‘Wot—the fock—is bronch?’: The Return of “Misfits” by Matilda Dixon-Smith

Posted on November 11, 2011

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This past summer I became very attached to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For weeks we couldn’t get enough of Buffy’s ass-kicking punchlines, the hilarious cut-away moments, and Spike singing in a graveyard. It was a beautiful time.

While we were deep in Buffy-mania [fellow editor] Will Kay, who was not a fan, could often be found—headphones in, laptop resting on his stomach—chortling away at some show I’d never heard of about ugly-looking kids dressed in orange. It took me about six months to actually take Will’s giggle-endorsed advice and get into the British superhero-drama-comedy Misfits. These were six months poorly spent, not knowing that there was such a thing a “tripling” yourself (it’s gross, I’m not explaining it here).

The “Misfits”, L-R: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Robert Sheehan, Lauren Socha, Antonia Thomas and Iwan Rheon.

British network E4 is clearly primarily concerned with fictionalising this crass, brazen, lower-class teenager. It is, after all, the home of the fabulous Skins and the hysterical The Inbetweeners. Misfits appears to fit in perfectly here; a show about five young offenders completing their “community payback” service against the backdrop of some macabre housing estates. While picking up rubbish and painting over graffiti, a freak electrical storm (complete with football-sized hail) descends, and all five offenders are struck by lightning. This isn’t just lightning though, it’s superhero lightning which imbibes its victims with special powers.

Insecure Kelly (Lauren Socha, who is responsible for the aforementioned “bronch” line) is able to hear the thoughts of everyone around her; flirty Alisha (Antonia Thomas) makes people wildly horny for her with a single touch; ex-athlete Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) can rewind time; and oddball Simon (Iwan Rheon) can turn invisible. It appears that the only one to miss out is loud-mouthed Nathan (the marvellous Robert Sheehan). The five unlikely ‘heroes’ (if killing several people over the course of two and a bit seasons is considered heroic) embark on a journey of discovery. They learn more about their powers, and about each other, and they encounter others who were affected by the storm—all while trying to complete their community service hours.

The series was appealing from the first frame: the Misfits changing into their “community payback” uniforms and paying homage to the comic book superhero who puts on a cape and mask.  Misfits is a fast-paced, well-designed series. The camera work and the editing are slick; the photography is stylish. The film sometimes looks as gloomy as the grounds of the housing estates but somehow—perhaps it’s the orange jumpsuits—there is a surge of energy coursing through every shot. Everything feels very relaxed, but it is all meticulously rendered. The Misfits’ superpowers are inventive; evocative of the best silver age X-Men comics. A character’s power always reflects a little of their identity. The stand-out is without a doubt the boy with ‘lacto-kinesis’ (the ability to manipulate diary products), who is given the nickname “Le Grand Fromage”. On the surface the show appears raw, yet underneath there is such elegance.

Those electric orange jumpsuits!

Misfits’ script is on a totally different plane to most contemporary television. [Creator and writer] Howard Overman expertly combines the language of youth and the language of the street, with an injection of purely unique Misfits-ness, all wrapped around the traditional discourse of a comedy-drama. The stories are engaging and original. The leads, though often crude or irritating, are utterly captivating. While I love them all, I was always a great fan of straight-talking chav Kelly’s top knots and excellent bitch look. Odd, slightly-indie Simon is also great, and is responsible for some of the most quietly hilarious moments on the show. All the leads have excellent chemistry and unfaltering comic timing. Without a doubt, though, my favourite is Robert Sheehan’s Nathan. There’s never been anyone quite like Nathan on television. He’s quick-witted, wise-talking, and crass, but with an exposed shell that makes him one of my most compelling fictional friendsOverman evidently had a metaphorical love-affair with him, and Sheehan’s supreme talent for delivering a monolgue has landed him with the majority of the best scenes in the show.

and more…

Which brings me to this year and the beginning of season 3. Most die-hard Misfits fans have been pretty wary of the commencement of this latest season, for which Robert Sheehan was the only cast member not to sign back on. The first episode doesn’t bandy about, in classic Misfits style there’s no easing us in to the appearance of new young offender, Rudy (Joseph Gilgun). He bears a striking resemblance to Nathan (he too is endearingly smart-arsed and crude) but he doesn’t feel like a ‘replacement’. Overman was obviously smart enough to know that he could get away with a glimmer of familiarity, but the objective, of introducing an intriguing new character for us to play with, is retained. Rudy makes the first episode a rediscovery of the wonders of the whole series. In other news, the Misfits have all got new powers! Kelly is a rocket scientist, Alisha can see from others’ perspectives, Simon has premonitions about the future, and Curtis (hilariously) can turn into a girl.

This season has the feeling that big danger is looming, and the show has evolved into an edgier version of itself to reflect that. It’s gloomier and sharper and there is a constant undercurrent of tension. The absence of Sheehan, rather than detracting from, has almost elevated the remaining cast. There’s clearly a feeling of being liberated from the overshadowing quality of such a dominant character. Though it appears Simon has taken the reins as Misfit linchpin, the series does have a stronger ‘ensemble’ feel. It just goes to show that the departure of a beloved main character needn’t kill a series (if it is as good as Misfits).

Gotta love Tumblr for this…(Joseph Gilgun as Rudy).

The second episode of season 3 was the perfect example of why Misfits is such clever television. Much of what is thrown around by the male cast might seem a little misogynistic, so an episode about Curtis discovering his feminine sensibilities and developing some empathy is utterly surprising. It was one of the best, most inventive lessons about female empowerment I’ve ever seen. It was also nice to see a developing relationship between Curtis and Simon, and Kelly and Alisha (as we rarely see the Misfits splintering off other than to sleep with each other).

Lovers of Misfits, don’t be discouraged, season 3 is far from a let-down. The writing is just as good, the jokes are just as funny, and that inherent sense of cool that is particular to Misfits remains. Those of you who have not yet experienced the show, I strongly urge you to have a gander. If anything, you’ll find out what it means to “triple” yourself.

Interview with the cast on the Jonathan Ross show…and thank God, Robert Sheehan is as funny in person as he is on the show! 

Part 1: 

Part 2:

Matilda Dixon-Smith is You’re Dripping Egg’s editor-in-chief and a self-confessed television addict. To read more from her on TV, have a gander at “New Girl”: Please Be My Best Friend, Zooey Deschanel? or Texas Fo’ever—”Friday Night Lights”

What do y’all think of Misfits? How do you feel about the commencement of season 3? Leave your comments below:

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Posted in: Television