Character Feature: Hal Yorke

My girlfriend got me into Being Human last year. I never watched it at the time of broadcast, mostly because I felt the media was a little too saturated with young brooding vampires. I was glad she did though, because it was great in some many ways. It didn’t take itself too seriously, it was very funny and had some very likeable characters. When the vampire known as “Mitchell” left, for many it left a large gap (mostly in the hearts of women). Yet his replacement, for me, was one of the most compelling characters in the series.


Appears in: Being Human (original UK version) season 4+5

What can I say about Hal Yorke? When he burst onto the scene at the beginning of season 4, my first thought was “meh, he’s no Mitchell” – the grungy, sharp-witted and sometimes funny vampire played by Aidan Turner. Yorke was cold, guarded and he had a strange OCD type thing going on with his domino set (but it’s not OCD). At the time, it felt like a gimmick, but as the season went on it became very relevant. When we found out why he made himself count dominoes, coloured paper clips and all other meaningless stuff in one simple move it added about a thousand leagues of depth to this 500-year-old vampire.

 

Back Story

beinghuman.wikia.com

It’s not clear when he was born, but probably the end of the 15th century. We do know that he was at the Battle of Orsha in 1514 where he sustained a serious injury and was offered the opportunity to become a vampire – which he accepted.

We learn in that first episode that like Annie, George and Mitchell, he has shacked up with a ghost and a werewolf. His old friend Leo (werewolf) is dying; Pearl (the ghost) realises her “family” is coming to an end and they travel to Wales to meet the regular cast. After Leo dies and Pearl goes through the gates with him, Hal is left in Barry with his new family. He needs people around him you see, people who will keep him on the straight and narrow and away from other vampires. Whereas Mitchell freely mixed and shunned the community when he felt like it, it’s vital for Hal to disassociate himself from his old chums. Why?

General Character

Hal goes through phases of being a nice vampire and stages of being evil. This is what is underlying his personality – this is the threat he and everyone else faces. Hal is very much presented as an addict, only his addiction is not alcohol or gambling. Hell, it’s not even blood. His addiction is bloodlust. He’s like the alcoholic who can’t simply have one drink. One simple drop of blood would lead to the possibility of drinking the town dry, leaving not a single survivor in his wake – just because he can. The thing with the dominoes, the incessant tidying, the counting paperclips is not OCD – it is his focus. We can almost see it as a form of Mindfulness for Hal. Rather than being a mental illness, it is a treatment.

Hal: Leo gave me these. Every day he’d make me line them up, but never let me knock them down.
Annie: Why?
Hal: He wanted to show me that I’m in control. If I could teach myself to fight small urges, then I could train myself to resist much bigger ones.

When we meet him at the beginning of season 4, he has been a benevolent vampire for the nearly 60 years he lived with Pearl and Leo and that is why they need somebody to take him in, to be his moral conscience and to stop him from falling off the wagon. He is a very strange breed of anti-hero, but an anti-hero nonetheless.

He is one who would speak to you with a calming voice while deciding whether to tear your head off just for looking at him in the wrong way.

Complexities of the Character

I tip my hat to whichever member of the casting department chose Damien Molony. He must have known what a big pair of shoes he was stepping into in replacing Aidan Turner’s Mitchell, but he went about it in a completely different way. His expressiveness made the character and his best acting – and best portrayals of the character – came with what was not said. His expressions conveyed perfectly what he was thinking and that only added layers to Hal.

You rarely could get the measure of Hal because you never know which Hal you were seeing in each episode, or for that matter from moment to moment. Just a single wrong look following a bad word and you immediately think “ok, there’s Evil Hal”. We do see flashes of Evil Hal; it would have been disappointing if we hadn’t. We see the alternate universe where vampires rule the world. Who else in this universe would be Hitler, Stalin and the chief of Gestapo all rolled into one? Yup, Hal Yorke.

Snow: What do you stay alive for? That endless scurrying from bad to good to bad again. Must have been exhausting. And each return to bad brought with it a little flurry of debts. Tell me, if you admired humans so much, why do you keep inflicting your failures upon them?
Hal: Because I think one day I’ll win.
Snow: And if the lion wishes hard enough, perhaps one day he’ll become a man.

It is during a Bad Hal phase that he defeats The Devil played excellently in a very average season 5 by Philip Davis. He decides to go into a pub and turn them all into vampires, not to defeat The Devil, but just for the sheer hell of it, because he can. Yet in many ways we needed Bad Hal because he’s a ruthless killer and a risk taker and the world needed no less to defeat The Devil.

Bad Hal is, in his own way, quite likeable. He has a sharp wit and a no-nonsense attitude. Yet it is also tragic because you sense when Bad Hal does arrive, his relationship with Tom (the werewolf) may never be the same again.

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2 thoughts on “Character Feature: Hal Yorke

  1. I loved the character of Hal and glad to see you did too 🙂 Mitchell was great but somehow he didn’t have quite as much character development I feel. Maybe partly since Hal is an older character, he’s got a more interesting past, going through various circumstances.

    1. I think Mitchell did, but it only became clear when we saw his fall from grace and descent into despair. That third season that made me miss having him around; if he had left at the end of season 2, I wouldn’t have been that bothered.

      Hal is just a great character with more layers than we could have explored in 10 seasons 🙂

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