Misfits: Series 5, episodes 1-3

“My father used to say to me, women are very much like tractors. Which I’ve never understood.” – Rudy

Misfits S5 Gang

OK, I’ll admit it – I didn’t actually know Misfits was back. That’s what comes of letting your Tivo pick your viewing and then not checking it regularly. Fortunately, said Tivo had faithfully captured all the episodes so far; and in the spirit of catching up, here’s a brief recap of the series so far before I plunge back into my usual episode-by-episode reviews.

Continue reading “Misfits: Series 5, episodes 1-3”

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 8

“They’re coming. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

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Sex! Nuns! Misused powers! And the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! On the face of it, this season finale of Misfits had a lot going for it. And yet, in keeping with this fourth series as a whole, it had a rather underwhelming, been-here-before feel to it that meant it was far from the triumphant climax we might have hoped for.

As this series has progressed, we’ve had three overlapping ongoing plotlines, none of which have felt that gripping. There’s been the mysterious ‘trainee probation worker’ Lola, who turned out to be Curtis’ downfall; then the mystery of Alex ‘from the bar’ and his missing todger; and now, over the last few episodes, lovelorn Rudy and his pining for the enigmatic Nadine.

Lola’s plotline died with her and Curtis, and with Alex having been joyfully reunited with his cock last week, this week the focus was on that last unresolved story – Rudy in love. Last week, we’d discovered Nadine’s shocking secret: despite all that flirtation with the eager Rudy, she was actually already married – to Christ!

Joe Gilgun was, as ever, superb in contrasting Rudy’s usual boorish personality with his genuine romantic feelings for Nadine. Visiting (well, blagging his way in) her at the convent on the pretext of returning her handbag, (neatly hung on the right hand of Christ), he was informed that she couldn’t see him again. The scenario gave the opportunity to deliver a lengthy stream of nun gags, as Rudy tried his usual misguided best to ingratiate himself; first by referring to The Sound of Music, then, ill-advisedly, Happy Feet – “Penguins!”

Rudy being Rudy, he wasn’t going to take “we can never see each other again” for an answer, so plans were laid for the gang to get themselves to a nunnery – with some superpowered breaking and entering.

One of the things that’s been rather frustrating this year is the relative sparsity of powers being used, so it was good to see our heroes (finally) working together as a group and using their powers for a common good. So, Finn used his telekinesis to unlock the door, while Jess used her X-ray vision to keep an eye out for approaching nuns. True, Rudy’s power didn’t get used (though he did have a heartfelt conversation with himself in the community centre’s toilets. And we’re not quite sure what Abbey’s power is yet, aside from amnesia; one friend of mine has suggested that her apparent connection with booze might be that she has to actually drink in order to stay sober.

But at least the powers got some use. Mind you, I’m not sure it helped to try and hang a lampshade on it with the show’s recent adoption of meta humour. “Why don’t you use those powers you got from that random freak storm?” asked Abbey, pointing out the bleeding obvious, to which Finn responded, “we should do that more often.” Nudging the audience by pointing out your show’s apparent failings does not excuse them, IMHO.

Still, the nun-heist was successful, with Rudy’s jawdroppingly hilarious nun-headbutting a comedy highlight, and Nadine was brought back to the community centre to finally consummate her relationship with the eager Rudy. Of course, it was at this point that the gang found out what her problem really was – the nuns had been keeping her locked away for her own safety and that of everyone else, because when she’s surrounded by arguing people, she has the power to summon… wait for it… the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And there’s no group of people more argumentative than our gang of misfits.

Summoning the Horsemen is perfectly in keeping with Nadine’s religious background, but I have to say I’d imagine them to pose rather more of a threat. Like, you know, ending the world or something. What we actually got was four clones of Superhoodie (intentional?), riding BMXes with katanas strapped to their backs. Yes, they did appear to pose a very real threat to our heroes, what with the swords and all, but that didn’t smack of the potential Biblical destruction of all humanity.

And rather than an epic final battle at the community centre, we got yet another (admittedly well-done) sequence of the gang running away down its various corridors until forced into situations where they had to use their powers to get away. Well, Finn did anyway, finally getting to be Jess’ white knight by using his telekinesis effectively to shove a threatening Horseman into the wall.

Again, though, we’ve been here before; many times, in fact, since the gang were first threatened by their rage-powered probation worker back in the first episode. It was no surprise that Nadine, realising the only way out was to allow the Horsemen to kill her, duly sacrificed herself; not only did it smack of various Twilight Zone episodes, it’s basically what Curtis did just about a month ago.

Nor was it a surprise that Alex, having been near-fatally impaled on a sword, might soon be the unwitting recipient of a transplant organ (a lung in this case) that likely came from someone with a power, just as Nikki did way back in the second series. Here again, the show perhaps did itself no favours by lampshading the repetition with meta humour, as Rudy (who wasn’t even there at the time) reminded the audience of that.

There was at least room for some character development, which was welcome as it still feels rather lacking for those who’ve just joined this year. So, we got Abbey engaging in just about the most casual, businesslike sex you can have with Finn; at least he’s now trebled his number of sexual conquests in the last few weeks. Which also led to more tension with Jess, who’s less keen on Alex now he’s got his cock back and is shagging every girl in sight while admiring himself in the mirror. I’m still not sure I’m convinced by this concept of Finn and Jess as a constantly thwarted romance, but it was far from resolved so will presumably continue next year.

Greg, at least, was reliably surreal and funny. Confronting Rudy as he tried to bunk off community service and ‘rescue’ his true love, Greg revealed more of the presumably heartbreaking backstory that lurks beneath the façade of barely-contained rage: “that’s what love is like. Crawling naked through dogshit and broken glass. I was in love once. But I never told him.”

Greg’s a fun character, unforgettably embodied by Shaun Dooley, and probably my favourite of this year’s new additions. Nonetheless, even he comes across as a bit of a caricature, though at least the suggestion of hidden depths makes him believable. Abbey, similarly, has the excuse that her amnesia means she actually doesn’t know much about her personality.

Finn and Jess have been rather less well-served though, and this finale didn’t really change that. I have warmed to them as the series has progressed, but again it seems like the show’s repeating itself. Their ‘will-they-won’t-they’ relationship is more than a bit reminiscent of Simon and Alisha; equally, Finn’s relationship with the (apparently) more worldly Rudy mirrors exactly Simon’s with Nathan. Rudy has developed this year to be more distinct from Nathan; many times last year, I had the impression he was delivering lines written for Robert Sheehan, with only Joe Gilgun’s marvellously different portrayal drawing the distinction.

But the fact remains that this year has felt like a rather messy, uneven attempt to recreate that original group dynamic (something Being Human managed rather better, despite equal levels of contrivance). Presumably if Alex gains a power from his lung transplant, he’ll (by some unlikely means) find himself on community service, and the gang will be five-strong again.

I’ll at least admit that it’s still a very watchable show, and that, even if it’s self-consciously repeating itself, the concept has more mileage in it yet. So, disappointing though I’ve found this year’s series, I’m hoping it will be back, with a slightly firmer grasp on what made it so much fun before, just addressed in a different way. I still love Misfits, with its irreverent, scatological take on classic comic tropes; let’s hope it doesn’t end with an unconcluded whimper, like Heroes did.

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 7

“You’ve got to stop him. He’s crazy, he’ll do anything to get his cock back. He’s got a gun.”

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Owing to internet outage then illness, this week’s Misfits review is rather later than usual; which has given me the unusual perspective of having had almost a week to think about it before penning my thoughts.

But it hasn’t really changed my opinion that this was rather a scattershot episode after last week’s tightly focused and fun party games. With the late addition of the amusingly prurient but rather inconsequential plotline of Alex’s missing cock, you’d have expected the focus this week to be on that. In the event, though, it took rather a back seat to various other intertwining plots, all of which it had to be said were more interesting – Rudy’s continuing (and actually romantic) obsession with Nadine, the girl he’d met at the party, and some more background on new girl Abbey, becoming a proper part of the gang this week.

That was welcome, as Abbey had already revealed herself to be a fun character last week. In order to give her a proper introduction though, she had to go through the rite of passage that is the Standard Misfits Plot ™. So she duly met an individual who was misusing their power, suffered the consequences, and banded up with the rest of the gang to sort it out.

As was customary in the very early episodes of the show, this plotline gave plenty of opportunities to cast light on her background. Having (in a bizarrely amusing scene) blagged her way into doing community service with the others, she met a reluctant mother in the community centre toilets after an antenatal class. Before you could say “up the duff”, she found the unwelcome uterine incumbent transferred to her, and then faced the decision of whether to go through with the unexpected and very near-term pregnancy.

Along the way, she bonded with the rest of the gang, then found her decision changed just as they found the recalcitrant former owner of the foetus. This was the point where she revealed what the storm had done to her – she has total amnesia and can’t even remember who she is. The baby, at least, would be someone who would care for her in a world where she has no social ties that she can remember; so she decided to keep it after all.

Amnesia isn’t exactly what I’d call a superpower, so I have to wonder whether that’s all the storm did to her. Newly grafted into the opening credits, she’s seen to be downing a can of lager; so maybe my guess last week that she has the power to consume monumental quantities of alcohol wasn’t far off the mark. If that’s the case, this is certainly the kind of show where that power might come in handy.

Not so much if she’s pregnant though, as even Rudy was forced to agree at the bar. So lucky for Abbey that the baby’s original mother ,stricken with a fit of conscience, eventually asked for it back. Along the way, Abbey had learned something about herself while the gang got to know her, and the baby’s mother had atoned for the misuse of her power. A fairly trivial example of the Standard Misfits Plot ™, but the point was really to properly introduce Abbey, and that it did well.

Rudy, meanwhile, was truly smitten with the mysterious Nadine, to the annoyance of his friends who were sick of hearing about it. Since that plot had continued from last week, it seemed inevitable that Nadine would put in an appearance, which she duly did. Rudy, forced to ‘fess up that he wasn’t the caretaker of the community centre, but actually on community service, found himself baffled when she did another vanishing act, and this time the gang followed her to find out her secret. Which, as it turned out, was that she’s a nun. Curiouser and curiouser; I guess this one will be followed up next week…

But what of Alec’s quest to retrieve his missing cock? (Misfits may be the only show where you can find yourself typing that sentence). Well, a greedy informant turned up at his flat with the info on where to find the penis-napper – down the local karaoke bar. Said informant then had second thoughts when Alex produced a gun and clobbered him with it.

Fortunately, a repentant Jess had come round to apologise for ‘accidentally’ revealing his secret to Rudy (cue much sniggering as Joe Gilgun visibly tried to contain his glee at the knowledge). Hearing that Alex was off in search of his genitals with a gun, she rallied the gang round to help find him before he did something stupid.

That led to yet more angst from the lovelorn Finn, who initially hung up the phone on her request then was amusingly horrified at his own impoliteness. That’s an amusing trait; but I have to say, none of the writers yet seem to have a consistent handle on Finn’s character. When introduced, he had a sly but inappropriate sense of humour, prone to confabulating tasteless gags about having been, for example, sexually abused by his uncle. That aspect seems to have been dropped in favour of the rather more naïve old-fashioned romantic he’s been in later episodes. His attempts to learn the ways of the opposite sex from the less than ideal tutelage of Rudy echo a similar plot in previous years when the inexperienced Simon turned to the less than ideal advice of Nathan – is it really worth doing that plot again?

Still, if Finn’s character is inconsistent and unoriginal (albeit charmingly played by Nathan McMullen), enigmatic new probation worker Greg continues to fascinate. Played by Shaun Dooley as a barely contained pressure cooker of rage and fury, this week he displayed an unexpected softer side when the gang encountered him at the karaoke bar performing (it has to be said) a stunning rendition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. Caught off-guard by their appreciation, he seemed to be half-heartedly trying to step back into his usual sibilant, rage-filled persona, but not quite able to. Is there a deeper mystery about him, or is his character just colourful background? Whichever it is, he’s been one of the highlights of this very uneven series.

And yes, Alex did get his cock back – without causing unnecessary death. Having tracked down its current possessor, he forced it into view; the camera giving us plenty of looks at a very convincing prosthetic rubber penis. Interesting that we can see a fake one, but real ones are still rather taboo…

After, basically, holding the cock hostage with a broken bottle (I’m sure plenty of men in the audience winced at that one), the penis-napper relented and returned the organ when Alex decided to hold himself hostage, saying life wasn’t worth living without his schlong.

The script could have made more of this implicit idea that, despite organs like the brain or heart, this is the one that men value the most; in the past, it’s certainly passed slyly ironic comments of that nature on human sexuality. That opportunity wasn’t taken up, but we did learn (as Alex finally got his end away with Jess, only for her to realise he spent the whole event staring at himself in the mirror) that, with his cock returned, Alex is a shallow, narcissistic git. It was at least a telling point that Jess found him far more sympathetic without a penis than with one.

As you can tell from the above, this week packed in an awful lot; perhaps too much, with no real depth given to any of the multifarious plotlines. It was fun, sure, but less enthralling than last week. At least we have a new addition to the increasingly small gang with the welcome introduction of Abbey as a regular; but it’s been a very uneven series overall, with a less than surefooted approach to reinventing itself after losing most of its original characters. Next week, it’s the season finale, and apocalyptic events may ensue. Let’s hope it pulls out the stops to redeem a show I find I’m loving far less this year.

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 6

“Trust me, you never forget your first Richard Saunders house party.”

MISFITS 4

Now that was fun. No, it didn’t explore the characters’ deeper feelings, or have any emotional sturm und drang. But what it did do was recapture the balance of urban reality that made Misfits so enjoyable in the first place, with a surreal story that was basically a rollercoaster thrill ride.

It did this by combining a convincingly grimy house party in a grotty flat with the exercise of a comic book style power that gave one character the ability to affect the whole of reality. Yes, this is a tried and trusted plot device in this kind of story – Supernatural did it last week too – but when done well, as it was here, it allows for all sorts of bizarre images.

Central among which was the besuited killer rabbit with a lethal golf swing, surely one of the more memorable images even in this often surreal show. Springing from the acid-frazzled mind of Rudy’s drug-addled mate Richard Saunders, it was a conglomeration of the images on his TV as he succumbed to the hallucinogenic influence – a hitman, a golf game, and a vivisected rabbit. The obvious comparison was with Donnie Darko’s demonic harbinger Frank:

Frank

But this rabbit, dressed in a sharp Reservoir Dogs-style suit, didn’t twist the shape of its inspiration; instead, it was all the more disturbing for its cute visage offset by glowing red eyes. It was both chilling and blackly funny as it strode menacingly around the grimy corridors around Richard’s flat, with some excellent direction from Jonathan van Tulleken. And it was hard to miss the inspiration from Aliens as Rudy, Alex and Finn tracked it down to the basement where it had dragged the unconscious Jess, only for it to pick them off one by one.

Richard’s party wasn’t all killer rabbits and menace though. It was well-realised with some thumping dance music and attractive young people crowding the tiny flat – a bit like a promo for Skins. Yes, perhaps a mite too glamorous, but I always enjoy the visualisation of a party that looks genuinely fun, and this one did. It was also amusingly contrasted with the other party the gang accidentally stumbled into at first, the sombre wake that was presumably ill-prepared for the arrival of Rudy.

Though as it turned out, Rudy had a bit of a blinding revelation this week, in the first of several apparent new plot threads. With the gang affected by Richard’s reality-warping power, the number of each’s sexual conquests had become emblazoned on their foreheads. Rudy’s (unsurprisingly) being 99, he was on the lookout for something special for what he endearingly referred to as his “centenary”.

Having failed to find any satisfactory potentials at Richard’s party, and dragging Finn off in search of something more vulnerable but less incapable (“yes, there is a law against shagging drunk girls”), Rudy found himself chatting to the grief-stricken Nadine.

MISFITS 4 - Episode 6

And much to everyone’s surprise, it turned out he liked her enough to not try and immediately drag her to bed. So it was a bit of a shocker for him that she suddenly had to leave when the clock struck 11. What, I wonder, is that all about? Answers were not forthcoming here, but to judge from the “next time on…”, Nadine will be back next week. That could be interesting, giving Rudy a bit more depth than just being a sex-obsessed comic relief – he’s been in danger of becoming rather two-dimensional as a result.

Finn, still being taken under Rudy’s dubious wing (“like a little Hobbit bitch”), had rather more success. With his forehead count usefully revealing that his conquests had the grand total of 1, Rudy suggested increasing the number to (hopefully) prompt some jealousy from Jess, and tempt her away from the hunky Alex.

Finn’s usually plagued by astonishing (and somewhat contrived) bad luck, so it was a bit of a surprise that he ended up in bed with a blonde stunner with a penchant for rather athletic sex (“I’m fucking you as hard as I can… I don’t want to damage anything down there”). It was the sort of sex scene that Misfits does well, where the titillation is more than balanced by the humour – with the punchline being that the rabbit-traumatised Rudy had been hiding under the thrown-aside covers the whole time.

Yet when Finn returned to the party later, all his erstwhile partner offered was a blank stare and the enquiry “Do I know you?” Again, this was left unresolved; was it something to do with Richard Saunders warping reality, or is something odder going on? I’d like to think it’s the latter, but if the point isn’t returned to it’ll make the writing here seem a bit lazy.

And we – finally – got the answer to this series’ so far underwhelming ongoing plot, the mystery of Alex’s reluctance to have sex with beautiful women. Turns out – there’s really no other way to put this – that someone’s stolen his cock.

Yes, Alex has run afoul of another miscreant abusing powers granted by the storm, in this case an overeager transgender person capable of appropriating the genitals s/he was so desperate to obtain. That’s the sort of marvellously scatological plot point Misfits is traditionally good at (remember Rudy’s “rotting cock” affliction last year?), but I must say it felt a bit of an anticlimax after such a drawn out mystery. It seemed like the sort of thing the show would, in previous days, have dealt with in one episode.

Still, if that ongoing plot felt a bit disappointing, we at least had the pleasure of meeting someone who’ll presumably make up the numbers of the now rather depleted gang. First discovered passed out in a corridor, Abbey is a slightly scatty but (on this evidence) mischievously fun new character.

MISFITS 4 - Episode 6

It’s logical to assume that she has a power, but as yet we’ve no clue what it is. Given her astonishingly prodigious consumption of alcohol to no apparent ill-effect (at least after her earlier passing out), perhaps she has a heroic booze tolerance. Quite how this could come in useful is anyone’s guess; but she’s already proven herself more capable in a crisis than the others, resourcefully finishing off the giant rabbit with a screwdriver to the back.

So, a straightforward (if surreal) undemanding episode that put the fun and fantasy back in the show, which as a result I enjoyed more than any this series. It seems a little late in the day to be introducing new major characters and plot points, a sign perhaps of the show’s uncertainty in reinventing itself. But this was far more promising than anything I’ve seen so far this year, and makes me feel far more optimistic about the show’s future. Let’s see if next week can carry on the trend.

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 5

“I never in my wildest nightmares imagined I’d be repeatedly asking this, but – did you shag my mum?”

A more sombre episode of Misfits this week, though not for the reasons you might expect. With the last original character having fairly dramatically died last week, you’d think there’d be some fallout; but this was pretty thin on the ground. Instead, Howard Overman concentrated on Finn, who’d recently discovered that the man he thought of his father actually wasn’t, and his quest to find his real dad. In the process, it delivered an emotionally charged and affecting piece of drama only tangentially related to the show’s fantasy element, which ironically I found far more affecting than last week. 

There was still plenty of comedy along the way, as Finn made the uncomfortable discovery that his mum had had the nickname “Anal Mary” due to her unconventional sexual preferences, while Rudy, as ever, stood ready with a constant stream of innuendo and greed: “so, does your new dad have a car?” 

But really, the focus of this episode was fundamentally tragic. Working from an old photo of people his mum might have shagged at a party where he was allegedly conceived, Finn eventually narrowed the list down to one – Dan, played with some power by genre stalwart Francis Magee (Yoren out of Game of Thrones and Paul’s therapist in The Fades). What prevented it from being a happy reunion (for Finn really is the unluckiest guy in the show) wasn’t a plot point based in the show’s style of fantasy but something far more real and dramatic. Dan was in the last stages of dying from incurable cancer. 

I’ll admit at this point that this makes it hard for me to judge the drama objectively. My stepfather died an unpleasant lingering death from cancer some years ago, which was one of the most traumatic events in my life, so this really hit home for me. Francis Magee’s gaunt, haggard features lend themselves well to such a situation, but it was the acting that really sold it; I can testify to how uncomfortably accurate that was. 

It wasn’t all bad luck, though, as Finn also got to meet his half-sister Grace, who was dedicated to the care of their dying father. Which is where the show’s fantasy aspect did get to play a small part. Grace (a sweet performance from Charlie Murphy) had a power; it was none too certainly defined, but whatever it was, she was using it to keep her father from dying. But it wasn’t curing him – just keeping him alive in an ever-increasing level of pain. He wanted to die, but Grace couldn’t see that, so he tasked Finn with taking her out for the evening and trying to convince her. 

It was a pretty eventful night out, twisted up with the ongoing mystery involving Jess’ object of desire, the oddly reluctant Alex “from the bar”. This is now the only continuing plot thread, and it remains to be seen what Alex’s deal is. For now, though, the jealous Finn was trailing him, with an intrigued Grace in tow, to try and prove to Jess that he really was gay. 

Their search led them to an underground car park, where Finn used his cellphone to film Alex giving another attractive young man a wad of cash. Typically, he believed it was payment for sex, but Misfits is seldom so obvious; whatever Finn believes, plainly something weirder is going on. In the event, he was forced to use his power to distract Alex from discovering him, letting Grace in on the fact that he had a power too (albeit a really crap one that extended to barely moving an empty lager can). 

Grace then had to watch her newly-discovered half-brother making a dick of himself trying to convince the object of his desire that her lust object was really only after other guys (which didn’t work). Not only did that scupper Finn’s attempt to discuss their dad’s situation, it was then compounded by Rudy’s unwelcome appearance (“I’m genetically programmed to fuck sisters”). And just when it couldn’t seem to get any more awkward, Finn looked round to see his sister attached at the mouth to a burly gorilla of a man who didn’t take kindly to his intervention (“can I ask what your intentions are towards my sister?”). 

Nathan McMullen as Finn is very much growing on me as the show gives him more depth as a character. He’s actually rather sweet and unassertive; not quite the painful introvert Simon used to be, but something similar. This episode showed a progression of him having to learn to stand up for himself, though – first in the inevitable bar fight he provoked, then against Grace herself as she headed home and didn’t take kindly to his attempts to stop her prolonging Dan’s pain even more. 

I think, for me, that scene was the most painful to watch, as Grace tearfully realised that her efforts were motivated not so much by love as selfishness; she couldn’t bear to let her dad go no matter how much pain she was causing him. It was an affecting scene, with tearjerking performances all round, as Dan gathered both his children to him and quietly, finally slipped away. 

As I say, my own experiences perhaps make it hard to judge whether that would be as powerful for anyone who hasn’t been through it. But it certainly felt more emotionally affecting, the death of this character we’d only just met, than last week’s death of Curtis, the last original character the show had left. 

Indeed, considering that should have been a fairly seismic dramatic event, it got notably little reference this week. On reflection, though, why would it? Of all the characters currently in the show, only Rudy had known Curtis for more than a couple of weeks. Hence, it was he who was summoned to hardass probation worker Greg’s office for some frankly terrifying ‘grief counselling’ – “I’m going to skullfuck your living brain… so, have you been feeling isolation and despair?” 

It was a blackly funny scene, well-played as usual by Shaun Dooley and Joe Gilgun. But again, I felt that the exit of the show’s last original character maybe deserved something more as an epitaph. It’s symptomatic of a major problem I’m having with the show this year – the current gang of lead characters don’t seem to have much in the way of emotional bonding as the original gang did. Yes, there’s the will they-won’t they tension between Finn and Jess, and the growing, uneasy friendship between Finn and Rudy. But as a group, they just don’t cohere the way the original five, with their shared experience of the storm and its aftermath, did. 

Perhaps they will, by the end of this series. But to make yet another parallel with the similar events in Being Human recently, even before the new characters there had bonded as a group, I’d found myself liking them individually. I can’t say the same is happening here. I don’t (yet) really care about Finn or Jess; and Rudy, while he’s a lot of fun, rarely drives the drama. 

It might help to have some new blood; the show’s original lineup of ‘heroes’ was five, and we’re down to three now. A logical step would be to have Grace return as a regular. We still don’t know exactly what her life-prolonging power is, or how it works; but notably, it hasn’t been removed or neutralised in the way the show’s usual plot concludes. Perhaps it has something to do with just why she was suddenly so keen on snogging that guy at the bar? 

And perhaps Alex too is being groomed as a new regular. Jess’ attempt to search his flat for stereotypical indications of homosexuality (co-ordinated clothes etc) was amusing but answered with what looked like a genuinely passionate kiss. Nevertheless, there’s something weird going on with Alex’s sexuality (as witnessed in the “Next Time on…”), and I’m betting it’s to do with a power. But will he be misusing it, or is it something that the gang will find useful? 

So, there are a few hopeful plot threads going on, and this episode’s central plot was an example of how good the show can be as drama, whether fantasy-based or not. Finn’s newfound self-confidence and growing depth are making him more likeable, and perhaps the ‘relationship’ with Alex will do the same for Jess. Next week certainly looks interesting, with a giant rabbit, numbers on our heroes’ foreheads, and Alex’s urgent demands to see another man’s cock. But so far, regardless of the strength of this episode, it still feels like the show as a whole is floundering somewhat. Given how much I’ve always enjoyed it, I hope Howard Overman can change that by the end of the run.

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 4

“Don’t do this. This isn’t who you are.”

MisfitsCurtis

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.

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 3

“There’s three of me. The two you’ve met already – and me.”

MisfitsJessRudy

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”.

MisfitsLola

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.