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I’ve been quite critical of Misfits of late, and the last episode I really extolled was the eighth of the previous series; the one constituting of a ‘Hit Bunny’ on a violent, golfing rampage (essentially a nightmarish take on the Duracell mascot), and a series of supernaturally evoked forehead truths.
This week’s fifth series outing entails patent similarities to that episode (most notably with the actualised abstraction of Laura’s – Lydia Wilson – childhood nightmares: the grotesque “Scary”), and is coincidentally every bit as good.
As with the exteriorised, narcotized hallucinations of Richard ‘The Colonel’ Saunders, Laura’s bogey man is realised to sublimely creepy effect (even if the confrontation of it is confined to the episode’s concluding minutes, and it is dispensed with rather trivially by Abbey and her Swingball apparatus – the aberrance of Misfits encapsulated in one moment – its vague, shadowy presence looms from very early on).
Unlike the Colonel’s murderous imagining, though, there are no humorous qualities to offset the harrow of Scary. The comedy of this episode is instead supplemented by the secondary narrative focal point of Finn and Greg’s ill at ease romantics, with the latter’s hilariously predatory sexual advances, comically matched by the floundering of Finn’s typically meek, dissuasive efforts.
In last week’s review, I noted that Greg’s burgeoning infatuation for Finn came across as somewhat half baked. Whilst I still believe it should have been clearly alluded to earlier than it has in order to properly substantiate it, Greg’s particular belligerence towards Finn throughout Series 4 could be interpreted as a subtle indicator of the passionate fixation he’s now so overtly exhibiting. After all, what was it Nathan exclaimed to Kelly due to the exerted homosexuality of Vince’s tattoo?
“It’s much easier to humiliate, degrade and just generally shit all over someone than it is to admit that you love them!”
Despite the reservations I had about the ‘Grinn/Fig’ subplot before going into this episode, the discomfiture of it undeniably produced some superbly funny moments – e.g. the dual rendition of “The Power of Love” that Finn is coerced into by his increasingly smitten, twinkly-eyed probation worker. McMullen excels, as he did with his character’s demonization in the first episode; conveying Finn’s very visible discomfort with real comedic forte.
But Shaun Dooley, unfettered by his character’s very limiting conventions (i.e. maniacal, sociopathic outbursts and enraged, guttural whispering), turns in a standout, show-stealing performance. Greg’s callow, amorous pursuit of Finn is a source of relentless hilarity (the comical brilliance of Dooley’s acting here cannot be overstated), and to cap it off, Overman shrewdly turns the running gag of the Misfits’ penchant for accidentally murdering probation workers right on its head, to extremely amusing effect.
The whole cast are on tremendous comic form, if truth be told. Alex’s fantastically deadpan derisions of Finn, Rudy’s droll facial expressions, and Jess’ array of amusingly averse looks, are all equally great nuggets of comedy littered through the runtime.
There’s a real sense from this episode that the ensemble is finally getting into its stride (although, Rudy #1 frequently swings pendulously between being comically effective and irritatingly ineffective, so his function as part of the gang will likely be characteristically inconsistent in its success across the remaining episodes).
Abbey being a manifested fiction of Laura’s mind is accordant with her character being so quirkily nonchalant and caricatured; the imagined friend of a child’s mind isn’t going to have the most realistic personality, since they’re concocted to fulfil unique, comforting functions – as illustrated by Abbey being so instinctively protective of her own architect.
As a denouement to her lack of identity, it’s a satisfying revelation that she is nothing but a figment brought to life by the storm, as is the exploration of its compounding effects on her (the abnormality of her genesis suitably paralleled to the entify of Rudy #2 during a warming exchange between the two).
Since her mysterious origins have now been divulged, though, she’s no longer just an enigmatic oddity of the group, and can begin to take her place as a fully-fledged personality instead. As long as her development doesn’t all but stall in light of what we’ve learned, that is; it’s a rather restrictive avenue Overman has chosen to traverse. It’s difficult to envisage any further, substantial development of her character awaiting us. But this is Misfits, so *anything* is possible, at the end of the day.
Apart from the over the top, opening ‘Sherbet Confetti’ sequence, this episode didn’t really make any insurmountable missteps. It was equally funny, creepy and heartfelt – an exemplary balancing act. Misfits still isn’t quite firing on all cylinders, even when it’s this good, but the room for improvement has admittedly diminished over these last three instalments.