Misfits Series 3, Episode 4

So far I’ve enjoyed every episode of Misfits, some more than others. This is really the first episode I didn’t like. In fact, I held off watching it for several days, because the “Next time” trailer at the end of last week’s episode looked so god-awful and I strongly expected that I would hate it. In the end, I didn’t hate it quite as much as I feared I would, but I certainly didn’t like it nor will I be rewatching it anytime soon. And it’s not really necessary to ever rewatch this episode either, because nothing, absolutely nothing that happens has any impact on the ongoing storyline.

This episode of Misfits combines two of my least favourite tropes ever, parallel universes and Nazis.

Warning: There will be spoilers below the cut.

Now I really don’t like parallel universe stories. I can totally see the appeal from the POV of actors and writers. Because parallel universe stories give actors a chance of showing off their skills by playing the same character, only subtly or not so subtly different. And writers simply enjoy the “What if” aspect of it all, enjoy exploring all those narrative avenues they did not explore the first time around. Besides, a lot of people really enjoyed the Mirror, Mirror episode of the original Star Trek.

But from a viewer or reader POV parallel universe stories suck. Because if you’ve gotten invested in a storyline and/or characters, you don’t want the ongoing storyline interrupted for the sake of a completely different story that has fuck all to do with the story you’re invested in. And you’re not keen on seeing characters who may have the same names and may be played by the same actors, but are otherwise completely different people.

My mother generally skips alternate universe episodes of TV shows she likes (and the shows don’t even have to be speculative for that to happen. Bones had an alternate universe episode, for heavens sake), because she finds them confusing and besides, they have no impact on the ongoing story. I usually give them a chance, but I view them as filler episodes that keep me from the story I really want to see. And if there is too much parallel universe and not enough ongoing story, I’m gone for good. For example, I used to watch Fringe semi-regularly in season 1 and 2 and even endured a couple of parallel universe episodes. But when that stupid parallel universe storyline became an ongoing plot strand in season 3 and every other episode was set in that stupid alternate universe, I stopped watching for good. Because I was watching Fringe for Walter Bishop, who was a completely different character and a villain in the alternate universe, and Peter Bishop, who just plain didn’t exist, as well as for Astrid who had even less to do in the parallel universe than in the real one. I didn’t give the slightest damn about the Olvia character – in fact, I couldn’t stand her. And once the show focused totally on not just one but two equally unlikable Olivias, I was gone. Nor was this the first time a parallel universe storyline caused me to abandon a show for good. I stopped watching Angel when they all went through a portal into the alternate reality where the green demon karaoke bar host character had come from and picked up the annoying Fred character. I did watch some of the latter episodes, but I never watched regularly again.

So in short, parallel universe storylines are risky, because they tend to alienate and just plain piss off your audience. Science fiction stories featuring random Nazis and plucky, usually British heroes defeating them, on the other hand, seem to be inexplicably popular, as the Hugo and Nebula wins for Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear duology and the Hugo win for Steve Moffat’s The Enpty Child/The Doctor Dances Doctor Who two-parter show. Even though both were god-awful and easily the worst thing on the ballot in the respective category. That is, The Empty Child two-parter was up against at least one episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, which may well have been even worse.

And of course, parallel universes and alternate histories in which the Nazis won World War II are extremely common to the point that there are probably more parallel universes where the Nazi won the War than universes where they lost (Do those universes get umpteen thousand alternate histories about how the Allies won the War, I wonder?). The first of those, Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin, appeared in 1937, two years before the start of World War II, which is quite a feat. The best one is probably Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, other well known examples are Fatherland by Robert Harris, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, Resistance by Owen Sheers and the Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton. There are plenty more. Indeed, the idea was already so hackneyed in 1972 that Norman Spinrad reversed it in The Iron Dream and had Hitler emigrate to the US to become a pulp science fiction writer, thus saving a lot of lives and adding an epic of grandiose awfulness to the science fiction canon. So if you really must write a “Nazis win WWII” alternate history, these are the writers you’re up against. If you can’t do anything new with the idea, then don’t do it at all.

But then Misfits is a show that takes a lot of old clichés and puts a new spin on them. The comic book that becomes true, the insane person who mistakes a Grand Theft Auto type videogame for reality, the black widow whose suitors mysteriously die in violent ways, the sudden power reversal, the Groundhog Day style repetition of a series of events to be manipulated again and again until everything is finally right – all of these are ideas we’ve seen before, often dozens of times. Hell, Misfits even offered up its own version of King Kong and the Nativity story in season 2 and both takes were brilliant. Indeed, the entire show is a take on the Marvel/DC type superhero narrative and all of the attendant stereotypes. So it was certainly possible that Misfits would manage to do something fresh and new and different with a cliché as worn and ancient as the parallel universe where the Nazis won World War II. There’s just one problem. That’s not what they did at all. Indeed, they came up with an episode that was full of plotholes and just plain illogical.

Part of the problem is that Misfits is about the worst show to do a “Nazis win WWII parallel universe” story with. Because a world where the Nazis conquered Britain and won World War II, which results in a fascist Britain in the twenty-first century, would eliminate half the cast, the entire setting and the premise of Misfits.

Let’s break it down: The premise of Misfits is that five kids on community service acquire superpowers. However, there would be no community service in a Nazi-controlled Britain, at least not as a punishment for petty crime. The Reichsarbeitsdienst might be considered a sort of community service, but it was a general service every young person was forced to do. Meanwhile, the sort of crimes committed by the Misfits kids would have landed them in prison or a concentration camp and not picking up litter in Thamesmead. And since arson, even non-fatal arson, was a capital crime in Nazi Germany, Simon would probably be dead.

Though most of the cast would probably not exist in a Nazi-controlled Britain anyway. There would have been no postwar black immigration in a Nazi-controlled Britain. So unless Curtis and Alisha are descendants of the comparatively few black people who lived in Britain before World War II, they just plain wouldn’t exist, at least not in Thamesmead. So that eliminates two characters right away. Secondly, the Nazis were not particularly keen on underclass people who kept having babies who would grow up to be as poor and unemployed as their parents and grandparents. Such people were classified as “anti-social” and subjected to sterilization campaigns or worse. And considering that most of the characters in Misfits are from lower class backgrounds, a few (Kelly most likely, perhaps Rudy as well) might never have been born in this world, because their parents or grandparents would have been sterilized as anti-socials. This leaves us with Simon (provided he did not get himself executed for arson) and Seth and perhaps Nathan, all of whom seem to come from a slightly more middle class background. Though those characters would almost certainly not be called Simon, Seth and Nathan in a Nazi-controlled Britain, because those names were strongly associated with Jewishness in Nazi Germany. Indeed, most Germans did not use such names for decades after WWII, because they feared such names would get their kids discriminated. As a result, Old Testament names like Sarah or Rachel or Leah did not become common again in Germany until the 1980s and 1990s.

However, not only would there be no community service in a Nazi-ruled alternate reality and half the cast would either not exist at all or be called something else, indeed there would almost certainly be no Thamesmead as well. Because the whole modernist and brutalist movement that eventually resulted in concrete nightmares like Thamesmead grew out of the Bauhaus. And the Nazis were no great fans of the Bauhaus and modernism, not least because a lot of the big Bauhaus names were Jewish. They did not tear down the modernist buildings that already existed prior to 1933 and Bauhaus furniture continued to be manufactured and sold throughout the Third Reich. Indeed, a couple of Marcel Breuer chairs even co-star in the infamous propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex in a true moment of “What the fuck?” But in a Nazi-controlled world, modernism and brutalism would never have become the dominant architectural style of the 1950s through 1970s and cheap mass housing for the lower classes would have looked very different. Here are two photos of the Warturmer Platz estate in Bremen Woltmershausen, which was built in the late 1930s to house people deemed “anti-social”, mostly Sinti (here is a brief history of the estate). Architecturally, it’s about as unlike Thamesmead as a place can be.

So a realistic Misfits episode set in an alternate reality fascist Britain would be pretty much unrecognizable. What we get instead definitely looks like Misfits, is set in Thamesmead, albeit with an added Hitler statue, and features the familiar cast. It also makes absolutely no sense at all.

This entire episode is based on a throwaway line in last year’s Christmas episode, where Curtis – having sold his time-rewinding power to Seth and finding that he needs it to save the life of his girlfriend Nicki – storms into Seth’s office and demands his power back only to be told, “Sorry, but can’t do that. Some old Jewish guy bought it to try and kill Hitler.” Seth is pretty sure that it won’t work, but the customer is king. Besides, “you’ve got to admire his ambition”.

This episode now opens with the “old Jewish guy” in question, a man in his seventies called Friedrich Hirsch who was adopted by a German family and therefore managed to avoid deportations, concentration camps and death. Nonetheless, Friedrich feels guilty about never having said or done anything against Hitler. So he decides to remedy that by using Curtis’ power to travel back in time and kill Hitler.

Now here is the first mistake, because we have seen how Curtis’ power works plenty of times in seasons 1 and 2. First of all, Curtis’ power is not a time travel power per se nor does he travel physically into the past. Instead time rapidly rewinds for him until he ends up in the place of his past self, only with foreknowledge of the future. It’s not controllable either, indeed a lot of plot developments happen either because Curtis cannot rewind time when he needs to or accidentally rewinds it, though he doesn’t want to. So what should have happened when Friedrich uses Curtis’ power to rewind time, provided he could get it to work and take him where he wants to go at all (Curtis never travels back more than a few months, after all), is that Friedrich ends up in his past body as a young boy. But instead we see an elderly Friedrich land physically in what is apparently supposed to be Hitler’s office or study (though it doesn’t look like any office or study Hitler ever had), which should not even be possible based upon the show’s own rules about time travel. Once Hitler comes in, Friedrich jumps at him and tries to stab him. There is a struggle and Hitler ends up stabbing Friedrich with his own knife instead. To save himself, Friedrich jumps back into the future, dropping his mobile in the process. A puzzled Hitler picks up the phone, which was apparently subsequently analyzed by Nazi scientists, leading to a leap in technology, which wins WWII for them.

This accidental change of history would be a fairly standard but perfectly serviceable SF plot, if not for one problem: It’s already been established that time travel in Misfits doesn’t work that way. Because the few times that Curtis jumps back in time for more than a few minutes (and the one time he flashes forward) he even changes his clothes and wears whatever he was wearing at the point in time he jumped back to. Curtis certainly can’t carry objects like a mobile phone back in time. Future Simon apparently did manage not just to travel physically back in time, he also managed to take his laptop and probably other objects with him. But then Simon is pretty resourceful and persistent and I always assumed that he found another way to travel through time. Of course, it’s also possible that Friedrich figured out that Curtis’ time rewind power was useless for his purposes and got Seth to give him somebody else’s time travel ability that could get him physically into the past. But then why does Friedrich’s trip into the past use the same close-up eye effect always used for Curtis’ time rewinds?

Friedrich returns to the present to find himself staring up at a gigantic Hitler statue in the middle of Thamesmead and is immediately arrested, because running around with a stab wound in your abdomen is apparently illegal in fascist Britain. Because there certainly is no other reason to arrest him, since the soldiers on site had no way of knowing that Friedrich was a) Jewish and b) had tried to kill Hitler some seventy years before. Meanwhile, power dealer Seth is also arrested while trying to smuggle himself out of Thamesmead in the boot of his own BMW (the presence of which actually makes sense in the context for once).

The Nazis throw Friedrich in a cell and leave him to die, but they have plans for Seth. More precisely, they have plans for his power transfer abilities. They arrest everybody suspected of having superpowers, line them up and force Seth to take away their powers and transfer them to selected Nazi officials. The first test case is the ice girl from season 2, who accidentally blew up a car with herself and Nathan’s half-brother inside when her powers reversed. Depowered ice girl is thrown into a cell, while Seth transfers her ice power to a high-ranking Nazi official named Smith. It’s a pity that the first power he grabbed was one that’s actually useful (a rarity in the Misfits world) and not something utterly useless like the power of making hair fall out. Or maybe Rudy’s power to split off every internal doubt he ever had into a separate annoying self. Because imagining a high-ranking and villainous (is there any other kind?) Nazi stuck with an externalized voice of internal doubt (“You can’t just shoot prisoners. It’s wrong”) would’ve been amusing.

Talking of ice girl, it’s nice to see her and other familiar faces from past episodes again. In addition to ice girl, we also get Gary, the young man with the acne problem who was killed by Tony the villainous probation worker way back in the very first episode, and Peter from last week’s episode (he tries to run away and is shot). So obviously Howard Overman hasn’t completely forgotten continuity, though he has forgotten how time travel works in his own show.

The fact that the Nazis are trying to gain superpowers for themselves hasn’t escaped the local resistance movement, which consists of Curtis, Kelly, the poor doomed Gary (he promptly dies again at the hands of Smith, when he is trying out his new ice power) and Rudy, who joins up when he finds himself targeted for his power. Interestingly, Rudy and Seth are the only ones of the regulars who have got powers in this world, while Curtis, Kelly, Simon and Alisha don’t seem to have powers at all.

Nazis with superpowers are bad news and so Curtis comes up with a plan. He hands a bottle of poison to Kelly who works at the community centre, which seems to be some kind of detention facility in this reality, and orders her to poison Seth while passing out food to the prisoners. Kelly doesn’t like the idea of killing an innocent man at all – besides, she is quite fascinated by Seth in this reality as well – but she eventually agrees to go along with the plan. However, just as she is about to pass out the poisoned food to Seth, she notices that he has tried to hang himself in his cell and ends up saving him. So Seth used to be a drug dealer (in this reality as well as in the proper one), but he’d rather kill himself than help the Nazis. Hmm, I have to admit I find his ethics rather strange.

Just what Kelly’s and Gary’s position is at the community centre is left deliberately vague, though they still get to wear orange jumpsuits. All we see is that they do grunt work like mopping floors and passing out food to prisoners. Though if it was some kind of forced labour, I doubt that Kelly and Gary would be allowed to walk freely around the estate and meet up with Curtis in the bar where he works. Perhaps they are simply undercover as grunt workers.

Simon and Alisha are present in this reality as well, though they are not connected to the others except at the very end. Instead, Simon is a conscripted Nazi soldier (or whatever the guys in the black body armour are supposed to be, since they fulfill police rather than military functions) who doesn’t identify with the ideology, but mostly goes along and keeps his head down, while resisting in quiet ways such as stealing medication for ill and wounded prisoners. Alisha, meanwhile, works as a secretary for sleazy probation worker Shaun, who is a low-level Nazi officer in this reality. She is also Shaun’s lover, trading sexual favours for Shaun getting her drunk driving charges dropped.

I actually found Simon’s and Alisha’s stories as people who go along with a system they don’t believe in just to survive a lot more believable than the gung-ho resistance fight of Kelly and Curtis, especially since none of the characters are political in our reality. I also liked that even though Simon wears a Nazi uniform, manages a very snappy “Heil Hitler” salute and generally follows orders, he is not a bad person. For British film, where it’s generally “Anyone in a Nazi uniform is all evil all the time”, this is a surprisingly nuanced portrayal. Finally, it’s also worth noting that all of the Nazis we see in this episode – with the obvious exception of Hitler – are not German but British. Considering that most occupied Britain stories contrast the heroic Brits with the evil Germans, this is again a surprisingly nuanced portrayal.

As for the Nazis themselves, however, I recently called the interplanetary Nazis in the Star Trek episode Patterns of Force the least believable Nazis ever, but I guess I might have to amend that. Because this lot makes even the unconvincing Space Nazis of 1960s Star Trek look like paragons of Nazism in comparison. Although conflicted, Simon actually manages to be the most convincing Nazi in this whole episode, probably because he looks the part. Indeed, he looks the part so well that he ended up playing a similar role in another alternate history tale of a Nazi-occupied Britain, namely Resistance, based on the eponymous novel by Owen Sheers. I just hope he doesn’t get typecast, he is too good an actor to end up as the standard Nazi goon.

Head Nazi Smith manages to be semi-convincing, but what is that uniform he’s wearing? Honestly, it looks as if they pulled Nazi uniforms at random from the costume department, because the uniforms are all over the place and don’t match up either. Shaun’s looks like that of an SS Wehrmacht division and I couldn’t place Smith’s at all (I suspect Luftwaffe) – none of which make any real sense in this context – while the grunt soldiers wear standard police riot gear with Nazi insignia. Shaun, meanwhile, really has to be the least convincing Nazi ever. He neither washes his hair nor shaves, doesn’t properly button his uniform, doesn’t wear a shirt under his uniform at one point and doesn’t manage a proper “Heil Hitler” salute either. Of course, we know that Shaun is a sleazy, lazy jerk. But real Nazis wouldn’t have tolerated someone like that holding a semi-important command post (nor would they have been happy with his sleeping with a black woman, though authorities sometimes turned a blind eye to soldiers sleeping with non-Aryan women, if no others were available). In fact, Shaun would either have been degraded or shot for dereliction of duty years ago.

Finally, there is “Hitler”, seen briefly at the beginning and the end of this episode. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of Hitler portrayals, but this guy was absolutely awful. Worst Hitler ever. As I watched him tangle first with Friedrich and finally with Kelly, I kept thinking, “This guy doesn’t look like Hitler. Shit, is this Hitler Asian? And has his mustache become loopsided by a hit to his jaw?” Of course, it is unreasonable to expect a portrayal like Bruno Ganz‘s for what is in essence a cameo appearance. But even Helge Schneider‘s portrayal would have been better and his Hitler appearance was in a comedy. The only good thing about this dreadful Hitler portrayal is imagining Hitler’s ashes rotating wherever they were dumped at seeing himself portrayed like this.

Not that the attire and behaviour of the Non-Nazi characters is in any way convincing either. We see various characters wearing jeans (only came in after WWII with the American soldiers and would probably never have appeared in a Nazi-ruled Europe), we see both Kelly and Alisha smoking (Nazis frowned on women smoking, it was deemed unfeminine), we see Kelly with her customary heavy make-up and bright nail polish (Nazis preferred a more natural look and frowned on women wearing heavy make-up or nail polish), we see visible bra straps on Alisha (was utterly frowned on in Germany until Americans made it acceptable with their fear of the female breast less than twenty years ago and definitely wouldn’t have been acceptable in a Nazi controlled world). Honestly, would it have been that difficult to dress up the actors in less anachronistic clothing, especially since they managed to put everybody in more subdued clothing for the Virtue episode just fine?

There’s more anachronisms as well. Early in the episode, Kelly watches as Seth and Friedrich are arrested and exclaims “Fucking Nazis”. Sorry, but there is no way she would have said something like that in a real Nazi-controlled world, because Hitler jokes and disparaging remarks like that could have easily gotten you deported to a concentration camp or executed (it usually fell under the rubbery charge of “Wehrkraftzersetzung” – weakening military power). Of course, people still made jokes and disparaging remarks in Nazi Germany, but only among people they trusted and not in public. That scene was probably supposed to show Kelly establishing her resistance credentials, but it’s really Kelly being criminally stupid.

We get more blatant anachronisms a bit later in a scene where – since Kelly failed to kill Seth – the resistance, comprised now only of Curtis, Kelly, Rudy 1 and Rudy 2, attacks a military convoy which is supposed to transport Seth to a nicer prison (to dissuade him from future suicide attempts). The convoy passes along underneath the flyover, which is the gang’s favourite burial place for inconveniently dead probation workers in the real world. And just like in the real world, the struts of the flyover are covered in graffiti. Never mind that there likely wouldn’t be any graffiti in a Nazi-controlled world. What is more, Curtis, Kelly, Rudy 1 and Rudy 2 execute their attack disguised with rubber Hitler Halloween masks. Hitler Halloween masks in a world controlled by Nazis? I really don’t think so.

Having rescued Seth from the Nazis and having shot a whole lot of people in the process, the resistance decides to hide Seth in an upstairs room at Curtis’ bar. Yeah, because that’s a brilliant idea. Though it does give Kelly and Seth – who are as attracted to each other in this reality as in the real one – time to have a little heart to heart. Kelly admits to Seth that she planned to kill him, while Seth tells her about the thrills of being a dealer and his wish to become the ultimate dealer, which was bizarrely granted by the storm. This moment actually sounded more like real world Seth talking rather than Nazi world Seth (because aspiring to a career as the ultimate drug dealer in a Nazi-occupied world is not a smart idea at all). Kelly and Seth are also quite attracted to each other, but then we knew that already.

Of course, hiding in the backroom of the bar where the local resistance leader just happens to work turns out to be a spectacularly bad idea and so the Nazis raid the bar the very next morning. When asked by Shaun what he is doing there, Curtis answers “I work here”, while Rudy answers, “And I’m his gay lover” (More hints that Rudy isn’t as straight as he pretends to be), whereupon Shaun informs them that homosexuality is illegal and promptly arrests them both. This is actually one thing that Misfits gets right, because gays were persecuted and taken to concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, Kelly and Seth hide in a space underneath the floorboards, but Shaun – though usually a lazy idiot – finds them. Seth jumps Shaun and tries to grab his gun, giving Kelly the chance to escape.

Back in his prison cell, Seth is approached by Friedrich who has somewhat recovered from his infected stab wound, probably thanks to the antibiotics Simon stole for him. Friedrich tells Seth that he traveled back in time using a power Seth sold him and that none of this was supposed to happen. He also implores Seth to take back the power and make everything right, which Seth does. However, before setting off on his journey into the past, Friedrich had also written a letter detailing his plans and taken it along (because when traveling into the past to kill Hitler, taking along a letter that says, “I’m Jewish and I’m from the future and I’m trying to kill Hitler” is such a smart thing to do). The letter was confiscated when Friedrich was arrested, but Shaun, being terribly lazy, did not get around to reading it until now. Once he reads the letter, he realizes the truth and informs Smith. Together they pay Seth a visit.

Seth tells Smith and Shaun that he has the time travel power, but that he won’t give it to them. He’d rather die. However, Smith doesn’t want the time travel power for the Nazis, he wants it gone forever, so it can do no more harm. Hence he demands that Seth puts it back into Friedrich, so it can die with him. Seth once again refuses. Smith then decides to demonstrate his seriousness and orders Simon to shoot Friedrich. Simon gives Smith his best shell-shocked look and Smith repeats his order. I must confess that by this point I was yelling at the TV, “Oh, just shoot him already and maybe this painful episode will be over! Cause this is really all his fault.” Simon, however, just stands there looking shell-shocked. Then a shot rings out and Friedrich collapses, dead. I was quite stunned for a moment, because I thought that Simon had actually shot him, which would be a bold move to make, having one of our heroes shoot a sympathetic character in cold blood. However, to everybody’s relief, it turns out that Smith shot Friedrich. He tells Seth that he will shoot every prisoner in the prison, if Seth doesn’t do what he wants. For proof, he drags Curtis from his cell and puts a gun to his head. Seth finally relents and puts the power back into Curtis seconds before Smith shoots him.

It should be a shocking moment, one of our heroes is shot dead, but it isn’t because alternate reality Curtis was quite an arsehole. Of course, we can sort of understand that he turned out to be an arsehole, considering that he had to live as a black man, a very African looking black man at that, in a Nazi-occupied country. But then, Misfits sort of sidesteps the whole racism issue altogether, even though two of the main characters are black and would have suffered racism and worse in a Nazi-controlled world. Yet nobody bats an eyelid at Curtis working as a barkeeper – in fact, we even see uniformed Nazis drinking in his bar. Considering that one of the Nazis’ very first moves were campaigns to stop Germans from patronising Jewish businesses, I kind of doubt that they would accept drinks mixed by a black man. The closest thing we come to an acknowledgement of the racism that would face Curtis and Alisha in this world is Smith wondering out loud if Alisha is “as stupid as she looks”. We assume he believes that Alisha is stupid, because she’s black, since we know that Alisha isn’t stupid. For the experiences of black Germans (there was a handful) in Nazi Germany, check out the excellent memoirs of Hans Jürgen Massaquoi and Marie Nejar as well as Gorch Pieken’s and Cornelia Kruse’s telling of the story of the Sabac el Cher family.

Miraculously, Smith does not immediately lock up or shoot Simon for insubordination (which is what would have happened in real life), so a distressed Simon has another clandestine meeting with Alisha, disguised as a cigarette break, on the roof of the community centre. Simon’s obvious shock at being ordered to shoot unarmed prisoners makes us wonder just how naive he is. But then, Simon is rather naive in many aspects. He is also attracted to Alisha – in this world as much as in the real one – and troubled by the events, they act on their attraction and share an illicit kiss.

Meanwhile, as the only member of the small resistance cell who’s still free, Kelly decides to go in guns blazing and rescue the prisoners. Again it’s a spectacularly stupid plan – where will they go, considering the whole country is controlled by Nazis? – but then Kelly is the sort of person who acts first and thinks later. So Kelly pulls two guns and shoots the guards in front of the community centre. She also shoots Shaun, but not to kill him, just to wound him and take him hostage. On her way to the cells, she runs into Simon and Alisha who have just returned from their rendezvous on the roof and are still holding hands. Kelly warns them to get out of her way or she will shoot them, which doesn’t make sense, considering that she shot the guards outside without warning. But since she worked at the centre, she probably knows that Simon is one of the nicer soldiers and therefore gives him a chance to save his life. Though considering how harshly alleged collaborators and women who slept with German soldiers were treated in former Nazi occupied countries after WWII, it still doesn’t ring true. At any rate, Simon and Alisha both declare that they have had enough of Nazis and that they are joining her. Simon also rips off his swastika insignia, while Alisha asks if they can shoot Shaun again for what he’s done to her. “Once I’m done with him, you can do with him what you like”, Kelly tells her. Shaun, meanwhile, is utterly stunned that Alisha did not enjoy sleeping with him.

Together, they break Seth out of his cell and find themselves quickly surrounded by Nazis. There is a chase through the community centre, culminating in a wild shootout, while Kelly, Seth, Simon and Alisha hide behind the counter of the community center office. I just realize that I have no idea what happened to Rudy. I presume he was killed in Smith’s big prisoner execution spree.

The whole shootout scene really brought my issues with this episode to a point. Because in addition to all the historical inaccuracies and issues with the internal logic of the show, this episode just didn’t feel like Misfits. Because while Misfits is often violent and bloody, it isn’t a guns blazing show, so seeing the kids engaged in a furious shootout just feels wrong. Because so far, the only guns we have seen was the gun Nathan used to try to force the Virtue girl to reverse her mind manipulation. It’s a shocking scene, simply because Nathan is not the sort of person to pull a gun on someone. And of course, the gun turns out to be a water pistol in the end. The other gun scene involves Nathan as well – it’s the scene in season 2 where he shoots himself in the head live on national television in a commentary both on the nature of reality TV and on a society whose only idea what to do with the miracle of immortality is using it to have someone shoot himself in the head on TV. Oh yes, and Bruno the gorilla is shot to death as well. But nonetheless, Misfits isn’t a show for furious shootouts. It’s also a show where violence and death are messy, where bloods sprays and characters frequently come close to throwing up at the sight of dead bodies, even those they have killed themselves.

Of course, four people hiding in a tiny office cannot hold back an army of Nazis and so Seth is shot, while Simon, Alisha and Kelly are minutes, if not seconds from dying in a hail of bullets. And so with his dying breath, Seth kisses Kelly and transfers the time travel power (which he still holds, since he put some other power into Curtis) to her. Kelly promptly uses the power to jump back in time, right into Hitler’s office, wrest Friedrich’s phone from him and kick the shit out of Hitler while she’s at it. It’s a somewhat amusing scene, particularly as Kelly asks Hitler “Why’d you have to be such a dickhead?”, but it makes absolutely no sense. Because based on the way Curtis’ time travel power works, Friedrich should have ended up as a young boy and Kelly shouldn’t have been able to travel back some fifty years before her birth at all. Kelly then returns to the future and lands back in our world. Of course, the Kelly who came back should have been Nazi-world Kelly, an entirely different character with different experiences and zero knowledge of the world she landed in. Instead, we get regular Kelly, only that she retains her memories of the Nazi world, which makes no sense at all.

All this honestly makes me wonder whether Howard Overman has any idea how time travel works in his universe at all. Particularly since there was a huge time travel related plothole in season 2 as well. For in the penultimate episode of the season, Simon follows Alisha back to his future self’s lair and confronts her about what she is doing there and why she has a photo showing the two of them in Las Vegas, even though none of them has never been there, whereupon Alisha spills the whole story of the man in the mask to him. Simon is initially shocked, but then takes the whole story surprisingly well, probably because Alisha keeps telling him that she loves him. However, at the end of the episode, Curtis rewinds time to before that point, so Simon theoretically never found out the truth. Yet in the next episode he still knows and has a relationship of sorts with Alisha. I initially made excuses for this lapse, especially since there is a three month time gap between the episodes. But now I wonder whether Overman simply didn’t notice the anachronism. After all, it’s very clear that his strengths are humour, relationships and social criticism, i.e. the realistic parts of the plot. In spite of all the SF trappings, Misfits is not a speculative show in the classic sense. And with a worldbuilding heavy episode like this one, Overman simply overstretched himself.

The episode ends with Kelly going to see Seth to tell him all about their Nazi adventure and ask him to take the time travel power away and give her rocket scientist power back to her. Seth doesn’t quite believe her, though he is rather interested in whether they had sex and what their kiss in the other world was like. “It was all right, I guess”, Kelly replies. Seth also agrees to take the time travel power away and make sure that no one ever gets to use it again. Kelly should probably have told him not to give it to Simon under any circumstances, because he’ll only get himself killed. But then, she still doesn’t know that he is the man in the mask.

The end is quite nice, but it doesn’t make up for what is one mess of an episode. And in the end, what do we really learn from this story? We learn that Shaun is a sleazy and lazy bastard in every reality, which isn’t news. We learn that Simon and Alisha are attracted to each other in every reality, which isn’t exactly new. We learn that Seth and Kelly are attracted to each other in every reality, which again is nothing we didn’t notice before. We learn that in spite of Seth’s shady past, he can be brave and heroic – well, that is somewhat new. We also find out that Seth can take and give powers via any kind of physical contact, which might have interesting consequences down the line (What if he has sex and loses control in the heat of the moment?). We learn that Rudy is an idiot in every reality and get another hint that he might not be as heterosexual as he claims, which again isn’t news. Finally, we also get yet another reiteration of the point that heroic gestures (and traveling back in time to kill Hitler certainly is heroic) just don’t work in the Misfits universe and generally end up making matters worse, a point that has been repeated over and over throughout the series. Oh yes, and we finally find out Simon’s surname (Bellamy), which I at least didn’t know.

So in short, we wasted a whole episode on something that made no internal sense, didn’t advance the overall storyline and didn’t tell us anything (or hardly anything) new about the characters. That this episode was not entirely unwatchable is testament to the overall high quality of Misfits. But you could still skip this episode and not miss anything. And in fact, skipping is what I’ll probably do during rewatches.

I just hope next week’s will be better.

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10 Responses to Misfits Series 3, Episode 4

  1. Estara says:

    Fascinating analysis – although I am sure that fervent fans of the show will only give you the internal setup mistakes, because I feel cynical about the need for Nazi accuracy in most western media that hasn’t been created in Germany.

    Elizabeth Wein’s two upcoming books concerned with World War II excepted because I’ve followed her odyssey of research and recreation along (not to mention have read Code Name: Verity).

    • Estara says:

      I would love for the series creators to read your essays though and discuss them here on the blogh, heh.

      • Cora says:

        Me too. But then, the last time I posted long rambling essay about a favourite TV show on the previous incarnation of this blog, the creators went and destroyed everything I had initially liked about their series, so I guess it’s better not.

    • Cora says:

      True, most Non-German media set during the Third Reich gets things wrong. This goes doubly for action, adventure and SFF stuff that just uses Nazis as convenient villains that won’t offend anyone. That’s also why I avoid that sort of fare as much possible and why my heart always sinks a little when yet another favourite writer, comic book or TV shows does the time travel into Nazi Germany or alternate reality with Nazis thing. Because the results are almost always awful.

      But to do an alternate Nazi world story in a TV show where two of the five main cast members are black and not even acknowledge the issue at all does take a lot of gall. There is an underlying thread in Misfits about how those kids are criminalized and stigmatized, though they’re not bad people, and how no one sees their potential and how they don’t have a future (i.e. no jobs, no chance of going to university, even though some are smart) within the system, so they probably wanted to show how the characters would fare in a genuinely repressive system. But I still don’t see why they needed to use Nazis, when they just could’ve used one of those generic quasi-fascist dictatorship ruled over by a permanently smiling male Maggie Thatcher stand-in that we have seen in every piece of British speculative fiction from V for Vendetta and the Jasper’s Warp storyline in the old Captain Britain comics to various Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes.

      • Estara says:

        “not even acknowledge the issue at all does take a lot of gall.”

        Agreed ^^. I simply thought it not surprising.

        Oh, a Maggie Thatcher rulership, that would have been cool, because at least the creators of the show are most likely to have been alive during her reign as well – maybe they didn’t do it because they’d most likely get flak from a UK audience in the know if something went wrong?

        • Cora says:

          You’d figure British writers would be able to get the basic facts right about their own history. And it would probably have been better if the time traveler had gone back to 1980 (which would even have worked with the previously imposed limits on time travel) and try to kill Maggie Thatcher because his father/brother died in the Falklands or committed suicide after losing his miner job or something like that. The time traveler botches the assassination and the Thatcher government suddenly got a whole lot more authoritarian in response to the assassination attempt, leading to a quasi-fascist Britain in 2011, where black people and modernist council estates wouldn’t be an anachronism.

          Though I suspect the real problem is that the writers bit off more than they could chew and came up with a story that this show isn’t very well equipped to tell. I think I see what they were trying to do there. Since the world where those kids live is already portrayed as a sort of dystopia (there are no jobs and no real future, crime and violence are rampant, but the police only arrests fairly harmless petty criminals, adult authorities are evil, corrupt or non-existing) and some 95 percent of the show are set and shot on a crumbling council estate (and the camera lovingly shows the flaking paint and the sheer ugliness of the place), I suspect the creators wanted to use a real dystopia for contrast. The idea isn’t even bad, but the execution was just faulty and full of anachronisms.

  2. child02 says:

    I’m glad someone else shares my concerns for this episode. I was so confused by the the concept of the jewish man travelling back in time it doesn’t make sense at all and the plot seems all abit far fetched. Nice analysis

    • Cora says:

      Yes, the whole time travel plot made no sense at all and actually contradicted how time travel is supposed to work in this show. I usually like Misfits, but this episode was just a giant mess.

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