Friday, 13 December 2013

MISFITS, 5.8 – episode eight

Friday, 13 December 2013

written by Howard Overman | directed by Wayne Yip

The last ever episode of Misfits wasn't very conclusive; perhaps because creator Howard Overman still has hopes for a feature film to continue the story, which is apparently written and ready to film. Is there an Inbetweeners-sized appetite for it though? It already feels like the Misfits concept is a few years past its prime, and audience passion has dimmed over the course of so many cast changes. Added to that, there's the fact a show like Misfits gets less shocking/radical the longer you're in its company, although even Kick-Ass's language never got close to the epic vulgarities Misfits has delivered over the past five years.

The finale then. What can I say? It was messy. Some things worked quite well, most of this year's storylines ended with varying degree of success, and the door was left open for more (big screen) adventures. My overall feeling was vague disappointment this didn't feel big enough in scope, and much of the story fell to pieces when you stop to think about it. The thrust of the hour was Jess (Karla Crome) having a one-night stand with a creep called Luke (Daniel Boyd), who used his power of time-travel to whisk her a year into the future where they've had a child together. Misplaced in time, Jess had to adjust to motherhood while catching up with her friends—who all thought she'd vanished, never to be seen again. Which kind of makes no sense if we're to believe Jess is existing in a timeline where she was in a relationship with Luke that resulted in a baby. So was Luke keeping Jess locked indoors to have his kid? It wasn't very clear.

As you'd expect for a future-set story, part of the fun was seeing how the characters have changed in the interim. Unfortunately, there was surprisingly little fun to be had! The biggest change was Finn (Nathan McMullen) working as a trainee probation worker, even if that doesn't make much sense from a character perspective. Has he ever shown a desire to be in authority? Rudy (Joe Gilgun) had turned into a bearded mess in Jess's absence, but he almost immediately had a shave and haircut once she reappeared. Abby (Natasha O'Keeffe) and Alex (Matt Stokoe) had both undergone no discernible change in the slightest—which is either totally plausible given their carefree personalities, or evidence neither character's deep enough to do anything with beyond fulfil their basic roles as "handsome barman" and "quirky outsider".

The threat of the episode came from the so-called 'Jumper Posse'; Rudy Two's superhero losers, comprised of flying Sam (Michael Winder), human chameleon Karen (Kate Bracken) and electromancer Helen (Ellie Kendrick), who've been trained to deliver vigilante justice while working undercover as young offenders on community service. Unfortunately, their sense of justice has warped and they largely spend their time killing people for fairly trivial crimes like littering.

I like the basic idea of that trio becoming a serious public nuisance, armed with superpowers that are considerably more useful than those of the core characters, but it just didn't sit right with me. It hadn't been foreshadowed that Sam, Karen and Helen were so so morally corruptible or vengeful, so it just came across as ridiculous they'd abuse their abilities and kill people... to eventually turn into all-out psychopaths. Maybe if more time had been spent making us feel unsure of their mental states, it could have worked much better. Maybe there just weren't enough hours to do a nuanced job so the finale worked better in that respect.

Still, there were some fun moments and ideas floating around this hour. The sequence with Alex having to sodomise Sam while he was flying around the estate, to remove his power, was hilariously inappropriate—although spoiled by truly ghastly special effects. Misfits has always been a relatively cheap show to produce, but it's done well with such limited resources—mainly by hiring gifted directors who find inventive ways around problems and target the "money shots" appropriately. Unfortunately, Misfits chose to do something very ambitious in its finale, and just didn't have the money to finance this action sequence to an acceptable standard. It was a shame director Wayne Yip (returning for the first time since Series 3) was lumbered with that insurmountable problem. It was a bit embarrassing.

In the end, the two estranged Rudy's made peace and literally came together as one, although he was killed during a pretty laughable moment involving urine and electricity to stop Rudy Two's now-evil girlfriend. But no matter, because most things were reversed by Jess after she left herself a video warning on her phone and manipulated Luke into resetting their relationship by committing suicide... and then avoided this whole mess by, well, murdering him in a toilet. It's a little worrying how often the characters do some pretty low things, isn't it? Couldn't she have got Alex to just remove Luke's power? And why did she let Luke father her child before killing him, if having sex with Rudy would surely have resulted in her becoming pregnant that night too?

Oh, maybe I'm just too picky. There was just a lot about this finale that didn't sit right with me, or feel very convincing. It needed better groundwork to be a success at what was being attempted, both within this episode and across the final series as a whole.

Instead of an ending, the finale gave us a back door to a film or revival in years to come. The gang have finished their community service and have agreed to become real superheroes, despite the fact their accumulated powers are pretty negligible and hard to turn into a threat. The "once imaginary" Abby doesn't even have a power, Rudy's power is largely that of "being a twin" (let's face it), while Alex can only take away powers in a very inconvenient sexual manner. My guess is Finn will be doing the heavy lifting if his telekinesis continues to improve, and Jess's x-ray vision may come in handy occasionally... when she's not busy breast feeding.

Taking a broad view, a lot of Misfits may have been an unruly shambles that never bettered the excellent first two series (where, for awhile, it became truly must-see entertainment), but it occupied a place in the television landscape by itself. I can't see anything to replace it on the horizon, and doubt anything could provide anywhere near the level of uncouth behaviour and misuse of superpowers. It was a fantastic idea for a TV show that unearthed fresh new talent, and provided lots of entertainment and laughs along the way. I wasn't such a fan of series 3 onwards, but at least this final series recovered from the nadir of series 4 and characters like Rudy and Jess can definitely stand eye-to-eye with the original ensemble of delinquents.

11 December 2013 | E4