BBC Video // 2010 // 323 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 29th, 2013
Being a superhero has never been such a pain.
Sure, we may be three years behind the UK in getting it, but the cult British series Misfits is slowly making its way onto DVD in the U.S. It's about time.
Taking place right where Season One left off, Misfits: Season Two finds the super-powered delinquents wrapping up their community service and learning to adjust to their newfound abilities, acquired during a freak electrical storm during the first season. The gang is still the same: there's Simon (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones), the shy guy who can turn invisible; tough girl Kelly (Lauren Socha, The Unloved), who can now read minds; Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), who sees forward and backward in time; his girlfriend Alisha (Antonia Thomas, Homefront), who drives anyone who touches her into a sexual frenzy, and Nathan (Robert Sheehan, Season of the Witch), who first thought he had gained no powers but was later revealed to be immortal.
For the first half of Season Two, the group is being followed -- and possibly helped? -- by a mysterious figure who seems to know everything that's going to happen even before it actually takes place. With the identity of the stranger eventually revealed, the group dynamic is shaken up by what they learn. They meet more people with new superpowers, including one who can teleport and another who used to be a gorilla, eventually encountering a drug dealer (Matthew McNulty, Control) with the ability to take away their powers -- for a price.
It's been tough to hear all the praise being heaped on the British superhero takeoff Misfits for several years with no way of seeing the show (at least, not through legal or ethical channels, and I'm nothing if not a stickler for copyright law). Here was a series that spoke to so many of my interests -- it's about kids with superheroes, it's funny and profane and violent, it's British -- and yet remained elusive and unavailable. Thankfully, BBC America finally began releasing the show on Region 1 DVD last year, affording us Yanks to see what all the fuss has been about. Much of it was earned.
With all of the origin stuff taken care of by Season One, Season Two of Misfits allows us to spend more time getting to know the characters -- especially in their new, super-powered incarnations. Their family lives are explored in greater depth, and their romantic relationships are thrown into upheaval. But the season also tackles a much bigger story, involving time travel and alternate time lines, as well as expanding the universe to make the whole world aware of the group's new gifts. It takes the mythology in interesting and totally unexpected directions; rather than just placing the characters in a new scenario every week in which they just get to test out their powers or use them to escape danger, Misfits pushes the story to places that challenge both the writers and the viewers. It's rare to watch a series and truly not know where it's going (though that has changed a lot in this Golden Age of television), making Misfits unique and even daring storytelling in addition to being a big blast of fun. Yes, it goes out of its way to be shocking and vulgar at times -- it's like Skins for geeks -- but that's part of its charm. It revels in bad behavior excess. Misfits is the flipside of Uncle Ben's "great power, great responsibility" maxim.
Of course, the great point of comparison for Misfits is Heroes, the U.S. series that started out strong (enough) but went off the rails pretty quickly but managed to last three more disastrous seasons. Misfits is the show that Heroes should have been, but never could. Standards and practices would not have allowed for Heroes to get away with what Misfits does, but the excess and irresponsibility is part of the show's charm. These are kids, after all, and screwed up kids at that. But a big part of Heroes problem (there isn't enough space here to get into all of the problems on Heroes) was that none of the characters -- save maybe for two or three -- were particularly interesting or distinguishable from one another. They were fashion plates with powers. Misfits spends time exploring the characters, giving them tons of personality. They have inner lives. They have flaws. Lots of them. It starts them off in a pretty bad place, but giving them powers doesn't necessarily improve things. In many ways, it only makes things worse.
The seven episodes (technically six episodes and a Christmas special) that make up Misfits: Season Two are included here, spread out over two discs. The shows are presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 playback, and look appropriately drab. Misfits is deliberately drained of most color, making for an aesthetic that's far from vibrant, but the DVDs do a fine job of reproducing that look. The image is a little on the soft side, but that's not uncommon for a BBC production. The only audio option is a standard stereo channel track that does right by the dialogue (though, thankfully, there are optional English subtitles; sometimes, the variety of accents can be a bit impenetrable) and shows a surprising amount of punch when it comes to the music and effects. It's hard to say if the show wouldn't have been better served by a full 5.1 surround mix, but the stereo offering gets the job done. Bonus features are pretty skimpy, with just a collection of bonus scenes and a pair of featurettes, one standard "behind the scenes" piece and a longer piece called "Shooting Misfits," which covers different aspects of production including the photography, the production design and the show's BAFTA win. Each segment can be played separately or all together via the "play all" function.
Misfits is another excellent British show, which, alongside the likes of shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock, suggests that most of the great genre TV is coming from the UK these days. Four seasons have already aired in the UK, and a little bit of digging around online (still avoiding spoilers) tells me that the show's fans were less happy about where the series went after Season Two -- they, like one of the characters on the show, are able to see into a future I don't yet know. For now, I'll enjoy where things are and wait for the next two seasons to make their way to the States.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 323 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Scenes
* Official Site