“Don’t do this. This isn’t who you are.”
Some surprisingly early answers and a shock development in this week’s episode of Misfits, which turned out to be rather underwhelming given what it set out to achieve. The answers concerned mysterious ‘trainee probation worker’ Lola, a plot thread that I’d assumed was being set up to run rather longer than a couple of episodes. And the shock was the departure of the only remaining member of the original cast – a moment that should (IMHO) have been far more dramatic and emotionally affecting than it actually was.
My previous fevered speculation pertaining to the mysterious Lola turns out to have been both right and wrong. Turns out I was right that she was a false identity, but wrong in my assumption that she’d inherited Curtis’ old gender-swap power and was the alter ego of the tyrannical Greg. Actually I still think that might have been more interesting than what we got here. ‘Lola’ was actually a fictional character created by an aspiring actress, whose encounter with the storm gave her the ‘power’ to remain in character – permanently. Which was a bit of a problem, given that her character was a femme fatale who uses and manipulates men into killing each other, in revenge for previous misogynistic ill-treatment.
To give it some due, Jonathan van Tulleken’s direction pointed us at this in a fairly stylish way, presenting Lola in several scenes initially in monochrome and widescreen, recalling the films noir that presumably inspired her. And the fact that this (and the character herself) was actually something of a cliché was cleverly justified by the fact that she was a construct of a less than imaginative actress.
Given the opportunity to embody such a full-blooded archetype, the actual actress who played her, Lucy Gaskell, gave a broad but spirited performance a la Double Indemnity and other such classic thrillers. As her last male ‘victim’ caught up with her, she quickly established her MO of pretending to have been beaten up by an obsessed ex and setting her current beau onto him to ‘defend’ her.
Nothing wrong with that, really; though Howard Overman has deconstructed similar clichés rather more cleverly than this in the past. But the real point of the story was to give an exit to Curtis, and in that it felt messy, contrived, and dramatically rather unsatisfying for such an important occurrence.
So Curtis found himself manipulated into confronting Lola’s previous ex/victim Jake with a gun the lady had thoughtfully provided, leading inevitably to a struggle and a fatal shooting. Andrew Gower, recently memorable as vampire Cutler in Being Human, felt rather wasted here in the small (even if significant) part of Jake; he was as charismatic as ever, but got little to do before being accidentally offed by Curtis – and then not-so-accidentally brought back from the dead.
Yes, as remarked on last week, Curtis still has the resurrection power Seth gave him last year to bring back his deceased girlfriend. That didn’t end well, with an outbreak of ravenous Romero-style zombie cheerleaders having to be head-smashed by the gang before they spread their infection outside the Community Centre. So it seemed rather foolhardy that Curtis, desperate for answers about the now nowhere to be found Lola, chose to ask the only other person he could – her now-dead (at his hands) ‘ex’.
Well, the gang have been foolhardy before, Curtis as much as any, so that’s not out of character. And it was typical that their planned clubbing of the resurrected Jake when he started to turn ‘hungry’ went so messily wrong, and Curtis got himself bitten and therefore infected. Trouble was, the previous zombie episode had established that there was no cure for that. In the past, it would have been down to Curtis’ old time-rewinding power to change the events, but this time that power wasn’t handy. Leaving us with two possibilities – either Curtis was going to have to spend the rest of the series desperately concealing his invincibility and tendency to snack on small animals; or he’d have to die.
That the latter of these two options was the more likely became clear fairly quickly – I’m not sure whether it was the writing, or the general sense of instability in a show that’s lost all but one of its original cast. The progression had already been uncannily similar to that of Being Human – major character (or two, in this case) killed at the end of the previous series, with another disappearing for contrived reasons before the show returned. After George the werewolf came back only to die in the first episode, and Annie spent the whole series laying the groundwork for her departure, this felt so similar that I was only surprised Curtis had hung on so long.
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett has always given a respectable performance in the role, but in many ways Curtis has been pretty ill-served by the writers after the first series. There, he was given a backstory and issues to resolve; but they were resolved by episode 4 of that series, and from then on Curtis seemed to very much take a back seat to the more involved, emotional Simon/Alisha arc. He’s had a couple of interesting things to do recently, such as his gender-swap power giving him an insight into how the other sex lives, but mostly he’s been relegated to the sidelines making sarcastic remarks.
I’d hoped the Lola storyline might finally give him a purpose this year, but it turns out the purpose was just to write him out. I’ve no idea whether that was the decision of writer or actor, but his ultimate death, inevitable though it had been made, felt like a bit of a cheat for such a longstanding character. Having been shot by Lola’s latest dupe (with little effect in his zombie state), he gave up on helping Lola and gave in to the urge to chow down on her, then blow her brains out when she too revived as a zombie. That left him with only one thing to do – use the gun on himself to spare humanity from (another) zombie outbreak.
Fair enough, that’s actually rather heroic. But the circumstances – Curtis alone in an abandoned warehouse shooting himself in the head – felt a bit too bleak for this show. Especially with none of the other characters around to witness it – the best he could manage was a quick chat to a choked-up Rudy over cellphone. True, we haven’t yet got to know Finn or Jess enough for them to have any sort of bond with Curtis, so Rudy it had to be. But even then, exchanging last words over the phone lacked the kind of impact the scene perhaps should have had.
Still, at last there were a fair few laughs on the way to such a bleak ending. The lion’s share, as usual, came from Rudy, with a subplot about him having sex in the room he shares with Finn leading him to try and find somewhere new. ‘Somewhere new’ turned out to be an even seedier storeroom in the Community Centre, leading to an unfortunate slug infestation (“Can you help me shit out this slug?”). As ever, normality was restored by Rudy learning his lesson – in this case, don’t keep shagging people while your less than keen best mate is in the room with you.
For Finn does seem to be being shaped into a kind of ‘best mate’ scenario with Rudy, who’s (ineffectually) trying to help him get together with Jess. This week’s effort, with Finn ‘borrowing’ the imaginary disabled dog Rudy used a chat up technique, was amusing enough; but I have to say, I haven’t built up enough affection for either Finn or Jess yet to really care very much.
Even with a bleak ending in wait, Curtis too got some good comedy moments, most notably with Greg. Shaun Dooley continues to be hilarious/terrifying in the part, and you never know quite what’s real about him. This week, he initially asked Curtis whether he was on crack, making you wonder if he was some kind of racist, before (apparently) responding in a most unexpected way to Curtis’ desperate pretension of being attracted to him: “You’re a very attractive young man, but…” So is Greg gay, or is this yet more bizarre obfuscation? It remains to be seen, but he’s certainly the most interesting addition to the new cast.
Farewell, then to Curtis, finally given a strong plot just to write him out in a scene that should have been, and wasn’t, a tear-jerker. I’ve always felt this show to be rather like Being Human, another sleeper hit that began at the same time on another backwater digital channel. Perhaps Howard Overman’s of the same mind, casting both Andrew Gower and Lucy Gaskell from that show here. But while Being Human managed its difficult cast makeover with some aplomb, I have the feeling that Misfits is rather struggling with its ‘reboot’. I’ll carry on watching (as ever), but I’m beginning to wonder if the show is joining the ranks of those who carried on long after their stories had reached a natural end.