This feature contains series one to three spoilers.
It’s the ultimate in pub conversations. More revealing than “Who remembers The Flumps?”, more engrossing than dissecting the England line-up, and much less nasty than Shag Marry Kill. If you could have a super-power, which would you choose?
The creators of Misfits must have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on just that. Set in the aftermath of an ability-endowing storm that left its victims not just damp but with the powers of invisibility, telepathy and the like, Misfits is filthy, violent, very, very funny, and back for its fourth series at the end of this month.
Initially at least, the Misfits allocation of abilities related to the personality of the receiver. One was shy and ignored, so gained the power of invisibility, another regretted past mistakes, so became able to rewind time, and so on. The introduction of a powers dealer in the series two Christmas special provided a whoosh of new life for the series by mixing up the initial combinations of character and power. And if you were lumbered with one of the ten powers below, selling’s probably your best option…
If Misfits proves anything about the whole super-abilities business, it’s that it’s not what you have, but how you use it that’s important. Kelly (Lauren Socha) swapped her telepathy for genius-level electro-engineering skills, which on paper, sounded like a practical acquisition. As it turned out, aside from fixing the odd car engine or burglar alarm, Kelly’s newly acquired skills proved of little use other than to coin her new character catchphrase: “I’m a fucking rocket scientist” (totally worth it, in my book).
The power to manipulate lactose-based produce on the other hand (as demonstrated by Brian in series two) sounds about as useful as a chocolate kettle, but in the right, psychopathic hands, turned out to be a sinister murderous weapon, so long as your victim was a recent ingester of dairy products. By controlling the lactose molecules inside people’s digestive systems, young Brian was able to cause strokes, heart attacks and choke his victims to cheesy death.
Only useful if: the Venn diagram of people you want to kill and people who consume cheese toasties has a significant overlap.
Thinking you’re a Jack Russell Terrier
There’s never been a comic book hero whose superpower was being convinced they were their childhood Jack Russell, has there? Probably for the best, that.
Nathan’s mum’s boyfriend’s storm-related power was the nocturnal ability to think he was a dog, with all the concomitant bin-bag scavenging, cat-chasing, and public defecation you’d expect. It wasn’t a Dr Doolittle deal either – Jeremy couldn’t just talk to dogs, he became one in every way but physically (where he remained very much a man as the gang were keen to point out). More curse than superpower, this one.
Only useful if: It’s probably the only circumstance in which you’d be able to get away with licking your step-son’s face whilst in the nude without Esther Rantzen getting involved.
Just by its title, you know this isn’t going to top many superhero wish-lists, though it is an effective ‘walk a mile in my Nikes’-style punishment. Tailored to suit Jodi, an alopecia-sufferer and the girl Kelly lamped in Argos to end up as one of the ASBO five, this is the power to make your enemy’s hair fall out. It’s not the most violent blow to strike against a foe, and one of the few super-powered attacks that can be rectified using a perky bandana.
Only useful if: You were pitted against biblical Samson.
Tony was the probation officer who started it all, the first Spinal Tap drummer if you will. Since Tony, three more – Sally, Shaun and Laura – have all corked it, a track record that means series four newcomer Greg (the brilliant Shaun Dooley) probably shouldn’t start any long books in the near future.
After the storm struck, Tony was gifted with super-strength twinned with a murderous rage that sent him berserk towards his ASBO charges. Fair enough, the strength might come in handy, but Hulking out isn’t the most practical of abilities, meriting his milky-eyed rage a place on this list.
Only useful if: You’re pursuing a career in underground cage fights? Need to defeat the Red Hulk? Anything that requires ice-pick murder?
Sexy pheromone frenzy
Ethically, this power is a mess, and – to quote an offensive but apt line from The Inbetweeners – a bit rapey. Misfits isn’t one to shy away from sexual assault as episode fodder, having featured a sex attack Jesus in its Christmas special, devoted Curtis’ gender-swap episode to the subject, and disturbingly, showed Simon fondle a barely conscious Kelly early on in the show’s run.
Alisha’s ability (developed thanks to her use of sex to manipulate her way out of tricky situations and reputation as, to quote another indelicate phrase, a “cock monster”) means she can uncontrollably turn on anyone who touches her. It’s soon revealed to be more Midas-like curse than a gift, scuppering her sex life with Curtis, and gaining her a huge amount of unwanted attention. As soon as she’s able in fact, she gets rid of it, opting for the much more sensible power of clairvoyance.
Only useful if: You’re a sex offender.
Video game vision
Viewing real-life through the warped prism of your favourite video game (as suffered by one-off character Tim in series two), isn’t so much a power as a hindrance. If you were a fan of the indie or retro market at least, then the notion of bouncing along like an 8-bit Mario or floating down the high street like that amoeba from Flow has its attractions, but if like Tim, you’ve confused Thamesmead South for Liberty City, it’s never going to end well.
Imagine living your life as if it’s a Grand Theft Auto mission. Shell suits, shitbag caricatured gangsters and women in eighties boob tubes with post-dental injection open mouths are what awaits. And that’s not even considering the fact that chasing down dodgy contacts and nicking motors is a fast route to the big house, which is exactly where poor deluded Tim ends up.
Only useful if: like that heavily tattooed chap in Prison Break, you’re itching to get yourself arrested.
Rudy’s ability to split into two versions of himself (one a cocky raconteur, the other a shivering pile of neuroses), may have its uses when it comes to needing to be in two places at once, but on the whole it’s another bum-deal. Essentially just an excuse to have twice as much Joseph Gilgun on screen (who’s complaining?), Rudy’s emotional twindom was the basis for some great scenes in series three, even if it’s not a power most of us would covet.
Only useful if: you needed to make a quick getaway and only had a railway pump trolley at your disposal?
Genitalia zap attack
I know what you’re thinking, surely the ability to cause a victim’s wedding tackle to change colour, shrivel up and eventually fall off has myriad real-life uses. You can probably think of at least five people right now who deserve the treatment, and that’s before you’ve even had a proper look through today’s papers. Even so, it’s no power of flight now is it, this willy-shrivelling business?
Like a reverse-Dr Christian then, Leah uses her mystical STD ability to dish out a disgusting form of justice to men who lie to get into women’s pants. It’s essentially the genitalia version of that vengeful alopecia treatment, but much, much worse.
Only useful if: You’re the booker on Embarrassing Bodies and short on awful genitals that week.
The power of resurrection is certainly one worth having, but only being able to bring something or someone back as a bloodthirsty zombie? Limited in its applications.
Resurrection was the ability powers dealer Seth was waiting to come along so he could assuage his guilt over his OD’d girlfriend by returning her to the land of the living. When she came back wrong and with a taste for iguana blood though, he realised it was all a mistake. From Shannon to Mr Miggles the cat to that unfortunate cheerleader troupe, the existence of a Misfit zombie is not one to envy.
Only useful if: you were a few walkers short for your The Walking Dead ARG.
Curtis’ power to switch genders ended up causing much more trouble than it was worth, not least when he managed to impregnate himself after engaging in a bout of gender-bending self-abuse. A reluctant recipient of the power to begin with, Curtis did gain some personal insight in a What Women Want kind of way thanks to his newly acquired X chromosome, but his time-turning was the real belter that he should never have let go.
Only useful if: female to male: you needed the loo and there was a queue for the Ladies; male to female: getting a job as your ex-wife’s Scottish housekeeper to spend more time with your kids.
Misfits series four start this Sunday the 28th of October on E4. Read our spoiler-free review of the series opener, here.
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