Cock-Up

Misfits, as a series, has never shied away from vulgarity. And why would it when it centres around five young offenders working off their crimes. These are not people that are typically well mannered and polite. In addition, it is the characters who aren’t apart of the scheme or who committed rather minor crimes who are the least crude; characters such as Alex or Seth or Curtis and Simon. All of those characters have their moments and none of them are poets with words but they do fulfil a much needed balance to the other characters. The use of bawdiness was best employed when it fitted with the story, such as the season one finale.

Howard Overman recently admitted that season four was a failure. While the fourth run wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous three, I don’t think that it was the stories that ultimately let the show down but the characters. In the first three seasons, the characters didn’t have especially epic back stories and their powers were all born out of rather mundane feelings like loneliness and narcissism. When new characters Alex, Finn and Jess were introduced, they were all given dramatic stories. Alex remained mysterious for seven episodes to the point where the eventual reveal about his penis felt lame and confusing. Finn had to deal with appearing creepy, receiving two episodes. One revolved around an existing relationship where he was forced to be the perfect boyfriend and the other about his previously unknown half sister and his dying dad.

Jess, arguably, has gotten the shortest straw. She hasn’t been given an overarching back story like Alex or Finn so instead she got lumped with the love story. Season one set up the initial relationships with Alisha and Curtis and Nathan and Kelly but these relationships are cleverly turned on their heads in the following seasons as the social awkward Simon comes out of his shell and begins a relationship with the promiscuous Alisha. Meanwhile, Nathan and Kelly, for all their flirting, are actually sexually incompatible and wind up with other matches. Jess on the other hand, attracts the attention of Finn and Alex but prefers Alex. Why is never really established, other than his handsomeness, especially because he spends two thirds of the season actively trying to avoid her.

 

Joseph Gilgun, Karla Crome, Nathan McMullen, Matt Stokoe and Natasha O'Keeffe return for Misfit's fifth and final season as Rudy, Jess, Finn, Alex and Abbey.

Not quite Marvel’s Avengers.

So the character’s backgrounds and stories really fail to live up to the same standard that was expected from the first three seasons. But they had really rad powers like telekinesis and x-ray vision. Those are definitely from the top shelf. Well, sure, though that has never been the point of Misfits. These weren’t meant to troubled kids who turn out to be superheroes. Their powers derived from their insecurities and personalities. I guess someone who was particularly perceptive or paranoid might inherit the power of x-ray vision but Jess isn’t either. The official reason is down to her ability to see through people but that has never really been shown to be true. Otherwise she would have seen Alex to be a cheating jerk and stayed well away. Some kind of built in lie detector would have been more fitting. Finn, on the other hand, isn’t even given a reason for his telekinesis.

The bigger issue that I have with these powers is that, much like Alex’s recently acquired power, they have limited uses in the large scheme of things. Much of the action in Misfits tends to happen in the wide open, so X-ray vision is rarely needed. Finn is so inept with his telekinesis that it only gets used during intense situations and usually fails, effectively softening the dramatic tension. Now Alex has the power to remove other’s powers through sex. The irony is apparent. Despite trying to be faithful in order to use his power he has to cheat on his girlfriend. And Alex screwing the devil out of Finn was good for a one time laugh. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like Curtis’ time travel power. If used too much, it will seem like a get out free card from any conflict but if it isn’t used enough then ability will seem redundant and ineffective.

Despite that, I do actually think Alex’s power will be useful in a way that most of the powers weren’t; to create character drama. Think about this, unless Jess wants to lose her power she can never have sex with Alex. It is a pity that none of the older team members are there to tell her about that one Christmas they all sold their powers and got held up by a disciple of fake Jesus. Her power has utilised so little that it is doubtful she would miss it much but I expect an upcoming episode to highlight how useful it can be, giving her a conflict over whether have sex with Alex and lose her power or keep her power and attempt a chaste relationship with a known philanderer.

 

Nathan McMullen's Finn finds himself under the control of Satan in Misfit's fifth season opener.

Bound, bloodied and in the middle of a pentagram is never a good place to me.

Then again, where do you go after zombies, Nazis and ghosts? Season four was a struggle from the start to introduce new characters and new stories. As I mentioned at the start, the episodes weren’t bad but the plots either felt unnecessarily contrived or overloaded with ideas. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse especially suffered. We got four guys on bicycles and not a whiff of pestilence or conquest. But that was season four. By now, all the creases have been smoothed out for season five, right?

Sort of is the answer. If the first episode is any indication, season five has a narrower focus, which is good but the plot was still rather silly. Everyone gets possessed by the devil, which is controlling the boy scouts (though they now take girls, much to Ruby’s chagrin). The possession doesn’t really change them though which raises the issue that if an action won’t significantly change the characters, what are the stakes and why bother with it at all? The episode didn’t aptly address those overhanging questions, instead preferring to linger on the Alex/Jess/Finn love triangle. I did like the support group for the super powered and I’m interested to see where Rudy’s involvement with them leads. The episode did warrant a few laughs too, so it wasn’t all bad.

Overman is a great writer and I get the feeling that somewhere in season three he got thrown off the path he was on. From then on, no longer being able to write the story he wanted, the show has been scrambling to pick up the pieces. Watchable as it is, it doesn’t compare to the greatness that came before. This opener to the programme’s fifth season shows some glimmer of the old gold. Maybe, just maybe, Misfits can at least go out strong.

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