Misfits episode 1 review

So then: can E4 deliver a British superhero series that's worth tuning in to? Madeleine reviews the first episode...

Misfits

“Woah! The probation worker’s gone mental!” was my absolute favourite line of the first episode of a truly hilarious new drama, and it was uttered by the guy with all the best lines in the script. Nathan, played with green-eyed mischief by Robert Sheehan, injected a very Shaun Of The Dead-ish, tongue-in-cheek tone to the goings-on (think of that Shaun line “Ohh, he’s got an arm off!”) and made sure the whole thing was firmly comedic and never too sincere.

Nathan’s the self-appointed ringleader of a group of ‘yoofs’ doing community service together – painting benches, scrubbing graffiti, the works – when they get caught up in a massive hail and lightning storm that ends up charging them with all sorts of absurd superpowers, apart from Nathan who hasn’t established his yet. The moment of impact was fantastic, quite video gamey in style, with the misfits suddenly being plunged into darkness and suspended in the air while lightning flickered around them.

And Nathan doesn’t want just any lame old super power. No, he wants “one from the A -list”, but we don’t know exactly what he’s hoping for. As he’s clearly the star of the show, he’ll have to get something far superior to the ability to read minds, as bestowed on Kelly, or Alisha’s power to incite sexual hunger in any male, or Curtis’ time-bending skills, or poor old ‘weird’ Simon who can suddenly become invisible. What on earth is left? He tried flying, but that’s not it.

The performances are confident and very funny, and the ensemble gels well. Lauren Socha as defensive, downtrodden Kelly has possibly the most desolate face on television, all pale skin and black eyeliner and scraped back greasy hair. I hope I’m not giving the script too much credit in saying that it is so witty and self-aware that Kelly surely won’t have a too obvious bad-girl-turned-good-girl story, but reading minds will surely serve her well, even if she’s too freaked out to see the positive at the moment.

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Visually it’s a treat, too. The orange ‘community payback’ jumpsuits are startling against the stormy, grey-blue skies and brick buildings that form the community centre setting, and the jagged camera work keeps it feeling anxious and twitchy, suitable for the shared mood of the misfits.

And the murderous probation worker was a turn up for the books! While the kids gained superpowers, the probation officer turned into an axe-brandishing vampiric assailant whom the misfits ended up seeing off and burying, along with one of their other community service fellows who got killed along the way. “Uhh, I’m pretty sure this breaches the terms of my ASBO,” said Nathan at point of burial, another classic line. His comedy is quite physical but also very arch, verging on camp. Sort of Graham Norton meets Ben Stiller. He really is quite the little scene-stealer, and is currently overshadowing more subtle performances, particularly that of Nathan Stewart Jarrett playing tormented athlete Curtis.

All in all, a compelling opening to a new series: a thoroughly enjoyable concept, very well done, and in the safe hands of a capable cast. It taps into the modern perception of ‘today’s yoof’ as self-obsessed, anti-social illiterates and pokes fun at that perception without it feeling like its making a heavy-handed sociological point. It’s just fairly hilarious and good old-fashioned entertainment, with cracking dialogue and characters we’re definitely laughing with, not at.

Misfits airs in the UK on Thursdays at 10pm on E4 and 11pm on E4+1, with repeat showings the following Wednesday at 11 and 12pm.