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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Misfits: “Series Four, Episode Three”

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“I ♥ Bad Boys” says the graffiti. It’s a message from Lola, supposedly the trainee-probation worker, to Curtis, telling him that yes, she does like to watch him work. It’s possibly a lie, as well. Curtis may be “bad,” but he’s bad in a way that’s nice to Lola—which works well for the both of them, at least in this episode. Questions of “nice” and “bad” run through every part of the episode, though, making it one of Misfits’most pointed episodes.

The main storyline involves Rudy Three being released from prison. This third Rudy makes Rudy’s original power make a little more sense: Rudy Prime is a bit of a fuck-up but not exactly evil, so Rudy Two, being good, lacks the metaphorical balance of the evil side. Hence the third, cruelest Rudy. And yet, exactly how Rudy Three presents himself is utterly fascinating. He’s simple, direct, controlled in a way that the other two Rudys, filled with anxiety that renders them paralyzed or hyperactive, never are. He’s an asshole and a psychopath as well, but he’s effective at those things.

He’s also effective at presenting a certain form of aggressive sexuality. His relationship with Jess over the course of the episode plays out as a confident man sweeping a woman off her feet by giving her what she needs, not what she wants. We viewers know that he’s evil, and the episode does everything it possibly can to make it appear that Rudy Three is evil, but it also does a superb job of making it clear that Jess doesn’t know he’s actually a different and evil person. She sees that he’s dangerous, yes, but that dangerousness is enough to make sure she keeps her attention on him while also letting her see him as a potential protector.

This season of Misfits has turned Rudy and his superpower into an examination of young masculinity, instead of simply using him as comic relief. Rudy Two is nice and wants to play by the rules, and he’s so pathetic and simpering he can’t even function. Rudy Prime is so driven by his passions he can barely focus on being a better person. Rudy Three, however, is like a masculine superhero. He’s not just controlled, he’s powerful—such is the usefulness of confidence. But he’s not just a confident man, he’s also a confidence man.

Rudy Three’s idealized, powerful form of masculinity serves only to deceive others and get him what he wants. When he talks to Jess in the alley, he takes up a new tactic: the nice guy. Jess, exasperated, yells at him to fuck her. “You're better than that.” “So now you don't wanna have sex with me.” “I want to give you something pure. Something honest.” He’s treating her as an ideal, not as a person, because it may get him what he wants from her, and allows him to present himself as a good guy.

Misfits follows that conversation with Rudy Three and Jess telling each other their secrets as a DJ prepares for a wedding reception in the background. It’s riveting and funny, one of the best of the entire series. The DJ switching from romantic mood music into “The Macarena” repeatedly serves as the perfect counterpoint to the rising tension—the jokes are obvious first, then predictable, yet they keep working, because both Jess and Rudy Three have these secrets from each other as well as the audience, and we finally get to know what Jess’ story is, and just how evil Rudy Three is. It’s the balance of tension and release in its purest form.


And then we finally see how evil Rudy Three is. His nice-guy manipulations and his confident-man manipulations both lead to him wanting to own Jess, not to help or make the two better together. This leads to the moment of possession, of the nice guy getting the girl into his arms with exactly the right music playing after they share their secrets with one another. And then he embodies Nice Guy psychopathy by wanting to make that moment perfect and forever, wanting ultimate possession of Jess, by killing her, right then. It’s some kind of crazy twisted genius, attacking a concept of idealized masculinity without ever glorifying it, and making it also work as an entertaining hour of television.

I’m sure some of you are thinking I’m reading too much into it, but the rest of the episode makes that interpretation quite obvious, I think—Jess has two more nice guys to deal with. Her story of the ex who worked with her on her problems until they hooked up, at which point he left her, is the story of Jess and Rudy Three in a microcosmic monologue. It frames the entire episode’s themes, demonstrating how the nice guy is a predator.


Then there’s Alex, Curtis’ coworker at the bar, who once again rebuffs her. It’s quite clear at this point that this guy is trying to protect Jess and the other women who hit on him from something—probably a power—but his niceness manifests as being a jerk. Finn’s issue is the reverse of that. When his not-quite-stepmom comes onto him, he can’t bring himself to reject her, even as he knows it’s wrong and will ruin his life, which it does.

I’m happy that last week, despite my disappointment in the episode, I defended Misfits on the grounds that its ambitions were worthwhile even in failure. The show justified that this week, with one of its best and most pointed episodes. It’s chaotic and messy, but it’s also mesmerizing.


Stray observations:

  • Finn on Star Wars: “You know what really intrigues me about the whole franchise? At what point does it become okay to want to fuck Hermione?”
  • “The magic word is….potato.” This new probation worker, man.
  • “If I was really smooth, I would look them in the eye, and say ‘because they’re not you.’” “Mmn.” Love Jess here.
  • Finn’s father is the first parent we’ve seen since Nathan’s, right? Wonder what Simon’s and Alisha’s parents think about them disappearing.
  • “I’ll get the shovels!” Ahh, Rudy, your gleeful approach to manslaughter never fails to entertain.
  • “Except you’d need to be able to travel back in time.” “It was him!” Curtis episode next week! Somehow those are always entertaining.