Finally managed to catch up with the first five episodes of Misfits (hurrah for the internet!), just in time for the series finale this Thursday. The pitch used in a lot of reviews was “Heroes meets Skins”, but really it’s more like “Smallville meets Shallow Grave”. The premise of juvenile delinquents getting stuck with superpowers while serving out their “ASBO”-enforced community service is a very strong one… one I wish I’d had myself, in fact. There are plenty of great jokes (verbal and visual), mixed with some serious spills, chills, and thrills… so it’s all rollicking good fun. My one criticism, or concern, would simply be that on a British TV budget, you don’t exactly get an X-Men movie level of action and adventure. The stories, by necessity, have to be kept quite small, and focussed around the community centre where they serve out their sentences… and even then, the series is almost over before us late-comers have even started watching. Imagine the uproar if Buffy or Lost had only been on for six hours a year? Doesn’t bear thinking about. There are a few self-reflexive lines at the end of the first episode about how this sort of superhero stuff just doesn’t happen in Britain, and they’re right, of course… more’s the pity. The show also backs up my theory about “affirmative action” and genre fiction… in that a lot of superheroes gain their powers through freak events, so there’s always the potential there for minorities, or otherwise disenfranchised people, to score a major cosmic break and leap ahead of the pack (in a single bound!). It’s a shame that this potential is so rarely exploited.
The “misfits” themselves are a good mix of clashing, complex characters, and they’ve assembled a great cast of young actors to fill their orange jump-suits. Unfortunately the one I identify most with is probably ‘Simon’ (Iwan Rheon), the creepy, no-mates video-geek… although I’d like to stress than I’m not nearly as pervy or dysfunctional as he is. Robert Sheehan steals most of the scenes as angel-faced gobshite ‘Nathan’, while the mystery surrounding his past crimes and current powers really kept me hooked. I was also relieved that the writer demonstrated that there was a definite downside to being such a smart-arse. Too often the “jester” character is left free to mock everyone and everything around them, without ever experiencing any fallout… but here, his “fresh mouth” (as Judge Judy would say) is pretty much the cause of all his problems and he knows it, but he still can’t stop himself… so there’s genuine pathos there. And ‘Curtis’ (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) gets possibly the greatest time-travel episode ever… well, since Desmond’s in Lost, anyway.
Still, the standout character for me was ‘Kelly’ (Lauren Socha), the mind-reader who swings wildly between knee-jerk aggression, and genuine compassion. There was a sweet scene in the second episode where they’re all helping to look after a group of pensioners, and she inadvertently “hears” an old man think how thirsty he is. She immediately offers him a cup of tea… not because he’d asked her out loud, and she had an obligation to respond, but simply because she’s nice like that, bless her. She’s also the only character who actively attempts to break through Nathan’s defences, no matter how often he pushes her away, or thinks about having sex with her. At one point I thought she might even become the group’s leader, since she’s clearly the most authoritative and calm in a crisis, but sadly that didn’t come to pass. As far as I’m concerned, Socha is the star of the show, with a firm handle on the mood swings her character goes through, exposing the vulnerability and humanity beneath the explosive “chav” exterior. She is also, as one wit on the E4 website so eloquently observed, “well fit”. As far as I can tell she hasn’t had many roles before this one, so let’s hope there are plenty more entries on her IMDb page by this time next year, and that some of them are comedies… preferably written by me. Seriously, I have scripts ready and waiting… let’s do lunch!
Edit (17/3/10): I now gather from watching the Jonathan Ross interview that Socha hates the orange jumpsuits, and the way she looks in one… and obviously Socha looks a lot better than ‘Kelly’ in real life… but my thinking was that it’s the character’s “uniform”, and without that she isn’t really identifiable as a ‘Misfit’. I still feel bad about it though. I haven’t really done Socha justice.