What makes us who we are? In an episode about a man trying to recover his lost penis, Misfits tries to deal with that monumental psychological question. There’s the common belief that personality is inherent, that how we were raised combines with our genes to determine how we respond and react to the world. On the other side of the coin is the idea that we are defined by our situations, that the mind rationalizes our actions in ways that seem consistent with our self-perceptions. These are metaphorical poles—my understanding of psychology suggests that it’s both—but television deals in metaphors.
You could probably write a book about the implicit suggestions of how behavior and personality combine on TV. On The Sopranos, Tony’s situation is considered the cause of his sociopathy by other characters, but the longer the series goes on, the more apparent it is that Tony is simply an irredeemably violent man. On Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, the “soul” is used as a straightforward explanation for how vampires can be either good or not. On non-serialized shows, characters’ personalities change according to the whims of the plot. Lisa Simpson has been both a TV-watching blob and a TV hater, a crusading atheist and a complacent believer.
This season of Misfits has used the idea of behavior altering motivation a few times: Finn being nice to his sister in order to impress Jess actually makes him a better person by the act of being nice. But this episode focuses on the physical situations of the characters defining and redefining them as people. Both Alex and Abby have specific biological changes that they’re dealing with.
Alex’s lack of penis pushes him to behave in certain ways. Last episode, when Jess asked him about the number of people he’s slept with, he says “I’m not that person anymore,” as if he regrets having been that person. Yet in that episode and this one, Alex’s desperation surrounding his situation indicates that only the physical alteration is what changed him. The simple change in his sexual organs changed him into the nice barman who was more respectful, pushed women away, seemed to be unthreateningly gay, and so on. But just the thought that he could get his cock back turns him violent—and actually getting it back? Well, it was all about him, and not about Jess at all. Staring in the mirror during sex may be a slightly over-the-top way of depicting his selfishness, but it does make the point clear: Alex was only the way he was because of his physical state.
A side plot introduces Abby with more detail than last week. She has a pregnant woman with a power transfer her baby into Abby, who decides to keep it. Abby, it turns out, lost her memory in the storm, and because nobody is looking for her, she wants the baby as a sign of belonging. This could easily have turned into intolerable cult-of-true-womanhood stuff, but Abby’s clever, stoic demeanor maintains it as something specific to Abby instead of a claim about women in general. Still, as with Alex, the physical change affecting her entire behavior continues the theme of situations determining characterization.
There are also two less physiological examples of the situation-based characterizations. Rudy’s new crush, Nadine, has her secret revealed by an item of clothing: She is a nun. That leads primarily to comedy here, particularly Rudy singing “Don’t You Want Me?” at karaoke, but it seems to be the focus of an entrancing preview for next week. The probation worker is also at karaoke, singing a heartfelt love song (to Curtis?) revealing the confusion of his multiple roles. By day, he’s a hard-ass, by night, he’s a human. The presence of his probationary charges forces him to engage in both roles at once, which is a good vehicle for humanizing him and getting a few good laughs.
Still, while the themes of the episode were quite strong, in terms of plot structure, the seventh episode of the fourth season is all over the place. Alex hunting his dick is theoretically the main plot, but doesn’t take more than a few minutes to deal with. The bulk of the episode is really the Misfits hanging out, figuring out what’s going on with one another. Fortunately, that’s good enough for Misfits. Especially when it means Rudy gets punched in the balls.
- “You heard what he said, he’s gonna fuck me up all the way up to fuck.” Keep it up, Finn, and I’ll start liking you.
- Jess and Rudy’s “order a dick” conversation is utterly fantastic. The actors have great chemistry.
- “Anyway. I’m fucking starving and I’m eating for two, so, I’m gonna go and eat a Kit Kat.”
- We still don’t know why Finn and Jess have community service, which is kind of surprising.
- “What are the fucking chances when was the last time you even saw a nun?” Rudy is confused by these human “feelings.”
- I wish the episode had spent a bit more time with James’ needing a penis, and how that might have compared to Alex’s situation.