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Our review of Misfits: Season Two, published January 29th, 2013, is also available.
Sex, drugs and superpowers.
"Probably best to keep that kind of thing between you and your Internet service provider."
Facts of the Case
Nathan (Robert Sheehan, Season of the Witch), Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Casualty), Kelly (Lauren Socha, Five Daughters), Alisha (Antonia Thomas, The Deep) and Simon (Iwan Rheon, Wild Bill) are young delinquents who are currently on probation. As the quintet is begrudgingly performing some mandatory community service work, an electrical storm strikes. In the wake of the storm, the group's probation officer (Danny Sapani, The Oxford Murders) goes nuts and attempts to kill everyone. He might have actually pulled it off too, if the young criminals hadn't been able to strike back with their newfound superpowers.
Insert record-scratch sound here.
Yes, it seems that the young lowlifes have been granted remarkable new abilities. Curtis is capable of turning back time. Kelly is able to read peoples' minds. Alisha is able to make anyone desperately desire her with nothing more than a touch. Simon can turn invisible. And Nathan…well, Nathan hasn't figured out what his ability is yet, but he's certain his power will turn up sooner or later. What will these troubled young adults do with these newfound abilities?
To be honest, I rolled my eyes when I took a glance at the Misfits DVD case. Oh, a show about a group of young adults who get superpowers? How novel. I needed another piece of entertainment about super-folk about as much as I need another gritty present-day retelling of an old fairy tale, but blast it all, Misfits won me over pretty quickly. While it was immediately obvious that the show would be covering territory not too dissimilar to what we saw in such fine efforts as Attack the Block and Chronicle, I wasn't expecting it to be so clever and disarmingly funny.
One of the great things about Misfits is that it absolutely isn't a "superhero show." Not in this first season, anyway. Instead, it's a show about a group of screwed-up young adults who happen to get superpowers but haven't the foggiest idea of what to do with them. The initial, obvious suggestion that they all team up to become superheroes is met with derisive cackling: "You lot, superheroes? No offense, but in what kind of #$@&!*-up world would that be allowed to happen?" There aren't any Spider-Man level rescues taking place in this world; the powers are generally used for either desperate self-preservation or (much more frequently) goofing around.
In fact, some of the powers don't seem to be exceptionally useful. Alisha's power basically ensures that any man who touches her will subsequently attempt to rape her, which proves to be a massive annoyance of no practical use. Curtis' ability to turn back time occasionally makes things even messier than they would be otherwise. Kelly's mind-reading abilities have a way of leaving her perpetually pissed-off, as she's required to listen to one brainless guy after another think about bedding her. These abilities are messy, fun and miserable all at once, and the show expertly captures the mixture of dread and delight the characters experience.
There's a specific long-arc story being told in this first season (and presumably beyond—the show is in its fourth season overseas, but is just arriving on DVD here in the U.S.) about the group's quest to hide the fact that they were forced to kill their probation officer, but the six episodes presented in this season are a reasonably satisfying mixture of longer-form material and self-contained sagas. The standout episode is the fourth installment, which features Curtis going back in time in the hopes of righting a relatively minor injustice. Alas, his decision sets off an unexpected chain of events that makes things even worse, and he's forced to reconsider. Meanwhile, the episode seamlessly weaves back stories for all of the other characters into the fabric, leaving us with an hour that delivers both a brainy time-travel adventure and some valuable character development.
All five of the young actors acquit themselves quite well, with Robert Sheehan standing out as the frisky, foul-mouthed Nathan. He's the sort of noisy twit who insists on irritating people until he pushes them past their breaking point; the kind of guy who would undoubtedly be bad company in real life but who is quite entertaining to watch from a distance. I'm also quite fond of Antonia Thomas' soulful work as Alisha, who is underused but still manages to make a big impression during her screen time. The chemistry is terrific between all five central cast members, and that goes a long way towards ensuring that the audience will want to keep hanging out with these ruffians. They may be the sort of kids that Harry Brown would want to mow down in a blaze of righteous fury, but it's hard not to feel a great deal of affection for them by the time the season finishes.
The DVD transfer is perfectly adequate, neither going out of its way to impress nor offering any major flaws. Detail could be a little stronger, but generally the image is clean and colors are vibrant. Darker scenes can be a little murky, though. The Dolby 2.0 stereo track is actually pretty aggressive, and manages to stir up some impressive bluster during a handful of sequences. Supplements include a handful of brief interviews with cast and crew members, a trio of short featurettes ("Ice Storm," "Roof Stunt" and "Finding Our Misfits") and a selection of raw footage from the cell phone videos featured throughout the season.
Misfits: Season One proved to be a pleasant surprise. There's an endless supply of superpower-enhanced entertainment out there right now, but Misfits stands out as a unique, exceptionally satisfying take on a worn-out idea. Looking forward to season two.
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