Misfits, my favourite TV show of recent times, is back for its third season. For those who haven’t encountered this wonderful show yet, Misfits is about a bunch of juvenile delinquents from a London council estate (Thamesmead, where part of A Clockwork Orange was shot 40 years before) doing community service and gaining superpowers from a freak weather phenomenon. Heartbreak and hijinks ensue.
It’s a wonderful show, because it’s very dark, very funny and a scathing indictment of contemporary British society disguised as a comedy. What is more, the teen characters ring absolutely true (and are played by great young actors). I have had kids like the five main characters in my classes. And I have rarely seen a teen show which makes me go, “Yes, these kids could be my students” like Misfits does. Because all too often teenagers on TV are sanitized and behave like adults wish they would behave. These kids aren’t sanitized. They act and speak like real teens, complete with all the awkwardness and embarrassments of being a teenager. And rude words. Plenty of rude words.
I must confess that I was a bit worried about season 3 of Misfits. In recent years, too many British speculative shows that started out wonderfully lost their way somewhere in their second and third seasons and turned into unwatchable messes. Being Human lost its way toward the end of the second season, Torchwood lost its way from season 2 on upwards and got increasingly worse with every new season, Doctor Who started losing its way from season 3 or 4 on. Never mind that any show focused on teenagers is generally only good for two or three seasons, before it starts to either get stupid and repetitive or moves too far away from what had made the show interesting in the first place. So would Misfits be able to avoid the season three curse of British speculative TV dramas and teenager focused shows in general?
What is more, Misfits had come to a sort of natural end point at the end of season 2 with the kids finishing their community service and three of the main five characters getting a happy ending of sorts. So really, where could the show go from there?
Finally, there was also the fact that one of the original five characters, Nathan as played by Robert Sheehan, would not be appearing in season 3 due to a scheduling conflict. Now I have never viewed Nathan as the “star” of the show, because Misfits is very much an ensemble piece. Nor was he my favourite character – that would be Simon. Nonetheless, Nathan was very important to the first two seasons of Misfits, because he was responsible for some ninety percent of the jokes, since Nathan was a big mouth who always says the most unbelievable things.
So would Misfits manage to maintain the high quality of the first two seasons and survive the loss of a crucial character? I must say, I was ever so slightly worried. Though I needn’t have been, because Misfits is still very, very good. Whether it manages to reach the heights of season 1 and 2 remains to be seen.
Word of warning: There will be spoilers under the cut, not just for the current episodes but also for seasons 1 and 2. And Misfits is the sort of show one should really watch unspoiled. Because that way the two major mysteries of season 1 and 2, “What is Nathan’s power?” and “Who the hell is the man with the mask?” will be that much more impactful.
So if you have never watched Misfits before, stop now, get yourself a copy of seasons 1 and 2 and watch them before coming back here:
First of all, there is Vegas Baby, a ten minute prequel to season 3, which answers the question, “Whatever the hell happened to Nathan?”
Nathan, it turns out, packed up the little family he acquired at the end of season 3 and went to Las Vegas to do the two things Vegas is famous for: gambling and marrying. However, in order to do the latter (which is only implied – check out the magazine Marnie is reading) Nathan first has to be really successful at the former. Which shouldn’t be a problem, because Nathan has the brand-new power to make object appear from thin air or intimate bodyparts. So really, what could go wrong?
Everything, it turns out, because Nathan, being Nathan, completely overdoes his attempts to cheat at playing dice. He wins big, is rude as ever and attracts the attention of casino security. Even worse, his last bank-breaking winning throw involves a dice with the number seven, because Nathan apparently managed to make it through childhood without being forced to play boardgames, since he doesn’t know that there are only six sides to a dice. I might actually have questioned the bit about the not knowing how many sides there are to a dice, if I didn’t have to explain to an eighth-grader this week that yes, you do have to pay for gambling at a casino, because where did she think all the money for building those stunning hotels in Las Vegas came from.
Nathan briefly manages to escape casino security by throwing his chips into the crowd and making a run for it. When he’s cornered against a locked door, he escapes again – by pulling a live rabbit from his arse (hey, it is Misfits) and handing it to a stunned security guard. However, Nathan is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so he returns to his hotel room and to Marnie, where the security guards catch up with him and arrest him.
The prequel ends with Nathan in a Las Vegas jail, using his one allowed phone call to call Simon in England and beg him to save him (they allow you to make overseas calls in a US jail?). True to form, he still calls him Barry though. However, Nathan is out of luck, because instead of Simon the phone is answered by new recruit Rudy who has zero idea what is going on and doesn’t pass the message on either. For the time being, Nathan is stuck.
As an explanation for why Nathan won’t be around for season 3 it works. Because killing Nathan off would have been cruel, considering he used to be (and maybe still is) immortal until recently. Yet the other kids have no reason to wonder what happened to him, they simply think he’s still in the US. There’s even a possible way back – after all, we know that Nathan isn’t the only one of the Misfits gang to wind up in Las Vegas at some point. There still is the photo of Simon and Alisha standing beneath the Las Vegas sign at some unspecified point in the future.
If anybody has been wondering why a show that normally doesn’t even leave Thamesmead suddenly decides to go to Vegas of all places (though the Vegas shots are just stock footage and the casino interiors are probably shot in Blackpool or someplace like that), what we see here is the dream image that many European teenagers have of the US. All of my students dream of visiting the US sometime and the three coolest US cities in their opinion are New York, Miami and Las Vegas. CSI really has a lot to answer for, especially since the CSI shows don’t even make the cities where they’re set particularly appealing. Nonetheless, teens lap that stuff up and the Las Vegas we see in this brief ten minute skit very much matches the dream of cool clothes, wedding chapels and winning big in a casino that many teens have. Hey, even I had a variation of the “What to do when visiting Las Vegas” dream and I dislike both gambling and weddings.
In addition to Nathan, it was also nice to see Marnie and the baby, now named Nathan Junior, again. And though the idea of Nathan, who can barely take care of himself, playing Dad to a baby is somewhat scary, it also makes perfect sense. Because throughout the series, there have always been hints that, in spite of all his talk and tough guy behaviour, what Nathan wants most of all is a family. It’s there in the season 1 episode where Nathan becomes entranced by a runaway toddler in the community centre, it’s there in his delight when his previously unknown half-brother shows up. Besides, the wish for a family of their own is very common in kids from broken homes.
And Nathan, as we are repeatedly shown, is a product (and victim) of a horrible family background. Nathan’s father took off when Nathan was very little. And though the father at least attempts to connect with his son, it’s too little too late, because Nathan rebuffs him. The mother, whom Nathan paradoxically loves, is actually worse and cares more for her lover-du-jour than for her son. The first time we meet her, she kicks her son out of the house, because he is scaring off her boyfriend, which leaves Nathan homeless and sleeping in the community centre for the rest of the series. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, there are also hints sprinkled throughout the first two seasons that Nathan was sexually abused at some point. Nathan tells four different versions of the story and it’s never clear which one is true – though it’s very obvious that his parents or the other adults in his life never listened. Indeed, it is made pretty clear that Nathan’s god-awful behaviour is as much protection against further hurt as it’s a desperate cry for attention.
We never get much background on Marnie, since she only appeared in a single episode prior to this one. Though we do learn that she has no idea who the father of her baby is (it’s definitely not Nathan) and that she either has no family or that her family doesn’t want her. So it’s absolutely no surprise that Nathan and a hugely pregnant Marnie take one look at each other and decide that they’re meant to be together. Nor is it any surprise that they take their relationship very seriously, to the point of contemplating marriage at the age of approx. 19. What we have here is two lonely and discarded teenagers making their own little family. And though the rational part of our brains tells us that this will never work out (and it doesn’t, because Nathan ends up in prison leaving Marnie and baby stranded in a foreign country with a 1000-dollar casino chip), we nonetheless hope that just this once, against all odds, it will.
After the excursion to Las Vegas in the prequel, the first episode proper brings us back to Thamesmead and introduces new character Rudy. We first encounter Rudy as he knocks on the door of Seth, the power broker from the Christmas episode. Rudy apparently has a power he wants to get rid of, but when Seth finally gets around to seeing Rudy, Rudy is already gone, running away from someone. Rudy’s power, it is revealed, is basically that of Jamie Madrox from X-Factor (now who many people will remember him?), because Rudy can split himself into two people (and was chasing himself in the opening scene). However, this is Misfits and superpowers never quite work as advertised here. Hence, Rudy cannot just split in two, he also splits along personality lines. Rudy 1 is basically a loud-mouthed jerk with an anal sex fixation (Hey, it is Misfits), while Rudy 2 is the physical manifestation of that annoying niggling voice in everybody’s head (writers tend to call this the internal editor) that will inevitably remind us of all our flaws and doubts and of every bad or wrong thing we ever did. Indeed, this is exactly what Rudy 2 does and since this is Misfits, it’s hilarious. Hence we get a scene where Rudy – after having got lucky the night before – is having an awkward morning after conversation in the bathroom with his other self who reminds him that he just had unprotected anal sex with a strange girl and that he should get tested for HIV. Rudy 2 also reminds his other half of having experienced homosexual desires in school and of that unspeakable thing he did to the neighbour’s cat. Oh yes, and Rudy 2 is also still carrying a torch for the girl who broke Rudy’s heart and drove him to attempt suicide – a girl who turns out to be none other than Alisha. And don’t you just know that that is going to cause huge problems somewhere down the line.
However, Rudy’s is not the only new superpower for the series to explore, because the kids all got new powers at the end of season 2, courtesy of power dealer Seth, who seems to play a bigger part this season. There are also sparks flying between Seth and Kelly, which is definitely interesting, because it’s a possible pairing I wouldn’t have called in a million years. A lot of people seem to get the whiff of shark from the fact that everybody got new powers. Though I can certainly understand the reasoning behind the decision, because the original powers were largely played out after two seasons and also caused some narrative problems, since Curtis’ turn-back-time power is basically one big red reset button, which had to be used very sparingly not to become a cliché. Ditto for Nathan’s immortality, besides immortals have the tendency of turning into grade A arseholes. Just take a look at what happened to Captain Jack Harkness who went from one of the most likable Doctor Who companions ever to grade A arsehole and bloody coward in Torchwood. And Alisha’s sexual irresistability power was just a big nuisance anyway.
Besides, it was clear from the very beginning that the superpowers in Misfits were expressions of their owners’ personalities. This also holds true for Rudy who has the ability to externalise all of his doubts and insecurities into a separate body. However, our five heroes are no longer the same people we met two seasons ago. They’ve changed and grown up to some degree. Hence, it makes sense that their new powers reflect who they are now and not who they were two seasons ago.
Nathan has gone from a loner who gave so little of a damn what others thought about him and did to him that he literally became immortal (he can be hurt, but he doesn’t die) to soon-to-be husband and Dad. And his ability to make things appear from thin air certainly makes sense for a character who produces a lot of hot air.
Kelly whose tough exterior masks a deep-set insecurity initially had that insecurity manifest itself in the ability to hear other people’s thoughts – and they usually didn’t think nice things about her. Now Kelly has chosen for herself the very impressive sounding power of “rocket scientist”, which gives her the ability to design rockets and nothing but rockets (“Does just what it says on the tin”, Curtis comments). Her new-found abilities don’t even get her a job – indeed the first time we see her his during a botched job interview – because potential employers take one look at her and refuse to believe that someone so obviously lower class could have the ability to design rockets. From the start, Kelly’s story has been a metaphor for how people from a lower class background (Kelly is basically what is called a “chav” in Britain these days) are judged purely on the basis of externals and never seen for the people they are. With her new rocket scientist abilities, Kelly’s situation becomes a metaphor for the squandered potential of the working class and the situation of the smart working class kid who nonetheless is never given the chance to succeed, because no one will see beyond their obvious lower class background and the associated lack of social capital (“What the fuck is brunch?”, Kelly asks at one point in her strong Northern accent) to notice that they’re actually intelligent. As a teacher who has seen more than her share of very smart kids shunted into the non-academic school tracks because of learning disabilities or problematic family backgrounds, Kelly’s story certainly resonates.
Kelly’s new power also demonstrates the difference between American and British TV. Because if Misfits were an American show, Kelly would probably be building her own rocket in a garage in Thamesmead in the spirit of the Heinlein juveniles. Misfits, however, does not give us the way out via heroic and utterly unbelievable individualism. Indeed, the point of the show is very much that no one bothers to see these kids as individuals. Instead society at large and the probation workers and police officers in their lives in particular treat them as stereotypes.
Curtis has gone from being able to turn back time, an ability that was a lot less useful than it seemed, because he was never able to control it, to being able to switch gender and turn into a girl at will – briefly glimpsed when the gang is being chased by the police and Curtis turns into his female counterpart to escape. “Is this some kind of metaphor for sexual confusion?”, Rudy wants to know at one point, though I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, because Curtis seems the least sexually confused among the male characters. Though considering that the competition is Nathan (big mouth, but totally clueless), Rudy (ditto) and Simon (still a virgin until very recently) that’s not saying much. Besides, Curtis’ original power was an expression of his regrets over how his life turned out, the wish to literally go back in time and fix everything. Because while the other characters did not exactly lose much due to being sentenced to community service – okay, so Simon lost his chance at middle class respectability, but I don’t think he minds, and the others were always viewed with suspicion anyway – Curtis lost his sports career, his shot at the Olympics and therefore his chance to get out of Thamesmead. No wonder that he’s often glum and unhappy. Though by now he has gone from wanting to turn back time to wanting to be someone else. Nonetheless, it’s pretty obvious that Curtis’ gender switching ability will eventually lead to sexual confusion. The narrative possibilities of this one are amazing, so I’m not surprised that the writers decided to go with it.
Alisha was undoubtedly saddled with the worst power – a sort of sexual irresistability which made every male she touched want to have sex with her. Even worse, the men don’t remember what happened afterwards. So Alisha was basically Rogue from the X-Men – the untouchable girl – with the added complication that her power was basically infinite rapeability. It’s easy to see how hugely problematic that is – and indeed Alisha was a character I had a lot of problems with well into season 2.
Alisha’s entire arc is basically a commentary on the way society views promiscuous women. The Alisha we meet in season 1 is a somewhat shallow girl who likes to have fun and enjoys sex and uses sex to get what she wants. In the eyes of society, this makes her a slut. And society treats sluts harshly. Hence, Alisha gets saddled with the power from hell, which makes her sexually irresistable to any man she touches (whether her power works on lesbians is never explored) with the added drawback that the men cannot control themselves and that afterwards they don’t remember what happened. Nor does any man actually care about what Alisha wants, it’s all about satisfying their urges, as proven by the fact that whenever Alisha touches a man, the man in question feels urged to tell her his sexual fantasies in great detail. It’s not very pleasant, nor is it meant to be. Because basically Alisha’s story in season 1 describes perfectly why we need slut walks. Because – guess what? – she also gets blamed when men lose control around her. Indeed, Alisha spends a lot of time saying, “It’s not my fault that they can’t control themselves. I didn’t ask for this.”
Alisha begins a relationship with Curtis – consummated via mutual masturbation, because this is not the X-Men where Rogue and Gambit are content to just make gooey eyes at each other, because they cannot touch – which eventually goes nowhere both because of the impossibility of physical contact and because they are not really compatible. And though I like both Curtis and Alisha, they never really worked for me as a couple. It always seemed way too much like the sort of “Hey, let’s throw these two characters together, because they’re both black” couplings we see in US shows.
Besides, Alisha ends up in a relationship that’s ultimately much better for her, when she finds her true love halfway through season 2 with none other than shy and geeky, not to mention virginal Simon or rather his more confident and heroic future self (it’s complicated – Just watch the show, okay). Now the Alisha-Simon coupling is something I would never have called in a million years and yet it works beautifully. The chemistry between the actors is great and they make a very sweet couple.
What’s striking about Alisha’s relationship with future Simon – who happens to be immune to her power for reasons never quite explained – is that future Simon is the only man to sleep with Alisha who cares about what she likes. Previous encounters were always about what the guy wants – indeed, one side-effect of Alisha’s power is that the guys immediately feel compelled to tell her what they want to do with her – this is the first time that someone cares about what Alisha wants. And indeed when she asks future Simon how he, the inexperienced virgin, got to be so good in bed, he answers that she showed him how. Indeed, I would argue that the fact that Simon is not just the first to actually see Alisha as a person but also the first to consider her sexual pleasure rather than his own are why Alisha falls for him in the first place. Though of course, it’s hard not to fall for someone who turns himself into a superhero and travels back in time to take a bullet and give his life for Alisha.
Alisha falling for future Simon also makes her see his present day counterpart in a different light. Even more importantly, it changes her quite fundamentally. The Alisha we meet early in the series really is shallow and often bitchy. And though I often felt sorry for her because of her power, I did not particularly like her, because Alisha was a hard character to like. All this changes in season 2, because falling in love makes Alisha a gentler and more caring character. Can anybody imagine season 1 Alisha declaring that they must do something about the crazy videogame guy or the fake Jesus from the Christmas episode? Or can anybody imagine season 1 Alisha holding Marnie’s hand, when she goes into labour unexpectedly? Viewed in this light, it also makes sense that Alisha has gone from her god-awful sexual irresistability power to some sort of briefly glimpsed empathy power that allows her to put herself in other people’s shoes. Because Alisha has literally discovered empathy due to falling in love.
As for Simon, he is not entirely sure why Alisha is so nice to him all of a sudden, especially since she had always ignored him up to that point and quite cruelly blew off his one attempt to ask her out for a date. Nonetheless, he eventually discovers the secret of his future self, when he follows Alisha back to his lair. Anybody with half a sense would have run away screaming, but Simon decides that a beautiful girl who loves him and the chance of being a superhero are worth an early death. He not just begins training to turn himself into the superhero he will one day be, he also opens up and becomes more confident. Though Simon gets his first boost of confidence at the end of season 1, ironically via killing Sally, the nasty and exploitative probation worker. It’s at the end of season 1 that he first tells off Nathan.
The beginning of season 3 sees Simon and Alisha as an established couple living together in what used to be future Simon’s lair. Just like Nathan, Simon and Alisha got their happy ending – well, if not for the threat of separation and a premature death hanging over their heads. And like Nathan’s happy ending, Simon’s and Alisha’s is fragile. Because even though Alisha has given up her promiscuous ways, the past has a habit of catching up with her. Which is exactly what happens in this episode, when Alisha runs into Rudy again with whom she had a one-night stand back in school, an encounter that Rudy obviously took a lot more seriously than Alisha did. In fact, encountering Alisha again not just triggers Rudy’s power in front of Simon, Kelly and Curtis as well as his new girlfriend Charlie (who is remarkably calm about Rudy suddenly splitting in two), both Rudys are also determined to let Alisha know just how pissed off they still are. That is, Rudy 2 tells Alisha that she drove him to a suicide attempt, while Rudy 1 gleefully tells everyone that Alisha used to be known as the “cockmonster” at school.
One thing I have always liked about British fiction, film, television, etc… is that sex is treated like a normal part of life and promiscuity is not automatically viewed as a character flaw. Indeed, the quickest way by which you can tell whether a British film or TV show is aiming for the US market is whether promiscuous characters are treated as somehow “flawed” or “sinful”. Just take a look at how Captain Jack Harkness goes from the cheerful omnisexual of Doctor Who and very early Torchwood to a monogamous and purely gay man in latter Torchwood who tells off Gwen for sleeping with Owen (I always thought he was just jealous). Or, staying with Torchwood for a moment, see how Gwen was turned into a devoted heterosexual wife and mother, even though her relationship with Rhys was basically over at the start of season 1. Or how the promiscuous Owen Harper was first castrated by the plot and then killed off altogether. This is usually what happens when British shows start pandering to American tastes and morals. And it usually makes for a worse show (unwatchable in the case of post season 1 Torchwood).
Luckily, Misfits does not do this. The rude words and sexual references are just as present as ever. What is more, the narrative does not judge Alisha (or indeed the other characters) for her sexual choices. Indeed, this episode turns around the conventional (American) wisdom peddled in creepy conservative blogs like this one (which claims to give dating advice to female college students – shudder) that if a woman was once a “slut”, no man will want her, even after “reforms”. Instead a former “slut” is doomed to be single and unloved forever and will eventually die alone and be eaten by her seven cats. However, what happens in Misfits is quite the opposite. So when Rudy outs Alisha’s “cockmonster” past and a distraught Alisha runs off, Simon goes after her to assure her that he still loves her in a very sweet scene. And Alisha even gets to make her peace with Rudy by the end of the episode.
Another thing that I have noticed not just in Misfits but in British teen shows in general is that the girls are usually depicted as the more experienced in sexual matters. Whether it’s Misfits or The Fades, a neat new BBC dark fantasy show with a teen protagonist, the boys are shown as horny but inexperienced, while the girls are not just more experienced, they are also the seducers. Both Misfits and The Fades have a main character who is a virgin at the beginning of the show (The Fades has two, in fact). In both cases, the virgin is male and eventually finds himself seduced by a more experienced girl. Again, this goes against conventional (US) wisdom that teen boys are horny and unstoppable sex monster, while teen girls are only interested in relationships and will only have sex when pressured by boys, because good girls don’t do this sort of thing. Anybody who has spent any time at all around teens will know how wrong this is, therefore it’s nice to see a program which actually acknowledges it.
As for Simon, he seems to have ended up with some kind of precognitive power that is only briefly glimpsed. It definitely makes sense, though, because Simon has always been the planner of the group. In fact, if not for Simon, the gang would probably have been arrested while standing over the body of Tony, the murderous probation worker, and there would never have been any show. It’s also telling that Nathan called Simon (or at least tried to) when he got himself arrested in the US rather than anybody else. And let’s not forget that Simon is also the guy who found a way to travel back from the future to make sure that things happen as they should and while he was at it, also provided a pretty cool flat, a beautiful girlfriend and presumably enough funds to live on for a while to his younger self. What is more, he was even prescient enough to leave some fuel canisters in the place where he knew he would die and then instruct his girlfriend to incinerate his body so the time traveling secret wouldn’t come out. Seen in this light, precognition is definitely a suitable power.
Besides, I like the fact that the impressive athletic skills displayed by Simon in his superhero persona (reviewers, fans, etc… seem determined to call Simon’s superhero alterego “Superhoodie”, though the word is never used in the show itself. Instead, the character is referred to as “the guy in the mask”) are the result of hard work and determination rather than any superpowers. Because Simon is basically Batman (he even has a Batcave of sorts) and the whole “man in the mask” arc from season 2 is very much a response to the most recent Batman films, particularly the noxious Dark Knight, down to the fact that both are played by Welsh actors. But while Batman dons mask and costume for abstract ideals such as justice and Gotham City and is perfectly willing to sacrifice individual humans, including loved ones, for those abstract ideals, Simon doesn’t much care for abstract ideals. Never mind that there is no such thing as justice in the world of Misfits anyway – this is a world were ideals no longer work, if they ever did. But while Thamesmead could use a superhero as much as Gotham City, Simon is motivated by very personal values such as love and friendship. He does what he does and even sacrifices himself (twice) to protect those he loves.
Never mind that geeky bullying victim turns himself into a superhero and wins the girl of his dreams is a lovely story, even though we know that it has no happy ending. Though attentive viewers may have noticed a possible way out of the “taking a bullet to save the woman he loves” dilemma for Simon.
As for the plot – yes, there actually is one – what happens is basically that Rudy is doing community service for an unknown crime along with two girls named Charlie and Tanya. Rudy chats up and eventually manages to sleep with Charlie. Meanwhile, Rudy’s more doubtful half had a heart to heart with Tanya and probably would have gotten lucky, if he wasn’t so insecure. Then Tanya – who only ended up doing community service because her ex-boyfriend blamed her for the drugs he was carrying – sees Rudy 1 with Charlie and flips. Turns out that she has the power to freeze everybody in a certain radius. Hence, she freezes the bar where Rudy is making out with Charlie (and where Curtis happens to work), hits Rudy over the head with a bottle and puts the broken bottle into the hand of Curtis.
Curtis knows that he did not hit Rudy, but he has no idea what happened. However, he has the nasty suspicion that it has something to do with superpowers and he promptly tells his friends. Curtis, Kelly and Simon chance to witness another altercation between Rudy and Tanya from a safe distance and see Tanya freezing time and pushing Rudy down a flight of stairs. They decide to check on Rudy and are promptly targeted by Tanya’s next strike, when she breaks the window of a passing police car and tries to blame the gang. The kids quickly take off – after all, they cannot afford to get in trouble with the police, since they’re still on probation. After successfully getting away, they compare notes with Rudy who assure them that if it’s about this power business, he’s “cool and the gang”.
What’s interesting about this is that choosing to help Rudy and stop Tanya abusing her power is the first time we’ve seen our heroes actually be proactive. Because through most of season 1, they were not even coordinated enough to tackle a potential threat together, while season 2 sees them work together. But they’re still only reacting to threats. For example, they only fight back against superpowered villains such as the milk guy or the fake Jesus from the Christmas special when a member of their group is directly threatened. The kids also keep largely to themselves. In season 2, Nicki and later Marnie become accepted into the group, but that’s mainly because they are the girlfriends of Curtis and Nathan respectively. In all other ways, they’re still very suspicious of outsiders.
In season 3, we quickly see how much the kids have changed when they immediately invite Rudy back to Simon’s lair, once they realize he has powers. What is more, they also decide to stop Tanya, even though she is no direct threat to them at this point.
The only problem now is, how to stop Tanya. Curtis thinks this is a job for the man in the mask (which suggests that he doesn’t know about future Simon – hmm, interesting). Kelly tries to enlist the aid of Seth, the power broker, and is blown off. Rudy meanwhile comes up with a solution of his own. He steals a charity donation box shaped like a very goofy dog (I have actually seen such boxes in Britain and they are just as ugly in reality), hides it in Tanya’s locker and reports her to the probation worker in charge, who just happens to be the same lazy waste of humanity whom we met in season 2. This guy must be the longest lived probation worker in Misfits by now, considering that they normally don’t last very long. Lazy waste of a probation worker actually does something for once, most likely because he’s been using the donation box as his personal supply of small change, and calls the police on Tanya. Alas, arresting her proves to be impossible – she just freezes time and walks away.
The situation between Tanya and Rudy completely escalates at this point. Tanya freezes time, stabs Rudy’s current girlfriend Charlie and puts the knife in Rudy’s hand. She is interrupted by Alisha, who cannot sleep and decides to seek out Rudy and apologize for breaking his heart back in school. So Tanya freezes time again and decides to stage a murder plus double suicide by hanging. Rudy manages to take out Tanya with a kick that sends her stumbling over the body of the girl she killed and suffering a fatal fall (characters in Misfits have an uncanny tendency to either break their necks during unlucky falls or accidentally impale themselves on random objects). Unfortunately, Tanya had kicked away the chair on which Rudy was standing first, leaving him dangling. And attempting to hold on by wrapping his legs around Alisha doesn’t work for very long either. In the end, Rudy is saved by his depressed other half, who shows up just in time even though Rudy had told him to move to Wales and never bother him again.
There is a reconciliation of sorts between the two Rudys, while the gang quietly deposes of Tanya and Charlie by burying them in a secluded spot (there are a lot of unaccounted dead bodies buried in Thamesmead by now). “This is how you deal with such things”, Kelly tells a freaked-out Rudy, “You bury them and move on.”
The episode ends with Rudy giving his new pals a lift in his car – only that it isn’t his car and he has nicked it, as they find out when they’re stopped by the police. And since Alisha, Curtis, Kelly and Simon are still on probation, it’s right back to community service for them, complete with sarcastic comments from Britain’s laziest probation worker.
I’m not quite sure if I really needed to see them doing community service again – it’s retreading ground that’s been extensively covered before. However, the whole community service thing with its orange jumpsuit imagery and parade of horrible probation workers is very much embedded in the DNA of the show, which is probably why they went right back to it. Besides, I have always viewed Misfits as a scathing criticism of the British juvenile criminal justice system in particular and British attitude towards young people in general, disguised as a superhero comedy. So the show need the community service as a vehicle to make its point. Besides this point, we are beginning to suspect that the community centre only maintains itself with the unpaid work of a steady stream of juvenile delinquents. It would certainly explain a lot.
So by the end of episode 1 of season 3, we are right back where we started, with five teenagers doing community service, only that they have brand-new powers now and a new member. As for new guy Rudy, I’m not entirely sold on him yet. Actor Joseph Gilgun is certainly impressive, particularly considering that he spends a lot of the first episode talking to himself. But Rudy, both versions of him, lack the mix of tough guy behaviour and vulnerability that made the Nathan character so compelling. With Nathan, you wanted to strangle him as often as you wanted to hug him. I haven’t felt the compulsion to hug Rudy yet. It also doesn’t help that this first episode focuses mainly on Rudy, whom we don’t know or care about yet, at the expense of the characters we already care about. The fact that there are two Rudys doesn’t help either, it only makes his presence seem even more overwhelming. I can see why the writer would want to focus on Rudy for the first episode, since he is the new character after all, and I’m sure that the balance will shift towards the rest of the gang in future episodes. Still, it kept this first episode of season 3 from being as good as the absolute best episodes of season 1 and 2 were.
But then, even a mediocre episode of Misfits is still head and shoulders above everything else out there.