Friday, 8 November 2013

MISFITS, 5.3 – episode three

Friday, 8 November 2013

written by Howard Overman | directed by William McGregor

I really enjoyed this third episode, perhaps more than I've enjoyed a Misfits since series 3. Viewers get different things out of this fantasy drama (some love its coarse humour, others the gonzo superpowers), but I respond best whenever it's simply doing the unexpected. And despite being three years past its peak, Misfits still has a unique style of delivery that's unlike anything else around.

What worked particularly well this week was the explanation for Abby's (Natasha O'Keeffe) amnesia and aloof persona. The obvious answer was some kind of memory-wipe had befallen her, but writer Howard Overman came up with something much more interesting and bizarre: Abby is the imaginary friend of Laura (Lydia Wilson), the sweet-smelling girl she met in a bar last week, who this weeks became her lesbian lover... until the matter of their 'sisterly' childhood past was revealed, which sours the beginning of a beautiful relationship. So Abby doesn't have a super-power at all; her very existence is the by-product of Laura's power, which has also brought a childhood 'monster-under-the-bed' style boogieman back to life, called Scary (Mark Phoenix).

Abby's story worked very well, and was both emotionally resonant and outlandish in equal measure. Her identity regained and a friendship renewed, but the cost being a chance for love. The only real issue I had with it was how it (a) means Abby's essentially just a "normal person" now, and (b) that the potential of Scary wasn't fulfilled as a horrifying villain. It felt like he'd been bolted onto the story and didn't get the attention a big threat like that deserves. Perhaps more frustrating was how easily Scary was eventually slain, which felt deflating and a waste of a potentially amazing character straight from a child's nightmares. A pity the episode didn't give that whole aspect of the hour more room to breathe and develop.

The main sub-plot this week gave probation worker Greg (Shaun Dooley) unexpected prominence, and continued the slow reveal of his twisted, tormented psyche. Series 4 previously revealed he has an unexpectedly tender side, and a talent for karaoke, so it was fun to see this episode continue in that vein. The probation workers on Misfits have tended to be rather two-dimensional cartoon authority figures, and Greg's certainly never going to be a nuanced character, but he's a lot of fun in very small doses. Here it was revealed he has a crush on poor Finn (Nathan McMullen), with his sexual feelings rushing to the surface after they awkwardly partnered on the piano singing "The Power of Love".

Greg is essentially more fucked up than the delinquents he's in charge of, which is an entertaining dichotomy. This episode got a lot of mileage from the idea Finn was being stalked by Greg, which eventually led to his death after a particularly troubling sexual advance. The running joke of a probation worker's low life expectancy was also nicely subverted, when it became clear Greg hadn't actually been killed after falling from a height—leading to the gang abandoning their plan to bury his body, and instead stage a drink-driving accident (with his penis exposed for added giggles). As far as probation worker storylines go, I thought this one had more merit than most, despite Greg's creepiness perhaps going too far occasionally. He actually felt like more of a threat than Laura's childhood nightmare Scary, which was a problem for me.

Overall, I found this hour very entertaining (with some caveats), and the series arcs inched along nicely with Rudy Two (Joseph Gilgun) meeting fly-boy Sam (Michael Winder) at the support group, and Finn noticing Jess (Karla Crome) has started laughing at Rudy's stupid jokes. Love's in the air, just not between Greg and Finn. We're not quite halfway through the final series yet, but so far it's shaping up rather well. I'm certainly more entertained than I've been for a few years, which is a great feeling to have.

6 November 2013 | E4