Monday, 31 October 2011

REVIEW: Misfits 3.1

Fantastic! While I may have a job that precludes any chance of taking in a party, and had to watch shop during the Brighton Zombie Walk for yet another year, this Hallowe'en still promises to be a good'un. I'm off to see Ghostbusters on the big screen for the first time tonight, but until then I've kept myself busy with some spooky classics (Poltergeist, H.P. Lovecraft short fiction and plenty of episodes of Trap Door) and the first in a new series of Misfits.

It's got a tough job this third run, with Robert Sheehan moving on to bigger and better paid things. Nathan, everyone's favourite foul-mouthed superhuman, is now gone, although fans can catch up with his exploits in Vegas in a special online short. It's a shame we couldn't have him back for a full farewell episode, but never mind. Replacing Nathan was never going to be easy, but creator and lead writer Howard Overman just about manages it with the new dropout Rudy. In some ways, he does come across as a Nathan stand-in: he's smutty, sex-obssessed, completely self-absorbed and the prime source of comedy in the show. Still, he's different enough to show promise as a successful character in his own right, with a vulnerability that Nathan rarely showed, something that could make him more likeable in the long run.

Two things make Rudy work. First is Joseph Gilgun's performance, at once swaggeringly offensive and surprisingly sympathetic. The other is the nature of his power, which sees him split into two individuals, representing the light and dark sides of his personality. Rather than going down the obvious 'evil twin' route, instead this gives us a larger-than-life version of Rudy with a positive attitude, and a depressive, restrained version who is both more sensitive and more given to self-loathing and self-pity. Combined with Rudy's past with Alisha, this promises some very interesting character exploration, with plenty of pussy gags thrown in for good measure.

Rudy's entrance pushes the remaining cast member into the background quite drastically, but that's a necessary sacrifice for a successful introduction. We've plenty of time to see how they're developing into their new powers. These mostly have potential - Simon has limited precognition, Alisha can step into other people's shoes, and Curtis can change sex - all of which could provide strong storylines and tell us something new about their characters. Kelly, on the other hand, gets a joke power: she's a rocket scientist, blessed with superior intelligence - but only for designing rockets. Still, with the mysterious power trading superhuman Seth set up to be a major recurring character, I wouldn't bet on any of these powers to stay the length of the series.

As a whole, the episode is pretty solid, although nothing special. The humour and dialogue doesn't seem as strong or fluid as before, but should improve as the new group dynamic develops. The freak-of-the-week is pretty good, a psychotic blonde with the ability to stall time, although she's dealt with pretty perfunctorily. The corpses continue to pile up, and surely that's got to start having some consequences soon. Hiding the murder of their probation officer was the main thrust of the first series' ongoing story; nowadays, the gang seem free to off as many people as they need to keep their lives conveniently mutant-free. It's important for the show to hold onto some semblance of reality; the whole thing could come crashing down if it descends too far into comicbook fantasy territory. On the basis of this episode, though, the future looks fucking brilliant.

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