Well, that didn't take long. One-and-half-seasons for the fun, goofy superhero dramedy Misfits to go right down the drain. Still more decent episodes than Heroes, but basically the same trajectory. Pique my interest, string me along, and then blow it hard enough I don't want to ever tune back in after the break.
The basic premise for Misfits is about as simple and direct as superhero stories get. Five teenagers thrown together by circumstance--in this case, they all got busted for something that landed them a tenure in community service--are caught in a freak storm that makes them freaks in turn. The strange weather leaves them with strange powers, all tuned to their individual anxieties or personality weaknesses. For instance, Alisha (Antonia Thomas) was prone to casual sex and leading guys on, and now any man who touches her is possessed by an unstoppable lust for her as long as they remain in physical contact. Shy Simon (Iwan Rheon), who is never noticed by anyone, can turn invisible. Kelly (Lauren Socha) always worried what people thought of her, and now she can read their minds.
Misfits: Season One hinged a lot of the story on the teens figuring out what their abilities were while avoiding being exposed amidst dealing with other newly powered individuals, most of whom were taking a more villainous route as a way to feel their recently energized oats. The season ended with loudmouth Nathan (Robert Sheehan) finally discovering what his super power was, though in a way that was fairly disconcerting. It's a shame to find out you are immortal after you're dead and buried. First order of Misfits: Season Two is getting Nathan out of the ground.
Season Two is divided by, basically, two different plot threads. In the first four episodes, the kids are being followed by a mysterious masked figure who always appears when they need help the most. One-off villains in this half include a tattoo artist that can tattoo you with his mind, and alter your personality in the process, and a man who thinks he's trapped in a Grand Theft Auto-style video game. The second episode also introduces Nathan to a brother he never knew he had, and when they all go out and party, the pills the new arrival hands out messes with everyone's powers, teaching them to be careful with their gifts in the process.
Alisha makes it her personal mission to track down the masked man, particularly once she discovers he can touch her without succumbing to her mutation. Unfortunately, he fulfills his mission in episode 4, and the more interesting aspects of that storyline fade away. The remaining three segments of Misfits: Season Two are wayward by comparison, with one whole episode even being nullified when Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) uses his time reversal powers to undo everything. By the status-quo changing finale, I was no longer that interested. It doesn't help that the humor in the series tips from clever to overtly crass and over-the-top. I thought the King Kong parody in Season Two, Episode 5 was the low point until I saw the birth (and afterbirth) scene in the last episode. Also, Nathan has ceased to be amusing. His character is stuck being the selfish blabbermouth, one whose actions continually cause terrible things to happen. Yet, no matter how dire the outcome, he never learns from it. He never even reflects on what he's done long enough to shut up for five damned seconds. It's one thing to have the other characters grow weary of him, but it's no good if the audience agrees.
For me, there are two plausible explanations for why the sudden downturn in quality--though let's be clear, I haven't a clue about what motivates any of the decisions behind the creation of Mifits, I'm just speculating based on what I am seeing onscreen.
My first guess is that it may be a byproduct of success, of Howard Overman becoming overconfident and hitting the gas hard on what he thinks fans of Misfits like. Robert Sheehan won a BAFTA, after all, so this would lend some credibility to the notion that Nathan is popular. If Nathan is popular, then give his character more jerky things to do, more rude things to say, never mind if it's realistic or even funny. If I'm giving Overman the benefit of the doubt, that's the explanation I would probably lean toward. This kind of inflated posturing is something that happens to a lot of TV shows (Sex and the City, True Blood, etc.) when they get some success.
Unfortunately, it's the second explanation that punches me in the gut when watching Misfits: Season Two. And that is that we're maybe discovering that Overman has not been laughing with us, but at us, in his piss-take on the superhero genre. He doesn't love or really even understand the type of material he's riffing on, he actually looks down on it. It's the difference between being Joss Whedon (who gets it) or Chuck Lorre and Tim Kring (who don't). As writer/director/producer, Overman thinks the genre work he's borrowing from is all silly to begin with, so why shouldn't Misfits be as silly as his misconception of all that came before? This would account for the idiotic superhero outfits the kids wear to the costume party, or the lazy writing between episodes 6 and 7. (If Curtis reset the entire preceding episode, then Simon never had a chance to tail Ashley, and they wouldn't be together in Episode 7. I mean, duh.)
Which is why I think I am done with Misfits. I've done some looking around and read up on Season Three, and it doesn't look like it really bounces back from this. In fact, given the cast changes ahead, I'd guess the show pretty much falls apart. By Season Four, just about everyone that you liked in the first place is gone, and you're watching a whole new cast--which also flies in the face of the suggestions in Misfits: Season Two that there is a greater plot underway. This is another fake-out. There is no Misfits plan. It's all being improvised. In which case, no thanks.
Misfits: Season Two is shown in its original 16:9 format. The picture quality is so-so. Colors are decent, but there are lots of jagged edges and combing that hurts what is basically a good looking show (if you ignore Overman's bizarre tendency to Vaseline the edges of the frame). Overall, it is not so terrible that you don't get used to it, but I'd prefer something a little sharper.
The stereo soundtrack is very good with strong volume levels and a good balance between the various audio elements.
English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are available.
The set comes in a regular-sized DVD case with a double tray and a paper slipcover. Ultraviolet digital codes are included on a paper insert. I despise the Ultraviolet system. They aren't true digital copies that you can import into your chosen mobile device via convenient methods, but instead versions that stream through the studio website or download exclusively to the unwieldy Flixster app. Caveat emptor if digital copies are something you care about.
22-minutes of deleted footage are a lot of long, rambly takes, including a bunch of set-ups from what appears to be a mostly abandoned use of security cameras. There's a lot of Nathan riffing here, so if you think he's overwritten in what makes it to air, wait until you see what they've been sparing you.
The four-part "Shooting the Misfits" covers mostly production details, like the art direction and costumes. There is also a bit on the show winning at the BAFTAs. In addition to these, you get a "Behind the Scenes" section with featurettes specific to each of the seven episodes.
Misfits: Season Two is a huge disappointment. A strong first half turns into the utmost silliness. Like, we're talking Smallville-levels of cheese. You're buying a two-disc set, but you only want the first disc. The show about a group of British teens who've unexpectedly developed superpowers comes off now as a victim of its own success. Misfits is at its best when it's a bit dark and when it's being real with itself and its characters. That holds true for the first four episodes of Season Two, but then for the back half of the cycle, the show's creator, Howard Overman, lets the obnoxious humor take over and indulges in parody and cheap ideas, ones that practically belittle the genre he's taking part in. Rent It, and return the set with the second disc untouched. This is most likely the end of Misfits for me, and stopping with Misfits: Season Two, Episode 4, I'd wager would make a satisfying end for most of you, too. Exit while you can still imagine these kids having a bright future.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.