Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Box Set Blues: Misfits, Season Three

You know what bugs me about British TV? There is never enough of it. Take Misfits, for instance - after the end of this third season there is only remaining original cast member going into the next series. So after only 24 episodes - the length of a single US TV Season - they've burnt through four characters and all their attendant story potential, and they're taken three years to produce those episodes. And there isn't anything expensive, or complex about Misfits, its just that the British TV culture is these short runs and high cast turnovers, and I'm always left feeling I'm missing out on potential that is never realised. But, rant over, lets look at what stories we did get! 

This season started with it's work cut out for it. Firstly, they'd lost Nathan, a live-wire presence on the show that was going to be a big hole to fill. Secondly, everyone had swapped their powers out for new ones. Thirdly, they'd all finished their Community Service, the framing device for the whole show. And finally, the decision had been taken to make one of the main narrative strands Simons' destiny as "Superhoodie", a plot that was going to need some work to pull off satisfactorily. 

Most of these are resolved by the end of first episode with what feels like a quick push of the reset button. New character Rudy does feel like he's got a lot of Nathan's lines, particularly in the early going, but the delivery of them as seedy, and more than a little desperate, makes him his own person, and his power's manifestation makes for some redemptive depth. Rudy ends up being  the vector by which the rest of the cast break their probation, so very quickly we're back where we started, mopping floors in the community centre. 

Powers-wise the show continues as it always has, by making sparse use of them unless they're what the story-of-the-week is built around. Some of them get used less than once an episode as far as I can make out, and Kellys "I'm a Rocket Scientist" feels like more of a catch phrase than a superpower, although it does get a couple of decent run-outs. Only Curtis' gender-swapping power really gets a good examination, in one of the series best episodes, but as ever it's the villains who get to play with superpowers, not so much the heroes. Keeping Seth, the power-swapping dealer of the Christmas Special around, is a smart touch that allows them to bring in new abilities with very little overhead. 

Plot-wise, the Simon/Superhoodie stuff is spread out over the season with a couple of focused episodes and then a few nods along the way. I must admit I found the denoument a little underwhelming; a nice idea, sure, and mechanically it all works - but somehow, despite everyones best efforts it didn't quite connect as it should, and what should have been massive emotional payload fizzled out a little. I've thought a lot about it and I still can't put my finger on why though. 

To end on a positive, when Misfits is good it is very good indeed - the "Hitler" episode was great fun, as was the "Zombies" episode, and it remains a distinctive and interesting setting for a superhero-based show. With a fourth season on the way later this year it feels like it still has a lot of life in it, I just wish that I didn't feel robbed of stories with the talent they already had...