written by Howard Overman / directed by Nirpal Bhogal
I haven't been very impressed with series 4 so far, but episode 3 was a definite improvement. Power games, masculinity and sexual politics were the big themes this week, for three character-focused stories with two great performances from Joe Gilgun and Karla Crome. The reveal that Rudy (Gilgun) has three split personalities was strange (why has it never been mentioned?), but it made a loose kind of sense if we're to believe Rudy's a mixture of his "good" and "evil" twins. Whatever the reason for this decision, Gilgun benefited from getting to showcase his quietly psychotic side—and did a more convincing job differentiating "Rudy Three" from the other two (who still feel largely interchangeable to me, but I know others disagree).
The subplots this week were variations on a theme, with dominant women and the hold they have over young men when it comes to sex. Finn (Nathan McMullen) found himself fighting off the advances of his amorous stepmother Lisa (Nadine Lewington), and the only thing stopping him was social ridicule ("stepmother fucker!") and a feeling of loyalty to his dad. And even then it got as far as oral sex before the guilt really kicked in. Elsewhere, Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) was also the target of an older woman's advances—but this one was slightly less controversial, being trainee probation worker Lola (Lucy Gaskell), who has a thing for "bad boys" and has decided Curtis is her perfect plaything. I was waiting for some kind of twist with this story—perhaps a reveal what Lola's after something Curtis can get—but so far she seems genuine in her affection for the lad, if highly unprofessional. Maybe she isn't a probation worker, though, seeing as her boss never mentions her being around. I'm sure more is to come here, and perhaps an explanation about what Curtis' power is right now. Didn't he lose the gender-bending power from series 3?
The potential of Evil Rudy perhaps should have taken centre stage more aggressively, but it did elicit a handful of brilliant scenes: from Evil Rudy telling Finn the home truths about his stepmother situation, to the moments when he was scaring poor Jess with his disquieting behaviour and cruel remarks. The fact Jess seemed to fall for the third Rudy's obvious emotional manipulations at times also spoke volumes about her character—tough cookie on the outside, delicate flower on the inside, trying to keep her guard up around men but failing all too often. The best scene of the entire episode was when Jess opened up to Evil Rudy about her history with an eating disorder, romantic heartbreak and a suicide attempt. It was terrific moment between the actors, which also really old Jess as a three-dimensional person for the very first time... all brilliantly undercut by a nearby disco testing "The Macarena", interrupting the poignant scenes with silliness. A classic Misfits-y moment.
There was very little in the way of super-powers this week, but episode 3 didn't miss that aspect of the show. This was more about the characters and the hour did a far better job making Jess and Finn feel like people it'll be worth getting to know. Crome seemed to particularly relish the stronger material she was given this week. Some of the plotting was a little blunt (like the reveal Finn's dad isn't his dad), and I have no interest in the mysterious barman Jess has taken a shine to—mainly because he comes across as a rehash of the handsome and once-enigmatic Seth in many respects—but otherwise this was a really good hour that held my attention.