Monday, 28 November 2011

MISFITS, 3.5 - episode five

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lauren Socha already feels like a more prominent member of the cast this year, thanks to her character's ongoing romantic subplot with hunky power-dealer Seth (Matthew McNulty), but here she takes centre stage for a body-swap drama that affords Socha the chance to craft a different character than the foulmouthed, stroppy brat we've come to know and love. Trouble is, she really wasn't up to the challenge, and because this story hinged on Socha's ability to transform herself into someone else, the whole episode wound up being a dud.

This week, the gang are assigned different community service duties by grumpy probation worker Shaun (Craig Robinson), which for most of them means tending to a nearby garden instead of cleaning the streets of dog turds. For Kelly (Socha), it means spending time at the local hospital, where she makes the mistake of touching a coma patient called Jen—whose power is one of mind transference. Consequently, Jen quickly took control of Kelly's body (becoming "Jelly" for want of a better name?), and was able to leave the hospital to be with her grief-stricken boyfriend Dom, while poor Kelly remained trapped in Jen's bedridden body.

Interestingly, this is the second episode of series 3 where the story's revolved around a case of mistaken identity (the other being Curtis's gender-bending story), and the second episode that's been driven by the super-power of a guest-star (after last week's time-travel adventure). I'm a little worried these are signs the show's having problems thinking up ideas that are entirely new, or that deep down creator Howard Overman regrets the (mostly) uninspiring new powers he's bestowed on his leading characters. But regardless of that, there were bigger reasons why this episode just didn't work for me.

As I mentioned above, a key reason is that Lauren Socha's performance as Jen should have been a complete 180 from Kelly's personality, but instead Jen just felt like a quieter and less combustible version of Kelly. (Socha didn't/couldn't even change her accent when playing Jen.) For me, a lot of the magic of this episode evaporated as a direct result of this, because we really needed to enjoy seeing "Kelly" speaking and behaving completely differently. Unfortunately, Socha's range as an actress appears to be limited and her Jen wasn't memorable. It also felt strange that so much of this episode was focused on Jen and Dom's relationship, as both those characters are just one-off creations. It wasn't enough that Socha was prominent throughout in the role of Jen, because nothing was being done to develop her real character at any point. A similar problem spoiled episode 4, where the entire cast were just alternate versions of characters we know, so nothing really mattered.

The subplots this week weren't too great, either. Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), in his female form, was almost caught having a wank in a cupboard by his ex-girlfriend Alisha (Antonia Thomas), and Rudy (Joe Gilgun) was astonished that his fortysomething "anger management therapist" was desperate to sleep with him! The latter story felt especially strange to me, as it  didn't ring true that Rudy's therapist would find someone like Rudy sexually attractive. It was almost as if the idea was intended for Robert Sheehan's character Nathan (who had a cheeky charisma you could better imagine appealing to a cougar), but it doesn't work with Gilgun. I think Gilgun's fitted into the group dynamic quite well and he's an amusing comic actor, but it's a stretch to imagine a middle-aged woman would want to give him a hand job in her office.

Going back to the central story of Jen and Kelly's body-swap (or mind-swap?), there was certainly some moments where the story started to find some shape. In particular, the ending of the episode went some way to redeeming the hour... to some extent. The show is always at its best when the whole gang are united in a  mission, so seeing them steal Jen's body from hospital with the intention of forcing Jen back inside was a lot of fun. I just wish the story had done more with the unsettling revelation that Jen was effectively signing her own death warrant by agreeing to return to her original body, as Dom turned her ventilator off once the Freaky Friday shenanigans were over.

Plus we had the surprising moment with Shaun getting stabbed by a cornered "Kelly" and actually dying from his injury, seconds after the gang revealed he's been looking after a bunch of "superheroes" all these months. I didn't expect them to kill Shaun, as he's been a source of more entertainment this series than many of the younger cast, but it was also an amusingly familiar situation for the gang to be burying yet another probation worker!

Finally, things moved on between Kelly and Seth in the denouement, as they kissed for the first time (in this timeline) and the gang appear to have accepted Seth as part of their clique. But I'm unsure about all this. I don't really understand why Seth's become such an important character on the show, as he doesn't seem to warrant this much attention. His romance with Kelly isn't a bad idea, on paper, but it hasn't been handled very well on-screen. I still don't get what Seth sees in Kelly, who's a wilfully belligerent person. She hasn't done anything to prove herself in his eyes, so it all feels rather woolly and forced to me. They simply want to give Kelly a love story and thought it would be easier to utilise Seth (who was a guest-star in the Christmas special), but the show hasn't done enough groundwork to make it feel plausible. Considering Misfits is also home to one of the best TV romances in Simon (Iwan Rheon) and Alisha, it's even more disappointing that Kelly and Seth is so weak and unconvincing in comparison.

Overall, episode 5 was the worst episode of series 3 so far—which has itself been worryingly weaker than previous series. This time last year I was giddy with excitement about the brilliant Superhoodie storyline, but this year has lacked anything as compelling to tie the show together. Maybe the aforementioned Kelly/Seth romance is supposed to be something we should be deeply invested in, in which case it's been a catastrophic failure in that regard. In terms of this episode, I'm afraid Lauren Socha's limited talent killed whatever fun was intended by the body-swap idea. She's clearly very comfortable and amusing playing an extroverted chav like Kelly, but anything too far removed from that character type doesn't seem to be in her repertoire.


  • This was the first ever Misfits episode not written by series creator Howard Overman. Jon Brown wrote episode 5, based on a story he co-created with Overman. I don't blame Brown for too much that went wrong here, as I thought he captured the characters quite nicely and there were some funny lines. It's just a shame Rudy's subplot felt intended for Nathan, and much of the basic concept didn't really come alive in front of the camera.
  • "WAKE UP!" You have to love Rudy's attempt to rouse a coma patient into consciousness.
  • Will the remaining three episodes feature the misfits trying to keep Shaun's murder a secret? If so, been there, done that...
written by Jon Brown (story by Jon Brown & Howard Overman) / directed by Will Sinclair / 27 November 2011 / E4