Monday, 7 November 2011

MISFITS, 3.2 - episode two

Monday, 7 November 2011

The loose format of Misfits is that each episode focuses on a particular character, through the prism of their power—and given how the characters all have brand new abilities this year, that bodes well for stories that feel fresh. Series 3's second episode focuses on Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and his gender-bending ability to transform into a woman, known as Mel (Kehinde Fadipe), which comes in handy when he decides he wants to return to athletics despite his ban. Initial suspicions of a sports-based story are avoided, as Curtis has no real desire to compete seriously, and instead the plot went in a considerably more interesting direction that involved a twisted romance and mistaken identity.

Curtis met a fellow athlete called Emma (Hannah Britland) who used to hero worship him before he got busted for drugs, and this led to them having a brief sexual encounter one night. Unfortunately, Curtis' bedroom technique isn't as good as he believed, which he came to realize after transforming into Mel and hearing from Emma about his own disappointing performance in the sack. And a quick discussion with ex-lover Alisha (Antonia Thomas) confirmed that he's a selfish lover who can't please a woman.. and is generally a rather depressing presence. Suffering a crisis of confidence, matters were complicated when bisexual Emma started to develop feelings for Mel, which in some ways helped Curtis because, when disguised as Mel, he could literally rediscover his sexuality and let Emma improve his technique by pretending to be a virgin.

There was a lot to enjoy about this episode. For the first time in ages, it felt like Misfits really had something to say about a character and society. The show's at its best when the stories evolve naturally from the characters and use their powers in intelligent ways, and you can't fault this episode's approach to all that. Curtis has been a fairly lifeless character compared to the others, who've been dealt much better storylines, so it was great to see him given some depth and complexity here. I never expected he'd be a "bad shag", and it was great to watch Curtis live a double life while trying to improve his image with Emma. Naturally, the episode reaped a great deal of comedy from the fact Curtis can become a woman, but it also had some serious issues to tackle. Shaun (Craig Parkinson) the probation worker finally got to play a bigger role in an episode, as he tried to chat-up Mel, which was uncomfortable but played for laughs because Shaun's just creepy and deluded.

Where things took a real turn was when the athletics coach Mark (Jay Taylor) started to show his true colours, by spiking Mel's drink and trying to date-rape her. It made a refreshing change to have a villain who wasn't augmented by super-powers, and Curtis's new power isn't anything that gives you a level of comfort. Curtis/Mel were in real danger dealing with a sexual predator, and I appreciated how this episode was essentially tackling a very serious issue that affects real people. That's exactly what all good science fiction does, and in its own way this episode may have awakened many young viewers to the dangers out there.

I'm also delighted by how Misfits casts its young actors, as many of them are relative newcomers to TV with strong theatrical backgrounds. Fadipe was brilliant as a feminine version of Curtis because her whole demeanour and attitude was spot-on, while Britland made for a genuinely appealing and three-dimensional love-interest as Emma. It was something of a shame she had to leave, really. Her character was realistically drawn, and the love-triangle that developed between her, Curtis and Mel was great fun to watch unfold. It was a predictable direction for the episode to take, perhaps, but one everyone wanted to see occur. Kudos to the actors and directors for again giving us another genuinely erotic sex scene, too—something Misfits excels at, and is hard to do without looking silly or unsexy.

Away from the drama and hot issues, this was still a very funny episode in places. Rudy (Joe Gilgun) got the bulk of the laughs: mixing alcoholics drinks in his mouth at a party, before spewing into a stranger's hoodie; giving oral sex to Curtis as a woman, unaware she's suffering from the effects of Rohypnol; then later hacking a stray pubic hair from the back of his throat as proof to the others. Crude? Most definitely. But this is the kind of raw humour the show deals in, and it gets away with it because that's just one string to its bow.

This episode didn't have much in the way of subplots, although we saw Kelly (Lauren Socha) follow power-dealer Seth (Matthew McNulty) to a graveyard, where he paid his respects to a dead 23-year-old girl called Shannon Speers. This is setting up something for the future, and it seems likely Kelly will be making a play for Seth's affections very soon (well, it's a step up from last year's simian romance).

Overall, I had a great time watching this episode because it had something serious on its mind. It rehabilitated the character of Curtis, who was starting to lose his place in the group, and it was great to see an episode that could sustain its entire runtime by focusing almost entirely on the one story. I'm just a little unsure about the long-term application of Curtis's power, which has fuelled a great episode but is unlikely to be of much use going forward. Maybe the idea is for the characters to be given new powers every series, which will provide the foundations for new standalone stories? That's fair enough, but I do sort of miss the days when each character had a power that felt symbiotic, and wasn't just a way to tell a particular story.


  • E4's Misfits Twitter feed referred to Mel as "Curtits", which I have to admit I was very tempted to use here.
  • Did it really take Curtis until now to, ahem, explore his female body? That's surely the first thing you'd do in his position.
  • In this episode we learned that Simon can't choose when to glimpse the future, so cheating on the lottery is out of the question. It was also made clear that Kelly's "rocket scientist" power is slightly more practical than we were led to believe last week, being a form of mechanical intelligence that also means she can fix car engines easily.
written by Howard Overman / directed by Wayne Yip & Alex Garcia / 6 November 2011 / E4

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