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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Misfits: “Series Five, Episode Six”

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All right, A.V. Clubbers. It's my birthday, I'm drunk, and it's a holiday so nobody's going to read this anyway, so I'm gonna get right to it:


So what is “being Misfits?” First of all, Misfits is fucking funny. I don't mean just that there are good jokes in it. I mean that there are jokes that make you feel bad for laughing and that just makes you laugh harder. So, here are the misfits doing their community service by engaging with a group of terminally ill young people. Right off the bat, this lets the crew engage in their worst, cleverest impulses. When told about the illness, Finn says, as Finn would, “Makes you think, doesn't it?” Alex says “About what?” and Rudy finishes the gag off with “Lunch.” The actors' timing is great, but the character work is even better. That is indeed exactly the sort of nice guy bullshit phrase Finn would say, followed by Alex's skepticism, followed by Rudy's absurdity.

That's not an isolated incident, either. It's followed quickly what is by far the funniest scene of the season, Rudy playing scrabble, or some variation, with one of ill people and insisting that “Decafate” is a word. “Well do look it up! Video's got 30,000 hits and counting. Can I get some!” The episode doesn't maintain that level of hilarity—it would be amazing if it did for an hour—but it's still filled with the kind of joyously disgusting irreverence that made me love Misfits in the first place.

The second thing that makes Misfits what it is is that the character work serves a purpose. We've seen a fair amount of Alex in these two seasons, but he's almost always been motivated by an external plot development (involving his penis), as opposed to really demonstrating characterization of his own. Finally here in “Episode Six” we actually get an Alex episode, and it really works well. He acts selfish and handsome to a few people until one of them puts a “gypsy curse” on him forcing him to help people. And so he does help, reluctantly, violently, then with acceptance. And the curse lifts. It's the first time Alex has been really interesting as a character, instead of as a plot device/handsome barman/quip generator.

It's also a decent character episode for Rudy, who, now that he's in a relationship with Jess, can't handle the actuality of being in a relationship. Which manifests via his penis not working. “For Christ's sake, look at you! Dick.” This could have worked as a clever b-story on its own (I thought it was leading to him needing Rudy Two to come back) but it's integrated really well with Rudy's character. The evil, controlled, violent Rudy a season ago believed in Jess, and any potential good woman, as a perfect angel who couldn't be sullied by actually existing. While Rudy doesn't have the nasty side of that belief, he clearly has a thing for putting women on pedestals—falling in love with the unattainable Nadine last season, and treating the snarling, sarcastic Jess as an “angel” here. The resolution, of her telling him all the nasty things she does that proves she's a human, is a little too quick, and painfully redundant after the shitting video last week. But it's still fairly sweet and genuine, albeit too focused on Rudy as the subject when Jess could be as strong a character.

Another component of a great Misfits episode is self-awareness. This is, at its best, a show that avoids doing half-assed cliches just to do them. Rudy Two's recruitment of a superhero club continues here, as he sleeps with Helen and meets up with an invisible woman. But Helen's more interested in fucking than she is in superheroing, and Kyle continues to make fun of the idea. This plotline could easily go very wrong when it gets implemented, but it's being given just enough impetus—and demonstration of Rudy Two's overexuberance—that my interest is maintained.


The more important bit of self-awareness demonstrated in this episode involves the most debatable part of this season so far, Alex's power. The use, or potential use of his penis to take away powers in not-entirely-consensual fashion has underlaid several of the season's biggest jokes and scenes, and not always comfortably. So when Rudy mentioning it directly—“They'd better be prepared to meet the raper.” “Do you mean the reaper?” “No, I mean the raper, I'm talking about him.” “Mate, I'm not a rapist!”—was a really great way of dealing with it in the short-term. Sure, it's funny, and that's important. But it's also a way to shift the focus of dealing with Alex's power from us, the viewers, onto Alex himself. That he eventually chooses that he should use his power for the greater good, even if it means non-consensual sex, is still slightly discomfiting. But at least it's an active choice that we can understand—he's trying to save the life of his, uh, friend Finn.

It's 12 hours after I watched the episode, and I'm no longer drunk, and I'm still happy with it, unambiguously, for the first time this season. Two more episodes of this quality and Misfits' ending can be salvaged after all.


Stray observations:

  • Abbey motivates the crew: “We should probably go in before they start dyin'.”
  • A general rule of television is that blonde, short-haired women are almost always evil. Misfits breaks the trend with chameleon-girl!
  • So much for Finn's new girlfriend from last week.
  • Rudy's one story of prior impotence is also about his love for his rabbit. “Me dick was honestly as soft, floppy, and velvety as his friggin' ears. It was a nightmare.”
  • “You mean you have an ironic penis.”
  • “I don't want to take advantage of your situation.” “Yes you do! Yes you do.” I am growing increasingly fond of Matt Stokoe as an actor.
  • Rudy Two's got game.
  • “But I feel really bad about you dying and everything, so, I'll give you a handjob.” Oh, Abbey. Your casual sexuality just saved your life.