By Steven Smith
I have always been late to the game on so many pop culture events. While my friends were off seeing Pixies open for Love and Rockets I was sitting at home listening to Van Halen. I missed seeing “Heathers” in the theater but watched it ad nauseum on video — actual video. I have “Sandman” # 1 but didn’t get into it until the series was almost finished. I play a lot of catch-up. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing these past few months with a fantastic British television series entitled “Misfits.”
“Misfits” is an episodic tour de force. If you’re a fan of super heroes, sex, and crass CRASS humor, coupled with exceptional writing, superb casting and acting, then you my friend will simply drool over “Misfits.” I had heard rumblings about it on the nerd periphery but never made the dive until Logo started airing it a few months ago. First episode in and I was hooked, from Nathan’s first word, to Kelly’s unintelligible one, I was a “Misfits” maniac and am still.
For those of you playing the home game, “Misfits” is a television series created by Howard Overman, about five youths on community service who get special powers during a freak storm. The difference between this and EVERY premise of the same kind is that these five malcontents do nothing with their new abilities but continue to screw about as the misspent youths they are, often to hilarious and sometimes gory ends.
It is at this moment I must say, for the first time in writing these columns, if you haven’t seen “Misfits” and don’t want anything spoiled, stop reading now. Or if you’re like me, look up something about one of the actors on IMDB, have a huge plot point ruined, get angry, but keep watching because it doesn’t matter, the show is that good. Also, if we were every really bummed about things getting spoiled for us we would never watch something again. The true sign of a good film is when you watch it a second or even hundreth time, you really hope Darth Vader isn’t Luke’s dad but NOOOOOOOOOOOO, he is. Back to “Misfits”, unless you haven’t seen it yet then back to the porn you were watching. Sicko.
Immediately I was drawn to the character of Nathan portrayed by the brilliant Robert Sheehan. His no holds barred crude behavior, and all around disdain for anything other than himself should be unappealing but he isn’t, he’s a force of nature who adds nothing but humor as well as disgust. Nathan is a giant flaw wrapped up in an odd form of sincerity. I’m not sure I would like Nathan if I met him in person – actually, of course I would.
Nathan’s counterpart is Simon, played to gorgeous awkwardness by Iwan Rheon, who I can’t believe is going to creep us out in “Game of Thrones” as Ramsay Bolton. Yecccchhhh. As Simon though, Iwan at first starts out as the stalker type but truly finds his way as the shows moral compass, even after accidentally killing their second probation worker. Sidebar: Howard Overman must be a huge fan of “Shallow Grave” because there are TONS of them in “Misfits.” And few cops. Seriously, no one reports all these missing probation workers? Simon has the best character arc of the series. He truly grows into the hero he is supposed to be BUT, and I’ll delve into this more, he is only a hero for his own needs ultimately.
Alisha, Kelly and Curtis are fantastic characters in their own right but I don’t feel their stories fully form until Season 2. I also completely back each season having under ten episodes. I don’t know if this super common with British television programs, but I’m on board. Alisha, played by the talented and stunning Antonia Thomas doesn’t really come into her own until her relationship with Simon, which ends up as one of the most beautifully tragic fates since “Romeo and Juliet.” I’M SERIOUS. Watch what happens to them and tell me you don’t tear up. I had to look away. Kelly, a wonderful comedic foil portrayed by Lauren Socha, is basically the muscle of the whole group, verbally as well as physically, a nice twist, with an accent that made me have to watch the series with closed captions on. Kelly gets one of the best episodes of the entire run but all I’ll say about it is, if you’re going to go back in time to kill Hitler, take a gun, and kill him when he’s a kid. Rough yes, but this show has a habit of making its main characters deal with problems by eliminating them. Curtis got the brunt of this by having his time traveling abilities. Sometimes it’s kill or be killed in the Misfits world, which is where I think Howard Overman is messing around with nerd lore.
DEEP SPOILER here folks: Four out of the five main characters of Misfits lives end badly, while the fifth got abruptly written out of the series, and not well, I might add. This fact makes me believe series creator Howard is a “Spider-Man” fan. None of the misfits are responsible with their powers. Sure they sometimes do good things, but at the end of the day, they are for more selfish reasons. This is why the show works so well, we feel they could be real people and real people have flaws, but karma is karma and there are no happy endings. Curtis proclaims so himself, just for before his untimely demise, and who he proclaims it to was the unwitting and irresponsible catalyst for it, a tattooed love muffin named Rudy.
Robert Sheehan left after series 2 and was replaced by Joseph Gilgun which was no easy feat, but in time, Rudy has become the heart of “Misfits.” Where Sheehan was a force of nature, Gilgun is a cosmic storm, his Rudy takes some warming up to but he quickly became my favorite character of the entire series. I’m not one to laugh out loud, I’m one of those “That’s hilarious” people, so when I do laugh, it’s usually for a darn good reason. Gilgun’s manic and confident Rudy claims the same brutal honesty as Nathan as well as his pristine selfishness but his humor is more razor sharp. Seriously, who brings a sledgehammer to kill a zombie if you can’t lift it. As the man would say, “Bloody genius that is.” Rudy is also slightly naïve and unknowingly sends not one, not two, but THREE of the original characters to their ends. Their finalities are not his fault but they might not have happened had Rudy not been in the mix. The best part is, he has no clue, and if he did he would genuinely feel bad but then its’ back to business as usual at the community center.
Season Four just finished and there are three new additions to the “Misfits” squad; Finn, a telekinetic, Jess the girl with X-Ray eyes, Abbey, an amnesiac with no powers to speak of yet, plus a new probation worker. The series has been ongoing since 2009, but the timeline of the show would imply the characters time together is not even a year, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in Season 5. Whether or not these normal people with extraordinary abilities grow as people and as super-powered misfits. The powers are just the macguffin, the fact they have issues and struggle is what makes the show most interesting. Really, they are just misfits in their twenties. Weren’t we all? Aren’t you? RUDY RULES.
Steven Smith listened to Misfits in high school but doesn’t care if they reunited, speaking of reunited Walter Schreifels from Quicksand is on his Going Off Track podcast this week, and he knows deep down in his heart that Misfits is loosely based on Misfits of Science. Go Courtney Cox.