The second series of Misfits has made a dramatic shift in the style of the show, and has done so without actually dramatically changing much about the characters or episode structure. It’s all been done through the plot, and in so doing, it’s made the show much more about the overarching plot than it had been. In short, Misfits now has a mythology.
There are a few different uses of the word “mythology” in television (or serialized storytelling generally) but the one I like is this: mythology are events which affect the characters but the characters don’t control. Buffy doesn’t control being chosen as the Slayer, with all its accoutrements. Peter Parker doesn’t control who else has superpowers (or behaves like they do). The Battlestar Galactica characters who became the Final Five had no knowledge of their status or what that meant. And the term in its popular form comes from The X-Files with its conspiracy and alien invasion episodes.
It’s not limited to speculative fiction which can have a literal mythology, either. The Wire used what I would call a mythology with its conception of “the system”, or more specifically, the social, economic, and political forces which buffeted its characters.
I think that mythology is a necessary byproduct of serialization, but it’s a mixed bag. Battlestar Galactica and The X-Files both collapsed under its mythology, for example, but most shows find a way around it, or even use it as a strength.
Misfits isn’t using its newfound mythology as a byproduct of serialization, though, it’s heading into it full-bore. It’s hard not to with time travel, which was this episode’s big reveal. Future Simon has traveled back into the past and he is the person who has been stalking the misfits. And he has, apparently, been doing it in order to hook up with Alisha, which might not be a bad idea, but it seems like a lot of work.
This, combined with Curtis’ flashforward from last week, has given Misfits one of the easiest shortcuts to deeper plotting: prophecy. We know a lot of things about the future now, and a big part of the show going forward will be seeing how we get to that point: Curtis in a superhero outfit, making out with the strange girl we meet again this week. Alisha and Regular Simon hooking up, but not until after Simon loses his virginity to someone else. Alisha dying, possibly, as Future Simon strongly implies. Future Simon’s resistance to Alisha’s powers. The misfits being revealed as superpowered, and going public with it somehow. And perhaps the most important of all, how and why Future Simon time-traveled back in order to do what he has done.
It may sound like it’s interesting to have all those questions now, and I can’t really say that I’m not looking forward to seeing the answers, or waiting for them instead as the case may be. But there’s something dangerous about this. By adding this much mythology, Misfits threatens to become more about finding the answers to these questions and less about a bunch of interesting kids having adventures. It could become much more about the destination than the journey, but the Misfits I’ve come to enjoy so much never had a destination.
This is not to say that I found this episode bad. I don’t think it was quite as good as the last couple of weeks, in large part because of my fears described above. But it did feature some wonderful character work for Simon and Alisha, which is especially helpful for the latter because she’s been underused. Even Kelly seemed to get a bit more to do than normal. It wasn’t just The Nathan Show, which is a fine line the Misfits has been trying to walk in the last couple weeks and not always succeeding (see last week’s screencap.)
And it’s odd that it isn’t The Nathan Show, because the non-mythology-based plot involves Nathan suddenly turning gay for Simon, thanks to a tattoo artist with the coolest power we’ve seen yet. Perhaps the idea of loving Simon turned Nathan’s inherent solipsism into something a little more empathic, or perhaps the actors were a little less than totally comfortable with the idea and that came through. Regardless, other than the coolness of the tattoo idea, it just didn’t seem to work entirely. But there’s an overarching plot just ahead that says that these stand-alone stories aren’t really going to need to work for that much longer.
- Alisha’s plan to bring Future Simon back was a little stupid, wasn’t it? But I think it also indicated her desperation for human contact, which I liked.
- “He wiped his ass on my pajamas!”
- “He said he wanted to do some…dry humping.”
- “Why do you think I was always so mean to him?” “Cause you’re a wanker!”
- “You can’t make people gay just cause they’re dickheads!”
- “Remove the tattoos. Or I open the nuts.” Normally, I’d be all about the silliness of the nut standoff working with the gravity of the situation, but I think it really didn’t work well with the seriousness of the Future Simon/Alisha scenes.
- “Will you stop being so fucking mysterious!”