrongness of the pocket world they've been offered, each comes to realize that the illusion doesn't feel real without the others. These are the people they struggled with in their supernatural states, the people they felt human with, even when they weren't. The each reject the Devil's dream life.
Although they fail to complete the ritual, the Devil has a temporary setback when Rook shoots him through the head. The roommates return home, where Evil Hal says his goodbyes to his former friends. Even as Hal is ready to head out the door and likely murder his way through the country, Tom has to ask him: Is being human possible for them? Was this entire experiment an act of folly?
I've been a bit lukewarm on the idea of Evil Hal (as much as I enjoyed his singing), because I dislike the idea of anything that removed Hal's agency from his own bad acts. But Evil Hal redeemed himself by offering this nugget: being human isn't a goal, it's a quest. By attempting to be human, Tom and Alex retain their humanity.
But then Rook appears on the scene, and it's clear that the final battle is not over. The Devil has possessed Rook, forcing the trio to hastily perform the ritual and apparently destroy the Devil. Rook even voluntarily surrenders his life to the cause.
And, oh look! With the Devil gone, all of the Devil's supernatural curses. Alex is alive with her body back. She can finally take off that bra! Gone is Hal's yearning for blood, and now his personalities are fully integrated. Tom no longer feels the wolf pushing on the back of his brain.
It's all too easy, isn't it?
Yes, yes it is. Being Human doesn't leave us here with that sunshine ending. Perhaps a day or so later, the roommates gather on the couch to watch television, and Hal comments that he told Hatch that if he'd wanted the illusion, he should have kept the three of them together. He doesn't even pause at the statement, so pleased with himself for outwitted the Devil. In the final shot, the camera pans over the mantle, which holds mementos of the roommates here and gone. There's George's Star of David medallion, Eve's bib, one of Hal's dominos, Alex's phone number written on an order pad, and finally, the origami wolf from Tom's pocket universe.
Our roommates never defeated the Devil. He gave them exactly what they wanted: human lives, together.
If this were a different show, if this had been a different series, I might say that this was a horrible, cynical way to end. But it delivers an important message, especially as we are turning off the TV set: The struggle to be human doesn't belong to the supernatural beings. It belongs to us all. The Devil doesn't win because we failed in some grand battle filled with special effects; the Devil wins through our complacency. The question we are left with is: Will our trio notice their lack of struggle? Will they recognize that they are less human without it?
When Being Human first came on the air, the tagline sounded like the setup for a joke, "A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost share a flat in Bristol." But it turned out to be a compelling (if sometimes insane) story about people who were looking at human society from the outside, who were constantly looking for ways to regain their humanity—to really live—despite their supernatural hazards. And they made mistakes. They made a lot of foolish, violent, deadly mistakes. And so do we. But we can't let Hatch's idea of humanity define us, just as the supernaturals tried not to let their conditions define them. We must struggle to be better.
Far thee well, Being Human. Michael Socha, I will miss you most of all.