“You wear a costume and you jump off buildings. And you save people from muggers. Trust me, that makes you a superhero.”
A doomier than usual episode of Misfits this week, as the focus shifts to Simon and his ‘destiny’ as Superhoodie, the most obviously comic-book-like of the gang. There was much musing on the subject of the temporal paradox we already know to be at the heart of his story, and while done in typical Misfits style, this was very much a thoughtful musing on fate and how much control we have over it.
All this was facilitated by the introduction of Peter, a shy, introverted, comic nerd whose personality is so wound tight he always wears his shirt buttoned right to the top. In other words, Peter was basically a carbon copy of Simon as he used to be, before the discovery of his powers and his future liberated him. As Peter, Michael Marcus put in a clever performance as the extent of his inadequacy and hero worship gradually gave way to what seemed like full on psychosis – like a dark mirror of how Simon could have ended up if things had gone a different way.
And things going a different way was at the heart of the story this week. The nature of the plot is that we know Simon, as Superhoodie, will come back from the future to save Alisha, being killed in the process. Alisha is obviously none too keen on this, for various reasons. She cites how good Simon is in bed (“Just pretend I’m not here,” mutters Curtis), and the fact that she’s never been the one on the receiving end of a dumping. But the truth is simply that she’s totally, believably in love with Simon, and knows that if he’s to follow the path time has laid out for him and travel back to save her while dying, they can’t have long left together.
Antonia Thomas was great as Alisha this week, showing how she’s matured while still retaining that sassy cockiness that defines her. Obviously very worried about what Simon’s getting up to as Superhoodie, she’s none too pleased to see his hand bandaged up, but when he tells her that yes, it does hurt, her response is a simple, “good”. This is not a girl that’s going to be walked over by fate. And true to form in such plots, both her and Peter want Simon to try and change his destiny.
Alisha falls prey to one of the common misunderstandings of a time paradox, as she tells Simon that he doesn’t need to go back in time – she’s alive now, so therefore she can’t die in the past. But therein, of course, is the paradox. Simon has to follow the future laid out for him or the present will be changed and Alisha will be dead.
Peter, rather more pragmatically, addresses the concern that nerds like me have had since this plot came on the scene – namely, since Simon knows he’ll be shot saving Alisha, why doesn’t he wear a bulletproof vest when he goes to the scene? And Simon’s answer was, thankfully, not some sub-Doctor Who technobabble about the Blinovitch Limitation Effect or the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. In keeping with his more mature, thoughtful personality these days, he explains that his future self dying is the catalyst not only for him to become that person, but also for Alisha to fall in love with him. And that’s not something he wants to give up, even if he can only have it for a short time before he has to die.
But there was also the fact that Simon – a comic nerd himself, remember – is clearly enjoying being Superhoodie, and the events of this episode served to bring him back down to earth somewhat. After saving Peter from an attempted mugging in full-on Batman/Kickass style, Simon’s plainly high on the idea of being a superhero. Ironically, it’s Peter’s slavish worship of him as one that serves notice as to how treacherous the idea can be.
Of course, this being Misfits, Peter had a power of his own – and it was very much in keeping with the themes of the episode that it was to draw comics and have the events in them turn into reality. So having discovered the true identity of his saviour in the toilets at the community centre (which Rudy, typically, assumed was Simon coming to terms with himself as “a beautiful, proud gay man”), Peter set about manipulating his hero into becoming his best friend, then disposing of his current friends when they got in the way.
This led to some clever musings on the tropes of classic superhero comics, not least the often ridiculously portentous dialogue. Manipulated into splitting up with Alisha, Simon announced, “I’m terminating our relationship… being a superhero is a great burden.” Alisha responded the way most of us would when confronted with such dialogue in the real world: “What the fuck are you talking about?” There was also Peter’s declaration that superheroes can’t have girlfriends because their relationships never end well – true enough for anyone familiar with the relationships of, among others, Superman and Spiderman.
Simon was, however, acting very much out of character – something the rest of the gang were quick to notice, even Rudy (though he continued to assume that Simon was just coming to terms with his homosexuality, and offered Alisha a charming “rebound fuck”). It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that Simon’s newfound devotion to Peter must be down to Peter himself, and this was confirmed when they discovered his drawings of what had happened. As they were torn up, Simon snapped back to his usual self, the lights in his Batcave-like lair flickering on and off while the Hans Zimmer-like theme for Superhoodie played in the background.
Tearing up the drawings was an obvious save, but it did occur to me that burning them might have produced a more unfortunate effect. In Vault of Horror when Tom Baker discovers he can kill people by painting them and then destroying or disfiguring the paintings, he makes the baffling choice to do a self-portrait, which nearly kills him when locked into an airtight safe, then actually does when he spills paint thinner on it (he gets run over by a truck, making his face look as messy as it does in the ruined painting). I wondered whether burning Peter’s drawings would, similarly, burn Simon – though he doesn’t get torn in half from tearing them up. Still, that’s the sort of nitpicking that a nerd like Peter (or me) would do. And it’s not the end of the nitpicking either; the fight that Peter pre-choreographed with his drawings, where Superhoodie wiped the floor with his unwitting friends, must have depended on the idea that Peter knew they were all going to corner him in advance. Maybe there’s some timey-wimey stuff going on with him too?
It’s another classic trope of comics to have a bad guy who’s basically how the hero could have turned out if things had been slightly different – Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke hinges on the Joker drawing that similarity between himself and Batman. Here, as Peter descended into what seemed full on madness, he kidnapped Alisha while actually dressed as Superhoodie. And when he died after Simon had stabbed him with his own butcher knife, Alisha even commented, “it’s like watching you die for a second time”.
But the story had one last twist to play. It seemed out of character for Simon to have actually killed Peter – yes, he did kill the social worker back in series one, but that was an accident that horrified him. But as the camera panned over some still intact drawings, it became clear that Peter had still been manipulating events up to the end, to both embody and teach his perceived idea that “a superhero has to be prepared to die for what he believes in”. Insanity or destiny? Hard to know, but it was a nice way to end the episode as the camera panned down to the last panel of the comic to reveal: “To be continued…”
While the plot generally hinged on Simon, Alisha and Peter, the rest of the gang were still not as sidelined as they were in last week’s Curtis-centric episode. Rudy got to be typically coarse and offensive – although I assumed that many of these were lines previously written for Nathan before Robert Sheehan chose to leave, as I could easily imagine him delivering them. Though I must note that his failed attempt to disable Peter’s burglar alarm featured him saying first, “I took a BTEC in computer science”, then after making the noise even worse, admitted “But I didn’t say I passed!” For the origin of that little gag, look no further then the introduction of Jo Grant in 1971 Doctor Who story Terror of the Autons!
Rudy also got to demonstrate his own power for the first time since episode one, leading to an amusing confrontation with probation worker Shaun when he discovered the two Rudys in the changing room. Shaun too was as drily funny as usual; assuming the two Rudys to be twin brothers, either of which might turn up for community service each day, he resignedly commented, “I’m going to forget what I’ve seen here. Because I really don’t give a fuck.”
Curtis didn’t get much to do this week beyond making the occasional wisecrack from the sidelines, but fair’s fair, he got pretty much the entirety of last week’s episode to himself. Kelly, though, was rather busier; besides once more exercising her ‘rocket scientist’ power to disable the burglar alarm, she also carried on flirting with ‘mysterious power guy’ Seth. He’s not as mysterious as he was, though. After Kelly flat out told him that she fancied him, we learned his backstory – he was a drug dealer who’d accidentally caused his girlfriend to OD, hence visiting her grave in the cemetery. And he can’t get it on with Kelly because he’s still in love with his dead girlfriend.
This caused me to speculate that perhaps the special power he’s so urgently looking for is the ability to bring the dead back to life; if so, he should be careful, as anyone who’s read The Monkey’s Paw will know, for resurrection seldom goes to plan. But Seth’s involvement is obviously crucial to this year’s storyline, and I also wonder whether it could give an out to Simon. Here’s my theory – Simon’s obviously going to have to acquire the power to actually travel in time, and Seth’s the only one who can deal powers out, so he’ll have to get it from him. But in the process, perhaps Simon might also, somehow, acquire Rudy’s power – meaning that it’s actually a duplicate Simon who dies saving Alisha, and the actual Simon can go off and live happily ever after with her.
Of course, I’m probably way off beam here, as I think Howard Overman’s plot solutions are rarely that obvious, but we’ll wait and see. Temporal paradox plotlines are very tricky things for a writer to get to grips with (unless you’re Steven Moffat perhaps), but Overman does seem to have an overarching plan for the show; that became obvious when Superhoodie was introduced at the end of series one. I think it’ll come together in the end, but in the mean time, this was a clever episode that combined comic fanboy enthusiasm with a bit of serious moral philosophy. Pretty impressive, and worth a look for those who still say that Misfits is just Skins meets Heroes. And next week’s trailer, with its plethora of Nazi uniforms around the community centre, seems to show yet another time paradox and comic book trope – I’m looking forward to that!