Monday, 14 November 2011

MISFITS, 3.3 - episode three

Monday, 14 November 2011

Ever notice how most episodes of Misfits involve an outside force upsetting the delicate balance of the core quintuplet? After last week's gender-bending sex farce with Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and his would-be girlfriend, episode 3 shines a spotlight on the existing relationship between Simon (Iwan Rheon) and Alisha (Antonia Thomas). Their happiness together is put under strain by loner Peter (Michael Marcus Morgan), a comic-book geek whom Simon saved from a violent mugging as his "Superhoodie" alter-ego. Unfortunately, Peter's gratitude turned to obsession when he discovered Simon's true identity, leading him to take drastic measures to ensure Simon doesn't put his love life against his responsibilities as a superhero...

After last week's fairly graphic realism, episode 3 was a more fanciful and light-footed hour of entertainment—but that doesn't mean it was in any way inferior. I preferred this episode, overall, because there was more going on and it had the benefit of adding to a storyline that's been building since season 1's finale. At first I was a little concerned by the direction, because "hero worship" storylines involving an obsessive individual who makes his idol's life hell are well-trodden ground. Misfits' own variations were enough to give this episode some added spice, however. Peter was certainly in the clich├ęd mould of a misunderstood weirdo who becomes a problem to the focus of his mania, but his story wasn't completely predictable. I didn't even guess that Peter had a superpower until Simon uncharacteristically dumped Alisha, and even then I suspected Peter was a shape-shifter or could control people's bodies or minds.

Instead, it was revealed that Peter had the far more interesting power of being able to illustrate scenarios that come true. As a comic-book maven, Peter's penciled panels could be used to manipulate events to such an extent that it wasn't very clear how Simon or Alisha could possibly win. It was also refreshing to have a villain who actually became a villain before our eyes, for understandable reasons. Alisha really was threatening a paradox by refusing to let Simon one day travel back in time to save her life, by sacrificing his own. In many ways Peter was a necessary evil, as it was through him that Simon (a) had his confidence/ego boosted, and (b) learned a few important lessons about what being a true superhero means. In fact, in an echo of the movie Unbreakable, when Peter was eventually defeated by Simon after turning into a villainous version of Superhoodie and kidnapping Alisha, it became clear that even Peter's defeat and fiery demise was just part of his plan. In a twisted way, Peter just wanted Simon to be prepared to die for what he believes in, which is what being a superhero is all about.

It was a rather brilliant way to tackle a few comic-book standards in one fell swoop: the rescued becoming the hero's confidant, then the villain, while essentially being a mentor with a freakishly impressive resolve to do what's absolutely necessary to make Simon into the hero he needs to be. And it appears to have worked, as Simon's kept his Superhoodie disguise against Alisha's wishes.

The rest of the episode was filled out by some amusing scenes and moments, mostly involving probation worker Shaun (Craig Parkinson), who's becoming a brilliantly sour and dislikable dickhead the more we see of him. I particularly loved his insensitive rehabilitation therapy, that involves putting all the "fuckups" in a circle to collectively ridicule their sob stories. Plus we also learned more about power-dealer Seth (Matthew McNulty), now that Kelly (Lauren Socha) has made her feeling for him very clear. And it seems Seth has a tragic history of his own: his girlfriend died of a drugs overdose before the power-giving storm hit the area. My guess is that Seth's going to try and change history, but why hasn't he already if he assumedly has Curtis's old power of time-travel? Is Seth's story going to intersect with Simon's destiny to go back in time? Will saving Seth's girlfriend be another of the many little missions Simon has to perform before he completes his destiny?

Overall, episode 3 was a terrific hour that explored some very interesting areas, despite having a fairly humdrum starting point. This issue with Simon/Superhoodie has been the only ongoing story Misfits has chosen to tackle, weaving it through two series now, and it's doing a good job laying all the groundwork for the day "Future Simon" is "Present Simon" and has to sacrifice himself to save his girlfriend, but there are also plenty of ways for the show to avoid killing Simon. I still have a feeling a shape-shifter is going to be involved somehow, so the Simon we saw killed back in series 2 was just a willing stooge, but we'll see. Hopefully before this eight-part series is over, too.

Asides

  • I'd forgotten that the gang don't yet know Simon is Superhoodie, as it's a secret between Simon and Alisha. I'm not really sure why he hasn't told anyone else, though.
  • I didn't expect Shaun to see Rudy and his doppelganger "Twody", but it makes sense that Rudy's power can be explained away as a natural case of identical twins.
  • I'm pleased Kelly's power definitely extends to far more than building rockets, as she disarms a security alarm in this episode. Take "rocket scientist" to mean "genius" in Misfits parlance.
  • Misfits has some strong female characters, but I do wish Alisha wasn't always being captured to be the damsel in distress. This is twice in three episodes!
  • So they burned Peter with no thought for what his family might think about their son's disappearance? Huh.
  • Some lovely shots from director Will Sinclair, who seems to love overhead vantage points. It should probably be frustrating by now, but I still really like the "concrete jungle" the characters are trapped in for their community service. It gives the whole show a tangible urban, lonely, chilly feel.
written by Howard Overman / directed by Will Sinclair / 13 November 2011 / E4