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.