“I love a happy ending.”
Whoa! Now that’s how to do a season finale. Admittedly, the gang dealt with the risen dead last week, so maybe the episodes could have been ordered better. But these weren’t comic-strip flesh eating zombies. This time, our heroes had to deal with the guilt of those they’d killed since the show began, pushing the characters to the front as all those seemingly consequence-free acts literally came back to haunt them. And along the way, Simon and Alisha would meet their own destinies.
It was actually an episode of two halves, with the ‘standard Misfits plot’ of misuse of powers occupying the first half. In this case, it’s arguable whether formerly fake medium Jonas was actually misusing his power; certainly he didn’t have it removed or get killed. Mark Heap was reliably creepy/likeable as Jonas, though he actually didn’t feature very much. In a way, he was simply a plot device; a way to bring back some of the victims whose deaths have defined the show, as it seemed to almost come full circle in examining itself.
There’s been a fair bit of that this year, and I was worried that so much of it might not do the show any favours. After all, such rabid self-reference was one of the things that seriously lessened the appeal of Doctor Who in the late 80s, in the way that it became near incomprehensible to anyone without an encyclopaedic knowledge of its past.There was no need to worry here, as it turned out. Yes, Misfits had become a little convoluted, with its central time paradox plot; but it only has two previous years to draw on, rather than the decades of contradictory mythology in Doctor Who. And Howard Overman, as a writer, has the knack of making self-reference incidental – most of the time.
This time, you did need some knowledge of the show’s past to figure out who the returning dead were, and what they had to do with our heroes. But an economical ‘previously on’ segment explained that easily enough, as well as neatly summarising the Simon/Alisha time paradox. I had come to think that the resolution of this would be postponed longer and longer to extend the show’s shelf life, so it came as a surprise to see the flashbacks – clearly, it was going to be resolved this week, removing one of the more complex and arcane angles the show’s had. That might be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether you like more conventional, less head-fucky superhero stories. But I must confess, I wasn’t expecting it to leave me in tears.
But first things first, and we had a thoughtful romp as three key figures from the show’s past turned up in search of a resolution. First to appear was Sally, the probation worker who had pretended to be in love with Simon to find out how her boyfriend – their first probation worker – disappeared. Her appearance immediately head-tripped Simon, who was clearly still racked with guilt for her (accidental) death. She seemed to have forgiven him, and wanted to make amends for betraying him. But I wasn’t fooled; she’d pretended to care about him the first time for her own reasons, and it came as no surprise that this turned out to be the case when she returned from the dead. But kudos to Overman and actress Alex Reid for almost making me believe she had nobler intentions.
Dead people roaming the streets was immediately reminiscent of this year’s other great youth/fantasy show The Fades, but unlike those revenants, these ghosts were every bit as corporeal as they had been in life. As we discovered with the next returnee, prim, virginal do-gooder Rachel from the series 1 finale. Still incarnated by Jessica Brown Findlay (who’s been busy, what with last week’s Black Mirror and the upcoming Downton Abbey special), Rachel was convinced that the issue she needed to resolve was to finally enjoy all those sinful pleasures she’d denied herself in life, and set about it with a vengeance.
She was corporeal enough to shag Curtis (despite Rudy’s valiant effort to get in there), get drunk, smoke a joint and even throw up messily on the floor of the Community Centre. Elsewhere, Sally was corporeal enough to convince a reluctant Simon that she needed to consummate their relationship in order to move on – but it came as no surprise that she was filming the event, and even less of one that she sent the resultant skinflick to Alisha.
Because Sally was under the impression that what she needed to move on was to take revenge for what had been done to her; to that end, having broken Alisha’s heart, she then tried to throw her off the roof in order to finally take everything from Simon. But in a typically sly twist, that wasn’t it at all. What actually resolved her issues – and as it turned out, his – was finally meeting the last returnee, the gang’s first victim, Tony. Still played by Danny Sapani (and kudos for getting all these actors back), Tony explained to her that his death had been an act of self-defence. And as they kissed, they faded away to, presumably, the afterlife (though in the Misfits universe, as Rachel had previously enlightened us, there is no God – a big concept to deal with in a throwaway line).
And in another twist, after trying all the sensual pleasures and remaining earthbound, Rachel came to the conclusion that she really was there for revenge. As it turned out, she was right. As Simon and Alisha emerged from an extremely erotic make up shag in the toilets, she swiped a Stanley knife across Alisha’s throat and promptly faded away.
I must admit, this took me by surprise. There’d been a doomy air around Alisha all episode, but as Sally had failed to push her off the roof, I’d assumed she was now safe. But that lovingly photographed sex scene with Simon did have the air of a final encounter in hindsight. And as she died, there was obviously nothing left for Simon in the present any more. It was time to go back to the past and die saving Alisha, so they could have what little happiness they could together.
So all the paradoxes were neatly (perhaps too neatly) resolved in short order. Yes, Curtis’ old time travel power had died with Seth’s iguana. But guess what? There was another time travel power, this one a one way affair which Seth had just sold. It was quickly retrieved from the no hoper who’d wanted to use it to go back in time and become a pirate (as Kelly pointed out, “who’d shag a pirate?) and given to Simon. But then there was the issue that, when future Simon previously met Alisha, he’d been able to touch her without being driven mad with lust. So he needed immunity from other powers. And guess what? Seth suddenly remembered having sold him just such a power in the past. For £10,000, which Simon didn’t have – until Seth, turning over a new leaf to please Kelly, gave him it.
So off Simon went to the past, in a heartbreaking scene on the roof, catapulted back to the end of series 1 and watching the old gang – even Nathan – from the rooftop. It felt like an ending, as we saw him buy his power from Seth then start setting up his fancy hero lair in a still-dilapidated building. The last we saw of him was striding towards the camera, undoing his top to reveal the familiar outfit of Superhoodie beneath – and by that point I was having a bit of a cry.
But was it a happy ending, or a sad one? Alisha was dead, and Simon off to his death. As Rudy neatly summed up, it meant that they spent eternity locked into a cycle of meeting, falling in love and dying. But as Kelly said, that’s actually pretty romantic. No wonder Rudy was emotionally confused enough to split into two again. He may have spoken for all the viewers when he asked, “what, are we supposed to feel happy or sad?” and Curtis gave the only reply possible, “it’s a bit of both.”
Fittingly, the episode gave foregrounding to Iwan Rheon and Antonia Thomas for what seemed like their final appearance, and both were superb. Rheon, in particular, gave a wonderfully subtle performance, as Sally’s reappearance caused him to lose some of his newly gained poise and confidence; but not so much that Sally didn’t note, “you’ve changed. You’re more confident.” As if to please those of us who, er, like Iwan Rheon, his big blue eyes were very much in close-up evidence throughout; in fact, Rudy amusingly described him as “the stary guy”. And there was plenty more of him to see in the steamy sex scene!
It felt like an ending. There was no cliffhanger; as Kelly said, the way forward was for those left to keep their heads down and try to live a happy life. But one part of the time paradox (unless I’ve missed something again) remains unresolved. As far as I know, Simon and Alisha never did go to Vegas, as in the picture that’s been so central to the paradox, and was given so much prominence this week. A hope for them to come back somehow?
Sadly, it seems not. Antonia Thomas confirmed on Twitter after the broadcast that she really had left the show, and Channel 4’s online ‘making of’ seems to confirm that Iwan Rheon is gone for good too. But what about the photo? Well, we saw Simon pack it in his bag before heading back to the past. But remember, it was his future self who gave it to him in the first place. So, in effect, the photo never really existed; it was called into being by the time paradox. As such, who knows whether it would have to depict a real event? Yes, I know this is fanwank retconning, but it makes sense to me!
It was an emotional wringer of a last episode, that traded on how much we’ve come to care about these characters – a tribute to both the writing and the performances. In some ways, this would have been the perfect way to end the show for good, and I actually wonder if that’s what Howard Overman had in mind. But, according to Digital Spy, Channel 4 aren’t that ready to let go of their hit just yet, and have commissioned a fourth series.
In some ways, I’d just as soon not see another series. As I said, without the central time paradox concept, and with the potential for ‘the standard Misfits plot’ of misused powers to quickly become stale, it could easily become much more conventional and less fun. Plus, while Rudy turned out to be a surprisingly effective replacement for Nathan as ‘the comic relief’, Simon and Alisha will be harder to replace – in a sense, their doomed romance has been the heart and soul of the show. But still, it’s worth remembering that back in the first series, there was none of that – and it was still great. If a fourth series there must be, I’ll certainly be watching. And expecting Howard Overman to surprise and impress me as ever.