Before getting into this series four opener, I want to acknowledge how monumental a task the Misfits team had on their hands this year. Series three was hampered by one missing cast member in Robert Sheehan, but here there were three, and it must have seemed nigh-on impossible to sort out the mess during the writing stage. As we know, Simon (Iwan Rheon) and Alisha (Antonia Thomas) both departed in last year’s series closer, and news arrived earlier this year that Lauren Socha wouldn’t be returning in the role of Kelly.
Most people are also aware that the show is welcoming three new cast members to fill the gap, with Jess (Karla Crome) and Finn (Nathan McMullen) joining Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and Rudy (Joseph Gilgun) on community service for series four, before the introduction of new character Alex (Matt Stokoe). Based solely on this episode, it’s incredibly hard to judge how well they’ll fit into the regular groove of the show, as this opener does its very best to split perspective fairly equally. Curtis, Rudy and Seth are here as our familiar faces, but Jess and Finn are given enough screen-time to introduce themselves. They’re not major revelations, but there’s an interesting tease in the final moments that intrigues me for what’s to come from at least one of them.
I’ll say next that this is an exceedingly strange episode, and the writers should be praised for not taking the easiest route to a rebooted format. I say the three regulars (though it’s unclear how much Seth will be around this year) are providing our familiar faces, but they’re not quite as we knew them. The show in general seems much, much darker than it’s ever been, even after the episode’s resolution, and the departure of both the show’s love story and main female presence has made an unexpectedly major impact on the tone. Kelly’s absence is explained briefly, but you get the impression that the writers are more interested in getting on with their new start than going over old ground.
That said, the episode doesn’t really set us up for things to come as much as last year’s premiere did, and the rest of the series is still a big unknown when the credits start rolling. It’s an episodic adventure that doesn’t seem as if it will have a huge residual impact plot-wise, but is probably a good indication of where the writers want to take the show. If I’m being honest, that’s a little worrying, since the rising darkness in each character carried over from last year left me kind of unsettled. There is a lot to love about the episode, and I’m eager not to write the series off without considering all of the different elements being brought in, but I’m concerned the light-hearted tone of early Misfits might be left behind.
The show has leaned more towards comedy in the past, with lots of thriller and action conventions thrown in and mixed up, and the overtly humorous episodes often come out as season-bests. There were obviously some laughs in this opener, but there were some over-used jokes from previous series that felt a little tedious and forced. Rudy, for example, is at his irritating best, and those who didn’t like him last year won’t be changing their minds based on this. The story of this episode, and the things that happen in it, are at times thoroughly unpleasant, and humour from an unpleasant person will almost always come across as a bit distasteful.
The whole episode seems designed to unseat long-time fans and I must, again, give credit to the writers for not making it easy for themselves. Viewers probably wouldn’t have been ecstatic with a by-the-numbers or predictable opener, but I reckon we would have understood considering the difficult stage the series was left in. That said, if anyone decides to dip into this episode uninitiated, I’d wager they’ll be a bit confused and more than a little horrified. Playing like an experimental gangster flick, things get quite nasty, and no amount of laboured masturbation jokes can counterbalance the unnerved feeling some of it leaves you with.
None of this means it’d a bad first outing, of course, and it’s the inherent strangeness that somehow makes it undeniably, unmistakingly, Misfits. No one fell in love with the show for its cosy predictability, and so I’m glad they’ve managed to change things up once again without losing sight of what made it so special in the first place. I didn’t love this episode, and found most of it hard to get my head around, but the job of moulding a new ensemble cast has been done all over again with as much grace and confidence as can be expected. It aims to intrigue, rather than excite, but, crucially, remains the same Misfits fans know and love.
Misfits series four begins on E4 on Sunday the 28th of October at 10pm.
Read Caroline’s review of the season three finale, here.
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