Friday, 3 December 2010


Friday, 3 December 2010

Misfits certainly keeps you on your toes. One of the best things about this show is how unpredictable it is, as the normal rules of genre television don't seem to apply. Maybe it's because I digest so much US television, which is generally more risk averse, with business/advertising pressures shaping how plots and ideas unfold. In the UK, there's more creative freedom and less pressure, and that makes every episode a dangerous hour where you're never quite sure how it'll come together.

"You think this is a game? This is my life."
This week, the ASBO gang received a new member in flip-flop-wearing hippie Ollie, a young offender who vandalized a fire station over their carbon emission, who also has a super-power: teleportation. However, just when you thought the story would have Ollie as its focus, he was shocking killed by a bullet through the brain by Tim (Matt Cross), a deranged man cruising the streets in a red sports car, under the delusion he's living inside a violent video-game. Indeed, Tim even hallucinates his surrounds as a computer-generated world full of CGI characters he must kill or kidnap in order to get £100,000 from a kingpin known as "Conti", who he believes is Simon (Iwan Rheon).

As the gang contend with a madman driving around the estate, acting out a Grand Theft Auto fantasy, dead Ollie's heart was removed at the hospital and transplanted into Nikki's (Ruth Negga) chest, along with his burgeoning super-power. Elsewhere, Alisha (Antonia Thomas) fell deeper in love with Superhoodie (a.k.a "Future Simon"), promising to let him continue his curious work unhindered. She was even given the keys to his hideout as their trust in each other grew stronger.

Episode 4 was a simple enough story, lacking an emotional component. Even the violent death of Ollie was brushed off within moments, as Misfits exists in this bizarre, empty world where the police never seem to come calling. It actually gives everything the feeling of purgatory, which I guess it is for these kids doing community service to atone for their crimes. The notion of a disturbed man stalking the streets, believing he's inside a video-game, is an exaggerated fear of what these games will do to young minds, but visually interesting and disturbing enough to make its points. I thought the design work of the "world" Tim sees was an accurate portrayal of those games, and mixed dark humour (the granny hit-n'-run Death Race homage) with genuinely scary sequences (Ollie's senseless murder). Tim was basically played as a Terminator-esque "unstoppable" villain (the kind of person who never bothers to run when a scary walk will suffice), but it was rather marvelous to see him chase the gang around for an hour.

There wasn't too much going on in the subplots, but I loved the surprise that Nikki has actually inherited a super-power from her heart donor Ollie. The only disappointment is that her storyline merged brilliantly with the A-story, as she was somehow compelled to teleport to the gang's location in the climax, to rescue them from being chainsawed in half by Tim, only to be swiftly captured herself. Sometimes the price you pay for an unpredictable development is a satisfying arc. Likewise, once Alisha had escaped from captivity and led Tim away from her friends, the moment when Future Simon sacrificed his life by intercepting a bullet aimed for her was another big surprise... but also one that I couldn't help feel a little disappointed by. I think more time should have been spent on Alisha/Future Simon, so that his death carried more weight.

Also, with shows like this, and despite the fact Alisha burned Future Simon's body, I'm never convinced death is absolute, so it was hard to really feel much emotion in Simon's death. I suspect the timeline will play out different next time, or something like that. But does this mean there will be no Superhoodie for awhile now? How quickly is regular Simon expected to transform into his future self? It feels like this should be a progression to take us into series 3, but knowing Misfits we might arrive at that point by episode 7. Would that be too fast? Too rushed and, consequently, too unbelievable Simon can go from shy wallflower to muscled superman in three episodes?

Episode 4 also delivered the inevitable split of Alisha and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), with the characters moving on in very different directions: Curtis was free to approach Nikki without feeling guilty, but poor Alisha had to deal with the death of the lover she's been seeing behind his back, and will have to mourn in secrecy. Alisha's only positive is knowing that good times lie ahead with Simon, after noticing a photo of them together in Las Vegas on a wall in Future Simon's lair.

Overall, Misfits continues to be a brilliantly crafted and entertaining series, even if this episode lacked the emotional core of the preceding hours. There was still plenty of surprises, shocks and a gripping climax. As I mentioned at the start of this review, it's the sense that anything can happen that really sells it, as it's almost impossible to correctly guess how any given episode is going to pan out. Misfits doesn't follow the standard formulas other shows stick to, particularly American ones, and it's therefore a genuine thrill to sit down and watch each story unfold over an hour.

  • I was pleased this episode confirmed that Nathan can see ghosts permanently (he spotted Ollie wandering around after his death), and that his ability wasn't a temporary after-effect of drug-taking in episode 2, as many people assumed.
  • Bang goes the theory that Future Simon is a shape-shifter pretending to be Simon – right?
  • Is this the first time we've actually seen Simon turn invisible, on camera? The scene where he stole a case of money from a security van also confirmed that objects he touches turn invisible, too. Or could the show just not afford to have a "levitating" cash-box, a la Return To Witch Mountain?
  • What's Alisha going to do now regarding Simon? Is it her destiny to turn him into Future Simon, not just emotionally and sexually, but also as the mastermind of everything Future Simon was trying to achieve?
  • If Future Simon's really dead, what exactly was his masterplan? Was it simply that he has to prevent paradoxes by ensuring he was present to steer the gang's lives in certain directions? If so, isn't that a little boring? There must be something more to this story, right? We're only halfway through the series.
  • Funniest scene? Nathan trying to escape from Tim by swinging his body like a pendulum, getting very excited by very little progress.
  • Do you think other characters will see their powers developed, as Nathan's has done? Might Kelly soon start talking to people telepathically? How about Alisha being able to manipulate people's emotions? It struck me in this episode that the only characters with immediately effective, useful, and reliable powers are Nathan and Simon.
  • Why not play this Misfits video-game based on episode 4's events!
WRITER: Howard Overman
DIRECTOR: Owen Harris
TRANSMISSION: 2 December 2010, E4/HD, 10PM