Last week, I wrote about my concerns about Misfits' sudden development of a mythology, something which often drags a series down. There are ways to prevent this: The Wire was ruthless in adding and cutting characters. Babylon 5 succeeded by having a master plan that tied everything together. Of course, there are other ways around it, like the Buffy effect: Don't take it seriously!
This week's episode of Misfits is a master-class in not taking itself seriously. I mean, just look at that screencap. The overarching plot moves forward, yes, and at least three people die, true, but the episode maintains that perfect tone of light-heartedness in the face of danger throughout. I'm not sure that this was an especially deep episode of television, but it was entertaining from start to finish, which I'm perfectly happy with.
It does all this despite having arguably the most deservedly-derided plot in television: The Video Game Episode. At best, this is usually a way for a show's producers to indicate that they really don't get it at all, and at worst, it's moronic and insulting. So, other than a slightly tone-deaf line from Kelly at the end, it was a pleasant surprise that the episode wasn't total bullshit.
I think part of the reason for this was that for the most part, the misfits didn't know that the guy was living out a video game. He was just an insane attacker to them, with the clues only revealed much later in the episode. It also helped that the character was accurate and specific. When we saw things from his perspective, it actually used the Grand Theft Auto mini-map and icons, and they obviously intentionally hired an actor with that Nico Bellic look. It was one of many ways where Misfits seemed to say “Hey, this is fun. Let's go with it.”
There were a few other directorial moments that used that philosophy. When the new kid's heart gets put on ice and wheeled over to Nikki, it's a playful, sick, funny scene that seems like it could come from a Coen brothers movie. Likewise, Nathan's slapping the camera with his paintbrush to end the scene was the kind of winking, over-dramatic silliness that makes the show work.
The silliness was well-matched by the drama, demonstrated perfectly in the scene that gives us the screencap above. Yes, our misfits are in legitimate danger, being held hostage by an insane rampage murderer. Yes, he has slapped Kelly around and is about to threaten them all with a chainsaw. But the imagery and characters' actions exist to entertain. It's a scene that seems expressly designed to create an awesome image, which makes me think of directors like Takashi Miike or Quentin Tarantino.
And yes, I am comparing Misfits to the Coen brothers, Miike, and Tarantino, and I'm quite happy to do so. Obviously there are differences in medium; TV shows should aim for sustained goodness, while film can get by easier on occasional moments of greatness. But I think Misfits fits in that same niche of finding comedy in the horrifying, or placing ridiculous characters into different situations just to see what happens, or overtly acknowledging the artificiality of film/television narratives. It's a fine place to be.
- I quite enjoyed Ollie for all five minutes he was onscreen. I'd gotten the impression that he was the person who would be joining the cast for the third season, but such was clearly not the case.
- “Whatever. Now piss off and pick up some litter.”
- “Oh. Then that must be his ghost. Which means he's not all okay on account of him being dead.”
- “To cry. And grieve. And remember our dear friend.....................” “Ollie.” “Ollie!”
- “I think I speak for all of us when I say we're lazy and incompetent.”
- “I turn invisible. I walk up to the security van and take the money.” “Works for me.”
- “I thought we'd use our powers to help people.” “Naaaahhhhh!”
- Future Simon meets his grisly end in this episode and seems to know that he will. Which is somewhat ridiculous because he could easily have done something to not die, knowing what was coming. Ahhh, time travel, it doesn't take long for you to start turning things stupid.