Friday, 19 November 2010


Friday, 19 November 2010

I was dissatisfied by Misfits' premiere last week, mainly because the meat of its story felt like a reheated, underdeveloped leftover from last year. Hopefully, those confused by my reaction will better understand what I felt was missing now, in comparing episode 1 to this week's more emotional, inventive improvement.

It goes without saying that Nathan's (Robert Sheehan) the show's not-so-secret weapon; a sublimely irritating, wisecracking, egotistical, charming, and riveting creation, superbly played by the young Irish actor. He's simply captivating to watch and episode 2 benefitted from giving him the focus, as he dealt with the arrival of a half-brother he didn't even know existed. Sibling Jamie (Sam Keeley) arrived in fine style, driving a car containing their father Mike (Dexter Fletcher), whom he'd bundled into the boot after braining him with an iron during an argument. When Jamie's car was later stolen by joyriders, Nathan had to help his brother find the vehicle and rescue their dad from jeopardy.

There were almost two episodes to savour this week, once Mike had been rescued by his sons, as Jamie accompany Nathan and his friends to an all-night party. Here we discovered that drugs have a unique effect on the super-teens, as each realized their powers had been flipped: mind reader Kelly (Lauren Socha) couldn't resist blurting out whatever's on her mind; invisible Simon (Iwan Rheon) became conspicuous in crowds, gaining the attention of girls in particular; Alisha (Antonia Thomas) realized that touching people caused them to become exceptionally mean to her; Nathan assumedly became mortal; and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) jumped forward in time, finding himself wearing a superhero costume on the edge of a rooftop (very Kick-Ass, no?), in the company of an attractive girl he doesn't recognize.

In many ways this was a near-perfect episode, as it pushed every button Misfits has as its disposal: dysfunctional family drama, teenage love (Nathan pulled a barmaid who can turn water to ice), fractious friendships, superhero quirkiness, gang culture, hedonism, and mystery -- as the "Super Hoodie" subplot was nudged along, with Alisha capturing his parkour skills on camera, before Simon followed the masked stranger back to where he lives on the estate.

The great thing about Misfits is that nothing relies on the super-powers, premise, or visuals (director Tom Green again delivering a cool indie movie experience as an hour-long drama), but instead everything that holds your attention has its basis in character. There's never a moment when you're anxious to get back to something more overtly fantastical, as it's such a pleasure just watching these actors mingle and bounce off the guest stars. The return of Mike came with material that wasn't particularly original (deadbeat dad has a love-child), but the actors teased everything they could from it. Considering the fact Jamie was only around for an hour, Keeley did a great job in developing a character you could believe was the quieter brother of Nathan, who didn't get eclipsed by Sheehan's bravado. They made a good double-act ("we're like the Mitchell brothers; only we're not bald, ugly and shit!") and it's almost a pity Jamie didn't stick around for awhile.

With much to chew on regarding the Mike/Jamie/Nathan family drama, dovetailing into the intrigue of the reversed-powers at the party, episode 2 sealed its greatness with unexpected tragedies. The moment when the frosty barmaid (powers inverted) died of spontaneous human combustion, while in the throes of (literally) hot passion with Jamie in a parked car, was certainly a shock, and then the story added a Sixth Sense-style twist with Nathan realizing his surviving brother actually died in the explosion with her. An offshoot of Nathan's immortality is the ability to see ghosts, it seems.

Considering that's an old twist in fantasy fiction, popularized and recycled many times over the past decade especially, I was surprised it worked on me. I was actually thinking that burnt-out car would somehow get sent back in time by Curtis, to become the vehicle Jamie and Nathan searched while looking for their dad earlier in the episode, but I was way off.

Overall, a great episode that was a particular triumph in terms of knitting emotion, character and superhero hijinks. If Misfits can keep up this standard for the majority of the remaining five episodes, series 2 is going to be very special indeed. It was a particularly good moment to end on, with Curtis answering the door to the girl he saw in his own future. Who is she? Will she convince him to dress as a superhero? Is she to be trusted? Is she the Hoodie?

I take it everyone else thought episode 2 was marvelous, with only a few minor caveats?

  • Dexter Fletcher is the perfect choice to play Nathan's dad, it needs repeating. If this was 1991, Fletcher would be playing Nathan, I have no doubt. Although he'd be either cockney or American, not Irish.
  • Nathan still thinks Simon's name is Barry. I don't think he's even joking now. Funny thing is, I'm beginning to think of him as Barry now, too.
  • It's a popular conceit with the superhero genre, but I do like how every person's power reflected their personality in some way. The barmaid with intimacy issues being literally frigid was a good example.
  • Is this the best-looking drama on TV? It's certainly the most visually creative, and the budget's used very well. That F/X shot of the pint glasses developing frosted spikes was slicker than equivalent shots in, say, Heroes. I get the impression the budget's been increased this year (car stunts, more scenes away from the council estate), and while it'll never reach the millions-per-episode standard of US network dramas, for my money it's far more interesting to look at. In fact, it kind of makes you realize how generic US drama is on the big networks, in terms of tone and style.
  • I'm not so sure the Hoodie is one of the misfits now, as it's perhaps too obvious to go down that route. But you don't unmask a mystery and reveal a stranger, do you. That's not interesting. So it must be a character we know, or will come to know before the reveal is done. Any predictions?
WRITER: Howard Overman
TRANSMISSION: 18 November 2010, E4/HD, 10PM