I regretted last week's framing of Misfits' first two episodes as proof that the show was getting tired. I wasn't totally enthused by them, true, but two early-season episodes isn't much of a sample size. And of course, it's easy to get carried away writing headlines. But three episodes out of eight has to start being treated as a sample size, especially when an episode like this third one seems to wallow in repeating the past. It's not that “Episode Three” was bad exactly, but more that it was average. Normal. Given that Misfits has spent so much time being anything but average, seeing an episode that doesn't really do anything is a disappointment.
This is the Abby origin story episode that's been coming ever since she was introduced late last season as being an amnesiac from the storm. First she's shown having sex with the girl whose scarf and smell she was obsessed with last week. Abby's quite happy to have an explanation for why she thought her life was unsatisfying before. “So, that's the big mystery solved, then. You're a lesbian.” But it's quite clear that something more is going on. Laura and Abby's connection seems weird beyond even a new crush, and Misfits uses a cover of “I Put A Spell On You” as if the point wasn't clear. Then Misfits shows Abby having memories of the two of them in bed as young children.
All of this is good setup. There's a strange, power-based event that will lead us to character revelations—and Abby's certainly needed more depth. Some of Misfits' best episodes have been explorations of gender and sexuality (also, some of its worst, to be fair). And then there's the potential that Laura and Abby have done something horribly taboo without knowing—that they're sisters is the most likely explanation after the first flashback—which adds an expectation of horrifying potential revelations down the line.
Even once the origin story comes out, that Abby was Laura's imaginary friend brought to life in the storm, it isn't necessarily bad. It does provide a partial explanation for Abby's weirdness, and it also implies that Laura's imaginary monster, Scary, came to life. Misfits going to the horror well isn't the worst idea, and several of the scenes do effectively use horror tropes.
But there are two major problems. First, there's no real follow-through to either the horror of Scary or Abby's origins. Once Scary starts acting, instead of simply looking like its name, it quickly becomes irrelevant. It grabs Laura's jerk of a boyfriend, apparently to kill him, and nobody seems to notice or care (not even him). It takes several opportunities to scare, even grab Abby and Laura, but when it finally makes its move, it's monumentally unthreatening and easy to kill. This could have been used as a discussion about how the things we fear most aren't frightening when made manifest, or how the concerns of children are not those of adults, or even how cathartic it might be for Laura. But nope—it was just a monster, and they killed it easily.
Likewise, Abby's origin is woefully underexamined. We get the overt, plot explanation of why Abby doesn't know who she is, but we don't understand anything more about why she is. Yes, she's an imaginary friend, but what gives her personality? Why is she so ridiculously straightforward? (Her best moment in the episode is when she tells Laura's boyfriend what's happened, utterly deadpan.) Why is her sexuality so robotic? Given how many of the powers are related to people's personalities, why did Laura split that way? It feels rote, like the show needed an explanation, so it presented one, turned it into a one-episode plot, and resolved it.
What makes that especially frustrating is the second major problem with the episode: We've seen this all before. In fact, Misfits knows we've seen it before. Rudy Two invites Abby to his support group because he's gone through a similar situation—a mental concept turned into flesh by the storm. And that's a reminder that last week we saw an evil/good twin idea as the main plot of the episode, which itself felt like a rehash of something from the previous season (and that was a creative retcon of an idea explored the season before.)
The “it's all been done before” element of the episode is escalated by the B-story, in which Greg the probation worker's crush on Finn escalates to the point of violent response. Greg gets drunk, tries to corner Finn, and Finn uses his telekinesis to blast him over a railing to Greg's apparent death. The gay probation worker was funny as a totally unexpected throwaway joke last season, but turning it creepy here needs to have some sort of point—and it doesn't. And of course, the dead probation worker is a running gag with Misfits, but this isn't well-paced enough to really be funny (although Alex's banter with Finn is quite good). It's subverted by Greg being alive at the end, but I'm not really sure what the point is. It's stuff that happened before but slightly different? Greg has Nathan's old superpower?
This review is coming across as rather negative, and that's somewhat unfair. Pacing issues with Scary aside, “Episode Three” was entertaining enough. I'm just not happy with Misfits, a show that was so smart and so raunchy for most of four seasons, suddenly being comfortable with being “entertaining enough.”
- “So you find out she's imaginary, and you squeeze her breast?” “Well, it seemed like the only logical thing to do at the time. I'm a creature of instinct, aren't I?”
- Alex's role as the relatively sane one is pretty effective. “I told you he fancied me, but you didn't listen! This is all on you.” “No, it isn't.”
- Relatively sane. “For the comedy, innit? It's always about the comedy.” “That works for me.”
- Best moment in the episode: Finn freaking out about the probation worker possibly being alive as Rudy smokes a joint, and Alex plays in the wheelchair
- I hope Greg has Nathan's power, because it serves as a reminder of Nathan, and I hold out hope for his return this season.