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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many people believed that the series pinnacle with season 2, and in
fact, many die-hard fans of seasons 1 and 2 believed that it should
have been gracefully retired after this batch of episodes. And they do
have a point.
The opening to episode 1, depicting the introduction of the show's most controversial character since Robert Sheehan, Superhoodie, was quite simply, the coolest thing we had ever seen on the show before. This was cinematic, exciting, Dark Knight-influenced superhero stuff, which, given the all too squirmy realism of season 1, was exactly what we needed. The whole pre-credits sequence, with Superhoodie throwing a paper aeroplane at Kelly, shot in a stunning, visually arresting manner, was like nothing we'd ever seen before. And, as the theme tune began, we knew we were in for a classic, classic series. For the first time ever, "Misfits" was back. And we loved it already.
The first episode, featuring a shape-shifting, psychotic ex-girlfriend, was a great opening, which messed with our character's lives like never before. Simon was given a slightly less creepy version of himself to play, who struggled with his socially awkward past, and finally confronted Nathan. The first episode dealt with Simon's assimilation into the gang, even though he still remained the slightly awkward one. Lucy, his obsessed lover, gave us a chance to see just how far Simon had evolved, and we were pleased to see the beginnings of his evolution, even if old Simon was a far nicer character. And yet, it was characterisation that was not twee or trite; they were still at each other's throats. They still didn't really hang out. They just argued slightly less than usual. But still, they all felt very real, and it was the realism of their characters which made such a cinematic trope as the character of Superhoodie seem like the freshest, most exciting heroic character ever. In this twisted, nasty world, "Misfits" finally had its' first superhero. The mystery concerning his identity was compelling. And no-one, but no-one, would ever guess just who he was. Then, things rather stalled, with one of the show's all-time turkeys, Nathan's brother, an aggressive thug. This was more down to earth, more moronic and unpleasant than ever before. Yet, the drama of Superhoodie kept it fresh. And, Nathan did have some great moments at the episode's end, as he makes his mark, and mixes up his cinematic references. Now, Superhoodie, the mystery, was great, before we knew who he was under the mask. He was the core, the heart, and the driving force behind season 2. And yet, somehow, when we found out, the show bowed to short term wish fulfilment, with a stunningly perverse twist, that surprised us, but which, by the end of the episode, we realised was intensely problematic. The stuff about Nathan going gay for Simon, the psycho tattoo man, and peanuts was all quickly forgotten. Simon Bellamy was Superhoodie. Stop the presses.
This, some may say, was the beginning of the end. Others say it's the best thing that ever happened to the show. Here's why it wasn't. Simon was the quiet, essentially likable character of the bunch. Robert Sheehan was phenomenally good, and his dialogue was constantly anarchically funny without fail. It was a great performance. But, at the end of the day, it was Simon who we felt sorry for. He was the empathic heart of the show, and Iwan Rheon was the show's breakout star. Now, one of the things that made both episode 2.1, and the all-time classic 1.5 so great, was the fact that we were getting a chance to see the painfully awkward Simon mature into a rounded, likable character with some depth. It was a triumph to have so much tenderness in such a crude, yet undeniably funny program about young scumbags messing around.
Whilst I'm sure Simon would have loved to have found out he was a superhero, hence affirming some kind of moral karma, it robbed him of the simple, very tiny steps of character development which were so entertaining to watch. By episode 4, we knew the dark truth; that future Simon would have to die to save Alisha, who would go on to become his girlfriend. It was all very confusing, but we knew that Simon's time was up. Present, shy likable Simon's destiny had been written, and it rather too away a lot of the fun of seeing him develop. The show, by messing around with time travel, effectively wrapped itself up in a knot of its' own complications, and the drama was severely affected.
Another rather disappointing twist, was the vision that Curtis has in 2.2, of himself dressed in a costume, with a mysterious girlfriend, and the power to fly. This was resolved in a very undramatic way, by 2.5, although it was still fun seeing how easily writer Howard Overman wriggled out of this tantalising little situation. Ruth Negga was an interesting addition to the cast, even if she was poorly treated in the long run. Her relationship with Curtis seemed more interesting than his affair with Alisha, simply because Alisha was never much of a character, another reason why her relationship with Simon wasn't quite as wish-fulfilling as it might have been. Still, 2.5 was another classic piece of work; a ridiculous premise, acted out with fun, verve and emotion. There was a strong guest, a lot of focus on Simon, and some great gags. And, definitely, the ending was one of the show's most affirming moments; no-longer virginal Simon smiles, and takes a drink, as the gang stand on the famous rooftop, looking out across the estate, and says, "Maybe this is what it feels like to be a superhero", and Nathan replies; "I think it'll take a lot more than you getting laid to turn you into a superhero." This was pure class.
(See episode 3.1 for Part 3)
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