WARNING: SPOILERS FOR MISFITS 3.04 BELOW
Writer: Howard Overman
Director(s): Wayne Che Yip and Alex Garcia Lopez
Cast: Iwan Rheon, Antonia Thomas, Joe Gilgun, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Lauren Socha, Matthew McNulty, Craig Parkinson, Fred Pearson, Glenn Speers, David Barrass
Perhaps the best way to look at 3.04 is as an episode of two halves. As an isolated story it has a lot to recommend it; time travel, danger and intrigue, and a bigger threat than they’ve ever faced before – as Kelly puts it, “fookin’ Nazis.” Doctor Who already played the Nazi card with its 6.08 episode Let’s Kill Hitler, but it’s always guaranteed that Misfits will push things as far as they can possibly go. Changing the outcome of World War Two is certainly a bit of a metamorphosis, and it should offer something high in drama and rich in new dynamics.
The pre-titles sequence is superb, with Friedrich’s voiceover paying due attention to the real-life fallout of the Holocaust, and combines beautifully with the always-stellar soundtrack and cinematography. Seeing Hitler with a smartphone is genuinely alarming and sets up what should be a high action, high drama episode – but there’s something about 3.04 that doesn’t quite hit the mark. As the modern-day scene unfolds it becomes clear that we’re still in the community centre, and apart from a surfeit of Swastikas and the addition of some cells, it looks remarkably similar; sixty years of Nazi oppression doesn’t seem to have made much difference to London’s architectural development.
There are obvious plausibility issues that can be (willingly) overlooked when it comes to episodes like these – history changing this dramatically would greatly reduce the chances of our characters even being born – but at the same time plastering everything in Swastikas doesn’t quite feel right. There’s an air of the synthetic about this episode, which in turn reduces the emotional impact; the stakes never feel high enough because they never feel real. It’s not just the fact that we’re waiting for a reset – 2.06 kept the stakes – and tension – miles high, even as we waited for Curtis to use his power – but Misfits is better than any other show at taking the unlikely and making it seem possible.
Here it seems that talent ends – not only has everyone been born, but they’ve ended up in the same community service, the same jobs, the same flats and in the same place. Even this can be overlooked, but the breaking point comes when everyone appears to be the same person they were in a Nazi-free world. Even placing Simon and Alisha on the side of the Nazis doesn’t feel like enough of a change, and everyone has an oddly 2D feel about them, unaffected as they are by the changes to history. This isn’t helped by Captain Smith, who as a villain is fairly flat and predictable, adding to the artificial quality. It’s only Kelly who seems to work in this world, though Shaun the probation worker transforms into a wonderfully lazy Nazi – make of that what you will.
Misfits has always deftly juggled tone, but perhaps it’s the mix of comedy and drama which really undoes this episode. Being brave enough to really push the drama, tweaking characterisation and being subtle rather than overt (Swastikas beware), might have made for an episode more in line with 2.06, where the danger felt real. In the same way, going all out on the comedy could have made it one of Misfits‘ most memorable episodes, approaching serious subjects with its usual brazen humour (their attitude to murder springs to mind). As it is, there’s something of the “filler episode” abut 3.04, with no lasting consequences or character development.
But this is Misfits, and with the bad there will always, always be good. Unlike Curtis Kelly still feels like herself, but unlike Rudy she’s herself in a different world, and doesn’t feel displaced from it. Kelly and Seth’s story proves itself the highlight of the week yet again, and even facing life and death the chemistry between them remains tender and genuine. Their kiss, transferring the time travel power to Kelly as Seth dies, feels worthy of a wartime romance, and their last scene ends the episode on a high note. It’s refreshing to have an outsider who isn’t a villain of the week and, along with Kahinde Fadipe, the addition of Matthew McNulty is expanding the Misfits universe in ever more exciting directions.
3.04 also opens up some interesting questions about alternate timelines. For close to forty-five minutes, we are immersed in a certain future – does it then cease to exist when Kelly travels back in time and (re)changes history? Is there an alternate universe somewhere in which these events are still happening? Kelly remembers it but no one else does, and the events that she recalls are never, in this timeline, going to occur. If you take out Kelly and replace her with future!Simon, this all sounds rather like the Superhoodie storyline, and answers several possibilities. There seems to be a certainty amongst fans that Simon is stuck in a timeloop and will one day have to go back in time to save Alisha and, ultimately, die. But future!Simon changed history, meaning that events aren’t going to unfold in the same way. Misfits has set up its own time travel mythos now, and 3.04 presents the possibility that it’s not timelines we’re dealing with here, but alternate realities. But there’s still not much to go on, and for now thinking about it is just a little bit mind-bending.
Next week: Kelly and Seth finally seem to be going on that date – or they would be, if it wasn’t for this strange man we’ve never seen before…