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Misfits: “Series Four, Episode Eight”



“Series Four, Episode Eight”

Season 4 , Episode 8

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A marked grave.

I’m not sure there’s a more fitting symbol for Misfits to end a series on than a marked grave. The steadily increasing body count has become a bit of a joke for the show, with Rudy remarking that the Misfits “stacked probation workers like cordwood.” Misfits has always had an easier time disposing of guest stars with a shallow grave than an emotional sendoff, which led from the relatively rare violent deaths of the first season to the near-gleeful manslaughter of the third season, especially in the zombie episode when a new probation worker is slaughtered just for laughs. This fourth season has pulled back a little bit, granting death more emotional weight. Curtis’ superbly done death was the pragmatic indicator of that shift in tone, but Nadine getting the marked grave symbolically demonstrates it.

A marked grave.

In the première of the third season, Rudy was presented as irresponsibility incarnate. First, there was the unprotected, anal sex with a girl he barely knew, then when she ended up dead, he only mourned her as someone who “really loved it up the arse.” That line was uttered as he gazed into a similar grave in the woods, before a shrug and the filling of the grave, both with the girl and her murderer. Rudy moved on with his hedonistic life.

Nearly two full seasons later, Rudy’s still Rudy, but, well, two years older and wiser. Against all odds, he’s become the emotional center of the show, and this season is really Rudy’s season. Its best episode focused on Rudy, as his third, evil part came home. His phone conversation with Curtis in the next, just-about-as-good episode, was the moment where Curtis’ imminent death actually hit home. He took quite well to his role as mentor in the next few episodes, with his budding relationship with Nadine giving the character a surprising new direction.

And then, in the first scene of this episode, he managed to make me choke on laughter while breaking my heart. Multiple times. His nervous, terrible banter with the nuns was a great start. “Penguins! Are they birds, or are they fish?” But then, confronting Nadine, and being told that she had to be a nun, he chokes back tears with “It’s Jesus, innit. He’s the son of God. I’m just a dickhead.” Joe Gilgun even manages to fill “They should call it Sad Feet!” with legitimate pathos. I’m awestruck at how he navigated that opening, making it specific to Rudy, hilarious on its own, and point at the absurd, meaningful, overdramatic heartbreak of young love and breakups. “I’ve been there,” I thought, even though I’d never been forced to break up with a nun confined to a cloister due to her apocalyptic superpower. There’s no good reason for this relationship not to work (except for multiple really good reasons). But the actor and the character sell it.

A marked grave.

The mark is a simple cross. Nadine’s faith defined her as a character. It was a welcome antidote to the evil-fundamentalist stereotypes or one-dimensional believers who’ve exemplified Christians on Misfits, true. But it also meant she was unlikely to ever stay with Rudy. Their relationship was a rush of hormones and timing. He was freedom to her (“I want to please you secularly!” perhaps), and she was purity to him, a life with meaning and a certain morality that he’d thought inaccessible.

Yet once again, Misfits demonstrated how going through the motions of trying to be better wasn’t so different from actually being better. Maybe in a month or two months or a year, Rudy and Nadine would’ve realized that they were just too different. But in the now, Rudy became a better man in pursuing and trying to rescue her. He thought about someone beyond himself so much he was willing to sacrifice himself for her, all because the girl he originally picked for his century of fucking wasn’t a good lay. If Misfits is about growing up, Rudy’s reached his graduation point. This isn’t to say that he’s going to, let alone should, leave the show. Maybe he’ll disappear like Kelly and Nathan, maybe he’ll get a stellar goodbye like Curtis, or maybe he’ll stick around past his characters’ arc like Alisha. But for now, I’m satisfied with Rudy’s character arc.

If there’s a flaw in the episode, it’s Nadine’s role. We’ve only had a couple of episodes with her, so she never demonstrated a huge amount of depth beyond being sweet and sweet on Rudy. But in the end, she takes only the most obvious route, martyring herself in order to save her new friends. Certainly it’s fitting for the Catholic girl to sacrifice herself to prevent evil. But “fitting” and “obvious” aren’t really what’s made Misfits great. She’s just another in a long line of guest stars who exist to teach the Misfits something about themselves. She’s one of the best of them, I think, with the actress playing her never quite crossing the line into cloying, but the resolution is still a bit disappointing.

A marked grave.

It’s the end of Misfits’ fourth season. Back when it started, I described how I was excited to review a show with such chaotic potential. I had no idea that it was going to be this entertaining, though. Not since Dollhouse’s second season have I been so unsure about a series’ direction while being (mostly) impressed with how good its episodes are.

A huge reason for that is that the new characters have been really well done. The fifth probation worker’s descent from ultimate hard-ass into a belligerent, depressed poet has been a joy to behold. “What’s this! What’s with the strange, lingering silence? Where’s your comic banter, and the witty repartee, the rebellious backchat, what the FUCK is up with you lot?” as his way of asking what’s wrong with his young charges was sensational. It would’ve been easy to overdo it, and maybe it was a little when he returned and talked to Rudy about love, but never to a point where he was a negative presence on the show.

Abbey and Jess have also both been standout new characters. Abbey’s deadpan slyness got its best workout in this episode, particularly when answering the probation worker’s “what’s wrong?” question in a fashion that indicated both that she understood the emotions of the group but couldn’t understand how to care. “I’m a lone wolf on a journey of self-discovery” later was also just ridiculous enough to work, although the sperm falling out of her and hitting the floor may have been a step too far.

Jess has, if anything, been even better across the season, and I hope Karla Crome goes on to do great things (eventually). However, this may have been her weakest episode, as there’s no real way to convey jealousy and make it sympathetic. If anything, Misfits has been light on portraying in-group relationship tension from a “realism” perspective, but I’d prefer that to tirades about how much of a “slut” Abbey is.

Of course, Jess has very good reason for part of her jealousy, as Alex is discovered to be a cheater. Alex continues his descent into dickery since receiving his dick—“You were a better boyfriend when you had a vagina”—but in this case I think it’s intentional and it’s working. Sacrificing himself for Jess and probably receiving a power, leave him existing primarily as potential for next season, and I think that’s a good place for him to be.

Finally, there’s Finn, the most problematic aspect of this season. When Abbey propositioned him, and he responded, laying out his anxieties and thought process, I finally realized what bugged me about him. The hyperverbal mode of expression and insistent approach to relationships with a friend reminded me of early Xander on Buffy. But his awkward creepiness was more subtext while the show still presented him as likable. Misfits is a little less considerate of its characters, and presenting them in slightly harsher terms shows just how horribly annoying that particular kind of dorkiness is. But Finn’s not all bad. Take him out of that relationship drama, and he’s a pretty fun character, yelling at Rudy that “You can’t call the Lord a penis!” And how great was it that he was the one who said that yes, the Misfits were willing to die for Nadine? That was the most important step toward his potential future redemption.

The episode was a glorious mess. The season was a glorious mess. But bringing it all to a close with a marked grave, with all the symbolism of the series and the characters and the episode itself packed into one quick shot, indicates an impressive level of confidence and understanding. Misfits has embraced its chaos, and I love it even more for that.

Stray observations:

  • Rudy using Nadine as a confessional: “I have violated myself with a fucking king-sized...”
  • “You could use the special power you got after being hit by lightning in that special-freak storm.” “You know, we really should use them more often.” Meta-joke alert!
  • “I’m not kicking a nun, that’s seven years bad luck!”
  • “Are you saying you like me?” “Ohh...I’d need to fuck you to find out. It’s a process of elimination.” This was about as consensual as Misfits first-time sex seems to get.
  • “That’s your sperm. So that’s awkward.” Love Abbey’s reading here, even if the act is over-the-top bizarre.