Friday, March 23, 2012

Box Set Blues: Misfits, Season 2

We seem to be on a roll with box-sets at the moment, although this is in many ways an illusion. After all, getting through Community was a burst of crazy obsession, and as we tend to watch several series in parallel its just a nice coincidence that we seemed to have finished a few fairly close to each other. Another factor is of course that UK tv runs for much, much shorter seasons, which can be pretty frustrating, but at least we tend to wind up wanting more of a truncated show, than slowly losing patience with something going on for too long. I'm starting to think that the 10- or 13-episode run, being both the longest a UK show seems to run, and the shortest US one does, is about the right balance between breathing room and decent pace. But thats for another day. Today we talk about Misfits.

Misfits is another one of those shows that deliberately didn't watch largely because of how I heard it advertised. "Its Skins with crappy superpowers!" I heard, and pretty much immediately decided I wasn't going to bother; until I also heard "it's very funny" and "its very good, actually." So I watched it, and indeed it is both. The second series has a trickier job than the first. The first gets a pass for establishing it's cast and concept with a strong vein of dark humour and slyly clever plotting, but by the second series we know these characters and what they can do, and one of the problems with low-grade, one-trick superpowers is that they by definition one-trick. And we all remember what happened to Heroes, right?

OK, so the good news is that Misfits isn't Heroes. Season introduces a degree of ongoing plot; but it makes the sensible choice to leave it rooted in character, not mythology, and, like pretty much every other aspect of the show doesn't take it too seriously. This is, after all, a character show first and foremost, and most of the episodes exist to focus on one character or another rather than the lose larger arc. So the characters progress, even if the story doesn't, albeit some more than others, and everyone, even Nathan, gets chance to show off facets to their character other than their usual fronts.

Theres a lot of ideas in Misfits that aren't always stunningly original - Superhoodie is a variant on several well established characters for starters - but it's the run down council-estate setting, and the grounded reality of the characters lives that make it all work. It feels fresh and original and clever; spotting its influences is a sign that it's literate in it's genre, not a sign it's light on ideas, and most of the high concept stuff like Superhoodie, or the Grand Theft Auto guy, and really well realised. I really liked the xmas episode, even if the villian was a little bit of a cliche and power-swapping felt like setup for the next series rather than a story in itself. But at the same time, by the end of the series, many of the powers really had ran their course in story terms, and I'm looking forward to what comes next...