Monday, 19 December 2011

MISFITS, 3.8 – episode eight

Monday, 19 December 2011

For a finale that brought a three-year storyline to a slightly abrupt close, I wanted more, but that's not to say this episode made a hash of things. I just didn't feel as satisfied as I wanted to be (remembering back to mid-series 2 when Superhoodie's storyline hit its apex), although it was admittedly a tough job to bring this ongoing storyline to a conclusion fans couldn't predict outright. The bulk of series 3's finale felt like a standalone episode, strangely, with the gang meeting once-fraudulent psychic medium Jonas (Mark Heap), who now has a power that enables authentic communication with spirits. Not only that, but some effectively come back to the land of the living, which provided a fun excuse to get reacquainted with a few ghosts from the gang's past: original probation worker Tony (Danny Sapani), who was transformed into a psycho and duly murdered in the pilot; his colleague/girlfriend Sally (Alex Reid), whom Simon (Iwan Rheon) had a crush on, who was accidentally killed episodes later; and straight-laced cultist Rachel (Jessica Brown-Findlay), who died falling off a roof in the series 1 finale.

Seeing as the running gag of Misfits has been the number of probation workers that have died, it was great to see some of those early kills back and demanding answers—although it felt like a missed opportunity that the others, particularly the recently-deceased Shaun, didn't get an encore. I guess things would have become too crowded if they had, so the episode instead focused on three characters with stories left to tell. Austere but compassionate Tony couldn't believe how disobedient and feral the gang's become since he passed on; Sally found herself attracted to the newly-confident Simon, hatching a plot to cause a split with his girlfriend Alisha (Antonia Thomas); and religious Rachel (having discovered there's no God) decided to embrace her second chance and have sex, take drugs, and get drunk. Activities Rudy (Joe Gilgun) and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) were only too happy to help her indulge in!

At times it was hard to see where this episode was leading, beyond being a cute way to see vaguely familiar faces again (even with the "previously" recap, I struggled remembering Sally and Rachel's full back-stories). Fortunately, the intention behind the finale gradually became clearer, with each ghost causing problems in their attempt to return from whence they came (although that didn't really make sense, as life's surely better than the nothingness they've apparently gone to). Crucially, the Simon/Alisha relationship was put under strain from Alex's belief that she must sleep with Simon, and Rachel came to the conclusion that getting revenge on the people who killed her is the only way to end her torment. A decision that resulted in her slashing Alisha's neck with a knife, to let her bleed out in Simon's arms.

Only then did the finale get truly interesting, which was frustrating in hindsight. I think we deserved more than a hasty 10-minutes covering what happened next, with Simon finally telling his friends that he's the infamous "Superhoodie", and persuading power-dealer Seth (Matthew McNulty) to help him get a one-way ticket back in time to fulfil his destiny: to make Alisha fall in love with "Future Simon" and save her life, by sacrificing her own. But as Rudy noted in the denouement, there are no happy endings here. Simon and Alisha are stuck in a tragic time-loop, fated to die in each other's arms, so neither are coming back from their perspective. It's a clever way to end those character's time on the show, although much of this storyline falls apart when you really examine it. Simon and Alisha never went to Las Vegas, despite them having a famous photo of themselves in Vegas from Simon's future. And why didn't Simon just travel back in time to prevent Alisha having her throat slashed by Rachel? Isn't that a more constructive use of that power, than simply ensuring they'll have a poetic mutual death? It would have resulted in there being two Simon's in a timeline, of course, which is probably why it wasn't seen as the neater option. But it just felt slightly odd to me that Alisha's death suddenly inspired Simon to ensure she'll... well, still die in a grisly and unjust way.

So in some ways, I wasn't wholly satisfied with how Howard Overman handled things here, but Misfits has never really been good at details (especially where time-travel's concerned). Emotionally, it worked nicely, which is the main thing. I certainly wasn't expecting series 3 to end by eliminating another two characters. There was widespread doubt Misfits could cope with the unexpected loss of Robert Sheehan this year, but the consensus is that Joe Gilgun's been a good replacement. But to lose both Antonia Thomas and Iwan Rheon? Is that too damaging?

A fourth series has been confirmed by E4 already, so it'll be very interesting to see who replaces them. I'm excited by the idea of getting two new characters, but Misfits is phasing its original lineup out of the picture, and that upsets me. I can see the logic in ensuring this show doesn't get stale by changing the entire cast over time (which also clears up the issue that community service shouldn't last years), but it's also a considerable risk if the audience don't embrace the new faces. People already exist who simply don't like Gilgun and felt Sheehan's absence more deeply, so I'm wondering if the probable return of Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Lauren Socha will be enough to keep the majority of fans watching. Or is now a good time to call it a day, before Misfits faces the diminishing returns problem Skins encountered in trying to rejuvenate itself every two years with a new cast?


  • Guest-star Jessica Brown-Findlay was in Black Mirror's "Fifteen Million Merits" last week, and I'd forgotten that she'd appeared in an old episode of Misfits. Her star appears to be rising in showbiz circles, as she's also a guest on The Jonathan Ross Show this week (no doubt talking about Downton Abbey, that she also stars in). And, as I predicted last week, she's become a top choice among fans as the next Doctor Who companion, following the news that Karen Gillan is leaving.
  • British fans will undoubtedly recognize Green Wing's Mark Heap as the psychic here, and more international viewers will hopefully remember him as uptight artist Brian from '90s classic Spaced.
  • I know it wasn't a proper return, but it was great to see Robert Sheehan as Nathan again, in stock footage used to show Simon had travelled back to the past.
written by Howard Overman / directed by Jonathan van Tulleken / 18 December 2011 / E4