“There’s three of me. The two you’ve met already – and me.”
Well, that was… different. About as different, in fact, from the Standard Misfits Plot™ as it’s possible to get. No new one-shot character misusing a power the consequences of which the gang have to deal with this time; instead, we got an intriguing exploration of a power we already knew about, with numerous subplots moving other characters around like chess pieces. But to what ultimate end?
You can usually sum up a Misfits episode in one handy phrase – “the one with the Nazis”, the one with the zombie cheerleaders”, etc. If you had to find one for this episode, I suppose it would be “the one with the three Rudys”, for that was the biggest plot point of the week. But it also dovetailed neatly into (finally) exploring some of new girl Jess’ background, and making her more than a snarkily defensive enigma.
The idea that Rudy could be more than just two people was well done, and not contradictory to anything we’ve previously learned. At no point did he ever tell us that his power split him into just two Rudys, so it was a perfectly logical progression that there might be yet another. So we have boorish Rudy, sensitive Rudy, and now another – psychopath Rudy. And he’s insane.
It’s actually a shame that last week’s “next time on…” gave this away, as otherwise it would have been far more baffling to have been suddenly presented with Rudy being released from prison. The three Curly Wurly bars (his only possessions apart from his ukelele) placed atop each other would have been a good clue (if we hadn’t known about it already), but that mystery would only have lasted until he showed up at the community centre, much to the shock of the other two Rudys – “Why have you got a ukelele? You know that reminds me of… him.” Oh dear.
It’s previously appeared that Rudy’s two ‘halves’ were component parts of his personality – one crass, boorish and driven by lust/appetite, the other sensitive, caring and more levelheaded. Two extremes, but both basically goodhearted, perhaps too much so. Which is why Psycho Rudy made sense as the third ‘half’, all the really nasty parts of Rudy’s personality boiled down to nasty extremes.
With Psycho Rudy having absorbed his nicer components to become dominant, we got to see just how versatile an actor Joe Gilgun is (though if you’ve seen him in This is England you probably already knew that). He went convincingly from being the comic relief to being broodingly intense and bizarrely actually more attractive – certainly to Jess. His sudden contempt for her “mask” and interest in her as a person rather than a sexual receptacle ultimately broke down her walls and allowed Karla Crome to actually give a proper performance.
Jess, it turns out, is a pretty damaged person. Perhaps it was Rudy’s newfound self-awareness of his own damage that prompted her to open up to him, in a Silence of the Lambs-like scene in Greg’s office, as each revealed a secret to the other each time the rehearsing wedding DJ paused playing the Macarena (only in Misfits could that be a cue). Or perhaps she just likes the bad boys.
She certainly seems to have a history of that. We now know that she had a bit of a breakdown after being ill-used by a supposedly compassionate ‘friend’ whose interest in helping her over her eating disorder only lasted as long as it took to get her into bed. Following which was an attempted suicide.
Which, it turned out, Psycho Rudy was more than happy to help her complete, as his interest in her extended to sharing his long-held fantasy of finding out how murder really felt. It was a genuinely creepy scene as he held her tight and began to throttle her at the same time; fortunately she was resourceful enough to stab him in the gut with a pair of scissors. But again like Clarice Starling, she couldn’t seem to quite give up her feelings for him, giving him one last kiss as he relented and released the other two Rudys – unharmed.
It was a pretty intense plot, but took up surprisingly little of the episode as a whole, which was equally concerned with setting up some rather soapy plots for the rest of the gang. Finn spent the episode dodging the unwanted sexual advances of his sort-of-stepmother (she never actually married his dad), only to fail at fending her mouth off his penis; leading to him being rather bizarrely labelled “stepmothersucker” by Curtis.
But if you thought that was just a it of fun, it soon turned pretty serious. Said stepmother was plainly pretty damaged herself, constantly sloshing wine while trying to seduce her ‘stepson’ before bursting into tears. Rejected by Finn, she went straight to his dad and told him everything. In many shows, that would be the light-hearted B-plot, but here it ended with Finn’s dad not only rejecting him, but also telling him that he wasn’t his father after all. For most people that would be pretty devastating, but Finn seemed to take it in stride, on top of all the other bad luck he’s had since the series began; he’s plainly being shaped as the relentlessly resigned but optimistic one.
Curtis finally got something to do this week, spending the episode flirting with ‘trainee probation worker’ Lola, who’s still pretty enigmatic but says she likes “bad boys”. Curtis was more than happy to oblige, stealing her a wedding cake from the community centre, which earned the wrath of hardass Greg. Greg is getting increasingly bizarre; at one point he cornered the baffled Finn to menacingly ask for “the magic word”, which he revealed to be “potato”.
I’m still sticking to my theory from last week that somehow Greg has inherited Curtis’ old gender-swap power, and he and Lola are actually the same person. After all, Seth (absent this week) was still dealing powers at that point. And as a friend of mine pointed out, the name ‘Lola’ could well be a reference to the Kinks song of the same name, which contains the lyric “I’m glad I’m a man, and so is Lola”. Or is it the other way round? Could Lola be the ‘real’ person and Greg her alter ego?
It also occurred to me to wonder precisely what Curtis’ current power actually is; in an episode light on powers actually being used (except Rudy’s), there was one reference to his old time-travel power (from Rudy, who could never actually have seen it since Curtis traded it away before he joined). I actually had to rummage through my memory before coming to the answer – Curtis is presumably still ‘blessed’ with the power of raising the dead, which Seth gave him in order to resurrect his deceased girlfriend. As that resulted in an outbreak of zombie cheerleaders, it’s hard to fathom how Curtis might actually find his power useful again. But perhaps Howard Overman has some idea…
So, an episode with one interesting premise, done rather well, but lacking prominence amid soap opera chess-piece manoeuvring. Plainly, there’s some larger plan shaping up here, involving Greg and/or Lola, not to mention hunky new barman Alex, who revealed that he’s not gay, but still seemed pretty desperate not to go home with the eager Jess. This melee of plots meant that, despite an intriguing and well-played A-plot, the episode felt a bit all over the place and unfocused. Still, the hints of bigger things to come, coupled with the always-amusing dialogue, meant that it was never less than enjoyable.