[This is a review of the Being Human season 4 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
Being Human's fourth season premiere ('Old Dogs, New Tricks') picks-up three months after the events of the season 3 finale (despite the nine month real-time gap between episodes) with Aidan (Sam Witwer) and Nora (Kristen Hager) running through the woods from a wolfed out Josh (Sam Huntington) while Sally (Meaghan Rath) is trapped in some kind of purgatory spa. The two sequences are far from the dreary Boston apartment and the show's other familiar locales, but while the surroundings are a bit different, the episode doesn't take long to snip some of last season's remaining plot threads while pulling out a few new ones.
Firstly, Josh is still a wolf following last season's cliffhanger. Essentially, his human to werewolf ratio flipped 180 degrees to where he only turns human one night a month - which just so happens to be the night that Nora turns into a wolf. There's a weird romantic poetry to the ships-passing-in-the-night status of their relationship and unbound passion at play when they finally see each other after those separately torturous days, but we can see Josh's underlying pain seeping out. The reunion is bittersweet, brief, and if Josh has his way, a goodbye.
Slipping in and out of his human consciousness while spending his wolf time alternately in a barn stall and in the forest where he chases his friends for exercise, Josh knows that Aidan and Nora feel duty-bound to tend to him in his wolf state, but he is desperate to free them from that burden and asks Aidan to kill him. A request that is rejected and pushed aside by Aidan and Josh with too much ease - a disappointing trend that is also at play when it comes time to resolve Sally's situation.
Held by Donna - who may not be as cut-and-dry evil as we thought in season 3 - Sally's escape from her "holding cell" is predictable, too easy (there's the trend), and one of the coolest visuals in the episode as it switches between the sight of Sally swinging from a rope in a big box retailer and an olde Massachusetts witch trial.
Her escape and return to the group may also signal doom and a more ambitious footprint for the show if Donna's warnings about Sally's powers and her presence in the realm of the living prove to be true. But Donna's exit feels entirely too quick and her intentions far too noble following her arc from last season. Will she return as the season delves into realm of witchcraft and the reason for Sally's spiritual durability?
While Sally tumbling through a swirl of blood to the housewares department of a Wal-Mart-esque store stands out as visually stunning, unfortunately, the wolf graphics still leave something to be desired, particularly as wolf Josh stands on a bridge after leaving his cage unlocked before he turned. If Aidan won't kill human Josh to stop the carnage, wolf Josh will try to make him do it in the wild, even if it means Nora will have to see it.
'Old Dogs, New Tricks' fixates more on Josh and Nora's heartbreaking burden and the revelation that Sally's continued "top side" existence may be a ticking time bomb for humanity, but throughout the episode, there are moments that point to looming turmoil for Aidan, who is once again spinning too many plates. Aidan has his relationship with Kat, his concerns about Sally, his role as a support structure for Nora and as a moving target for wolf Josh, his ever-present guilt, his need to feed, his job at the hospital, the end of the vampire virus, and the presence - first in his mind and then at his doorstep - of his long-dead wife.
Her return was teased at the end of last season and, of course, left unexplained for now, but its the reappearance of Blake - the uber-manipulative ginger vampire from last season - that might reveal the most about this season's direction for Aidan.
Though it mostly took a backseat to the vamp virus, Liam, and zombie Sally/Nora last season, vampire politics were at the forefront for the series in its first two seasons with Suren, Henry, and Bishop. The season trailer that aired after the episode confirms that the latter two will be back in flashbacks this season, but Blake's partnership (or subservience to) Aidan's discarded and disfigured vampire progeny, Kenny - who is now running Boston - will surely drag Aidan back into the game that he is sworn off. Again.
Is there a way to keep Aidan's trip back down that rabbit hole seem fresh? It seems like showrunner Anna Fricke has found a way to get creative juice out of Josh's latest wolfy dilemma (and its effect on Nora) while up-sizing the stakes that are attached to Sally, so maybe it's doable. But one also wonders if she, too, is spinning too many plates - especially since the new big bad has presumably not yet been introduced.
Generally, though, Being Human doesn't get enough credit for its lush storytelling. Fricke and co. always find a way to service each character without allowing any of the show's three stars to pull away from the pack, so despite a busy season premiere that teases a whole lot, fans should be reassured.
Being Human returns next Monday @9pm with 'That Time of the Month' on Syfy.