By Casey Wilson
Misfits is violent, dirty, impolitic, and foul. It’s also hilarious, heartbreaking, thoughtful, and irreverent. In short, it’s the most fun I’ve had with a television show in quite some time.
A British show brought to the US by the wonder and magic that is Hulu, Misfits begins when a group of teenagers – all of whom are doing community service after being convicted of one crime or another – get caught up in a freak storm. As so often happens with freak storms, all of them end up with some kind of superpower. One can turn invisible, one can roll back time, one can hear people’s thoughts, one causes anyone who touches her to be overcome with sexual attraction to her, and one doesn’t know what his power is – but he is quite sure he has one.
At no point does Misfits shy away from making the teenagers at the center of its show complicated and troubled and smart. Maybe they all broke the law, but that doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t precisely make them good people, either. Across the show’s three seasons, the characters amass quite a body count – out of self-defense. But even the most justifiable kill is kept secret, the body quickly buried, because between their powers and their status as kids on probation, no one would believe them if they came clean. Like every children’s book where a kid ends up in a fantasy world, the adults (the few that exist, anyway) around them can’t be told or trusted to keep the secret, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Misfits captures the complexity of that dilemma in a rather novel way. As a society, we have been trained to distrust teenagers in the first place – if they have a criminal record, there’s even less reason to give them the benefit of the doubt, even when they deserve it.
Being a British series, watching all three seasons of Misfits isn’t a huge commitment. It’s just over twenty episodes – the equivalent of one US network TV season – and those episodes take nearly every character to places you wouldn’t quite expect from their introductions. It’s not a perfect show – some plots are underdeveloped or rapidly abandoned, some characters underutilized – but when it’s on a roll, it’s a joy to spend time in the Misfits world. Highlights across the series include the first season finale, in which a long-anticipated power is revealed, the second season’s stylized videogame episode, and the third season’s take on zombies. No matter the episode, though, the joy of the show is in seeing these characters deal with the craziness the world sends their way. All three seasons are now available in their entirety on Hulu, if you decide to watch. But be warned – if you go along for the ride, you should probably take a shovel.
Check out a (possibly NSFW, though the show definitely is) trailer for the first series:
Casey Wilson is a PhD student who still hasn’t quite recovered from the third season finale.