Friday, 12 November 2010

TV review: Misfits series 2 (AKA Barry saves us)

Last night the series two opener of E4’s ASBO-generation superhero equivalent of Smallville aired. For those who missed it, Bandwagoners, Misfits is about a group of five British teenagers performing community service who were struck by lightening in a mysterious storm that left them with superpowers stemming from aspects of their personalities. Mind-reading, sexual prowess and turning back time are just some of the five’s new powers, which aren’t always so much gifts as life-threatening ailments. Try walking through a crowd of men who want to do unspeakable things to you just because your skin brushed theirs, and you have what the beautiful Alisha (Antonia Thomas) has to contend with on her average stroll down the street. She and ex-sporting champion Curtis (Nathan Stewart Jarrett) are forced to maintain a look-but-don’t-touch relationship that’s as tender as it is wicked.

The final episode of series one ended with the now immortal Nathan (Robert Sheehan) buried six feet under, his massive ego suitably justified since finding out his power (unfortunately for the others). This episode begins with the not-so-typical chav-esque Kelly (Lauren Socha), who can read thoughts, following an anonymous tip-off from the biker we saw at the end of series one and getting the group to dig Nathan up. Once that’s out of the way, we’re back to the (brutally unrequited) sexual chemistry between the atypical pair.

Group dynamics re-established, they return to their community service for this week – a device which throws up unique possibilities for each episode – helping at an art class for the mentally ill. The brilliantly awkward, sometimes invisible Simon (Iwen Rheon, last seen sending himself up in Simon Amstell’s Grandma’s House) recognises an old love interest from his time in incarceration and the shenanigans begin. Suddenly there’s too much soft-focus on the lens and nobody is quite sure who anybody is.

As far as Fantasy goes, this is realism. If superheroes exist they aren't off saving the world at the expense of love and life. They're sunbathing on concrete rooftops, they're abusing their powers, they're finding out your worst secret and telling everyone so they can all have a good laugh about it. They're propping up their latest victim in the freezer so they have some company while they eat a chocolate bar. At least, these ones are.

Rather than suffering from hype-raised expectations, this excellently executed opener proves that Misfits was not a flash in the pan. With a razor-witted script, darkly unique SFX (the shapeshifting bathroom scene is terrifying) and fast-paced, intelligent narrative, what makes this series great is that its central characters really are misfits – who wouldn’t balk at eating a cornetto that’s shared a freezer with a dead woman - but they’re misfits we genuinely care about. Even the smart-mouthed Nathan has a vulnerable centre and Simon is a beautifully constructed exercise in facial tics and painful, relatable awkwardness (pyromania and murdering aside).

Ongoing from the first series, the mismatched group are still trying to shake the police after their tendency to accidentally kill their probation officers and their mysterious black-clad saviour makes another appearance. Who is this person who has suddenly stepped up from riding a bike quite well to being able to leap over rooftops and throw paper aeroplanes really, really far? Stay tuned and find out, it’s so much better than you might think.

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