“What you have is a disease. And I’m gonna find the cure.”
A much better episode of Misfits this week, thanks to a greater focus on what the show does best – its characters. Yes, the whole “ordinary people with superpowers” premise is always interesting (though far from original), but what’s always set Misfits apart from shows like Heroes is its believable, funny, and not always likeable characters.
The main focus of this episode was on new boy Finn, and the reason behind our discovery last week that he’s keeping a girl bound and gagged in a locked room at his flat. I had wondered if this might be strung out over a few episodes to keep us guessing as to whether he was a psycho or there was some other reason, but Howard Overman chose to deal with it early – probably a good idea, if we want to establish whether we like a potentially contentious new character.
As it turned out, this was a ‘domestic’ take on the “standard Misfits plot™” of someone misusing their power. Sadie was actually Finn’s girlfriend, and the reason for the gag was fairly obvious as soon as we realised he was trying to “cure” her – her power was to talk him into being a better boyfriend.
Anyone who’s ever had a partner whose behaviour became irritating to the point of vexation will probably sympathise with her motives, but behind the sitcom-style premise was an interesting meditation on free will. Yes, under Sadie’s power, Finn had become considerate, generous, cleanly and willing to give cunnilingus whenever required (“some days it felt like I never saw the sun”). But none of it was real. He was being forced into it against his will, making him not the real Finn. So when Sadie took a holiday and her influence faded, he’d strapped her to the bed on her return until he could figure out a way to remove her power.
The gaff was blown when the now homeless Rudy “invited himself” to stay with Finn, and began to suspect that behind the mysterious locked door was – a talking dog. It was good to see Rudy’s power being used cleverly again, as “thoughtless Rudy” dragged the truth out of a gullible Finn at the Community Centre, while “sensitive Rudy”, unaware of the situation, ended up setting Sadie free.
With the secret out, it was Jess who best summed up the situation – and the dilemma. If Sadie had to supernaturally force Finn into being a considerate boyfriend, and the only way he could stop that was to keep her a gagged prisoner, their relationship probably wasn’t going to work out anyway. Nonetheless, back under Sadie’s influence, Finn insisted that the loss of his free will was a price worth paying to make his relationship work. But was he saying that out of his own free will or not?
The solution was fairly obvious, considering that Seth was still hanging around – but in the end it was Jess who talked him into relieving Sadie of her misused power. So finally, her power was removed, very much against her free will. Seen from behind the closed door of her bedroom, that was actually a little uncomfortable to watch, like a violation. But she’d been misusing her power, so this was the right thing to do. Wasn’t it?
Interesting meditations on free will aside, the script this week was laugh out loud funny far more frequently than the season opener, as well as setting up some interesting plot threads that will presumably be followed up later. The secondary plot involved the gang being dragooned by tyrannical new probation worker Greg into acting as models for a class of blind sculptors. The obvious similarity was to the classic, and indescribably creepy, video for Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ – and the script did eventually get round to referencing this, courtesy of the ever-charming Rudy; “in the words of the immortal Lionel Richie – hello”.
By far the funnier of the two plots, this set Rudy and Curtis at each other’s throats as they vied for the attention of a beautiful blonde blind girl. Irked at Curtis getting there first, Rudy suggested settling the disagreement “like gentlemen – a game of penis, scissors, twat”. It was just one of many classic Rudy moments this week. Finding himself homeless after refusing to pay his rent, he compared himself to canine kids’ show hero The Littlest Hobo: “Do you know what happened to the Littlest Hobo? He got raped!” Comparing the gang to The Waltons, he reminisced fondly, “I love The Waltons, man. It’s good, wholesome family entertainment. The cunts don’t make telly like that any more” – amusingly breaking the fourth wall from inside a show that is as far from “wholesome” as possible, and much the better for it.
Rudy got his chance with beautiful blind Ally after Curtis made the unpleasant discovery that she was an old-fashioned racist. Of course, the fact that she was able to tell he was black without seeing him immediately set off alarm bells, but the truth only came out after possibly the funniest sex scene I’ve ever seen. Assuming she couldn’t see him, Rudy donned a “condom” that was actually the cling film and rubber bands from her guide dog’s food bowl, then actually discovered some principles – “I am not leaving my penis in a racist vagina”.
At which point the disgusted Ally revealed that she could “see” after all – via her guide dog, which had gained telepathic powers during the storm. Astute viewers may remember this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an animal affected – there was the gorilla-turned-human that Kelly fell for last year. Nonetheless, it raised the interesting question of whether it was Ally or her dog that was racist – or both, perhaps. Still, even if Rudy was white, she made her displeasure with him very obvious with the end product of her sculpting:
It was a hugely funny episode with subtexts based around some interesting moral dilemmas. By wisely keeping the powers very much to the background (integral to the plot though they were), the script gave us some very funny and incisive character studies. Joe Gilgun’s Rudy continues to be the best thing in the show, a constant source of hysterically funny politically incorrect humour, but Curtis got some good righteous indignation at the racist Ally.
With the focus on Finn, we still got a bit more of a handle on Jess too, which was welcome after last week. She’s obviously the sensible, level-headed one of the group, prone to drily sarcastic quips mostly at Rudy’s expense – “you immediately reduce any woman to a hole your penis might potentially enter”. But she’s obviously a little insecure when it comes to the opposite sex, as seen in her awkward attempt to chat up hunky new barman Alex.
Alex may be a plot thread we’ll come back to later; Curtis revealed that plenty of girls had tried hitting on him, all to be rebuffed. It may be, as Curtis thinks, that he’s gay. However, in a show like Misfits, I suspect a more complicated reason.
The other mysterious new character to follow up on was statuesque new “trainee probation worker” Lola, who showed up unexpectedly to flirt with Curtis by the vending machines. Who is she, and what’s her angle? It’s early days, but I’m already wondering if somehow she has Curtis’ old gender-swapping power, and is actually the female alter ego of the fascistic, bullying Greg. Or perhaps she’s the “real” probation worker, and Greg is her alter ego. That could be interesting…
This was a much more assured script than last week, with plenty of chances to bond with our new characters. Nathan McMullen’s Finn, now living with Rudy in the Community Centre, is likeable enough but thus far a little underwhelming. Karla Crome’s Jess (perhaps by dint of having revealed little about herself as yet) is far more interesting. Of the old gang, Seth still seems like a bit of a spare part though – still hanging around to “collect Kelly’s things”, he’s yet to be much involved in the real action. All that may change though, and with my faith in the show somewhat restored by a better episode than last week, I’ll still be tuning in to find out.