Misfits: "Episode Four"
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Misfits: "Episode Four"

(Just a reminder that British series Misfits recently debuted on Hulu.com for U.S. residents, and we're covering the episodes as they pop up, week to week.)

This was one of the best flashback episodes I've ever seen. Which is not saying much, I tend to not like flashback episodes in dramas, and they're a little lazy in comedies sometimes (funny hair=funny episode?). My main problem is that they're contrived, finding ways to throw characters together, and also often implying a lack of free will – the characters were destined to find each other. So I get confused when people say that “Out of Gas” is the best episode of Firefly, or “Sins of the Past” as the best Terriers ep.

The thing that makes episode four of Misfits work despite being a flashback ep is that it's built around Curtis' power of rewinding time whenever he feels regrets. His ex-girlfriend – the one whose drug dealings helped get him into this mess – shows up and triggers him going back to the night the deal went down. Curtis then tries, repeatedly, to get it just right.

The whole setup is reminiscent of the classic Star Trek episode “Cause and Effect” or perhaps Groundhog Day. But in a storytelling sense, it's better than both, because the explanation is inherent to the premise. Curtis is nothing but regret, and his power allows him to deal with those regrets, so it's even necessary. Without this episode, we'd just wonder why he hadn't fixed his life?

After several attempts, the answer is that he can't. His first attempt ends with his ex getting stabbed. The second attempt is successful, but its success leads to a bigger problem: without Curtis doing community service, Tony ends up successfully killing all the misfits, except Nathan who apparently barely survives.

So he heads back again, this time getting rid of all the drugs except one, which he hold onto. This saves Sam, but gets him back into community service where he's able to recreate the premise we started with...except that Sam's still his girlfriend. As is Alisha. “Shit.”

The change reveals a certain intelligence in planning for the show. History doesn't change so easily as most time travel shows have it – and on the other side, the ones that imply that history is unchangeable commit the reverse of the same crime. So Misfits hits the sweet spot of managing to play with chronology just right for me. There are always consequences, and adding Sam to Curtis' life may also improve the drama. There are plenty of coincidences, but they fall more under “bitter irony” than “excessive contrivance”, with Kelly's boyfriend finding the engagement ring that the probation workers were supposed to use at the top of the list.

I'm also enjoying how each episode is focusing on a different character, despite being only six episodes. It gives Misfits a certain formal appeal that many shows lack, kind of like The Canterbury Tales or The Decameron (or Hyperion, for those of you with more geeky, less classical bent). I remain impressed with how much Misfits does with so little.

Stray Observations:

  • The standing jerking off faces were pretty entertaining.
  • “Do you think he told the others?” Nathan? Naaaahhhh.
  • Not the world's biggest fan of pop culture homages, but Nathan failing as The Jesus? Magic.
  • “It's expired, hasn't it!” “Bev!”
  • “Don't be a wanker.”
  • “That is so fucking romantic.”
Filed Under: TV, Misfits

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