01 November 2015

TV Review: Misfits - Series 1

Isn't the internet great? You can now just decide on a whim to watch pretty much any programme ever broadcast and have it appearing before you in minutes. I had just such an impulse the other day, and how glad I am that I did.

I had no real idea what Misfits was about before Tuesday evening, other than being a pretty popular comedy-drama that I really ought to watch. As I looked into it, more and more things about it appealed to me. Channel 4? Check. A cast who I was mostly unfamiliar with? Check. A writer I hadn't heard of? Check. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

For those who don't know what this is, basically a freak storm strikes an unnamed city just as five young offenders are beginning their community service. It changes everyone that we meet across the course of the series in some way, to varying extremes. Our protagonists each gain a 'power' when they're struck by lightning and receive one successive episode examining the implications of it.

Easily my favourite of the regulars was Lauren Socha's Kelly. She's utterly deadpan and instantly likeable. Completely without prejudice and headstrong, she's the underdog of this series and I was a bit disappointed that she was the only one who didn't get an episode centred around her. Robert Sheehan plays the part of Nathan well, but I really don't like the character at all. He's too carefree and deliberately annoying for me to sympathise at all with him. Before the reveal in the final episode (by which time I'd worked it out anyway) I was pretty sure his power was being able to mightily piss people off at a range of 100 yards.

Also fronting the series are Alisha and Curtis, superbly played by Antonia Thomas and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. There's an instant attraction between the pair and much of their screen time across the series is spent examining their relationship. I don't want to spoil their newfound abilities but the way they contrast against each other and influence the way they act is great. It's nice too to see each character's main trait reflected so well in their power. It's the thing they would most want, but after these six episodes I'm not so sure it is what they want after all.

Round out the regular cast are Iwan Rheon as Simon and Alex Reid as Sally. Although both are present across the series, it's only in the latter half that they become closer. Rheon is perfectly cast in his role, probably more so than anyone else. He brings a real edginess and weirdness to Simon, taking it beyond the script and really embodying the part. The clearest example of this is probably somewhere in the last two episodes, such as the scene where he smiles properly for the first time. It's a really notable moment, and it's great to have such a talented performer enhancing the role.

The series has quite a distinctive look and focus puller Tim Battersby deserves high praise for his work across the run. Of the two directors, I'd say Tom Green seems to have a stronger idea for what he wants from his camera work but Tom Harper manages to maintain the tone established in the early episodes as well as bringing his own style to the table. I've not checked the crew list for the second series yet but I hope both were invited back as there's a lot of really interesting, original visuals peppered through this series that I worry other directors might not be able to pull off.

Even though this is probably technically science fiction, it's actually that aspect of the show that interests me the least. What I really liked was the way the characters - all so different yet so similar - were forced together and the sparks created when they were. Howard Overman uses the backdrop of the storm to tell his story of these five (or six, with Sally) people expertly. It's hard to pick a favourite episode but the finale feels like a bit of a duff after all the good character work built up over the previous five episodes. It seems a shame that it's an entirely standalone plot that is relatively easily dealt with, but it provides some nice character development for Nathan (I know!) so I'll forgive it slightly.

All in all this is a gripping series that I've rushed through in a matter of days, despite being stupidly busy. It further instils my faith in Channel 4 as the most exciting terrestrial broadcaster (even though this was on E4) and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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