This review contains spoilers.
After last year’s departure of star player Nathan, many of us were just a little bit worried about the state of Misfits. Arguably one of the UK’s most imaginative and high quality shows, what would become of our gang of delinquents once their loudest member had departed?
This wonderment was soon replaced by resentment towards Robert Sheehan from his previously hard-core fans, as his absence from series three was to be explained by an online episode only, with no time or opportunity to include him in the main show.
And the product of this chaos was apparent on our screens last night. This Is England‘s Joseph Gilgun has slipped into the Nathan-shaped gap of the gang quite nicely, but how long will it be until viewers start to pine for the dynamic of yesteryear? Judging from the evidence presented by episode one, it might be a long time indeed. For the show was as witty, crude and sharp as it always has been and, instead of being left wanting after Sheehan’s departure, the natural and uninhibited Rudy (Gilgun) fits the show like a glove, and has given the central group a new lease of life.
The other major talking point of this year is what new powers the gang would have when they returned. Last year, following a little mishap with ‘Jesus’, the gang lost and regained their superhero statuses, but the nature of the new powers was yet to be revealed. Some were played for laughs straight out of the bat, like Kelly’s desire to be a rocket scientist, or Curtis’ bizarre and perfectly useless ability to become a woman on demand. These two powers are the least constructive at this juncture, but at least next week looks to explore the gender-swap potential a little bit further.
Much more in fitting with the growing mythology of the series is Simon’s premonition power. Seeing a short way into the future will no doubt aid the gang on their many adventures, along with Alisha’s perspective-swapping ability, and fits perfectly with the character’s various neuroses and developing hero complex.
With Nathan gone, and a new guy just finding his feet, Simon is the undisputed main player for the show, and it gives standout actor Iwan Rheon a chance to shine. Simon has always been the most interesting thing about Misfits, and has had the biggest transition from the creepy, introverted boy we say in series one.
His power also subtly reveals that it’s not the end of time travel, since Curtis gave up his handy power to rewind the action. It’s a convenient plot device that won’t be missed by the audience, who generally prefer their characters to stay knowing whatever they learnt during the 40-minutes we spend with them. But this episode brings things a little more back to basics, and we spend the majority of our time with new guy Rudy, who has an unusual ability of his own. His power to split into two, one half possessing his sensitive side and the other his bravado and various appetites, is an ingenious way of getting to know him, but it remains to be seen how long it can remain interesting.
For some may find Rudy annoying, as some found Nathan impossible to watch. Rudy’s insecurity and capacity to collapse under emotional pressure proves to be the vital difference between him and his predecessor, and Gilgun does a great job of portraying the two sides with equal authenticity. When the two halves of his personality are joined, it’s not hard to see the conflicting personality traits co-existing behind the eyes. It’s a trait that will help the ensemble in the long run as, with less focus on Rudy in future episodes, his presence will have to shine through in other ways.
Other than the obvious already covered, things have largely reverted back to normality for the remaining four ‘heroes’. We knew from the end of last year’s run that the cast would end up back in those fetching orange jumpsuits eventually, as the established style of the show demands it at this point. And, although the cinematography looks as stunning as ever, with loving shots of the inner-city landscape, the ‘grimy chic’ of previous years seems to have been cranked up a few notches. Superhero structure demands that things go a bit dark for these guys in their third outing, so maybe the look of the series is trying to reflect that.
So we’re largely back where we started, with the gang back at the community centre and a sense in the air that trouble could be coming their way. The new group dynamic bodes well for future episodes, as does some new blood on the writing team this year, and there’s some exciting opportunities ahead in exploring the members new powers. Rudy is a great addition to the show, and might just prove to be the unplanned ingredient that spices up an already wonderful hour of television each week.
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