Monday, 20 December 2010

'MISFITS' 2.7 - Christmas Special

Monday, 20 December 2010

Last Thursday's finale disappointed me because it felt like Misfits was overreaching and straining credibility (as I fell in love with the show because of its down-to-earth take on superheroes), but this Christmas special was plainspoken fun that ended the year run on a definite high-note.

"I'm going to kill Jesus." –- Simon
Only Misfits could include that line in its festive special. Episode 7 picked up three months after the events at The Grand Hotel, with the gang having finished their community service and trying to make a living in the real world: Kelly's (Lauren Socha) become a street cleaner on the estate; Nathan (Robert Sheehan) is working as foulmouthed Santa Claus; Curtis is still dating Nikki (Ruth Negga) and working behind a bar with Alisha (Antonia Thomas); and Alisha's new boyfriend is Simon (Iwan Rheon), who's busy practicing his parkour skills so he can achieved his destiny as the Superhoodie.

The story mostly revolved around unassuming Elliot (Edward Hogg), a local clergyman growing frustrated with the poor turnout of his community centre sermons, who realized he could boost attendance and transform himself into a figure of respect by pretending to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. To do this, Elliot visited a "power-broker" called Seth (Matthew McNulty) and spent the church donations on super-powers that allowed him to achieve various miracles, such as walking on water. Consequently, "Jesus" amassed a flock of devoted followers, but being so revered inflated Elliot's ego to a frightening extent and he started to abuse his gifts.

Nathan: "I piss and shit myself more times than I can remember."
Marnie: (love-struck) "Me too..."
Concurrently, the gang heard about Seth's ability to siphon people's powers and, for a variety of personal reasons, decided to undergo the process of removal: Alisha understandably wanted to lose her power, so she could touch people without turning them into sex pests; Nathan wanted the cash exchange so he could provide for his new girlfriend Marnie (Gwyneth Keyworth) and her unborn baby; Nikki wanted rid of her frustrating tendency to teleport across town during sex; while Curtis and Kelly agreed that their powers have ultimately been the bane of their lives, so willingly traded them for £20,000 each. However, as Simon warned by referring to the events of Superman II, they almost immediately regretted giving up their powers when it became clear the impostor "Jesus" was a threat to their community who needed to be stopped.

This episode worked well because it utilized two strong story ideas: the group deciding to have their powers drained away by Seth, and the repercussions of someone using super-powers to fake being the Messiah. The religious angle was particularly appreciated because it not only spoke to the Christmas theme of this episode, but it's also something most other TV superhero shows would never tackle -- particularly in the less secular US. While TV/film often uses superheroes as allegories for Jesus Christ, it was refreshing to have an episode where a character actually used his abilities to convince people he's of divine origin.

Nathan: "We may have done sod all with our powers, but we never abused them. We never raped or murdered anyone!"
Curtis: (looking to Alisha) "She raped me and we killed loads of people."
Nathan: "Okay... but we're the good guys!"
Seth's existence also delivered a feeling that super-powers are a kind of underground secret amongst the community of this London estate, allowing for people like Seth to do business with those in the know. The way powers were used as a commodity reminded me of the excellent Juan Carlos Fresnadillo movie Intacto, where "luck" was likewise a product people could trade.

If there were downsides, they were again symptoms of Misfit's brevity and how it therefore leaps ahead of itself, when you'd prefer more believable developments. Nathan became quickly attached to Marnie and accepting of her baby, although it's easier to accept this sudden infatuation given it's in Nathan's character to jump into situations with no thought. Less plausible was the way Nikki's surprise death was handled, after being shot dead by Seth's goon. She's been a significant new character of series 2, only to be accidentally killed and then barely referred to! Nathan's death in series 1's finale packed more of a punch, and this offhanded way to write-out Nikki made her presence this year look irrelevant. Beyond giving Curtis a new girl to chase, so Alisha dumping him for Simon would result in a more amicable split, it's hard to see what Nikki was even created for. Her ability to teleport never even proved useful.

Much better was the continuation of the Alisha/Simon relationship, particularly because Simon's become jealous of his future self and feels like he's competing with "another man" because he's comparatively terrible in bed. Again, it's slightly frustrating that these character became an intem during the unseen three months after episode 6, but the problem with UK shows and their short runs is writers are more likely to cut corners because they don't have time to develop plots at a more natural pace. It's a shame, but beyond E4 being given the cash to commission a 12-episode run we're going to have to put up with these odd leaps.

Overall, the Misfits Christmas special was a very good 70-minute special, and I'm pleased it arrived to take the sting out of the rather muddled finale. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this special was the final scene, with the gang returning to demand their powers back from Seth. Knowing they don't have to be given the powers they lost also facilitates a third series rejuvenation, as each character could be given a different ability. I'm not sure that's a wholly wise move (given that each character's power was a neat extension of their personality), but I'm hoping writer Howard Overman seizes this chance to fix some obvious storytelling problems. Alisha's power has always been a contentious curio, so I'm hoping she'll be given Nikki's teleportation; and Nathan being immortal is fine, but can the assumed rapid healing become more prominent with him? And will Simon be given Curtis's ability to time-travel, thus explaining how Future Simon manages to get back and rescue his friends in the past as Superhoodie?

A fine end to what's been a great second year, even if half its episodes were comparatively weak because that mid-series "trilogy" was extraordinarily good. What did you think?

  • It was actually announced before series 2 even started airing, but now it's 100% official from Channel 4: Misfits will return for a third series next year. Did you even doubt it?
  • Very funny scene with Elliot/Jesus "monologuing" as a supervillain in front of the gang, while receiving a blowjob from a follower wearing a Santa's hat.
  • Is anyone going to try Nathan's oral sex tip involving a Fisherman's Friend cough sweet? I don't expect an answer, but I bet some are curious...
  • Nathan had sex with a Thai ladyboy, and he didn't even have the excuse he was in Thailand and unaware of his lover's true identity! Does anyone else think Nathan's becoming rather distasteful and unpleasant now?
  • You might recognize guest star Edward Hogg (Elliot/Jesus) from the movie The Bunny & The Bull.
WRITER: Howard Overman
DIRECTOR: Tom Hooper
TRANSMISSION: 19 December 2010, E4/HD, 10PM