“Series Four, Episode One” S4 / E1
- B Community Grade
I have to admit, I’m excited about this season of Misfits. I’m excited about it for the same reason that I’m excited about Community, whenever it comes back—I’m tremendously curious about how massive changes are going to affect such chaotic shows. In Misfits’ case, its third season was the least consistent of the series so far, and while I didn’t like the way it got rid of two of its characters at the end (with a third leaving offscreen), switching the stories up to make Misfits: The Next Offenders is probably a good way to keep the show fresh.
Alternately, the new season could be a clusterfuck with so many of the characters we love gone, and a continued decline from the show’s peak.
Based on the first episode, I’m optimistic, though not yet wildly so. Misfits seems to have learned the lesson of last year’s première, where the intense focus on the new guy only worked if you actually liked Rudy. That was an introduction episode with little more to offer. This season-four prèmiere, on the other hand, works as one of the show’s themed-genre episodes, like “the zombie episode” or “the flashback episode.” Here we have “the failed-heist episode,” where a briefcase filled with money, held by a thief with the unfortunate power of triggering paranoia in anyone he touches, sets the new and old Misfits at each other’s throats.
As such, it’s a notably confident episode. It toys with chronology, opening with the in medias res form of starting at the climax. But, as friend of The A.V. Club Daniel Walters has noted, these episodes almost always fail, because by starting at the most interesting point, they make everything that we see after that point seem dull. Misfits avoids this by going back five hours to another point of critical interest—the introduction of the new characters. Yet even that is quickly turned to a point of interest, as we immediately see Seth and Rudy collaborating on the vicious torture of a barely conscious man. This itself is followed by multiple flashbacks that include unreliable narration. The story isn’t complicated, but the method of telling it ends up building an episode that’s both entertaining on its own and a solid introduction to Jess and Finn, the new characters.
Of the two, Jess makes a stronger initial impact. She finds Rudy trying to break into lockers, and he says he’s looking for a cheese sandwich. “Perhaps a mouse ate it!” she replies. “Those furry little bastards do love a bit of cheese.” She’s got an assertive sarcasm, but as later, slightly softer scenes show, it’s not the entirety of her characterization. Finn, on the other hand, is more of a mystery. He reminds me of Simon in early season one, but with Simon’s implied creepiness made explicit, particularly via a “joke” he tells about being repeatedly raped as a child.
That creepiness involves him having a girl tied up in a room in his apartment, with no explanation given, as a cliffhanger to end the episode. In fact, the entire hour is creepier than normal for Misfits. Seeing Seth—a reluctant good guy in the past, but nowhere near evil—torturing a man is bad enough, but it’s compounded by watching Rudy amputate the man’s hand with a hacksaw. We’ve seen the Misfits kill before, but that’s usually been to save their own lives. While they do have the excuse of having been under mind control, they still remember the events, and we still remember seeing them take these horrific actions. A new hard-ass, possibly psychotic probation worker seems to promise darkness on that end, too. It’s not necessarily darker than anything we’ve seen before, but it is more morally damning. Alisha’s line at the end of season three that what they’ve done, they’ve done to survive, isn’t entirely true anymore.
The première also continues Misfits’ focus on non-power aspects of the main characters. The new kids each use their powers once—Jess can see through walls, and Finn has weak telekinesis. Curtis and Seth’s powers aren’t even mentioned. Only Rudy’s ability to split in half is critical to the plot (which makes sense, as the idea of multiple personalities is a common one in the twisty-thriller genre the episode paid homage to). Misfits seems to be comfortable in its own skin, willing to tell weird stories about characters it’s confident are worth the effort. I’m still excited to watch it try.
- “For I am a probation worker…” Rudy sells it. And Jess, straight-faced, telling him that he sells it, is marvelous.
- “Will you please just shut the fuck up and let me piss myself?” A several-minute scene of the new characters talking to one another while trapped in a freezer is daring and largely successful.
- How does Misfits demonstrate the power of the thief? By playing Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” How does a small-budget show such as Misfits have access to the most well-known song on the subject? That’s a damn good question.
- “I think you have a strangely beautiful penis.”
- “You will feel… like you have been fucked by a train. Foo-foo. Foo-foo. Foo-foo. Foofoofoofoofoofoo.” Very interested to see what might happen when the crew has an actually motivated probation worker.