Misfits: Series 4, Episode 2

“What you have is a disease. And I’m gonna find the cure.”

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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:

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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.

Misfits: Series 4, Episode 1

“I just came here to do community service and now I’m going to die locked in a freezer.”

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The end of Misfits’ third season felt like a proper ending for the story – at least as far as the characters we’d come to care about go. Alisha was dead, Simon was off back in time to die saving her previously, Kelly was together with Seth, and all the rest of the gang could do was get on with the rest of their lives.

Given all of that, I was actually a bit surprised to see that it was coming back for a fourth series. But it’s a popular show, and the central premise – that the mysterious storm gave lots of people in the area strange powers – has never been resolved, and leaves plenty of room to introduce new characters.

The trouble is, with Nathan, Simon, Alisha and now (we discover) Kelly all gone, it feels like the human core of the show we’d come to love has been somewhat eviscerated. New characters can come in, but we won’t have the level of emotional investment in them we did with the previous set. This episode faces a high hurdle in accomplishing that. Like the recent series of Being Human (to which it’s often compared), it effectively has to reboot itself, and give us a new set of characters in the hope that we’ll come to like them as much as we did the old ones.

This was helped by the way that we’d already come to like Rudy, who’d stepped in last series to replace Nathan. Joe Gilgun was as great as ever, with perfect comic timing as Rudy got up to his usual un-PC antics. Seth was back too, explaining that Kelly had chosen to stay in Uganda and user her ‘rocket scientist’ power to defuse landmines. He said that he was only back to “pick up their things”, but the fact that he’s there at all makes it seem likely that he’ll be a permanent fixture this series.

For me, though, Seth never felt like a proper part of ‘the gang’ last year, and (through no fault of actor Matthew McNulty) it’s going to take a bit of work before I give much of a damn about what happens to him. For some continuity, original gang member Curtis (the only one left) is still around, but he’d been sidelined so much last year (despite an interesting subplot about his gender-swap power), that he felt like a bit of a loose end. Again, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett has always been great in the part, but since his ‘origin story’, it’s always felt like the writers have struggled to come up with much for him to do, preoccupied as they were with the bigger sturm und drang of the Simon/Alisha epic love story.

So, it’s not all change. We still have Rudy (terrifically funny, but usually incidental to the main action), Seth (broodingly good-looking but with only one previous storyline which is now concluded) and Curtis (whose usual function last year was to sit sulkily on the sidelines and make snarky remarks). Perhaps some entirely new characters will help?

The jury’s still out on that one. Two new characters popped up; seemingly genial, soft-spoken Scouse lad Finn (Nathan McMullen), and piercing-eyed Jess (Karla Crome). They’ve turned up to do community service, as usual. Yes, that aspect of the show could have been dropped; it’s getting increasingly contrived for the old characters to still be stuck doing community service. But then it wouldn’t be Misfits. It’s a central plank of the show that it’s about young offenders forced into comic book situations when they’d rather be out getting pissed, shagging and breaking stuff – the very misfits of the title. Move it into the wider realm of the outside world being affected by superpowers, and you just turn it into Heroes – and we all know how that ended up.

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Unfortunately, the new characters didn’t make that much of an impression. Jess seems… well, nice is about the best you can say so far. No idea what crime she committed, but her power appears to be the ability to see through walls. Other than that, the script for this first episode gives us very little of a handle on who she is, and what she’s like, which you’d think would be rather important.

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Finn gets a little more depth, and a hint of mystery. He seems a likeable, enough ordinary bloke; his power is an extremely crap variety of telekinesis, which so far has enabled him to shake a plant pot and singularly fail to mind-throw it at Rudy. But we’ve established that he has a tendency to make things up about himself that are often singularly inappropriate – such as telling Jess that he was raped by his uncle to “lighten the mood” when they’re locked into a freezer to die.

And we later discovered that his ‘dog’ Sadie, who he was so concerned about looking after, is actually a bound and gagged young lady strapped to his bed. Interesting idea there – that one of the main characters might actually be a bit of a baddie. Or a nutter, at least. Of course, we still don’t know the full story here, but certainly Finn gets a better shake of the dice in the character depth stakes than Jess, which seemed a little unfair.

With all this weight on the episode to reboot the show, the story (such as it was) felt pretty inconsequential. Rudy, Curtis and Seth had been ‘infected’ by the power of a greedy thief who’d stumbled into the community centre with a briefcase full of money cuffed to his wrist. The effect of his power was to make anyone he touched as fanatically covetous of the money as he was, thus pitting the regulars against each other in an increasingly homicidal, paranoid escalation of mistrust.

It’s basically the ‘standard’ Misfits plot – the gang meet someone else affected by the storm who’s misusing their powers, become affected themselves, find a way to break the spell, and effectively, punish the power-abuser by killing him/her and/or removing the power concerned. True, it was told in an interesting, non-linear way, opening on the rooftop with the gang literally at each other’s throats, weapons drawn, fighting for possession of the case full of money. The story then unfolded with flashback within flashback, with a self-aware Rudy acknowledging that, “I’m what’s known as an ‘unreliable narrator’”. Nice to see he was paying attention in English Literature GCSE.

Along the way, there was a fair bit of fun. Rudy pretending to be the new probation worker (while caught wanking over internet porn) was a laugh, and the script actually had you wondering for a (fairly short) while if he was telling the truth. There was the business of him trying to drug everyone’s drinks left, right and centre, which was played well for laughs (though where did he get these ‘drugs’?), and Seth being somewhat discomfited by Rudy and Curtis wanking themselves to sleep next to him (“it’s a sedative, isn’t it?”).

I said last year that the show was in danger of collapsing under the weight of its complex, massively self-referential time paradox plot arc, so it’s probably a good idea that it’s going back to the episodic, self-contained nature of its first series. The trouble is, not only did it feel inconsequential by comparison, it also felt very much like we’d been here before. It didn’t help that, in a bit of presumably amusingly-intended lampshade-hanging, Rudy kept commenting on the show’s established tropes – “oh, the storm. Yeah, it’s always the storm”, and, of the new, hardass probation worker (an excellent Shaun Dooley), “don’t worry, he’ll probably be dead within a week”.

That last actually points to an increasing credibility gap (insofar as it’s fair to complain about that in a show which features superpowers). The death of the gang’s first two probation workers, back in the first series, led to all kinds of worry about police investigations. But last series they managed to kill off two, one of them in the middle of a major zombie outbreak, and the Thamesmead police don’t seem to have concerned themselves with it at all.

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Still, new probation worker Greg is a breath of fresh air, since the show got rid of the lovable, lackadaisical Shaun last year. Given a great establishing scene – “if you cross me, I will fuck you. And it’ll feel like being fucked by a train. Choo choo.” – he’s presumably going to be around for a while, resetting the balance the show lost with no authority figure to hate.

I have to say, as a longstanding fan of the show, I actually didn’t enjoy this very much. It didn’t help that the plot required the regulars to be acting very out of character, and that at least one of the new characters seemed to have very little depth at all. To be fair, if you’ve never seen the show before, this could be an ideal jumping in point, without the heavy burden of all the old characters’ backstories. But on the basis of this first episode, I’m still unconvinced that it was a good idea for the show to carry on after the finality of the third series’ ending. I’ll stick with it, to see if it pulls off the trick Being Human managed of making me like the new characters as much as the old. So far, though, there’s little evidence of that.

Misfits: Series 3, Episode 8

“I love a happy ending.”

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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.

Misfits: Series 3, Episode 7

“Let’s go resurrect my dead girlfriend.”

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With series creator Howard Overman back on scripting duties, this week’s Misfits was another of the ‘homages’ that have been so prevalent this year – and a pretty good one at that. After dissecting comic book superheroes and alternate Nazi realities, this week the show took on 1980s cheesy zombie movies. I say 1980s ones specifically, because in my experience the trend of zombie cheerleaders began about then, although they’ve shown no sign of lying down since…

This episode balanced its homage/ripoff with the show’s usual tropes rather better than Overman’s Nazi episode, retaining the humour that was noticeably absent in that one. Of course, it’s rather difficult to do a cheesy zombie story with an entirely straight face, so in that regard it was actually better suited for the Misfits treatment than the Nazis winning World War 2.

As I mentioned some weeks ago, when it became clear that Seth was looking for a power to resurrect his dead girlfriend, this plot traditionally does not end well. Horror literature is littered with tales of bringing back the dead only to find that the resultant walking corpse is rather more horrible than you might have wanted; probably the first, and best known, is W W Jacobs’ 1902 story The Monkey’s Paw, but numerous variants have appeared since in comics, films and TV shows like The Twilight Zone and notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which did it at least twice).

Indeed, the opening sequence bore more than a little resemblance to a Buffy episode, as Seth and Curtis ventured by night into what looked like South London’s creepiest cemetery to dig up Seth’s dead girlfriend Shannon. Kudos to director Will Sinclair for imbuing this with all the atmosphere of a traditional horror movie, though it wasn’t afraid to show its roots. The exhumed Shannon was unpleasantly decomposed, but when Curtis used his resurrection power on her, the process was reversed and she returned to her former self; almost exactly what happened when Willow revived the dead Buffy at the opening of season 6. Luckily for Shannon though, she wasn’t left buried and having to claw her way out like Buffy!

Frome hereon in, the familiar tale of unintended, flesheating consequences unfolded with lighthearted inevitability. As we waited for Shannon to start feeling inexplicable hunger pangs, Curtis took pity on an old lady by reviving her dead cat. Anyone who’s ever seen ReAnimator or Night of the Creeps could tell that wasn’t going to end well; and so it proved, as Curtis was trapped in the bathroom by the vicious undead Mr Miggles, who’d already chowed down on his owner.

With nothing else to do but come clean, Curtis called in the rest of the gang to deal with “the crazy killer cat”, but having trapped Mr Miggles, nobody could quite go through with killing him. Rudy expressed what we were surely all thinking: “You can kill numerous probation workers, but you can’t kill one cat?!” Luckily, they had no such qualms about vicious old ladies; as Mr Miggles’ undead owner lunged for Simon’s neck, Curtis was quick to ram a hammer claw into her head.

It was clear that this was going to be a high body count episode; as Simon realised what the rest of us had some time ago, he summed up the situation – “It’s like a zombie film”. And in zombie films, there are always a lot of bodies. As Rudy commented when the gang were confronted with a horde of flesheating cheerleaders, “that’s a lot of killing, even for us.”

But first, the story skilfully interwove the spread of the zombie plague with Shannon’s plight and Seth’s dilemma. As Kelly found out she’d been dumped for Seth’s formerly dead girlfriend, she didn’t take it well, and Seth looked suitably ashamed; Shannon, meanwhile, was beginning to discover an insatiable hunger for living flesh, and desperately trying not to slake it by eating her boyfriend and resurrector. Even when he realised what she’d become, Seth couldn’t bring himself to put her down, because he was still in love with her and just couldn’t let go.

That central dilemma was one of the more affecting parts of an episode that was mostly a gory fun romp. The zombies here weren’t the mindless, rotting revenants of Romero’s movies. Like the girl in Return of the Living Dead 3 (and probably many others), they were still the people they had been, with thoughts and feelings they could vocalise. But they couldn’t stop themselves from killing and spreading the contagion. This would lead, as Simon said, to the gang holing up in a shopping mall while the rest of the world turned undead. As the show’s primary geek spokesman, Simon clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to zombie films.

The problem of killing zombies who were still, essentially, the people they had been was later the cornerstone for some amusing gags. Still unable to bring themselves to terminate Mr Miggles, the gang had locked him up in a cat box only for him to escape and infect the troupe of cheerleaders who were conveniently rehearsing at the community centre in order to complete the ambience of a cheesy zombie film.

This led to a hilarious explanation of Rudy’s hitherto unsuspected terror of cheerleaders; as he related to Simon and Alisha how he’d caught his dad having sex with his mum while she was dressed as a cheerleader, even his friends couldn’t help smirking: “That scarred me right through puberty. I couldn’t even have a relaxing wank without it popping into my mind!”

Joe Gilgun was as funny as usual as Rudy got to work through his phobia by helping the gang put down the horde of gore stained, bitey cheerleaders (well, helping in the sense of running away and hiding in a cupboard). But first, there were some cheerleaders who hadn’t quite turned yet, leading to some hysterically awkward pauses as our heroes waited impatiently for them to die while they begged for an ambulance. It’s black humour, sure, but still funny.

And, typically, caught up at the end of it was yet another new probation worker, having turned up just in time to be bitten by a zombie. Having drawn the short straw and the responsibility of bashing her brains in, Rudy effectively summed up the whole series with his apology – “We just want you to know, this isn’t our fault.We’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot.”

Mind you, the death of yet another probation worker (onscreen for such a short time she didn’t even get the courtesy of being given a name) does beg the question of quite how slipshod the Thamesmead police must have got since the first series. Back then, they were all over the disappearance of the gang’s first two probation workers; so much so that it was a cause of major panic when building work threatened to dig up the first’s makeshift grave.

Now, it seems, replacement probation workers are sent out without even an inquiry as to where the previous one has got to. And wherever the gang are putting all the bodies, it must be starting to look like one of those mass graves from the Great Plague. Also, even if the cops aren’t too bothered about probation workers, surely the disappearance of an old lady, Seth’s next door neighbour and a troupe of cheerleaders should prod them into action?

To be fair, the show has playfully acknowledged its increasingly improbable undiscovered body count a lot this year. But while it may seem churlish to complain about a lack of realism in a show based on superpowers, just making postmodern references does slightly undercut the previously realistic setting. Still, with one more episode to go, perhaps the police will start poking around after all…

Outside the zombie-killing romp, though, the episode did have to deal with the emotional impact of what had started all this. Satisfyingly, it ended with Seth realising that his new feelings for Kelly were stronger than those for his undead girlfriend; though it probably helped that Kelly wasn’t trying to eat people. So, once again, it was Seth who resolved the situation in a confrontation with the ‘villain’ – because after all, it wasn’t Shannon’s fault she’d ended up that way. Charlene McKenna did a good job of making Shannon a sympathetic character, but really, the only way to resolve this was for Seth to prove himself by taking responsibility for killing her personally.

Which of course he did, proving his feelings for Kelly and prompting her into a surprisingly emotional declaration that she loved him too. I’m glad this seems to be getting resolved; it’s been a nicely underplayed Big Plot for this year, and Lauren Socha and Matthew McNulty have had some real chemistry together.

So, another ‘fun romp’ episode, its homage/ripoff done supremely well in the Misfits style, and all the regular characters getting a fair crack of the whip. It ended up with the gang’s realisation that, by containing the zombie plague, they’d actually saved the world – as Kelly said, “that’s some real superhero shit.” Of course, they then comically realised they’d forgotten all about Mr Miggles, and dashed off to deal with him as the episode closed. But Mr Miggles isn’t the only loose end – Shannon had also chowed down on Seth’s pet iguana, which presumably was still housing the time travel power Seth placed into it for safekeeping a few episodes ago.

As we know from the Nazi episode, killing someone means their power is lost for good. So how will Simon’s future self travel back in time now to die saving Alisha? Or could the iguana become a zombie, and if so, can zombies still house powers? Who knows, but with only one more episode to go this year, maybe the future Simon’s fate will be coming closer. In a way, I rather hope not, as ending that plot may well end the series as a whole (although it doesn’t necessarily have to, I suppose). Either way, I’m eagerly waiting for next week’s finale…

Misfits: Series 3, Episode 6

“I’m not gonna let guys like you do shit like this to me any more.”

MisfitsRudySimon

Now that was good. I have to say, after two episodes, I am very impressed with new writer Jon Brown, who’s taken up the slack from series creator Howard Overman for this unprecedently long series of Misfits. This episode deals, not for the first time in the show, with the whole concept of sexual politics, in a very nuanced and intelligent way for a series with such politically incorrect humour. And not just that, but Brown seems to have a knack – which Overman, of late, hasn’t – of giving all the regular characters important roles in the episode’s story, so none is reduced to just sitting in the background making snarky remarks (something that’s happened to Curtis all too often).

To deal with the major plot first, we got a surprisingly serious rebuff to the whole concept of Rudy’s character as a boorish, shaghappy wanker who just uses women for sex and discards them without a second thought. Up till now, this has been just a jokey aspect of his persona; here, for the first time, he – and the viewer – gets reminded that there are consequences to this kind of behaviour. Under normal circumstances, these consequences are limited to hurt feelings and disillusionment. But in the world of Misfits, where anyone might have superhuman powers, the consequences go further. And with what happened to Rudy, Jon Brown managed to tap a nerve that’s nightmarish for every male viewer, but might well have every female viewer cheering.

OK, so it was basically the standard Misfits story where the gang encounter someone who’s misusing their powers and have to put a stop to it. The show always gives such characters a believable motive for doing what they do, but it was notable that the miscreant this time neither ended up dead nor lost her power. So, a girl who’s had a string of meaningless sexual encounters with men has – like all the characters with powers – ended up with a power that reflects her personality and her frustrations. And as Rudy discovered, that meant she had the power to literally make insensitive men like him have their dicks rot off.

And, speaking as a man, ouch! That taps into a primal fear for all male viewers, one of which I suspect girls are all too aware. And in the process, it can make the male viewer think a little bit about what they’ve done in the past. OK, so I’m actually gay, but Curtis’ contemptuous remark, “You can’t remember who you slept with? Classy.” did bring a wince-makingly familiar stab of guilt to me. As did Rudy’s admission that, in his drunken state, he couldn’t remember which of the three girls he’d flirted with at the previous night’s party he’d actually ended up in bed with. At the risk of stereotyping men, yes, we really can be bastards who think with our dicks.

So this main plot became a (still amusing) quest for Rudy and Simon to find, and make reparations to, said girl before Rudy’s penis fell off as in Simon’s vision of the future. That, it has to be said, had me simultaneously laughing hysterically and wincing at the thought. And given Simon’s usually very serious role in the show, it was nice to see his visions focussing on something which was (unless you’re a man) less than a matter of life and death.

And inevitably, it was going to take finding all three flirtees before the guys found the right one, leading to some rather amusing misunderstandings. So, was it “collarbones”, “Ready Brek” or “ankles”? Along the way, Rudy and Simon formed a rather good double act, with Simon’s seriousness making him a great straight man to Rudy’s boorishness. Some elementary detective work led to an increasingly embarrassing set of encounters, of which probably the worst was Rudy’s attempt to charm one girl who turned out to have just kissed him, and actually had a girlfriend of her own. Which doesn’t sound so bad until you realise that Rudy prefaced this encounter by dropping his trousers before knocking on her door, meaning her prepubescent sister was greeted with the charming sight of his rotting penis (thankfully spared from viewers).

Of course, this too led to an amusing subplot in which Rudy was arrested, and managed to escape by splitting and leaving the police with his ‘better half’. Who, inevitably, was forgotten about and turned up at the eleventh hour to instil Rudy with yet more guilt. Because yes, Rudy did seem to actually learn a lesson from all of this. Having tracked down Leah (the actual culprit) at a night club, he made what sounded like a genuine apology over the club’s sound system (much to the displeasure of the rest of the patrons) – “I’m just a twat with a big mouth. I’m sorry”. And top marks that Leah actually wasn’t that interested when he really did offer to have a drink with her and get to know her – because that would have been too easy. So off she went, with her power very much intact; watch out, thoughtless men!

Elsewhere, the ‘B plot’ (though it was at least as significant as the ‘A plot’) delved into the consequences of Curtis’ male/female masturbation experiments, almost as a counterpoint to the sexual politics aspect of what happened to Rudy. Finding himself uncontrollably turning into his female alter ego, then finally being stuck there, Curtis was confronted with perhaps the most serious consequence of his power – he (she?) was pregnant. But who was the father? After all, to the best of our knowledge, the female Curtis hasn’t actually had penetrative sex with a man. Step up then, Curtis himself. In a plotline that only Misfits could do, it turned out that Curtis had been alternating male/female wanks, and used the same tissue to ‘mop up’ with. So, basically, he was the father of his own child.

This was a genuinely interesting moral dilemma, so I thought the way the story got out of it was a bit of a copout. Rather than have Curtis stick as a woman, and have to face the decision of abortion or giving birth, he ended up back at Seth’s, trading away his sex change power. This seemed rather too easy, and also had the sad consequence that, presumably, this will be the last we see of Kehinde Fadipe as the female Curtis – a great pity, as she’s been fantastic.

But it did tie into this season’s Big Plot, which is now clearly about Seth, Kelly, and Seth’s dead girlfriend. So we saw Seth and Kelly properly getting it on (in the community centre’s storeroom, very romantic), and then Seth offered to take Kelly to Morocco. Which would be great, and no less than Kelly deserves; unfortunately, at about that point, Seth managed to track down the important power he’d ‘lost’. And yes, as we’d all worked out by now, it was the power of bringing back the dead. So, as a tradeoff, he took away Curtis’ sex change ability in exchange for an agreement that Curtis would wield the resurrection power for him – since, as is now clear, Seth can’t use powers, only trade them.

So, next week – to judge by the flashforward – expect zombie cheerleaders and cats, something Misfits should be able to do very well. But it’s revealing that that kind of comic strip shenanigans, as shown by the Nazi episode a couple of weeks ago, tends to be less satisfying than the usual balance of reality and fantasy. Still, I love zombies, so I have high hopes. And I’m still waiting on a new probation worker to replace Shaun, who I’m already missing – as Kelly says, “they always send a new probation worker after we’ve killed one”. Watch that space…

Misfits: Series 3, Episode 5

“We were supposed to go for a drink together. Me and Kelly. I mean, it might have been nothing, maybe she would have been too high maintenance, maybe I would have got on her nerves. But it could have been something. We could have been good together.”

MisfitsKellyRudy

After the high stakes sci fi shenanigans last week, it was nice to have a rather more low key episode of Misfits which concentrated on character as much as concept. This was very much a Kelly and Rudy centric story; we already know and like Kelly, but we got to delve a bit more into Rudy’s troubled psyche, which was the lighter side to a story that actually had a few shocks along the way. And it was nice that, for the first time in quite a while, we got to see almost all of the gang using their powers.

It is fair to say that, like last week, we had a plot concept here that’s pretty old hat – namely, the good old-fashioned body swap. The script even spelled it out for us. Once Alisha had used her power to see through Kelly’s eyes, discovering she was in a coma ward, then the gang found a different girl there, Simon guessed what was up immediately. Of course, Simon’s the geek of the group, so it’s hardly surprising he’s come across the idea before; but even Rudy immediately blurted, “it’s like that film!” then lost points by saying Face/Off, while Simon patiently explained that it was more like Freaky Friday.

And of course it was like Freaky Friday. And Vice Versa. And Quantum Leap. And any number of episodes of The X Files, Buffy and Angel. Last week, I felt the show suffered a little from a very overused concept; but here, I thought the concept was given a nice twist that worked in the Misfits universe, and gave Lauren Socha another chance to shine playing, essentially, a different part.

The basic crux of the plot worked so well because it’s one of the things Misfits does best – a crisis caused by superpowers that directly affects the emotional lives of the characters. So, just as Seth was finally getting over his old girlfriend and arranged to meet Kelly for a drink to see where things might lead, their chance was cruelly snatched away when Kelly, trying to be helpful as always, took the hand of coma patient Jen and their bodies were switched.

Straight away, then, there’s an ethical dilemma. If we get Kelly back, Jen goes back into her coma, losing not only her boyfriend Dom but probably her life too. But here I felt the script missed a trick by deciding to make Jen a bit of a bitch once she was up and about again. Dom (a nice portrayal from Nick Blood) was a decent guy, and he couldn’t square having his girlfriend back with the idea of someone, even a stranger, having to unfairly suffer her fate. Jen, on the other hand, was so desperate not to be back in a coma that she was prepared to shut off the life support and let Kelly die.

That’s believable enough, I suppose, if you’ve been in a coma for a long time (and the traumatic revelation that Jen was aware of everything around her the whole time was pretty hard-hitting). But if anything, it made the ultimate resolution a bit too easy; we weren’t going to feel too much angst about returning Jen to her coma if she was like that. It meant that the only one we could really feel sorry for was Dom. And maybe we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him either, as it seemed like his initial reason for worrying about the situation was that his girlfriend was now in a body he didn’t fancy as much as her real one.

Elsewhere, we had a nice little subplot with Rudy’s ‘better half’ starting a relationship with his anger management therapist. This being Rudy, this was the funnier bit of the plot, as his initial therapy session involved his disappointment that they wouldn’t be “breaking stuff and putting on the boxing gloves”. But even this subplot was a bit emotionally affecting. Confronted with the question of whether he’d been a bed wetter, Rudy started clutching at his groin, and the natural assumption was that he needed to go for a piss. But of course, it was his more sensitive other self waiting to burst out. And when ‘nice Rudy’ found the therapist crying in her car and offered to talk, it was inevitable where this was going.

And equally inevitable that, as in so many identical twin comedies, the therapist would end up getting it on with the ‘wrong’ Rudy later, and all manner of hilarity would ensue. Except, after Rudy’s initial puzzled delight at getting a free handjob from his therapist, it actually turned out that ‘nice Rudy’ had really fallen for her, in a twist that reminded me of David Cronenberg’s twisted ‘identical twin gynaecologists’ movie Dead Ringers.

‘Nice Rudy’ it turned out, had never really had a girlfriend before, he’d just been present when his normal self carelessly shagged girls and threw them aside. So he was none too happy when his more boorish half told the therapist that it was over because she was “too old” (followed by the inevitable bit when nice Rudy, unsuspecting of this, offered to take her  for a meal and got a slap for his pains).

That got the two plots to nicely intersect, though, as ‘nice Rudy’ decided to drown his sorrows with ‘Kelly’, who’d found herself similarly rejected. The sequence in which the gang comically removed the comatose ‘Jen’ from the hospital before her life support could be switched off was entertaining (and reminiscent of a similar bit in Star Trek IV), but I had to wonder what was keeping her alive while she was being trundled around with her machines unplugged. OK, maybe they had a battery backup, but there was a noticeable lack of beeping noises when she was bundled into the back of Seth’s BMW.

Still, that’s just nitpicking. The plot was resolved as ‘nice Rudy’ managed to trick Jen/Kelly into joining her old comatose body at the community centre; but it wasn’t smooth sailing. It took a heartfelt plea from Seth to make her have a change of heart, realising she was effectively cheating two more people out of their chance at the happiness she’d had. The dynamic of this scene was particularly effective, as Lauren Socha played ‘not-Kelly’ dealing with Matthew McNulty’s impassioned Seth, and you could feel the chemistry between them. This burgeoning relationship has, more than anything, formed the ‘Big Plot’ of this year’s series, and I was glad to see that, by the very end, it looked like they were properly together at last, and not in some alternate reality this time.

It wasn’t such a happy ending for Shaun though. Reviving the show’s first season trope of killing off all the gang’s probation workers, he finally got his this week when Jen, in Kelly’s body, stabbed him with a screwdriver. Of course he got killed last week too, but this time it was in our reality, and it was for keeps. This actually made me a little sad, as I’ve really enjoyed Craig Parkinson as the lackadaisical, couldn’t-give-a-fuck probation worker. He’s been around now for nearly two series, and despite his generally lazy, slobbish and often downright creepy attitude, he’s been a likeable character in the way that previous probation workers weren’t.

In the event, his death scene was actually rather affecting. As Simon gently told him the truth and Rudy demonstrated that they really did have superpowers, his last words were, “I can’t believe I never picked up on it. You bunch of dicks. Fucking superheroes.” And with that, he was gone.

Of course, it was obvious that he had to die, as he’d have fingered Kelly for the stabbing; and Simon only told him the secret because he wasn’t going to live. But I have to say, I’m wondering how the gang will explain away yet another ‘missing’ probation worker without the police starting to seriously pay attention. Perhaps that’s a plotline to come…

And speaking of plotlines to come, it was nice to get reacquainted with Curtis’ female alter ego Melissa (Kehinde Fadipe) for the first time since episode two. Following up on his discovery of the delights of the female orgasm in that episode, it seems he’s been switching into Melissa every now and then just to have a wank, leading to a typical Misfits comedy scene of misunderstanding as Alisha discovers him just after this, then Simon discovers the pair of them and wonders if they’re getting back up to their old habits again. Comic it was, but I think there’s going to be fallout here. Not only did Curtis not explain that he’d been masturbating as a woman, but it’s sown some uncertainty into Simon and Alisha’s relationship. Looks like there’ll be more of this next week.

A good character based episode then, and an impressive first script from Jon Brown that really nails the characters we’ve come to know. This is actually the very first Misfits episode to be scripted by anyone other than Howard Overman, though like Steven Moffat on Doctor Who, he may well have had a lot of input. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that other writers can take it on, especially with the slightly longer season of eight episodes this year.

This episode has also cemented Seth and Kelly’s relationship, and established Seth properly as one of the gang (in answer to Rudy’s question on this, Curtis grumbles “don’t call it a gang, we’re not in primary school”). Some viewers may be impatient that the show’s not getting on with the Really Big Plot of Simon’s time travel and death, but I’m just as happy for that to be kept in the background for now; if it’s resolved, either the show will end, or at the very least lose Simon, which would be a shame. No, I’m happy for the gang to have individual adventures each week, and if there has to be a Big Plot, I’m happy for that to be about Seth and Kelly.

Misfits: Series 3, Episode 4

“We’re all doing what we need to do in order to survive.”

MisfitsShaunAlisha

So after cleverly and successfully deconstructing many of the superhero tropes of comic books last week, this week Misfits writer Howard Overman turns his attentions to another classic trope of sci fi and comics – the alternate reality where the Nazis won World War 2 – with, arguably, rather less success.

This plotline’s as old as the hills. Philip K Dick went there with his excellent 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle, Stephen Fry more recently with Making History, not to mention any number of Twilight Zone stories, Doctor Who novels and comic book stories. Its very familiarity as a fantasy scenario has the advantage that it’s instantly clear to the viewer what’s going on, so not too much explanation is needed; but it also has the disadvantage that it’s been pretty much done to death. It’s the common post-1945 cultural nightmare, and it’s so ubiquitous that it’s hard to come up with anything new to say on the topic. While I love Misfits, it has to be said that this didn’t really come up with anything new either.

But then maybe Overman wasn’t trying to make his scenario especially original. The point – and the fun – of doing an alternate reality episode of an established TV show is to show familiar characters behaving in very unfamiliar ways. Hence, for example, the Doctor Who story Inferno, in which the Brigadier appears as a fascist stormtrooper, or the Mirror Universe stories of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which re-imagine Major Kira as a leather clad bisexual dominatrix and Captain Sisko as an unscrupulous space pirate.

And yet, oddly, this episode of Misfits doesn’t really do that either. True, Simon’s a Nazi soldier in this reality, and Curtis an undercover resistance leader; but neither is particularly different in their character from what we’re used to. Simon was unwillingly conscripted, and Curtis may be a latterday Victor Laszlo but he’s still working as a barman in that ratty old bar. Kelly and Alisha are still doing whatever the Nazi equivalent of community service is, and seem no different to usual. And Rudy is still Rudy, falling in with the resistance because the Nazis want his power, but being about as much help as a chocolate tea strainer.

The only character who is – perhaps – different from usual is Shaun; a low ranking Nazi functionary who still functions as a kind of probation worker, he’s as slapdash at fascism as he is with his usual role. And yet being an authority figure in a Nazi world allows all those really nasty aspects of his character, usually only hinted at, to stand out proudly. He’s blackmailed Alisha into sleeping with him by getting her off a drink drive charge, and he’s quite willing to actually shoot people. Craig Parkinson makes this version of Shaun a natural extension of his familiar loathsomeness rather than something completely different; you get the believable impression that, given the right circumstances, ‘our’ Shaun could be like this too.

As with last week’s episode, this is necessarily a very timey-wimey plot, steeped in potential paradoxes. Taking a similar tack to Fry’s Making History, the McGuffin to set the alternate universe into being is an elderly victim of the Holocaust travelling back in time ostensibly to kill Hitler; as in that novel (and most other versions of this plot) he actually succeeds in making things worse. Not only does the Fuhrer overpower him, but he drops his mobile phone during the struggle, handing the Nazis advanced technology decades before it should exist. Result (as usual) – the Nazis win the war and Britain in 2011 is still an occupied country. Swastikas hang from the familiar community centre, black clad troops are everywhere, and we see Seth being hauled from the boot of his car and taken away in handcuffs. After a nice precredits sequence establishing this chain of events, Kelly sums up the situation with typical bluntness: “Fuckin’ Nazis.”

The Nazi-run Thamesmead housing estate is only marginally more grim than it usually looks, but the equally grim nature of the scenario means that there’s far less humour this week than usual, something that felt somewhat lacking. Kelly is thankfully her usual self, pithy insults and all, and Shaun’s usual creepiness is enhanced but still funny. Rudy, as usual, is reliable comic relief, but his scatological observations are kept to a minimum as the story tries to get perhaps too serious. Elsewhere, Curtis is unusually earnest and Simon still looks soulful and troubled, but jokes aren’t the order of the day here: Overman seems to want to keep his scenario unrelentingly grim.

Thankfully, the script doesn’t go into too much detail about the bigger picture of a Nazi-dominated world, relying instead on the familiarity of the scenario for viewers, and painting in minutiae like swastika headed paper and armoured Jeeps. The lack of exposition is probably wise, as it would be easy to pick holes in the scenario. For example, given Nazi racial policies, it’s highly unlikely that Curtis or Alisha would be around at all; this isn’t even acknowledged in the script, though Shaun does acidly explain that homosexuality is illegal when Rudy tries to pass himself off (hilariously) as Curtis’ gay lover (“I’m the butch and he’s the bitch. I’m the sausage and he’s the muffin…”). Then there’s the fact that the Nazi military vehicles are very obviously (American–made) Jeep Cherokees (you can even see the company logo on the steering wheel). And the most glaring flaw in every alternate reality episode of any TV show – with history having changed so substantially, it’s highly unlikely that the same group of characters would still be together in the same place that they are in established reality.

The intentional lack of exposition makes such holes harder to poke, but the scenario still felt a bit low-rent. The Nazis only appear to have two military vehicles, the housing estate is only altered with a few swastika banners and a (very obviously CG) statue of Hitler, and the local resistance movement comprises only Curtis, Kelly, and latterly Rudy. Even if they’re only one cell, that seems a remarkably small one – even if Rudy can conveniently up their numbers with his duplicate.

It was nonetheless a good episode for Kelly and Seth, using the all-bets-off nature of alternate reality to further explore their feelings for each other. The plot hinged on the Nazis wanting to use Seth to acquire the superpowers which they were somehow aware of; having already sold Curtis’ old time-travelling power to the elderly man who started the whole thing, Seth was obviously also the key to putting history right. In the mean time, though, a few old faces cropped up, having not died in this history. Thus, Kelly was accompanied by Josef Altin as Gary, the less than pleasant member of the group who was killed way back in the first episode, and we also saw Peter from last week’s episode brutally shot by the Nazis (killed twice in as many weeks, he’s an unlucky guy). And Catrin Stewart popped up as Lily from the second episode of last year’s series, forced into trading her freezing power to proper Nazi bad guy Captain Smith (Glenn Speers managing to make him a scary enough bad guy despite him basically being paper thin as a character).

Seeing the old faces was a nice nod to the show’s past, and demonstrates the attention it pays to its own continuity; but of course, it did make one wonder where Nathan had got to. Obviously Robert Sheehan is still ‘unavailable’ but it’s a shame he couldn’t have popped in for a cameo at least – this of all episodes would have fitted that beautifully.

Interestingly, none of the regular characters – with the exception of Rudy – had any powers in this alternate reality, allowing a potential changeover of abilities yet again. This might have been very confusing though, and Overman wisely resisted the temptation to do it. Quite apart from anything else, it would be yet another temporal paradox in a show that’s becoming riddled with them for any of the gang to have acquired a new power in a timeline that never actually happened. But equally obviously, someone would have to be given the old man’s time-travelling power to sort everything out. I’d expected this to be Simon, thus giving him the ability to time travel that he’ll need for his future self to come back and die saving Alisha; but obviously that’s being saved for another day. Instead, it was the increasingly marvellous Kelly who got the power, transmitted in a light-blazing kiss with Seth – another admission that there’s definitely something going to happen with these two in the regular reality.

Kelly’s fast becoming the best character in the show, with her pithy humour and down to earth decency – a character who by sheer likeability manages to overturn all the potential ‘chav’ stereotypes. She didn’t disappoint in this episode; first she stormed the community centre/prison with two silenced pistols, being punch-the-air badass, then she travelled back to the past and gave Hitler a good kicking to sort things out, mouthily declaiming “Why do you have to be such a dick?” If there’s any doubt as to who should be the next breakout star from the show, I’d say it’s definitely Lauren Socha. She even gets the episode’s fantastic last line; as the only one aware of the alternate timeline, when asked what she’s been up to, she responds with “fighting Nazis and kicking the shit out of Hitler. What about you?” Oh yeah!

Mind you, it seemed a little redundant that, having given her the time-travel power, Overman had her give it up again when she returned to regular reality. Going back to the ‘rocket scientist’ power felt a bit odd given how limited its usefulness has been so far (even if in keeping with Kelly’s basically decent, down to earth nature). Still, perhaps this power will yet prove to be instrumental in a later plot; in the meantime, Seth has placed the time travel power in his pet iguana “for safekeeping”. Hopefully this won’t mean that we’ll shortly have to see our gang stranded in ‘planet of the lizards’ alternate reality…

Overall then, this was a bit of an uneven episode, whose success depended on how tolerant you were of the much overused ‘Nazis win WW2 alternate reality’ plot. It might have felt less overfamiliar to me if Howard Overman had used the episode to deconstruct the cliche, as he so successfully did with superheroes last week. As it was, this felt like an uneven romp, which was enjoyable enough but missed a lot of chances to be more original. Being Misfits, though, it was still miles better than a lot of versions of this story; it’s just that, given the show’s usual stellar standards, this felt like it didn’t live up to the usual quality. There was plenty to like, but let’s hope Overman can return the loveably pithy mix of reality and fantasy to a better balance next week.

Oh, and one final thing – it only occurred to me last week (after the superhero musings) that the name ‘Overman’ is a literal English translation of the German ‘ubermensch’, which was itself later Anglicised (from Nietzsche’s work) as ‘Superman’. Is Howard Overman secretly Superman? Smile