This review should probably open with a strong language, sexual themes and violence warning, because above all, Misfits focuses on the lives of five less than upstanding members of the community as they are struck by lightning while doing community service as punishment for a variety of minor crimes. As such, the main characters cannot necessarily be known for their proper language, their good attitudes and tendencies to not kill probation workers. (We’ve all been there.)
Still, as a series, if you can accept the sex and violence as part of the plot and the swearing as a fairly common part of youth culture, Misfits can be regarded as a wonderfully dark and hilarious series.
When five youths and their probation worker are caught out in a storm while doing community service as part of their punishment for a litany of different crimes (driving while suspended, arson, stealing pick’n’mix candies at a bowling alley, etc.) they are suddenly endowed with superhero-style powers. Unfortunately, these are less of a benefit and more of a reflection of their personal insecurities. Their probation worker, a man with anger management issues becomes murderous when angered. Curtis, a former track star caught with cocaine can turn back time anytime he panics about someone to whom he is emotionally connected. Simon, an introvert who attempted to burn down a bully’s house can turn invisible when he is feeling insecure. Kelly, a chav arrested after punching a woman who called her a slag, can hear others’ thoughts but usually only when they are about her. Alicia, a beautiful young woman who used sex as a tool can no longer touch anyone unless she wants them to desire her uncontrollably. Nathan, a boy unfazed by any blow that comes his way, turns out to be immortal, though the revelation comes after his funeral and burial.
Together, the five outcasts face a litany of other strange young men and women, some of them equally affected by the strange storm, some not, but always with dark humor and a lot of swearing.
This show is not for anyone who can’t handle dark themes. Death, murder, rape, and acceptable circumstances under which a person can stuff someone into a trunk are all common themes and probation workers do not have a long life expectancy in the series. Despite this, the characters each take their trials in stride, and occasionally manage to turn back time in order to get things right on the second try. Nathan’s passionate speech about youth and their need to challenge authority and screw up is heartfelt, raises some good points, but, like Nathan, and like Misfits as a whole, is a little bit silly. Curtis’ self absorption is partially cured when he has a conversation with a former lover who doesn’t recognize him, and Kelly’s acknowledgement of the two-faced nature of humanity should serve as a wake up call to any viewers who smile to strangers and then instantly judge them for a small, often imagined fault. Simon is the only one who feels that superpowers should be used to do good, and while he does have his moments of failure in this endeavor, he is ultimately the moral compass of the group, and is easily the one that happens to grow the most over the series.
As a whole, the entire cast both play off one another in delightful ways and stand on their own talents. The story is superb, however it is not something that can be watched with only half attention as both past and occasionally future episodes play a part in forming the story. The series is fantastically done, the powers are not unrealistically amazing, the characters filled with depth and detail. As entertainment, it is a fantastic drama, a terrible superhero story and a sweetly dark comedy, and as an irreverent reflection of modern society, it should cause some introspection into any viewer who sees a little bit of themselves in the characters.
Misfits is airing on Showcase, BBC America, BBC Canada and is available on demand through BBC iPlayer. Check your local listings for times or download the app to see this amazing show.