WARNING: SPOILERS FOR MISFITS 3.05 BELOW
Writer: Jon Brown
Director: Will Sinclair
Cast: Lauren Socha, Matthew McNulty, Iwan Rheon, Antonia Thomas, Joe Gilgun, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Craig Parkinson
There’s a simple truth to 3.05 – if it hadn’t been for the last ten minutes, the episode would have rated firmly at three stars. Body swaps are a staple of the sci-fi genre, but even with Misfits‘ usually innovative twists it feels a little by the book. Note that 3.05 is the first episode to have been penned by someone other than Howard Overman – perhaps the body swap is easier territory for a new writer on such a popular series (and it doesn’t hurt to place this episode in the middle of the run). But never fear; Jon Brown’s writing doesn’t let Misfits down, and the last quarter is genuinely brilliant. It’s just the first part that’s the problem.
Starting off with such a traditional trope puts this episode at an obvious disadvantage, but body-swapping Kelly with a coma patient should add a sense of urgency and alarm as her friends race to save her. As it is, the pace is a tad stilted and the story limps along on tried-and-tested plot points. It doesn’t help that Kelly is swapped with Jen, a girl the audience has no particular emotional investment in. They’re too busy waiting for her to be victim of the week to care if she’s got another chance at life, mostly because they already know it’s going to end. Her boyfriend Dom helps a little – his interactions with Jen in her coma are honestly moving, quietly tragic – but its not enough to drive her story anywhere in particular. For most of the episode Jen, in Kelly’s body, is wandering aimlessly, and it reflects a certain aimlessness in the episode itself.
Lauren Socha is, of course, a dream, buoying Jen’s character up with a great performance. The adjustments are beautifully subtle, aided here and there by different make-up, different clothes, and she demonstrates that you don’t have to go over the top to make the changes obvious. Kelly is admittedly close to Socha in demeanour, but her departure here shows why she’s a BAFTA-winning actress, and she gives the slow decline of Jen’s joy substance, enough to gift her closing moments with meaning. The build-up of Seth and Kelly’s relationship over the last few weeks helps to inject the episode with a bit of energy too – their constant missed connections give the comedy-of-errors some life, and Seth’s quest to get Kelly back into her own body ends with a rather fabulous escape from the hospital, complete with coma patient and requisite medical equipment.
It’s this third act which saves the episode, packing every emotion that was lacking beforehand into fifteen minutes. The drama of the body swap finally kicks in, and Jen’s final switch with Kelly, back into her coma where she knows she’s going to die, tugs a little at the heart strings. It is, however, nothing in comparison to the big shock of the week, and the undisputed scene-stealer – the death of probation worker Shaun. It’s this scene and no other which elevates 3.05 from three stars to four. After surviving for so long and becoming such a popular character, Shaun’s place in Misfits was starting to look fairly secure. But it’s not just shock powering this scene – his death is genuinely upsetting, a something-in-the-eye moment. Craig Parkinson switches up Shaun’s usual cockiness for fear, playing the audience’s pity as well as he’s been playing their laughs, and the knowledge that what you’re watching is really just a group of kids letting a man die ramps everything up tenfold. His last line – “What the fuck? I can’t believe I never picked up on it. You bunch of dicks. Fucking superheroes.” – is exquisite, and not least because of Craig Parkinson’s truly wonderful performance. Shaun is going to be rather sorely missed.
Elsewhere, the main subplot of the episode revolves around Rudy, and he’s getting up to his usual shenanigans, which for the most part inolves being a dick. There’s still something Nathan-esque about him, but Overman’s masterstroke of splitting Rudy into two means that we constantly see his softer side, setting him apart from his predecessor. His relationship with anger management councillor Clare plays the double act for slightly different laughs, and it all feels a bit like something that might come back to haunt him in the future. His bond with himself continues to expand and grow, and for the first time Rudy remains split for most of the episode, allowing each half to shed some more light on him as a whole. It’s certainly more in-depth than we ever got with Nathan. There are some funny asides from the rest of the cast too – including Curtis getting caught in-flagrante with himself by Alisha and Simon.
Shaun’s death undoubtedly saves 3.05 from the mediocre, though it’s a shame that such a wonderful character kicks the bucket in a sub-par episode. Without it the body-swap feels too traditional for a show this innovative, and the plot almost seems to kill time to get between episodes four and six, which is perhaps a symptom of bumping the series up from six to eight episodes. Still, killing off Shaun will go down as one of Misfits‘ bravest decision and that, at least, means 3.05 will be remembered.
Next week: the return of the Cornetto. Oh, and something seems to be wrong with Rudy “downstairs”.