Monday, 21 November 2011

MISFITS, 3.4 – episode four

Monday, 21 November 2011

I can't argue against Misfits trying something more adventurous, but its own version of Doctor Who's "Let's Kill Hitler" gambit was an entertaining misfire. It didn't do enough that developed or stretched the characters (which was almost impossible considering this took place in an alternate timeline), and lacked the budget to bring its ideas to life in a vivid enough way. I didn't really buy into this altered world, where the Nazis won WWII and have occupied Britain, because beyond hanging a few swastika's around it never felt like a very oppressive state.

To backup, things got started when elderly Holocaust survivor Friedrich (Fred Pearson) used his acquired power of time-travel to turn back the clock and assassinate Adolf Hitler (David Barrass). A mission that didn't go according to plan when the geriatric time-traveller was overpowered by the Fuhrer and was forced to return to the present-day with a life-threatening knife wound. Unfortunately, Friedrich had also left his 21st-century mobile phone in the 1930s, and discovered that history had been rewritten in the favour of the Third Reich. From there we met alternate versions of the misfit gang: parole officer Shaun (Craig Parkinson) as a Nazi soldier; Alisha (Antonia Thomas) as Shaun's secretary and spy for the Resistance; Simon (Iwan Rheon) as a conflicted footsoldier; Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) as the leader of the local Resistance movement; Kelly (Lauren Socha) as Curtis' right-hand woman; and Rudy (Joe Gilgun) as someone on the run from the Nazi's who wants to join the fight.

There followed a mixed hour playing on this basic idea. It was great to see Shaun on a power trip (abusing his position to kiss Alisha), but none of the other character's roles really came to life for me. What was surprising is how central power-dealer Seth (Matthew McNulty) was to the episode, as the Nazi's knew of his ability to leech and transfer super-powers and wanted to force him into bestowing powers on high-ranking Nazi's by taking them away from the local population of reprobate kids. I'm just not sure anyone really cares about Seth as much as the show wants us to, despite the fact he's in a romantic storyline with Kelly—who even in this universe is head-over-heels for him. Lauren Socha has also been given a lot of material this year, probably because of her surprise BAFTA win, but I still don't find Kelly particularly appealing. She's good for a quip ("fuckin' Nazis") and sulky eye-roll, but I remain surprised she was singled out by BAFTA for a top acting award. As anyone who's explored this show's DVD box-set extras will know, playing someone like Kelly is hardly a stretch for Lauren.

The storyline was a little thin this week. It was simply a caper with the characters in a very different situation, not recognizing each other, but eventually coming together to rescue Seth before he destroys any chance of a super-powered uprising against the Nazi party. It was just hard to really care about anything, because similarly to series 2's finale it was obvious everything would be undone by the time the credits rolled. Even the idea of exploring the characters in a different context didn't work too well, because everyone apart from Simon was largely the same as they've ever been. Growing up under the boot of the Nazi's didn't seem to have changed them to any extent, and seeing characters behaving very differently to what's "normal" is a big part of why such "alternate universe" plots are so popular in science fiction. So without any big changes to the characters, it was hard to see the point... beyond the chance for some funny one-liners like "Oi, Hitler! Why've you got to be such a dick?"

A big opportunity missed is how I'd describe this episode. The idea of going back in time and killing Hitler is a hoary cliché, but Misfits usually takes the clichés of the superhero genre and gives them a very British, very coarse, very gritty rub down. Quite why the juicy notion of these delinquent, smart-talking characters living in a fascist state didn't amount to much is a puzzle. Maybe it was because they weren't aware of any changes to the timeline, and the only character who was (Friedrich) spent most of this episode in a prison cell not saying anything.

It was also odd that Kelly, having saved the day with twin handguns before travelling back in time to headbutt Hitler and steal back Friedrich's phone, is now existing in the restored timeline as herself. Logically, we now have an alternate-Kelly in the group, who's lived a totally different life under Nazi rule... but I don't expect the show to adhere to what that all means. It plays very fast and loose with logic, as we've seen many times before, and I'm sure that's going to infuriate a certain type of sci-fi fan.

Overall, episode 4 perhaps bit off more than it could chew; the production struggled to do full justice to the idea of a fascist England, and writer Howard Overman forgot that the most enjoyable thing about alternate universes is seeing established characters being given new and surprising personalities as a result of the differences in their timeline. I wouldn't say it was boring or devoid of highlights (such as the shocking moment Simon went through with killing poor Friedrich), but I will say I expected a lot better.


  • In this alternate universe, I guess Nathan still went to Vegas?
  • I could be mistaken, but I think this episode gave us the name of the district Misfits actually takes place. Wertham was written on a sign in one scene.
  • I'm not sure if it was intentional, but I liked the shots of the city's red skies and bright white sun, resembling the iconic swastika banner design.
written by Howard Overman / directed by Wayne Yip & Alex Garcia / 20 November 2011 / E4