Blightyvision: “Misfits”

Created by Howard Overman
Starring Iwan Rheon, Lauren Socha, Antonia Thomas, Robert Sheehan and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett

Overall, I do take recommendations very seriously.  My viewing list is huge, so I have to triage the recommendations a bit, but the proddings of both a friend with good taste and the fine folks at Hulu finally made me give “Misfits” a look.

At first glance, it’s like “Heroes” with an ASBO.  Actually, it’s a bit like that at middle and last glances, too.  And yeah, I realize that does sound like an insult in snark form.  It’s not, though — I genuinely enjoyed “Misfits” and the spin on the “everyday superhero” genre that could really only survive in the UK.

Our five leads are young adults who are doing community service for varying levels of crime — a rather broad spectrum from drug possession to stealing sweets.  One day a freak storm leaves them (and other citizens) with different superpowers: Shy Simon (Rheon) can turn invisible.  The chavvy Kelly (Socha) can read minds.  Party-girl Alisha (Thomas) is a walking aphrodisiac.  Shamed athlete Curtis  (Stewart-Jarrett) can turn back time, but only when he feels really guilty about something.  And Nathan (Sheehan), the resident lovable jerk, is … well, he’s a special case.

Every week, the “ASBO Five” move through a pretty basic formula.  They meet an outsider who was also affected by the electrical storm, and their abuse (either subconscious or intentional) of their power leads one of our main characters to have to exercise their own — either for the greater good or just to keep their own noses clean.  They may also occasionally kill one of their probation workers … an occurrence so common that they even reference it late in the series.

The first series is almost entirely about discovery for the main characters: their own powers, the extent of other people’s, and (for us, at least) who they are as people.  Once you hit the second series and know the basics, things get tossed up: a mystery “superhoodie” appears and things start getting a bit JJ Abrams-y, to put it mildly.  “Misfits” really is at its best in this series, where huge amounts of exploration can happen and the writers aren’t afraid to play with their format.

“Misfits” does suffer a bit from a third-series panic (see also: “Robin Hood”) where, in a desperate attempt to stay fresh, they change half their format.  This does, in fact, include some superpower switch-ups.  At first it’s awkward, and some of it stays awkward (Curtis’s new one, for example, feels a bit forced for a variety of reasons), but late in the series they start to get the hang of what they’ve done to themselves.  It felt like a step down until, quite literally, the very last episode, at which point it evens back out a bit.

Unfortunately — as can happen — third series also saw the departure of a fan-favorite character.  I’ve no idea if it was for actor-related reasons or if it was a planned part of the story, though.  There are a few ways to handle this, and the wrong way is to bring in someone new to fit the previous character’s type.  Thus we get Rudy (Joseph Gilgun), who — despite having some interesting personal conflicts that make for good story — ends up being less a benefit to the cast and more a reminder that we want the other person back.  This is hardly Gilgun’s fault, as he demonstrates during many of his more likeable moments, and his character does develop.  He just takes his sweet time doing it.

Now, “Misfits” is on Hulu, but I do not recommend it as a work jam — a point I probably should have thought of before recommending it to a friend as such.  See, this show is full of sex.  A lot of sex.  One character spends two whole series with problems almost entirely related to sex.  It’s up-front, onscreen, and talked about at length with varying degrees of tact.  The “Mature Audiences” warning is, for one of those rare instances, completely legit.  In other words, it’s probably not wise to screen this anywhere where the sound of approaching footsteps would make you panic and minimize your browser window.

“Misfits” is definitely not for everyone, partly for the above reason.  It’s also portrays graphic violence, involves multiple deaths (sometimes within the same episodes), and prods you into sympathizing with characters who would normally give you the creeps in real life.  If you don’t like that sort of thing, step away.  Seriously.  Personally, I enjoyed it overall.  And I’m looking forward to the alleged fourth series.  Though, given how third series ended, I have no clue how they’re going to make it work.

“Misfits” is available to watch in its entirety on Hulu, and portrays a variety of bizarre superpowers.  Control over dairy products, for instance.  No, really.  The power to control cheese.  Could I make that up?

Posted on February 9, 2012 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Television: British and Canadian · Tagged with: , , , ,