The first episode of Season One of Misfits opens with a short montage of all our heroes paraphrasing the important parts of their characterization to Hot Chip’s “Out At The Movies:” Alisha (Antonia Thomas), seducing her own reflection; Nathan (Robert Sheehan), faking us out with a James Dean-style unreadable facial expression/cigarette combination; Kelly (Lauren Socha), pensively brushing her already-ponytailed hair so that it lays flat; Simon (Iwan Rheon), straightening his collar with alarming intensity; Gary (Josef Altin), wearing a dumb hat and flicking his hand at the mirror for no reason except to accompany the song‘s kickoff point with a literal meaningless gesture; and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), covering up his sick bod with a shirt like some kind of jerk and looking like he’d rather be taunting bears with a steak on his junk than where he is now.
Where he is now is the locker room of the community center of the Wertham Estate. This is where they all are, because they’re six young offenders with ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders–thanks, Google!) and six mandatory weeks of community service as a result. Going by my calculations, it would take nine squillion years to fully go into all the ways this show would be different and far worse if tailored to what Hollywood executives think American audiences want and need to see, so suffice it to say: this show would be different and far worse if tailored to what Hollywood executives think American audiences want and need to see. I’ll try to stay away from that topic, honest.
Tony (Danny Sapani) the probation worker is trying to give them a speech about how everyone on the planet thinks they’re scum, but they can be so much more than scum if they just, like, scrape scum off of public buildings while wearing fugly jumpsuits or whatever. In Tony’s defense, he really does seem genuine about this for a few minutes, at least until Alisha’s phone rings and Nathan starts getting sassy with stupid Gary’s stupid hat. Gary threatens to “rip out [Nathan’s] throat and shit down [Nathan’s] neck,” which seems like it would be awkward, if not impossible to accomplish, particularly since Gary is like a foot shorter than Nathan.
Nathan sasses Tony some more, Alisha thinks this is funny, Simon stares, and Curtis asks to be transferred to another group. Then, my friends, THEN: KELLY SPEAKS. I’m going to try to phonetically transcribe the sounds she makes, but know that they are impossible to comprehend fully by our tiny human brains, and also Kelly’s is only a slightly exaggerated version of Lauren Socha’s real accent.
Ehm, wot makes yah fink that yah beh-uh than auz?
Putting it into text is doing it a great disservice, but there’s yet another reason to watch the show if you haven’t already! It must be heard to be believed.
Nathan and Curtis make fun of her accent, and she says some more things I don’t understand (but that make me feel like somehow, everything’s going to be okay), Gary loses it and starts trying to reach Nathan’s throat, and everything devolves into chaos as the first chords of “Echoes” by The Rapture slam us into the incredibly cool opening credits, all done in grays and with deceptively simple art, with the actors and real backgrounds worked in, plus spoilers for the eventual superpowers tied in quite cleverly.
Abrupt cutting is a stylistic thing with this show, so we slam back out of the credits and onto the group’s first project, which is painting some benches. Gary’s dumb hat gets paint on it and he kicks a bucket (HE KICKS A BUCKET) of paint into the water and stomps off to weep softly, physically assaulting a shopping cart on the way. Alisha cackles, then starts needling Curtis about how he used to be a runner with a bright future ahead of him before getting in trouble. Nathan asks Kelly what she got ASBO’d for, and she tells him she got in a fight when a girl called her a slag (which is English for slut). Nathan asks if it was on the Jeremy Kyle show (English for Jerry Springer), and Kelly says no, it was at Argos (English for mail-order Walmart).
Nathan asks Simon what he got ASBO’d for, then suggests Simon may have a predilection for olfactory pleasure of the ladies’ underpants kind, complete with miming. Simon (intensely!) says he’s not a pervert, so Nathan…grunts and pretends to jerk off with his paintbrush, because logical reactions are kind of his thing ok.
This show is very good at presenting us with realistic characters that are realistically screwed up, and Nathan might be the most screwed up of them all (followed closely by Alisha). Even Simon’s admission that he got ASBO’d for trying to burn someone’s house down seems perfectly legitimate in context, while nothing Nathan has ever done, ever, probably in his whole life, has had an appropriate context in which to be even moderately legitimate. These characters’ various issues are not just presented as quirks that come out when a joke or plotline requires it–there are subtle clues and cues planted all over the place that form a totally sweet Megazord of psychodynamic characterization when you piece them together. It’s nice to see a show smart enough to avoid spoon-feeding its viewers. If Misfits was made in the United States, all of Nathan’s issues would be because his dad’s an asshole. Kelly would be insecure about her looks. Alisha would only be so vain because she needs a good, stable boyfriend to calm her down. Simon would be self-loathing and suicidal instead of angry and lonely. Curtis would not be the secret weirdo that he is. And it wouldn’t be good at all.
Also I would not have lied when I said I wasn’t going to complain about a hypothetical American Misfits. EVEN THE AUDIENCE HAS LAYERS.
Thunder noises as Nathan says he was ASBO’d for eating some Pick ‘n Mix (English for those tubs of random candy in front of the deli at Publix that everyone in the history of time has treated like a buffet of gummi bears and off-brand M&Ms, don‘t front). Spooky clouds roll in, and so does Tony, asking why Gary kicked the bucket (KICKED THE BUCKET). A chunk of hail the size of Mercury annihilates Tony’s car, and Simon breaks out his phone to film everything as the heavens basically take an icy dump all over our heroes. The camera ramps up as everyone runs for cover, and it’s a cool sequence.
The community center (American for centre) is locked, and the Television Standard Inability to Unlock a Door kicks in with Tony. He screams at Alisha when she swears at him, but before anyone can scream about how this is a stressful situation and it’s totally understandable to swear at someone who doesn’t remember how keys work, LIGHTNING CRASHES! A NEW MOTHER CRIES! HER PLACENTA FALLS TO THE FLOOR! Just kidding, that’s the Christmas special.
Our heroes feel it comin’ back again, like the rollin’ thunder chasin’ the wind. Lightning strikes through their bodies as they twist and fall in slow-motion through black space, and it’s pretty neat to watch. But then forces pullin’ from the center of the earth again (LIVE for gravity) knock them back down as the hailstorm peters out. Nathan tries to get Tony to reassure them; Tony calls him a wanker (fair) and suggests they call it a day.
Cut to the locker room. Kelly is flattening her hair to her scalp again. Alisha is staring at her in the mirror, and says “That’s right, scrape it back,” and “She is such a chav” without moving her mouth. DUN DUN DUUUUUUN. Kelly’s all, the fuck, which makes Alisha also all the fuck, and Kelly chases her off with the force of her scowling.
The gang minus Gary leaves, not bothering to find out if Tony’s had a stroke or died or anything (also fair). We catch up with Gary in a bathroom stall doing smoke tricks with his devil weed. He hears grunting outside the stall, realizes it’s Tony, and throws his blunt in the toilet, swatting ineffectually at the air to clear the smoke out. Tony continues grunting weirdly, and Gary drops his phone outside the stall. Tony stomps it. Gary threatens to “mash” Tony up, but doesn’t receive a response until he puts his ear to the stall door. HIS RESPONSE IS AN AXE. The scene is genuinely creepy.
We go from creeping horror to gross-out comedy in the next scene. Kelly‘s cute dog is licking her face while she baby-talks it. Then Jason Statham (well, a voice actor who sounds like Jason Statham) as the voice of the dog calls Kelly dirty because he‘s been licking his bollocks (English for ball licks). She‘s appalled, but her fiancé shows up and she smiles cutely at him. The dog expresses a desire to have sex with the next door poodle and leaves.
Nathan walks down the street of a cute little cookie-cutter subdivision. He tries to get into one of the houses, but his key won‘t work. His mom locked him out because he’s a dick, and I would say that makes her a dick, but. Well. Nathan. By the way, they haven’t made it explicit, but all of the main characters are between 18 and 21. The lockout’s not as startling as it would be if Nathan was, say, sixteen.
Anyway, she’s still kind of a dick, because she’s locking him out because Nathan won’t lay off her boyfriend. Nathan refers to him as a dildo. His mother says that not everyone is like Nathan, they can’t just let insults roll off of them. She’s put his stuff outside, and won’t back down. We get a little montage of Nathan trying to find a place to stay, and has exhausted his store of friends by the time he’s crossed this tiny bridge.
Florence and the Machine plays as Kelly makes out with her fiancé and talks about how weird she’s feeling. HER DOG’S NAME IS KEITH (KEEF). Her fiancé’s just like “Get her tits out” in his head, and frets about his sexual prowess because she’s “been with loads more people than I have,” then wonders if she’s cheating on him, so she freaks out and punches his face. He falls out of bed and runs away, and she feels bad even though he was kind of a loser anyway.
Time-lapse of the sun coming up while Nathan sleeps in the community center. He wanders around drowsily, pees in the ABSOLUTELY BLOOD-DRENCHED AND SPLINTERED TOILET STALL OF MURDERING GARY WITH AN AXE, and gives less than zero fucks about the state of the bathroom. He leaves a phone message attempting to charm his mom into letting him come back. He hides his stuff and sneaks out of the community center so nobody knows he slept there. It’s sad.
He walks along the outside wall, where I’M GOING TO KILL YOU is painted in bright red four-foot letters. The rest of the gang is there already, wondering wtf is up with this nonsense. Nathan says it’s Banksy. I bet it was, though.
Tony walks up, looking relaxed and sassing back and generally being cool for thirty seconds before Alisha’s phone rings and he snaps at them all to hand their phones over. They complain, then do.
Later, in the locker room, they chatter while Simon finds a BLOOD-SOAKED DUMB HAT and tries to get everyone’s attention, but they ignore him, and his head zooms around. He tries to get their attention some more, this time by screaming in their faces, and looks intense and ill while doing so. THE CHANGES YOUR BODY IS GOING THROUGH ARE NORMAL, YOUNG MAN~
Nathan drops a roach in the hallway as the group minus Simon trail out of the community center. Tony stomps it and throws a chair while Simon re-visibles and looks intense and ill while doing so. He rejoins the group where they’re scrubbing I’M GOING TO KILL YOU off of the walls. Curtis and Alisha flirt a little bit, Kelly overhears Nathan’s thoughts about how his mom kicked him out, and she asks if anyone else had anything weird happen to them after the storm. Nathan tries to talk about his anal tingles, but nobody is sympathetic. Simon almost says something about how he whipped his hair back and forth in the locker room, but clams up when Kelly wants him to elaborate.
Kelly hears Nathan thinking about shagging (English for carpeting) her, and then shoves him when he mentally refers to her as a chav. He stumbles into a bucket (STUMBLES INTO A BUCKET) as she storms off, only to run into Tony, who gets aggressive and nasty when she won’t tell him why she’s leaving. So she headbutts him right in the face and calmly walks away, like you do. He screams and overreacts for a minute, but then lifts his head and SUDDENLY MARILYN MANSON CONTACTS. He busts a metal bar off of a fence with his bare hands.
Cut to foosball, with a cute sight gag of showing the little foosball guys while Nathan and Curtis discuss the girls, or lack thereof. Simon’s worried about Gary, and grossed out by Nathan. Curtis is eye-rolly and something very close to gentlemanly. Nathan is totally gross and meta (“A group of young people, doing mindless shit all day–face it, man, it‘s going to happen! It always does!”).
The guys join Alisha near the vending machines. Nathan kicks the shit out of it and steals a soda, and he and Alisha rag on Curtis about how he ruined his future con drogas–not with steroids, but because he was caught with coke, then was made an example of because of his status as a sports hero. Cue more ragging, and Curtis wants to beat Nathan with his own head.
Kelly cries through her charming raccoon makeup outside. Tony steps up, looking scary.
Alisha somehow manages to turn her story of how she got her community service (caught driving with a suspended license) into an extended scene of blowjob-miming on a conveniently-shaped water bottle. The fake fellatio is intercut with shots of Kelly running from Tony, and I’m sure there’s probably some kind of smart commentary going on there, but oh man she’s working that bottle. The expressions on the dudes are hilarious, snapping from total boredom to RAPT ATTENTION. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but the music playing over the bottle job and Kelly running sounds like a weird Casio keyboard beat from the seventies, like in a crappy exploitation movie. It’s interesting whether they meant to do it or not.
Kelly literally falls into the community center as Alisha finishes up. Everyone yells at each other for a while, Kelly getting increasingly more angry with how they’re totally nonchalant about her almost dying. Simon finally admits that something weird happened to him, and everybody wants him to prove it. He tries to go invisible, but gets a can thrown at his face for his efforts.
Curtis proclaims everything to be bullshit, and opens the door. Kelly runs to stop him. Tony nails her in the back of the head with the metal; blood sprays onto the wall, and she drops. Curtis is horrified, and everything starts to slow down until it finally stops and reverses, the whole scene reflecting backwards in his eyeballs. Nathan throws the can at Simon again, and Curtis interrupts to explain what he just saw. Nathan’s having none of it, and when he opens the door, he sees Tony stalking around. Tony notices him, and Nathan slams the door shut. Everybody screams as Tony runs into the window.
Alisha wonders if Tony’s on meth, saying that it made her friend Chloe almost shag her brother (which was apparently only an issue because he’s ugly). Tony stops slamming against the door, and Alisha and Kelly have a heated exchange that culminates in Kelly threatening to kick Alisha so hard in the cunt her mum will feel it. Nathan’s all, how’s that work? Kelly’s pissed because she came back to warn them about the psychotic axe murderer, and they just call her a chav and make fun of her insults. TEAM KELLY FOREVER.
They decide to run for the back door. Nathan goes down hard in an ominous puddle of blood by some lockers, and is completely icked out. Curtis opens the locker, which has blood dripping out of the slats on the door. There’s a piñata full of happy kitties inside it, yay!
That is a lie. SUDDENLY GARY! Or his mutilated body, anyway. Alisha says they’re all going to die. Curtis tells her not to look at the corpse and tries to take her hand to comfort her, but he flips out on skin contact and tries to have sex with her. She breaks his grip and tries to slap him, but he grabs her hand and freaks out again. He’s completely confused as to why everyone looks horrified and his willie’s out, and Alisha’s angry and terrified from like every single angle. She grabs Simon’s neck to see if the same thing happens, and he tells her he wants to rip off her clothes and piss on her tits. There is a time and a place for that, Simon.
Tony smashes through the glass door. Action Kelly instinctively grabs a paint can and crumples the back of his head like a guardrail versus a SmartCar, because she’s a badass. He collapses, but grabs Kelly’s ankle a moment later. She stomps his head into jelly, yelling “I! AM! NOT! A! CHAV!” He is then dead for reals.
They discuss what they should do, Curtis and Alisha maintaining that they should tell the police and let them “do some C.S.I. shit and figure it all out.” Kelly points out that they’re young offenders, and the cops will assume they’re guilty. I must admit, the fact that they’re all wearing jumpsuits wouldn’t help their case.
Simon creepily says “If there’s no body, there’s no crime,” and rubs at his hair like he’s nervous about a date. Given Simon’s various character arcs, this weird little tic is appropriate for many reasons. Nathan suggests rolling the bodies out in wheelchairs so it’ll look like they’re “a bunch of young offenders taking a couple of specials for a walk in the sunshine.”
Cut to the group dropping the bodies in a hole by the river. Hope it doesn’t ever flood. Nathan is pretty sure this violates the terms of his ASBO. Seems like it would, yep. They agree to never tell anybody about their powers or the two dead guys they’re burying. Didn’t you guys see I Know What You Did Last Summer? Gosh.
There’s some discussion of their powers as they dump dirt on the bodies, and Nathan realizes that everyone has a power but him. He’s deeply offended. Simon suggests that maybe they just don’t know what his power is yet, and that calms Nathan down, at least until Kelly slaps him when he wonders aloud if he can feel pain or not.
There’s a montage set to “Lonely Souls” by Unkle, with a couple of stunning environmental shots. The show itself has a dark, but still fairly lush palette, with nice reds and blues and a unique look, but the shots of the estate, the water, and the general landscape are all sepia-toned and bleak. The location is similar to Being Human‘s Bristol, washed out to serve as a neat contrast to the relative vibrancy of the characters themselves. It’s sad and almost uncomfortable to watch if you’ve ever lived in a place like this, where even the trees are gray.
The montage itself has Kelly taking off her makeup and looking quite vulnerable in her reflection(s), Nathan watching his mom and her boyfriend laughing in the kitchen like an overgrown street urchin, Simon invisibly standing in the center of a group of people, smiling gently as they talk through him, Curtis watching videos of his glory days, and Alisha looking ready to go out, but pulling her earrings out and changing her mind with a sad sort of resignation.
There’s a lingering shot of Iwan Rheon’s bizarre, lovely serial killer face, and we’re on to the next day. Nathan reminds Curtis and Simon to lie, like they were totally going to forget. There’s a woman in the probation office, talking on the phone to someone about how Tony’s gone without a trace. She asks the group if they know anything, and Nathan raises his hand, then launches into a one-man play about how he walked in on Tony and Gary having sex in the bathroom, complete with pelvic-thrusting. The woman’s rightly appalled and walks away.
The group stands on the roof of the community center as the sun goes down. Nathan’s still wondering why he didn’t get a power. Simon suggests maybe he can fly. Kelly tries not very hard at all to stop him before he jumps off of a chair and drops like a sack of potatoes–I honestly thought they were going to have him jump off the roof. Batman music kicks in as Curtis asks what’s going to happen. Simon says they might be superheroes. None of them are really into it, which is the most authentic thing in a show full of authentic things.
Kelly: What if there’s loads of people like us all over town?
Nathan: No. That kind of thing only happens in America. This will fade away. I’m telling you, by this time next week, it’ll be back to the same old boring shit.
NEXT UP: Drinking, drugs, titties, bare man-ass, senior citizens, and someone knoooooows!
Watch Misfits on E4, check your listings